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Kota Kinabalu

No we didn't climb it

sunny 33 °C
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So we were a bit tired after traipsing around Mulu and it's caves (to be honest I'm a bit tired in general what with the constant moving and travelling for five months) and so we didn't do an awful lot in KK. The city itself is nice enough, not too big and not too small with a pleasant waterfront and lots of open air Chinese and Indian restaurants alongside more modern restaurants and bars. The weather has finally turned and we're getting to see sunshine these days, it's a miracle.


The only tour we did in KK was a cruise along the River Klias, two hours south of the city, to spot Proboscis Monkeys and (after a rather lacklustre dinner) fireflies. I wasn't sure we'd see anything but there were loads of monkeys sitting in the trees munching on leaves and berries by the river. An amazing sight at first (these particular monkeys look seriously weird with freakishly huge noses) but after 30 minutes you kind of felt like you were looking at some guy in his underpants on the sofa scratching his arse while stuffing his face with junk food in front of the TV. Maybe we reached monkey fatigue, it's hard to beat the cute cheeky ones of Sri Lanka and of course the orangutans in Semenggoh.


After dinner and sundown, we got back in the boat to go searching for fireflies. I had never seen them before and I was expecting them to be bigger, it looked exactly like tiny little fairy lights in the trees, very pretty. Despite the awesomeness of my new camera I couldn't quite figure out how to take a picture of them.

And that was it for us in KK really. We saw the mountain from the airport when we were catching our flight back to KL early in the morning, it looked big and pointy and scary.....maybe we'll return some day when I can climb stairs without getting out of breath.

Posted by suzebert 20:24 Archived in Malaysia Tagged animals malaysia borneo Comments (0)

Miaow Miaow

Kuching and Tales from an Airport Lounge

rain 26 °C
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That was what the security guy at the metal detecter in Kuala Lumpur airport said to me after checking my boarding pass....miaow miaow. Thankfully I already knew that Kuching's nickname was Cat City, otherwise I would have thought this guy was a bit special and really shouldn't be given the responsibility of airport security. It was fortunate that we were actually able to get on our flight. 48 hours beforehand, an Air Asia A320 had skidded off the runway at Kuching in heavy rain. No one was injured but the nose cone was stuck in the mud and no flights were allowed in or out of the airport until it was cleared.

Yes I did say heavy rain, and it was still raining when we got there too, quelle surprise! If another taxi driver tells me I've arrived somewhere at the wrong time of year again I may cry. At least it seems that it's not a case of a little Irish cloud hovering over our heads, apparently we're all blaming El Nino and all I can say is I'm glad I didn't travel to Brazil or Brisbane, and that we got out of Sri Lanka in time. Lets hope we can avoid any flooding in Borneo too, but something tells me they're used to rain around here.


Kuching is a lovely city built upon the Sarawak River which provides a gorgeous waterfront to stroll along, when it's not raining. Our number one priority was Semenggoh Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the Wild Men of Borneo, the orangutans. Despite the rain we went along for the 3pm feeding. The park is completely open and the orangutans are essentially wild and allowed to freely move wherever they like. They do appear for the bundle of food that is placed on feeding platforms in the jungle at 9am and 3pm. We were extremely lucky (lucky with animals, not so much with the weather it seems). At one of the platforms we sat under a shelter to watch a mother and young baby in the trees. At first mammy was clearly pissed off with the rain like ourselves and had placed a large clump of leaves and foliage on her head to keep her massive body dry. Baby wasn't too keen on this idea and decided to pull all these leaves off and generally have a play about. After a short while they were on the move, down from the trees, on to the feeding platform, down the steps from this platform and on the ground just a few feet in front of our shelter.


It was at this point I remembered the large poster of lovely graphic images of the results of an orangutan attack on the wall behind us and decided we should probably retreat and give mother and baby their space. So we retreated out into the rain a few feet from the shelter while they sauntered in and had a sit down, now comfortably out of the rain. Absolutely an amazing experience. What a difference 3% makes!


We had planned on taking a river cruise to try spot some irrawaddy dolphins, but the weather was so bad no boatmen were sailing so that was scrapped. Instead we spent a day wandering around Chinatown and browsing the many shops of Borneo wood carvings, artwork and jewellery. Kuching has a great chilled vibe to it. There was no one hassling us for anything, on the streets or in the shops, it was all very relaxed and pleasant and I would highly recommend a visit....in the dry season (or in Borneo's case, the less wet season).

I'm currently in the Executive Lounge of Miri airport. We were meant to fly to Mulu National Park this morning at 9.30 but the flight was cancelled because of...you guessed it...bad weather! The next flight is at 2.25 and we've been bumped to that one and given a free lunch voucher. It seems the weather is fine enough to fly in Miri but crappy in Mulu so unless it clears up we could be spending another night in Miri and possibly bailing on the park altogether which will be a bit disappointing. I'm currently in two minds as to whether it'll be a good thing if the flight goes this afternoon, there's a real prospect of being stuck in the park if flights get grounded again on Wednesday and it aint a cheap place to stay and that will then have a knock on effect on our plans for Kinabalu. That I guess will be left up to fate. There isn't much to Miri, which is why I wasn't planning on writing a blog post about it, it's really just a stopover for Mulu and all we really have to show for our time there are memories of a hangover after a great Indian meal and too many beers.


Posted by suzebert 11:13 Archived in Malaysia Tagged animals malaysia borneo kuching semenggoh Comments (0)

Galle and the End of our Sri Lanka Visit

sunny 30 °C
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Galle was a refreshing change to the rest of Sri Lanka. A lovely looking old Dutch fort town on the coast, it's one of the most popular tourist spots in the country. For once we were able to walk around a town that was interesting to look at, there were restaurants and a cafe! No more overpriced shitty guest house or hotel food. The town was rather ramshackle, in a nice way, that reminded me of Cuba. Again, not a huge amount to do in the town but at least we could get out of our guest house on our own without the need for Sampath.


However, there's a downside to being able to wander around Sri Lankan towns. On every corner there's someone trying to sell you something, even our guest house owner kept suggesting a jewellery shop around the corner to me and recounting stories to Will about the last Irish couple that stayed there who generously gave him money for his family so his children could go to school.


Touts are everywhere in Asia, some places are worse that others, but for the most part you get used to it - it's a fact of life and that's fine. Sri Lanka was the toughest so far I think, not only because of the sheer volume of touts, but because some seemed to get offended when we said "no thanks" (not all, the ones in Negombo are pretty cheerful about it). When we were with Sampath on one occasion, a guy trying to sell us large, and admittedly very pretty, sea shells complained to him in Sinahalese that we weren't buying anything. In response Sampath explained that we are travelling for six months and not really in a position to buy every trinket that comes our way. With that explanation the guy was happy enough that we had a decent excuse and went on his way.

After that encounter and observing the kind of tourist the country attracts, my theory by the end of our time there was that perhaps Sri Lanka isn't used to the young backpacker tourist who may not have a huge amount of money to spend. The majority of tourists I saw were package tour types and middle aged - especially in Galle. We didn't come across many, if any, younger backpackers such as ourselves. Whereas I think places like Thailand and other Asian countries that are well established on the backpacker route are used to the scruffy hippy types traipsing through their countries, Sri Lankan touts see a white face and see dollar signs, which is what we began to feel like by the end of the trip. But that's just my theory.

Overall, I can't say the experience over the two weeks was amazing. There is no denying the country is one of the most beautiful I've seen, the majority of the people are genuine and friendly and I still can't believe you can find a beach like Tangalle and you only have to share it with a few local fishermen. If the peace holds, the tourist industry I can only imagine will get bigger and hopefully better. I do feel like the country needs to figure out how it wants to manage the extra attention it's sure to get, however. It all seems a bit haphazard, it seems difficult to get around independently - I didn't see any tourist who wasn't with a tour group or a guide - and ridiculously expensive for what you get. To be honest though, I would hate to see the place turn into another soulless beach resort destination either. There were high points and there were low points, we could have done all we did in a week I would think, so maybe we spent too long there, maybe we're not cut out for travel in an underdeveloped tourist industry (we do like our hot water showers!), I don't know but it was certainly an interesting country to visit.

Moving on from my ramblings, lets leave Sri Lanka on a positive note. On our way back to Negombo (where we stayed for one night before catching our flight back to KL) we stopped off at the Kosgoda Sea Turtles Conservation Project. Here the volunteers gather up all the eggs that sea turtles lay on the nearby beach and bury them instead under sand at the hatchery where they have a much improved chance of survival than on the beach where they can be taken by people for the local delicacy (yuck) or eaten by birds or lizards and other animals. When they are big enough they are released back into the sea. It's a lovely spot and you can see the baby turtles (incredibly cute, I was close to putting one in my bag and stealing it) and some bigger ones that are deformed or blind and therefore can't be released. A random fact for you that we learned is that turtles have tickles, hilarious watching them flap about when you tickle the top of their shells - such cool animals! Some photos are below, just ignore my silly grins at the cuteness of it all.




Posted by suzebert 23:43 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged animals sri_lanka galle Comments (0)

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