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October 14th 2015
Published: November 24th 2015
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Borneo! The mere mention of this name conjures up all sorts of exotic images of lush jungles, beautiful beaches, headhunter lore, remote tribes and longhouses...I have been captivated by this place for years; it started with seeing the movie Farewell to the King in the 80's and from its depiction of Borneo it looked like one of the most remote and exotic locales in the world...and now I was finally here!

We were to start our adventure in the northern state of Sabah before working our way down to Sarawak...we had a tough time choosing what to see and do here, there are a ton of options and we ultimately ended up scrapping the eastern portion of Sabah due to time/logistic constraints to focus more on the west and northwestern coast...

Touched down in Kota Kinabalu (or KK as the locals call it) late evening, we were still pretty jetlagged so decided to just crash and start fresh in the morning...after some coffee and breaky the following morning we wandered out to get our bearings, stopping to arrange a car rental in a couple of days for our self-guided trip up the western coast...not quite sure what to say
Soaked to the bone...Soaked to the bone...Soaked to the bone...

...at Mt. Kinabalu Park...
about this place, it's a city with a few gigantic shopping malls and not a whole lot else...took a stroll along the waterfront and returned there for dinner when the local fish stalls cranked up, but after a couple of hours we decided on leaving the following day...so back to the rental agency to shift some dates around and that was that...

Picked up our decidedly unsexy Proton vehicle early the next morning, and with some basic directions started out for the Tip of Borneo where we planned to spend the next couple of days...the drive was great, spent a good three hours or so slowly making our way up the western coast before finally seeing the signs for Tommy's resort, then it was off the highway and into the thick of it...fortunately it was well signed, and after about thirty minutes we found it, right across the street from a large beach fronting onto the South China Sea...which would have been great had it not been for the rain and gale force winds whipping through the area! Anyways, stopped in to find the place empty, checked out a couple of rooms, then went up to see another place right at the Tip of Borneo but ultimately decided on one of the private villas at Tommy's...very cool, there were three such villas on a hilltop behind Tommy's overlooking the sea and each with its own private covered deck...but again with the weather raging we didn't get to spend a lot of time out there...

Just chilled that day, the following day we took a ride into Kudat to get some gas, and on the way back stopped at a couple of beaches we found along the road...one looked like it had just hosted a huge beach party, sadly because of the trash...a little campsite was nearby and while empty the owners were there, sat and had a beer and chatted with them, the stretch of beach they were on was fabulous...it was actually a nice day but the winds were still up and the surf looked really rough, didn't want to chance swimming in it...

Found a little restaurant on the way back to Tommy's and decided to hit that for dinner, glad we did! It belongs to another hotel of which the name escapes me, but the food was amazing...started with a local delicacy called Hinava,
Fresh Fish in KK...Fresh Fish in KK...Fresh Fish in KK...

....mmmmmmm..... (KC)
fresh fish "cooked" in lime juice (similar to ceviche) and it was delicious...followed that up with a couple of Malay/Indonesian rice dishes (Rendang maybe?) which were equally as good...some good laughs with fellow travelers and a couple of pints rounded out the evening, tons of fun...

We were originally going to head back to KK from here, but having gained an extra day by leaving early we decided to make our way over to Mt. Kinabalu...we had no intention of climbing it (and I believe the topmost section was still closed due to the earthquake earlier this year) but we figured it would be cool to see it, and there were apparently all sorts of trails to hike under your own steam in the park so away we went...

The drive was pretty, through all sorts of lush mountains and valleys...we were gradually climbing in altitude towards the base of the mountain and once again encountered rain...and low-lying clouds, pretty cool driving through them but that ultimately meant we couldn't see the top...after bopping around looking for accommodation we settled on one, went and had a bite to eat and that was pretty much it for the day...there isn't a whole lot to do or see around the area...

Woke up the next morning to more rain, we had loosely planned to spend two nights here but with the weather and complete lack of things to do (and it being the Lovely K's birthday) we decided to hit the park for some hiking and then make our way back to KK to celebrate properly...

The park was great, and because of the weather no one else was there so it was cool hiking around by ourselves...the maps they provided didn't work out so well, we kept getting turned around and going in circles, doing the same path twice etc. in the pouring rain, so after a bit it just became "screw it, back to KK!" and off we went...

Made it back and over lunch decided on a place to stay; the Horizon Hotel...it was a bit more than we like to spend on the road, but with being soaked to the bone and bummed about the weather at the Tip and Mt. Kinabalu we decided to treat ourselves...gal at the front desk recognized it was K's birthday from her passport and gave us a free upgrade...score! Great place in the centre of town, highly recommend it...

Went out on a good night that night, first back to the Aussie bar for pints and pool, then made our way over to this weird covered food court where there was someone with a keyboard and two gals singing, bizarre but entertaining...the following day I was a bit under the weather, just relaxed and eventually wandered about...did have a fantastic meal at Chili Vanilla's, it's in the LP and well worth a visit...

That sums up our first week in Borneo; to be honest we felt like we were just spinning our wheels and couldn't seem to get into the groove...also reflected in how little I used my camera that week, with the haze and rain there wasn't much to shoot...I enjoyed the places and things we saw but nothing really knocked our socks off...regret not going out to one of the islands off the coast of KK but aside from that just didn't feel like there was much to do...I'm sure there were things we missed but c'est la vie, fortunately things were about to pick up when we made our way to Sarawak...
View from our deck at Tommy's...View from our deck at Tommy's...View from our deck at Tommy's...

...and there's our Proton parked out front!


(Some photos copyright of Karen C., denoted by (KC)...used with kind permission)


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Our Shack...Our Shack...
Our Shack...

...at Tommy's...
Beach at the Tip of Borneo...Beach at the Tip of Borneo...
Beach at the Tip of Borneo...

...beautiful but too rough to swim in...gah...
Clouds rolling by our room...Clouds rolling by our room...
Clouds rolling by our room...

...at the foot of Mt. Kinabalu...gah...
Waterfall...Waterfall...
Waterfall...

...on one of the trails near Mt. Kinabalu...
Back in KK...Back in KK...
Back in KK...

...and having pints while being serenaded in a food court...too fun! (KC)


27th November 2015

Sabah and more
Sounds like you are having a fantastic trip.
31st December 2015

Love the blog
You are making me very excited for my trip to Borneo this year!
31st December 2015

Fantastic...
...great spot, any questions fire them my way...

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