The flight across Borneo from K.K. to Sandakan is short (40 minutes) and if we had a couple of days more, we could have made the trip by bus or train. Andrey pointed out that when we went to the Mount Kinabalu area, we were almost half-way to Sandakan.
I had chosen the Nak Hotel for our one night in Sandakan because it sounded like it had character. Unfortunately, in this case ‘character’ meant ‘needed maintenance etc.’. The staff were all young and not very well trained. The restaurant on the roof of the Nak served good food but the staff didn’t seem to understand the basics of customer service. It is well-located and has history, so I really hope someone will take it over and turn it into a boutique hotel.
We went for a stroll around the downtown part of Sandakan before turning in for an early night so that we would be well-rested for the next day and our Sandakan-Seligan Turtle Island Escape.
We had a flight booked to Sandakan in the afternoon, so David and Andrey decided that we should visit either the state or the city mosque. We decided on the city mosque. On the way, we stopped at a posh shopping centre so that I could get a new battery for my camera. The surprising thing about this shopping centre was that they charged people to use the toilets!
After buying the battery, we walked along a seaside path to a park across a highway from the mosque. Getting across was a bit scary for me as I would rather ford a raging river than cross multiple lanes of traffic.
I was dressed modestly and had tucked my hair up under a baseball cap but it wasn’t sufficient. I learned ages ago that shoulders and knees should be covered when visiting churches, and more recently, I learned that similar attire is needed when visiting Buddhist temples but in order to visit this mosque, arms needed to be covered and I was wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt. Perhaps the ‘rules’ vary from country to country, or mosque to mosque. When I visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, I had to put a scarf over my head but I am not sure if the scarf covered my arms. I cannot honestly remember what I was wearing.
I recently applied to have my blog be part of Lonely Planet’s Pathfinders. I really respect Lonely Planet (my first guidebook was Africa on a Shoestring) and would love to write for them (I was thanked for my contributions to the Japan guidebook and the Spain guidebook). Unfortunately, my blog, as it was, was not travel-focused enough.
Maria McKenzie(Lonely Planet support)
Nov 16, 10:52 AM GMT
Thank you for your interest in joining Lonely Planet Pathfinders. Unfortunately we are unable to accept your application as your site is not quite travel-focused enough for the programme. We’re looking for channels that feature recent and regular travel-centric content.
Maria McKenzie | Lonely Planet Pathfinders team
I have removed the posts that were not travel-centric and, on the very good advice of Eli, the Partying Traveler, I have changed the name of the blog to better reflect what the reader can expect. Those of you who are fans of the old-school travel writers like Hemingway, Blixen, and Flaubert will recognize the new name for my blog as being borrowed from Flaubert in Egypt.
The front page of The Strait Times newspaper reminded me that it has been a year since the King of Thailand died. The article ended with, “As a final tribute to King Bhumibol, and to mark the end of the year-long mourning period, more than 2,000 artists were scheduled to perform the traditional khon – or masked drama – as well as puppets shows and musical repertoires featuring his compositions.”
I know that the title of this post is going to upset a lot of people but rest assured our ‘hunt’ was like a treasure hunt. We were hoping to find and photograph three of the species of monkeys that live in the Klias Wetlands of Borneo. My camera battery was kaput so I didn’t get any photos but David was able to get some ‘award-winning’ photos. I have included a few here but it was difficult to choose which ones to include because there were so many really good ones.
The Klias Wetlands are a few hours drive south of Kota Kinabalu. After our daylight river cruise where we were able to see Proboscis monkeys and Long-tailed Macaques, we had a buffet dinner at the base camp Our guide told me that the Silver-leaf monkey is very shy and rarely sighted.
After dinner, we returned to the boat for a firefly cruise. It wasn’t as exciting as ‘hunting’ monkeys but seeing a whole tree lit up as if with fairy lights was quite magical.
If you, or friends of yours, are planning on visiting South East Asia (and I highly recommend it) please be aware that there is no duty-free allowance for tobacco or alcohol if you are coming into Singapore from Malaysia. That means ‘zero’, ‘nada’, ‘niente’, ‘none’!
A few days ago our bus was delayed because some young backpackers were trying to bring alcohol into Singapore from Malaysia. We ended up leaving them at the border crossing in the middle of the night. I was reminded of an incident a few months ago when our bus was delayed because a middle-aged woman thought the open package of cigarettes she was carrying did not apply to the NO duty-free allowance law.
I have travelled with Singaporean friends who threw away their cigarettes before going through immigration. Trash receptacles are provided. Although most countries allow for some tobacco products to be imported without duty, Singapore does not. Some alcohol can be imported without duty but NOT from Malaysia. It doesn’t matter where you purchased the alcohol if your last port of departure was Malaysia.
Day 4 (Sunday, 5 March 2017) – The street in front of the Jesselton Hotel and a couple of the streets next to it, are transformed into a street market every Sunday morning so, after breakfast, we went shopping!
I bought a fabulous pearl necklace that looked like one that the woman in front of me on the Silk Air flight from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu was wearing. It consists of big, baroque, pearls in slightly different colours – some are a bit greyish and some are white to cream. One has a big flaw. They were quite cheap (250 MYR) but I think they are freshwater pearls.
I also bought some fridge magnets and bookmarks from a Bornean artist who describes his style as “naive”.
Saturday, 4 March 2017 – Reynald, our guide from yesterday, came back and got us but not so early this time so we had time to have a nice breakfast in the tea room of the Jesselton Hotel. The hotel’s name comes from the British name for the town before it was called Kota Kinabalu.
Today was our ‘beach’ day and we all agreed that Manukan Island was nice enough that an overnight stay would have been great.
We were all going to go on these bubble head ride things but as soon as my bubble went under the water and I felt the pressure, my heart started to pound!! I tried slowing my breathing but it didn’t help so I signalled the guy that was towing me that I couldn’t do it. I think he could tell by the look on my face. 😦
David got some great videos of all of the fish and I managed to get a little bit sunburned while snorkelling. Day 3 was a really good day! 🙂
The afternoon of day 2 (03 Mar 2017) began with lunch in the restaurant at Poring Hot Spring followed by time to relax in the hot pool. This part was strange – I have been to hot springs in Peru and Japan but they were nothing like this. These were small, tiled tubs with taps, outdoors.
When we were entering Kinabalu Park, we saw a hand-made sign that said a Rafflesia was blooming nearby. Go ahead, say it – “Andrea, you are the luckiest girl in the world!!” The largest blossom on earth cannot be cultivated. They grow where and when they want to so it is a matter of luck, not planning, to be able to see one. The area where they bloom becomes a protected site and the owners of the land cannot do anything with it except charge tourists to see the flower.
That evening we went to the Night Food Market in Kota Kinabalu for dinner. Day 2 was a very, very full day.
Friday, 3 March 2017
Kinabalu Park is a world heritage site and home to the smallest orchid, among other fascinating plants. We only had a couple of hours here but it is possible to stay in one of the lodges and explore to your heart’s content.
Next, we went to Poring Hot Spring and did the canopy walkway. This popular activity is not suitable for those who are afraid of heights or those who suffer from chronic impatience.