Finishing Part 1 of my trip. Bye Bye to Asia after a fantastic 10 months !!

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July 18th 2013
Published: July 18th 2013
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Day 292 (Wed 26thJune) Kota Kinabalu

I had the pleasure of awaking at 3am, followed by a short walk to the airport. This was straight forward except perhaps for the wild dogs on the loose that bark and follow you most the way, my ear plugs were put it and I ignored them as best I could. I checked in and waited for my flight.

I arrived around 9am and had to wait until about 12pm for Vichet to arrive in from Siem Reap. Once she did we checked in for our flight to Kota Kinabalu on the Malaysian part of Borneo. Similar length flight to the morning, around 3 hours and we were there. A quick taxi the 7km into town and we’d arrived.

We popped out for some tea but the heavens opened and we never quite got a chance to walk around the town. After a day of travelling and an early start I wasn’t too bothered, happy enough to get some sleep.

Day 293 (Thurs 27th June) Kota Kinabalu

In the morning we wandered along the sea front, mainly filled with small local fishing boats, endless fish markets and a lovely smell. There are people that charter tourists to nearby tropical islands. I looked into staying on them but they cost an absolute fortune so we went for a day trip to Manukan instead. The trip there maybe takes 15 minutes and it’s a nice trip out from KK. There is a jetty on the island which all the boats pull up to. You agree a price and time for pick up and off you go. You have to sign into the island at the end of the jetty.

Above my name was ‘Michael Laudrup’. Now I doubt it was actually him and I certainly didn’t see him, probably just some Danes having a laugh. I doubt most people would even think twice but it made me laugh anyways. The islands around here are lovely and its very easy to spend time just lounging on the beach and swimming in the ocean. I hired a snorkel and swam out maybe 100 metres but there wasn’t too much life under the water, it never got deeper than maybe 2 metres plus the amount of boats flying around the area probably means ocean life stays away. There were quite a lot of fish near the jetty, as I imagine it’s safer there for them.

After leaving the island and getting showers we headed out for dinner and then took an evening wander around KK. It’s not the biggest of cities and there isn’t really much going on so it doesn’t take long to see the centre.

Day 294 (Fri 28th June) Sandakan

After waking up and grabbing a quick McMuffin, we headed for the bus station a few kilometres away. As with pretty much all Asian bus terminals, it’s in the middle of nowhere. Within 2 seconds of exiting the cab we were being led to a booth to buy a ticket on a bus leaving straight away, perfect. The next 7 hours or so were not so fun. It’s not that it was uncomfortable or that the views weren’t good because generally they were, as the road meanders through the mountains and past Kota Kinabalu mountain, although it was so misty and wet we couldn’t see the summit. The problem was it says 4-5 hours online so after that amount of time I get impatient. That is one thing that hasn’t changed even though I am used to much longer journeys than this.

It seems the trip through the mountains did not work so well for Vichet as she was sick and felt unwell the higher we got. As she’s Khmer and Cambodia has no hills at all I can only assume it was altitude sickness from being high up for the first time ever.

We got to Sandakan and found out where the main centre was and wandered into a few hotels looking for rooms but for some reason they were all full. We did get into a backpackers however and then had some food and a walk around. Sandakan is also by the sea and was the former capital of British Borneo during the war. There were various death marches here with people having to walk to Kota Kinabalu and not making it, not that you would know as nothing in the town really shows that.

Day 295 (Sat 29th June) Sandakan

In the morning we had a good look around Sandakan. It is a strange place. It is very run down and the buildings and surrounds to me just make me think of what Britain looked like after the war. It does seem that nothing bar a couple brand new hotels and a shopping centre has changed in a long time. The apartment blocks look ancient and are horrible, however the little harbour sea front bit is nice enough. There are also stilt towns further down the coast although we never made it that far.

In the afternoon we hired a taxi to head out to the Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary. I had been looking forward to this since I heard about it months ago and having seen them in Singapore Zoo I wanted to see them in a more wild environment.

It’s maybe 45 minutes away by taxi and you can get off the bus we took yesterday on the way if you time it right, which we didn’t. There is like a morning and afternoon session and I don’t do mornings well so we went early afternoon. At 3pm they put out some food on a deck and have viewing platforms maybe 20 metres away to watch. There are a lot of macaque monkeys knocking about and we saw 3 orang-utans come to eat.

These orang-utans have been recovered from the wild, either after being orphaned or found/captured by locals for pets. They are then taught to live in the wild over 6-10 years while being let out into the wild jungle. Then they can come back for food twice a day, although the food they give them is really bland to try and get them to live free in the wild. It really is a cool place and a good cause. After maybe 20 minutes of watching the orang-utans we headed for the cinema room and watched a film about them. 96 percent like humans and ‘man of the forest’ is what I learnt orang-utan means whilst there. I loved it there and could have watched them most the day. In the evening we ate in one of the little sea side restaurants although it hammered down so wasn’t as nice an experience as last night when it was clear and you could see out into the ocean.

Day 296 (Sun 30th June) Semporna

First thing we moved on to Semporna, the gateway to some of the best scuba diving around. This took a good 6 hours by bus. On arrival we checked in then wandered about. With it being Sunday I wanted to watch the F1 in the evening so made sure I was back in the room by then. Also took in some of Wimbledon on the tv but after spending most the day travelling we did very little in the evening.

Semporna is a very small place. The tourist area if you can call it that is like 3 or 4 small blocks if that. It really is a small place with not a lot going on bar scuba diving.

Day 297 (Mon 1st July) Semporna

I wanted to find out about diving Sipadan, considered one of the best dive spots in the world in the morning. Unfortunately I was given bad news about this. It seems that you have to book in advance to get a day trip there, which is only offered by one company, there was a wait list of like a week until a spot opened up and I’ll be in Australia by then so not convenient in the slightest. The only other option is to book a 3 day trip visiting other islands as well as Sipadan. The only problem with this is that again I do not have the time to do it as it would mean going tomorrow and coming back Thursday night and our flight is Thursday morning, also it is very expensive and we’d have to pay for 2 people to do it even though it’s just me diving so ruled that out.

Semporna is only 1 hour from Tawau which connects to KL and is incredibly cheap to fly between so just means I’ll have to come back another time in the future and do a few day tour. I would have liked to do it now but I’ll get there sometime.

Day 298-299 (Tues 2nd – Wed 3rdJuly) Tawau

We moved on again this time to Tawau. Only a short journey luckily as fed up with buses and moving around now. Tawau is a large enough city but again there isn’t a lot going on. Over the day and half we were there we must have walked every street in the city. There are islands out from here you can go to but they are on the Indonesian side meaning we’d need visa’s and for the sake of it we really couldn’t be bothered. It also wasn’t exactly roasting for beach weather. The promenade here is quite nice with loads of little boats ferrying locals to their house boats, of which there are lots maybe 100 metres from land.

We had decent tv channels in our room so watched quite a few films in the evenings. Again Tawau is pretty old dated bar the new hotels here, but there are a couple of nice little restaurants to be found in amongst the incredibly local places. Overall Sabah hasn’t been quite what I expected. I thought it’d be more up to date as mainland Malaysia is. I am sure in time this will be the way, as the cities to me just seemed to be quite ugly and run down.

Day 300 (Thurs 4th July)

We flew back to KL this morning and headed to our hotel after getting the hour bus from the airport. At dinner time we went up the Menara KL Tower for a view of the city sky line and the Petronas twin towers. I did this back in March when I was here with Lee but it was nice for Vichet to see. The smog and pollution that had lingered over Singapore and KL over the past 10 days or so seems to have gone luckily otherwise there would have been no view at all. It’s good to go up there in the evening, you get both daylight and night time where the city is lit up.

We then headed to KLCC where the twin towers are for a look there, headed inside to eat in the food court and then sat outside watching the water display fountains until they stopped at around 10pm. We then took in a film in the cinema before heading back. It was a nice way to spend our last day of our trip.

It was a bit odd however leaving the cinema. The shopping centre closes at 11pm and the film finished well after midnight. We had to go through all the back little corridors and down some sketchy stairs to get out, pretty sure health and safety wouldn’t allow this back home.

Day 301 (Fri 5th July)

Vichet left after we popped to Times Square shopping centre for some food and shopping. I’d also wanted to show her the indoor theme park which amazed me when I was here the first time, although we never had time to go on the rides. I then headed back into town to check in to the hostel I stayed at last time I was here. I did some shopping of my own later on, buying some warmer weather clothes for heading to Australia as it is winter in Melbourne.

I spent the evening chatting to a couple of Brits who were on their last day of their trip and an Aussie who gave me some tips on my impending move there.

I got an early night after this as I have a long haul flight tomorrow. Today is my 301st day and my last full day in Asia for now. I will definitely be back but for now I am not entirely sure when.

Next - Australia !!!

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