A Travellerspoint blog

Malaysia

BLOG: City by the sea, but a mountain's namesake


View 2001 Sabah, Shanghai, Eastern China & Xiamen on alexchan's travel map.

Kota Kinabalu is set in an unbeatable position ... from the air, you can see coral reefs and islands surrounding it. We spent our first day on a day trip to one of five islands off the city in an area called Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. We chose Manukan Island. As we hopped off the boat after a 20 minute ride from the city, we couldn't believe our eyes with the varieties of fish visible from the jetty. More colours than the rainbow! Unfortunately the jetty area appeared to be a no-snorkelling zone and other parts around the island wasn't as rich in marine life. However with patience we still managed to see more than what we've ever seen in all our trips to the Pacific Islands.

KK like Sandakan has a bit of an illegal immigrant problem, mainly from the Philippines. Litter is a problem in the city. Squatter dwellings over some coral reefs also cause a flotilla of debris in some bays.

A friend David took us up to foothills of Mount Kinabalu [Mount-Kinabalu-travel-guide-1310205], the highest mountain in SE Asia, about the height of Mount Cook in NZ. As it had rained recently, we could see cascading waterfalls among the greenery. Stopped for lunch in a little town as David conducted his business trip and got Kimball a cheap haircut (NZD4) in a tiny place ... one of his best ever ... I think we place too much emphasis in the Western world on qualified professional certified this and that (eg. hairdresser).

Stopped in a hotspring for a swim and explored a butterly park. Also walked along a Canopy Walk for the first time ... this is essentially a series of ladders with planks placed on them and suspended by ropes at the forest canopy level ... some 40 metres above the ground. Pretty freaky when you look down. Had a first time appreciation for what we learnt in school about how the rainforest has three layers of different vegetation.

The trip was very enjoyable and would have been expensive or difficult to organise by ourselves. It certainly was a nice addition to seeing it from the plane ... thanks to the advice of friends as to which side of the aircraft to sit on, and the effort of our travel agent.

We also visited some amazing hotels and resorts. The Nexus is perfectly geared for serious golfers and is what I'd call 6 stars! The Sutera Harbour private development consists of a marina (the size of the Auckland's America's Cup area), 2 stunning hotels, and two golf clubs. The marina has provided a much better habitat that nature ... the water was simply ALIVE with fish as we walked around it just before sunset. Where else in the world can you see marine life in a marine IN THE CITY!!! No wonder people come to Sabah [Sabah-travel-guide-1319168]'s islands further afield for diving ... they must be even better.

And on to my favourite subject, FOOD. Eating in Sabah is much more expensive than in other parts of Malaysia or Borneo. A typical meal would cost NZD2 in Kuching [Kuching-travel-guide-1096915] but is around NZD3 in KK.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

BLOG: Man of the forest


View 2001 Sabah, Shanghai, Eastern China & Xiamen on alexchan's travel map.

We've just returned from the Sepilok Orang Utan sanctuary where these lovely creatures (literally "man of the forest" in Malay) are rehabilitated. Originally started when the trend of having these apes as pets lost its gloss, but nowadays it is for orphaned young'uns due to logging. Rangers play Mum by training them in the essential skills of the jungle such as climbing but supplement them with fall-backs such as milk and bananas until they are completely self-sufficient.

On the way there, we visited the Australian War Memorial. This is in memory of the 2500 OZ soldiers who lost their lives in WW2. They were shipped from Changi (Singapore) to build an airfield for the Japanese. But when the Japanese defeat seemed inevitable they were marched as far as Ranau (near KK) ... not sure how long it took, but took us 40 minutes in a plane ... where only 6 survived.

Somehow I expected rows upon rows of headstones like in Yangon (Myanmar) but it is a forest reserve set amongst new housing development. But it is quite peaceful and very well done with remants of the prison camp and good write-ups of the history.

And then getting to this internet cafe is quite an experience. We tried two other places which directed us here. The other ones were only fronts for computer and internet gambling!

We're having a great time so far ... we had known that Sandakan would be like this. So, it is good that we've got a nice hotel with a great pool etc. And excellent inclusive breakfast ... with my all-time favourite of nasi lemak (coconut rice, mini-anchovies with chilli sambal, curry squid etc) in addition to the usual western stuff.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

BLOG: Flying to Sandakan in troubled times


View 2001 Sabah, Shanghai, Eastern China & Xiamen on alexchan's travel map.

We're in Sandakan [Sandakan-travel-guide-1098646] after a brief night-stop in KL, and a transit in Kota Kinabalu. Except for our flight from KL-KK, everything went smoothly.

Malaysian airports are now observing heighted security due to recent events (their normal measures are equivalent to the increased security in NZ). Their new measures now include frisking which caused some delays ... then two passengers who had already checked in decided not to travel (probably after reading the morning newspaper about the "Night of Terror" in Afghanistan, referring to the US retaliation ... in contrast to the CCN headline of "Strike against Terror").

Their baggage had to removed from the cargo hold from amongst some 200 pieces, causing a further delay.

The captain apologised profusely for the actions of these "less than considerate" passengers. Cabin crew did their bit to pacify some obnoxious passengers ... my favourite was "Why why why, sir, are you so upset so early in the morning? Can I get you a cold drink?"

Did you know that one tunnel at KL International Airport was built by Omar (brother of Osama) ... excuse first name basis. Had no luck trying to figure out which one. So was the ring-road around KL. But as the PM explains, the crime of one shouldn't sully the names of his 50 or so siblings.

Anyway, Sandakan is a bit of a cowboy town without many attractions. It was completely rebuilt after WW2 after the Allied bombing. It reminds me of Male (Maldives) ... mix of simple eating places, semi-industrial, and essential supplies all on the same few busy streets. However, air-cons are cheap and we're looking at buying one or two units in KL on our last day if they're similarly-priced. Savings could pay for the airfares.

So, why are in Sandakan? Read on ...

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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