My ‘Cousins’ in Borneo

08 March 2017

After breakfast and the 1-hour boat ride back to Sandakan, we were taken to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve.

There is a video screening at the Nature Education Centre and we were able to watch, through glass, young orangutans at a feeding platform that was like a playground with ropes etc.

It was pouring rain and cold.  I had forgotten that a few meters of altitude, makes a big difference in temperature.  Bring a hoodie or sweater along with a light raincoat.

Even in the rain, we got to interact with an older male who had been at the centre for some time and appeared to have no fear of humans.  He sat in the shelter while we all stood in the rain, with raincoats and umbrellas, taking photos of him.  His expression suggested that he thought we were stupid.

 

Old Man of the Forest
Old Man of the Forest – Photo by David Worthington

 

Please follow this link to adopt one of our cousins https://www.orangutan.org.au/

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5 Things I Learned about Sea Turtles

  1. The hatchlings have to run from the shore to the water or they will get disoriented.  If they are released further out at sea, they will just swim back to the shore.
  2. The female adult turtles return to where they were hatched to lay their eggs.
  3. The sex of the turtle is determined by how hot the eggs get.  In order to manage the percentage of ‘girls’ to ‘boys’. the hatchery has shaded and full sun areas.  Where the new eggs get put is determined by where the others were most recently placed.

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    Seligan Island hatchery (Photo by Andrea Brandle)
  4. The green turtles lay their eggs at night and the eggs hatch at night, both are adaptations that help to prevent the eggs and hatchlings from being eaten.
  5. Light confuses them.

Please follow this link to help with the conservation of sea turtles or just to buy a really cool calendar.      https://conserveturtles.org/product/2018-sea-turtle-scenes-calendar/

Selingan Turtle Island Escape

David had said that the only thing he really wanted to do on this trip was to visit the Turtle Islands and he sent me a link.  None of my friends that I asked had heard of it and considering that this would make a fantastic weekend getaway from Singapore, that is unfortunate.

I booked a 2-day/ 1-night tour with Amazing Borneo Tours.  We were picked up at the Nak Hotel at 9 a.m. after we had eaten a nice breakfast.  We were transferred to the “Sandakan seafront jetty” for a speedboat trip across 40 km of the Sulu Sea.  It reminded me of a similar trip from Phuket to the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand.

 

The brochure and reviews made the accommodation on the island sound primitive but with air conditioning and hot showers, I would have described it as moderate rather than basic.

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Sandakan, Sabah

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.

Poster in the Sandakan airport

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.

View from my room at the Nak 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.

 

Last day in K.K.

Monday, 6th March 2017

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.

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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.

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A Change of Name, a Change of Focus

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

Hi Andrea,

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.

Kind regards,
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 Final Farewell

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.”

The Straits Times Friday October 27, 2017

Hunting Monkeys

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.

Hanging out
All photos by David Worthington 5 March 2017

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.

 

A Public Service Announcement

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.

Wishing everyone safe travels!

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Gaya Street Sunday Market

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!

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#nofilter

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”.

 

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Awang Fadilah