"E-mails VI" Asia Travelogue by martin_nl
Asia Travel Guide: 258,125 reviews and 691,173 photos
Hi all of you!
Pretty funny. Last time I said bye bye Oz and I never had so many replies.... Well at least people read all those very very long e-mails, that's good!
So my last day in Sydney I didn't do much, just walking around a bit and checking out everything again. I also got some money back from Medicare so that was all good. It felt strange to be in Sydney, I really felt on my own without all the people I lived with for a month or longer. I also didn't go back to the same hostel but stayed at the YHA, that was next to the train station and would save me some time walking around. Had a last night out with some guys from the room, so that was fun. Also we didn't have to go far because we went to the Scubar which is right under the hostel. Met some great people there. One girl even met Kofi Annan and did some stuff for the UN. Pretty cool eh?
Anyway the day had come to leave Australia. After the check in procedures I went to the gate and my requests were noted and I got a great seat!! A window seat at the emergency exit. Very lucky believe me since I had some 2 metres leg space!!! and stewards and stewardesses right in front of me, so if I needed something, it was there in a second. It was a good flight but I felt very sad at take off. It really was bye bye Oz :(((
But I made it to Singapore safely! Otherwise I wouldn't be writing you this...hehe. I got there late and after a sweaty walk to the hostel I went to bed right away. After brekkie I read a bit in the Lonely Planet to check everything there is to do out. I had lunch with a local whom I met on this tourist site I've told you about before. Was lots of fun and sampled some local dishes and although spicy they tasted great. The afternoon I spend walking around shoping malls since I thought it was too bloody hot to go anywhere outside. Quite an experience all those malls. Each one is connected to another one and you can litterally shop untill you drop for days on end. In the evening I met up with some more locals for dinner on glutton square where there were some food stalls serving quite some nice food like satay and roti telur, some sort of pancake with egg inside. Very very nice!!! We ate and chatted for a long time and then we all went home. I felt exhausted after this day. The humidity is almost unbearable.
Today Andy, a local showed me around in the city. We went to a place where only locals come. I didn't see any westerners there. It was quite an experience. We went to a hawker centre for some breakfast and then walked around all the little shops in the area. I almost bought some durian, the smelliest fruit ever, but I asked if I could sample some first. Luckily I didn't buy it, because it tasted absolutely, almost vomitingly disgusting. But good that I tried it at least. Then we went for lunch to Little India where we met up again with Fizah for some lunch. And after lunch a walk through the area of Little India. Visited a mosque and a temple, drank some mango lassie, a delicious yoghurt drink. After a long day we had some dinner in a nice italian rstaurant in a very busy entertainment complex. We were thinking of going to the cinema, but the films we wanted to see were all sold out unfortunately, unless we wanted to see a film at midnight or even later, since the cinema was open 24/7.
Next day was time to go to the botanic gardens. I decided to walk there, but afterwards I regret I did. It was a walk from hell. It was boiling hot and very humid and I took the wrong turn, resulting in a 45 minutes longer walk. and 45 minutes more sweat. On top of it all I broke one of my flip flops so had to buy some new ones, because you will probably get fined if you walk bare footed in Singapore... Anyway the Gardens are quite nice and I visited the National Orchid Garden too. This was beautiful, so many nice and colourful flowers. After the gardens and to escape the heat I went back to the city to enjoy some more malls' airconditioning. Lovely air-con!! ;))) In the evening I met up with Andy again and we went to the Night Safari. This is a zoo that only opens at night and houses only nocturnal animals. It was fantastic to see tigers, leopards, lions, otters and loads of other animals. And they were all in action. 't Was cool, because usually in a zoo you see all these animals fast asleep.
Then the next day it was time to cross the border into Malaysia. This was an experience in itself. I took a bus to the Singapore border, hopped off and went through immigration. Everything was very organised here, and I went through immigration in a few minutes. Then hop on the next bus and on to the Malaysian border on the other side of the causeway. Hopped off the bus again, but here it was so unorganised, it drove me almost nuts. It must have taken an hour or so to go through immigration here. But I succeeded and then I had to wait again for the next bus to come, the bus that would bring me to the bus station of Johor Bahru. The plan was to board another bus there that would bring me to the airport, but when I got to the busstation I went crazy. There ate about 50 different ticketcounters!! Every bus has it's own counter. As I discovered afterwards there are all long distance buses, and I couldn't find the local buses. On top of that I didn't have any Malaysian Ringits (bling bling), and the ATM was broken. That's crap or not? So I was forced to take a taxi to the airport which costed me 30 RM. Anyway it was quick and lucklily the ATM at the airport was working. I was glad to be on the flight to make my way to Kota Kinabaly, which is the capital of Sabah on the Malaysian part of Borneo. The small country of Brunei is also on Borneo, and the big Indonesian part of Borneo is called Kalimantan. Just so you know... ;-)
The flight was good and quite fast so before I knew it we landed in KK. I checked into the hostel, whcih wasn't very good and went straight to bed. Next day I had to book some accommodation, because I had a mission, and that was to tackle the highest mountain of South East Asia, the Mount Kinabalu, which is a staggering 4095.2 metres high, to be precise. While I was booking the resthouse on the mountain I met Heidi, a Danish girl who was travelling alone too and was going to climd the same day. I asked if she wanted to climb together so we could save some costs. We walked around town in the afternoon and decided to meet up in the morning, when I was going to check in at the hostel she was staying at, since my hostel was crap. In the evening I went for some dinner and drinks with an Australian and a Swiss roommate.
Next day change hostels and Heidi and I went to Manukan Island, which is one of the 5 islands in the Tunku Abdul Rahma National Park. It was only a short boat ride away from KK, so before we knew it we sat on the very nice beach. It was hot, so I decided to go for some snorkelling. A lot of the corals were damaged or dead, because of all the tourists, and because the Malays used to dynamite fish around the island, destroying lots of corals. Luckily a lot was still alive too and there were quite a few species of fish. I got horribly sunburnt while snorkelling, because I forgot to put some extra suncream on before I went into the water. Not a very nice feeling!! After a great day go to bed early, because next 2 days were the days of the climb.
We got up very early to catch a 7am bus to Kinabalu National Park. The drive up there was very scenic and you get closer to the mountain all the time. We started at sea level, but the NP entrance is at quite an altitude of 1800 already. After checking in for the resthouse which is up the mountain and arranging a guide and paying lots of money for a park entrance ticket, a climbing permit and a mountain guide we took the mini bus to the start of the track. It's an easy way to start I know but it will save us some time! The climb was quite nice but more difficult than expected. Since you are at such an altitude it gets quite difficult to breath and all the steps leading to the top are quite hard to talke at tmes too. Heidi wasn't the best climber either, since she had no experience whatsoever, but it was good that we went a bit slower, because that way you can get used to the altitude a bit better. So in all it took us about 6 hours to climb to Laban Rata Resthouse, where we would have some sleep, not an overnight stay though because at 2am the alarm went of!!!
This was purposely though since we wanted to be at the top of the mountain right before sunrise. We met a Dutch couple on the first day and the girl wasn't feeling very well, so she went back to the resthouse. The guy could walk along with us. Heidi didn't feel very well either, so told us we should just continue without her, so at least us two could make it to the top in time for sunrise. She and the guide would follow us. The climb was awful and very very very tiring. I t took us very long and also it took all our energy at every step we took. But we made it in time and saw a magnificient sunrise!!! It was literally freezing cold up there, so after a few shots all we wanted to do was to go down again. And that's what we did. On the way down we saw Heidi again and she was almost at the top. We wished her good luck and continued downwards, back to the resthouse. Only 30 minutes after us Heidi made it back to, so she did very well. After some brekkie we had to walk all the way down again to Park HQ. It was a very tiring descend, something I had already peceived. Descending in my opinion is harder than ascending, because it hurts your knees and legs at every step you take, but we made it back down safely and even saw some pichter plants along the way!
Back down we took our climbing certificate and after some waiting for the mini bus to fill up we went to Poring Hot Springs to give our muscles some rest. These hot springs have naturally hot water and you can tap the water into your own tub and add some cold water to it to make it comfortable, since the water is boiling hot. It took some time to fill the tub, because pretty much all the plugs were leaking, but it was great to relax for a while. Even though we had some good relaxation and we did some stretching our legs felt horrible the next day! It was very difficult to walk on anything remotely descending or ascending. Our plan was to walk to the waterfall in the park, but we opted out of this plan and walked around the pool instead to take some pictures. Then on to the next destination. First a mini bus to Ranau from where we took the bus to Sepilok, where they have an orang utan rehabilitation sanctuary. It was closed on the friday afternoon, so we took it easy by walking around a little bit.
Saturday we rose early again and checked the sanctuary out and went to the feeding, which was great. The monkeys come swinging to the feeding platform and then eat loads of bananas and to drink milk. Great fun!! In the afternoon we were picked up by a company called Uncle Tan's, to go and stay at their jungle camp for two nights. After a good lunch at their hostel we drove to the Sungai Kinabatangan, which is the biggest river in Sabah. We boarded a boat and went to tjhe jungle camp. We saw quite a couple of birds along the way and also a fair few monkey's. We took our bed in camp and had some afternoon tea, But all of a sudden we had to rush to the boat, because they sighted some elephants!!!
It was a group of about 10 elephants of the newly discovered pygmee elephant. They are a bit like the normal Asian elephan but only smaller. After this very exciting moment in which we came literally face to face with elephants (they were less than 10 metres or so away from us), we headed back to camp, but not after some people slipped and fell in the mud at the bank of the river!! Very amusing indeed ;)) When we had a great dinner it was time for our night cruise. We saw many nocturnal animals, including a civet cat, a leopard cat, buffy fish owls, sleeping maquaques, a fair few other birds and also crocodiles, though only their eyes reflecting in the spotlights. The maquaques were a lot of fun, if they feel threatened when they are sleeping they p!ss and sh!t down, in which case it might land on your head! Luckily we weren't under the tree when they did feel threatened.
Next morning we went on the morning cruise in which we saw quite few birds including the hornbill. Then breakfast in camp and on for a jungle trek. It was very hot and humid but the sights were amazing. We asw an orang utan mother with two kids and one of them was still a baby tht was only a couple of weeks old. It was fun to see them like this in the wild! Further down the track we saw lot of trees, duh... and we tasted some very sour bushfood. We also saw some bats tht were all rolled up sleeping in a rolled up leave. It was getting so hot by now that after lunch most of decided to have a little siesta. After some time sleeping we went on an afternoon cruise and saw some more wildlife. We also saw some elephant footprints leading into the river and coming out of the other side of the river. Unfortunately we were jut about 30 minutes late, otherwise we could have seen the elephants crossing!! Wht a sight would that have been. Other than this the wildlife we saw was quite similar, but we did see the proboscus monkey, or big nose monkey high up in the tree. After anothe dinner we went on night jungle trek where we saw some birds from very close. They were asleep and didn't move, you could almost touch them, very strange and we had some good photo opportunities.
After another morning cruise it was time for brekkie once again and time to pack our bags and to head back to Uncle Tan's hostel. We decided to head back to Kota Kinabalu where we got late at night. The driv back was quite cool, even hough they showed a realy bad and old Jackie Chan movie, 1/2 the spiderman 2 movie and I-robot which we already saw on the way to Sepilok. But the views outside were great because we passed Mount Kinabalu around sunset time!
Next day I didn't do much, just listening to music and walking aorund own a bit. In the evening we met up with some of the guys we met on the jungle cruise. We went to a place called Beach Street where they have live entertainment every night. It was so loud however that the five of us, sitting around a very small table had diffiulties hearing eachother. Mind you this was all outside, not some loud indoor place, but some loud outdoor place :-) After a few beers it was already 2am and we felt we could keep on talking all night. So it was definitely some good company.
After a long sleep-in it was another day of lazing around. I said goodbye to Heidi since she was flying to BKK early in the morning and I spend the day walkinga around town again, this time with a Canadian guy from my room. I was looking for an iron on patch, such a thing you iron or sew onto you backpack, but it seemed almost impossible to find. At the very last mall we went to we finally succeeded and both bought one of Sabah and of Malaysia. Then at the end of the day the taxi was waiting for me to transport me to the airport where I caught the flight to Kuala Lumpur, or KL, the capital of the country. When I arrived there it was already quite late and the hostel seemed quite boring. No dorms, only single rooms, and no common area. Not a good place to make contacts.
However I was forced to saty there since I phoned up a couple of other hostels and they sai they were fully booked. I explored the city the next day by waling the walking tours mentioned in the Lonely Planet. However the city isn't very pedestrian friendly, the are many roads only accesible by car and impossible to cross for pedestrians. You sometimes have to walk for 20 minutes extra to get to the other side of something, wheras if directly accesible it ould only be a 2 minutes walk. Not very good in my humble opinion. But the city seemed to be quite nice even though it was very busy. I visited some mosques, Chinatown, the National Museum, Merdeka Square and in the evening I went to Menara KL. The viewing platform here is some 276 metres above the city. Great views in every direction. The Petronas Twin Towers looked amazing from here. These towers are the highest buidlings in the world at this moment.
Next day I tried to get to the viewing platform here, but since they only give away 800 tickets I was too late. Quite amazingly so, because the platform opens at 10am and I was there 10:10am, so no getting up into this tower. But you can only et to a mere 146 metres above the ground, so the view form the Menara KL was much better!! In the afternoon I went to the Botanic Gardens, the bird park, which is the bigget open air version in the world, where hornbills and mny other species of bird fly around. Then to the Hibiscus and Orchid gardens, where I somehow managed to get in for free and after this to the Butterfly garden, which was a tourist trap in my opinion. They charge you quite a lot of money to get in and the butterflies you see are all the same and not very colourful either. In the eveing I did ome shopping on Jalan Petaling in chinatown where I bought a watch for 15 RM (3,50 euro). Pretty amazing sine it is an Omega one!! Wll not really but it looks like one anyway and the most amazing thing is that for this price it works too! I should have bought a few more and sold them to you and maybe make a little profit!! Also bought some DVD's and CD's all pirated of course so a real bargain! The cd's are all perfect, so hopefully the dvd's will also be good, let's just wait and see.
After two days I left KL to catch an early morning bus to Melaka. After checking in I went into town and xplored this historic city, which is a great place. There is lots of things to see. At one stage in time the city used to be Portuguese and after that we, the Dutch took over for 150 years. There are lots of historic dutch buildings around. Like Stadthuys, Christ Church, and the remains of a fort and a wall around a water well. Recently built was even a small windmill on Town Square! Pretty funny eh? The a walk around historic Chinatown with many temples and small antique shops. It all is very touristic, but I liked it nevertheless. At the end of the day I went to Bukit St. Paul, which is a hill right next next to the Stadthuys which has the ruins of the St. Pauls Church on it. Then over to Porta de Santiago, a gate that is the only remaining thing from A 'Famosa, a portuguese fortress.
Tomorrow I will leave Melaka late afternoon to go back to KL and hopefully I can catch a night bus then to Kota Bahru which is completely in the north and the gateway to the Perhentian Islands, suposedly some of the most beautiful islands in the region. Very much looking forward to this. Just lazing around and snorkeling all day for a couple of days. Then on to Langkawi and then to Penang and if time allows to the Cameron Highlands. From Penang I will then fly to Bangkok on the 3rd of September where I will then have around 4 days. On the 7th of September I fly to London to stay with some friends. September 11 I will then fly back home!!! So that is all I have to say for now, quite a lot or not?? Sorry again for keeping on talking, but once I start I keep on typing. So I guess I'll see you all soon!!!
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