Published: January 25th 2012January 10th 2012
After a simple breakfast of watermelon and dry toast we hung out in our room until our departure time of 10:45. We were all keen to get going earlier and felt the hanging around was a bit of a time waster. We entertained ourselves by drying out Soffia's daypack with newspaper and writing our free 'welcome to borneo" postcards. Eventually, we climbed into the van and set off on the two hour mini van ride bound for our Miso Walai Homstay along the Kinabatangan River.
We made a quick supermarket stop for essential supplies (tigerbalm, bottled water, cremos and other snacks). We also made a pee stop where you paid according to your ummm.... requirements! (See photo for further explaination)
Upon our arrival our homstay guide Otto, took us on an open fishing boat ride along the river. Despite the rain and dead floating pig, we spotted both the Long tailed and Pig tailed Macaques, as well as the infamous Probiscus monkeys. The highlight for me was spotting a large male. Unfortunately no crocodiles, snakes or elephants were sighted!
The boat ride back was not so nice as it was raining and cold. We were glad to get
back to the recption centre but the thought of a bucket shower did not appeal to most of us. That night for dinner Soffia and I were served whole grilled fish, warm roasted pumpkin, mango and chilli salad and rice. It was quite a meal and as delicious as it was, nothing could improve the fact that we both felt shafted by the whole 'homestay' experience- here's why.
The trip notes from Geckos say, "Our accomodation for our stay here is a home stay program with a local family". While both Katie and Heather scored just that, Soffia and I were put in what we were told was the owner's residence of the Palm Oil Plantation. So essentially it was a house stay. An old lady who couldn't speak a word of English served us our delicious meals but we were left entirely to our own devices. It seems like we got a very different experience from our fellow group members and completely no cultural awareness which defeated the point of going.
Another big issue for me was the fact that we were staying at the owner's mansion of the Palm Oil plantation, which everyone knows is a
crop which is destroying the jungles of Borneo and yet on the second day of this 'housestay" we went traipsing through leech infested jungle to plant seedlings to rehabilitate the areas our hosts are making money from destroying. Just didn't make much sense to me.
Something fun which we were all looking forward to was the night time Cultural Performance. The idea was we would get dressed up in traditional dress and watch/participate. Not to be though! Our trek was cancelled (no reason given) I think they just couldn't be bothered really, and instead the night time performance was moved to the afternoon. This was fine by us, until we were told, no dress up. Apparently dressing up is reserved for night time performances only. We just kept missing out during this MESCOT Eco-Tourism project. The performance actually turned out to be fun and they even got us up and dancing. I feel really strongly that when this project began about ten years ago, it had the making of something great. Unfortunately, you can see it has been left to rot away and is now something that leaves its visitors disappointed and frustrated. I can not recommend this project, which is a shame because I;m sure if it was better managed it would be a truly wonderful experience.