After leaving Uncle Tan's we headed for Semporna (Waddya wanna watch? I wanna Semporna!). The sole purpose for going there was for some of us to have a go at diving but when we got there we fund that there was also a regatta on that weekend. The harbour was full of decorated sea gypsy boats and there were stalls and plenty of people. One young boy took a shining to Mam and walked around the market with us, getting hold of her hand before waving to any of his friends. There were lots of children around, many of them probably homeless orphans who have ended up here as illegal immigrants from nearby Indonesia and Phillipines. For anyone out there thinking of setting up an orphanage or school somewhere in the world, Semporna would be a perfect candidate.
The next day we left Mam and Martin to have a look around the regatta and donned our wetsuits. We arrived at Sibuan to the sound of a young boy singing gypsy songs and marvelled out the perfectly clear water and the paradise island in front of us. After some basic skills training we were off, swimming along wth Susan's bum
just above the surface, seeing what we could see among the coral. We hardly had to look. The sea was teeming with brightly coloured fish, literally millions of them, most within touching distance. We saw loads of Nemos and other reef fish, as well as the rare Mandarin Fish which lives among sea urchins, puffer fish and lion fish. It was on our third and final dive of the day that we saw what we'd come to see though....turtles. Large Green Turtles would glide past us effortlessly, others sat on the surface partly hidden by rocks. They were much bigger than I had expected but it was amazing to swim along next to them. Being under the water was so peaceful and the fish just went about their business as if we weren't there. We would love to come back to this area in the future to do our Open Water course, then we would be able to go and dive at the fabled Sipadan.
After Semporna it was back to Faridah at Sandakan for a couple of nights. She was as welcoming as ever, getting us everything we needed and more. When there was a power cut which
Clown Anenome Fish
affected the whole of Sabah (someone had been stealing metal from pylons) she even phoned the electricity company and told them that we needed power straight away as Allee was in labour (to put your minds at ease, no, Allee is not actually pregnant). We splashed out a bit as the trip was quickly nearing its end. We went back to the colonial tea house on the hill that we had found during the first stint in Sandakan. There we sat with our little fingers out and drank tea whilst eating scones with cream and jam. The setting of this place is almost as nice as the ice cold flannels they hand out on arrival and we sat here quite a while, just taking it all in. That night we went to Ocean King, a seafood restaurant just outside Sandakan where we had to go to the tanks and choose which of the creatures swimming around them that we wanted to eat. We settled on a kilo of prawns, a kilo of red snapper and a kilo lobster. I think we were all in agreeance that it was the best seafood we have ever had. Martin did manage to bring
the place to a standstill when a prawn looked at him while he tried to behead it but soon he was licking bits of fish off his fingers with the rest of us.
Soon it was time to say another goodbye to Faridah who had made each of us a tile (her handicrafts decorate the walls of the guesthouse) and fly back to Kuala Lumpur. As a special suprise for Mam we had booked elephant riding for the next day at the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary. Mam, Dad and Martin had a ride bareback on the elephants and we petted the two baby elephants that were wandering around. As Allee posed for a photo with one it decided she needed a dust bath and flung sand all over her. The following day it was time to move on again as we went back to Singapore and faced up to the reality of the last day of our trip. We fund Raffles where we had more tea and scones which, I have to say, were nowhere near as good as the tea and scones in Sandakan. We also had a look around the shops and, by the time we boarded
the plane, had been up for 22 hours. By the time we flew home via Dubai and got back to the house we had not been to bed for 48 hours and all looked exhausted. And so it is now back to reality and job/house hunting.
Now that I am back in the UK I find myself frustrated by people who walk around with a miserable look on their face, or who lose their temper at the slightest thing. Maybe they should change places with the Cambodian villager who gets by on 50p a day and lost half of his friends and family to the murderous Khmer Rouge. Or maybe they should change places with the Indonesian taxi driver who sleeps in his car, on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, able to visit his family only twice a year. The people there do this with a smile on their faces, always polite, always friendly, never complaining. They do what they do to support not only themselves but their family, relying on each other rather than government handouts. Some of the countries we visited are very poor, some are not as high-tech or advanced as the western
world, but they could teach us a lot on getting on the life, being grateful for what we have, and showing respect to others.
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