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It's the Final Countdown

Farewell Malaysia

sunny 32 °C
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Since returning from Borneo, we have spent our time mostly in Kuala Lumpur with a few days spent in Melaka. Nothing hugely exciting to report but it marks the beginning of the end for our trip (in just over four weeks we will back home) and our final days in Malaysia before flying back to where it all began in Bangkok on Monday.

When we weren't eating donuts and drinking coffee in KL (we're all about the culture), we took a trip out to the Lake Gardens one particularly sunny day which made for a pleasant walk. Close to the gardens is the national monument, built by the same guy who did the Iwo Jima memorial in the States and it is massive and very impressive. It commemorates those who died in Malaysia's struggle for freedom, principally against the Japanese occupation during World War II.



We spent four days in Melaka, a small town two hours south of KL, and another UNESCO heritage site. It was Chinese New Year so the town was decked out in millions of red Chinese lanterns. The town is lovely but small and there isn't much to do after you've had a wander round and soaked up the atmosphere. We realised pretty quickly that perhaps the receptionist of our first hotel in KL was right in telling us that a day trip was all that was needed to see what Melaka had to offer.


We are back in KL now and have finally planned the remainder of our trip. We fly back to Bangkok next week for a few days before taking a bus south to Hua Hin, a small seaside town where I will have probably a final chance to get a tan to show for my six months away. After that we are back to Bangkok where we meet Will's mum and uncle before flying to back to Chiang Mai (yay!) where we meet Dad. Before we know it we'll be freezing our butts off in Amsterdam at the beginning of March and then finally landing back in Dublin...where did the time go? I am sure I'll be writing more philosophical posts on the end of our trip but for now I think I'll have a nap...enjoy getting this blog post title in your head :)

Posted by suzebert 17:31 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala_lumpur malaysia unesco melaka Comments (0)

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)

Welcome to the Jungle

Mulu National Park

sunny 32 °C
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Feel free to comment on how cheesy you think that post title is :)

Well as you surely know by now we did manage to reach Mulu (and yes I know I'm behind on the blogging). The weather cleared (we actually got a bit of sun and no rain in Mulu!) and we finally boarded a flight on another small ATR72 prop plane for the 20 minute flight (the same trip by boat takes 12 hours - there is no road access to the park). This was the view from the plane...


It was proper jungle and I was apprehensive about where we were staying at Park HQ. We couldn't get a standard room so we had to book one of their new bungalows which was probably the most luxurious room we've stayed in yet and remarkably bug free! The park was really well managed and even their restaurant served well priced and tasty food. We were staying for two nights but arrived late of course on the first day. The second day was taken up by a tour of four caves, the first two (Clearwater and Wind Cave) had to be reached by boat, and in the afternoon we walked to Deer and Lang Caves. All were spectacular and the guides were all locals who had grown up in Mulu. Photos really don't do the caves justice, but I tried anyway (check out the videos I uploaded on youtube)



The winner of them all was Deer Cave. This was the location of the filming of an episode of David Attenborough's Planet Earth on caves and also the home of about three million bats which in turn made it the toilet for about three million bats. The smell of ammonia when you walked in was overpowering and gross and the fact that you were walking on boardwalks surrounded by enormous piles of bat shit resulted in a rather swift walk through this cave for fear of being shat or pissed on. It is Deer Cave that holds access to the very beautiful Garden of Eden, features a very odd rock formation resembling Abraham Lincoln and it's also the spot where you can witness the bat exodus each evening at dusk where the cave's population of bats fly out in formation for their nightly feed.



The following morning we went on a canopy walk. Twenty five metres up off the forest floor Mulu's canopy walk is the longest in the world. It helps if you don't look down.


Mulu was an amazing experience and I'm so happy we were able to get there. I think I would consider coming back to Borneo to do more treks in Mulu, I have never been somewhere where every inch of the place was teeming with life. It is a place that could both kill you with its various deadly animals and plants or could cure you of colds, shingles and burns among other things - that's where it pays to have a local with you :)

Posted by suzebert 17:50 Archived in Malaysia Tagged caves malaysia borneo unesco Comments (1)

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)

Kuala Lumpur

...tis a long one

sunny 31 °C
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We have spent a week and a half in KL. Despite it being a rather large capital city, our verdict is that's way too long to spend here. We have flights booked to Bali on the 17th of December and hence why were in no rush to move on as we weren't too sure where to move on to.


Initial impressions of the city were good, it had almost a Manhattan feel to it with the large amount of modern skyscrapers - the Petronas Towers are particularly impressive. The food is varied and usually of good quality and the views of the city from Menara KL (KL Tower) are great. We rejoiced at coming across more examples of the Asian brand of crazy (I use that as a term of affection) such as an immense indoor rollercoaster and an apparently Christmas themed musical show involving dancers dressed as some sort of futuristic, silver tin foil clothed, santa's elves with CDs for ear muffs. But...


Maybe we haven't done ourselves any favours with staying in the commercial district of Bukit Bintang. It's very expensive here, even when you eat on the street you're still spending more than you would in Thailand (I know, I know, we should get over our love affair with Thailand) and beer prices are on a par with home. You think the taxi drivers in Dublin are bad, spend a few days in KL and you'll realise how lucky we are. The amount of times I've seen other people, not just us, being refused to be taken to their destination is unreal and as Will so eloquently put it, you'd have to hold a taxi driver's mother hostage to get them to turn on the bloody meter and not charge you four times the rate. They are KL's mafia and there's not a damn thing you can do about it - especially frustrating when each taxi in the city has "this is a metered taxi and haggling is prohibited" signs plastered along the outside of the car.

Everyone seems to be very concerned with how they look and what brands they're wearing to notice anything going on around them - these people seem particularly dozy when it comes to walking along a path and are notorious queue skippers (ok so it's probably a cultural thing I should accept and I am aware that my belief that walking too slow and getting in people's way should be a criminal offence is a touch intolerant). There are way too many men wearing Louis Vuitton handbags and people hanging around shopping malls pretending to smoke. It all seems to be too much show and little substance.

Now I know this might sound like the beginning of a rant against the "reckless westernisation of the east", it's not. I shamelessly like the comfort of knowing a McDonald's is around the corner in the event of a mammoth hangover and god knows I love the air conditioned escape of a shopping centre. There's just something that doesn't feel right about KL and I'm not sure why.

Perhaps this is why the universe provided us with cheap Air Asia flights to Sri Lanka. A destination that has never crossed our minds, ever, never mind for this trip. I have not the faintest clue what to expect, and I know nothing about the country other than the bad press surrounding the Tamil Tigers (to mothers reading this I hear this business is finished with and they're all living happily ever after...for the moment). So we booked our flights and we plan to spend two weeks in the country after a brief sojourn in Singapore.

Singapore was never on our itinerary either as a result of the perception of it being too clinical and boring - I'm hoping this will prove misguided - but in the effort to fill the aforementioned gap in the schedule we booked a weekend with our accommodation this time in the Little India area of the city and as a bonus we get another passport stamp for it.

Our trip has become very rigid now that we have booked certain things, this is both good and bad. We have booked our flights home for example - shocking I know but the price was right. We fly with KLM on March 2nd next year on a flight from Bangkok to Amsterdam where we spend a few days on a last hurrah before we land in Dublin on March 7th. We're spending a week in Bali either side of our 11 days in Lombok at Christmas after which we spend a few weeks in Borneo before heading back to Thailand to greet Will's mum and uncle Sonny who will see Bangkok and Chiang Mai over two weeks at the end of February.

So that's another smug free, not so positive post for you, I guess you wonder why we do it eh? You gotta take the downs with the ups and I think we've done well for being away for three months. We will have more chances to get under the skin of KL as it is the origin of several flights including those to Sri Lanka and Bali, I think there's more to the city than what we've seen so far.

Posted by suzebert 01:04 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala_lumpur malaysia Comments (0)

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