Wow-what a journey! We are so lucky to be able to travel the world and enjoy time off in our favourite part of the world-ASIA!
It all started on December 21st as we boarded the plane to Kuala Lumpur from Stockholm, Sweden. Traveling as light as we could and ready for adventure we headed back east to our favourite traveling ground for the first time as a couple.
Out trip started with a few days with friends in Kuala Lumpur which involved being treated to delicious food and singing Frozen's theme tune "Let it go" until we really wanted to let it go!
The adventures got going a few days later when we flew to Sandakan, Malaysian Borneo. We quickly settled into our fabulously rustic room with very comfortable bed at Paganakan Dii Resort https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g1075066-d1105829-r340302556-Paganakan_Dii_Tropical_Retreat-Sepilok_Sandakan_Division_Sabah.html
Here, we enjoyed the start of the real sunshine and heat that one hopes for on holiday and the WILDLIFE! What a privilege. We basked in the glory of Orangutangs at the Sepilok Orangutang Sanctuary, Sun Bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre and Probicus Monkies at the Labuk Bay Probiscous Monkey Sanctuary. Then we dined to our stomachs content
at Lindung Restaurant. The rainforest and surrounding area were beautiful and very well kept. The entrance fees are being used for conservation properly and the atmosphere was relaxing and some enthusiasts dedicate their time to volunteering or working for a low salary to help the conservation projects and animals. Sepilok itself was basically one road and not much else so we decided to venture further afield and went to Sandakan for Christmas dinner and markets although we weren't so impressed!
Although we thoroughly enjoyed our stay here we started to yearn for the beach so decided to cut our last night and head deeper into the jungle for an authentic mosquito ridden experience. We booked a 2 night stay somewhere deep in the jungle with an eco tour and headed off in our taxi, driven by Man the awesome driver who had accompanied us on many shorter journeys. Upon arrival at the Kinabatan River we checked in and took a smaller boat to a little jetty where we hopped onto land to walk down a gangway to our huts. With no idea of what to expect we faced he walk in silence as the path grew into eerier vegetation
and dimmed light. Upon arrival to our rooms we loved the open air of the entire set up although worried how a wall-less room would protect us form the wilderness. Then we headed out on a night track during which we say a large scorpion and another flatter more square animal from the scorpion family. We also saw psychadelic mushrooms that glowed in the dark-amazing! Upon our return to camp we mingled with other guests and did some star gazing. Despite the idyllic description of our jungle experience we did get a bit freaked out by the basic accommodation being so open to the wild and especially when upon returning from the night track we saw previously mentioned flatter more square animal from scorpion family on the rocks in the bathroom where earlier Gillian had taken a Mandi scoop shower barefoot. Again we reaffirmed our longing for the beach and left a night early.
After a 6 hour local bus journey which passed through jungle, more truthfully known as Palm Oil Plantations, we arrived at our beach destination at Semporna, Sabah. We checked out our hotel and realised quickly that this town wasn't up to much more than being
a busy Port to watch locals and a base from which to explore the islands and enjoy beach life. We took to our new beach babe lifestyle like a duck to water and enjoyed the following week smearing in sun cream and laughing a the cultural differences between the vast array of Western and Eastern tourists. We were especially lucky to meet an Austrian couple who made us belly laugh for days and brought a sparkle to our eyes. The beaches were immaculate (apart from the usual plastic and rubbish filled strips of sand you get everywhere these days in Asia) although we did get to enjoy some pristine stretches of pure white sand far too hot to walk on but soft enough to brave it anyway!
Our final treat this holiday was a bit of a surprise as we joined the Gypsy Sea life and ventured out on our own private wooden speedboat for a 4 day 3 night trip to explore some islands local style. We met locals and Gillian taught a class of young school kids an English lesson which was great fun! Days were spent visiting various different islands and climbing to viewpoints for breathtaking
views. Evenings were spent teaching the locals how to play Rummikub, a game based on numbers. We sailed through the sea gypsies houses on stilts and actually climbed into a house to take a look around although there wasn't enough space to swing a cat. In those tiny shacks two families can live together in cramped conditions. We had seen the women with yellow tumeric clay based lotion on their faces, a natural sunblock so Gillian just had to try some. The following day we returned with rice, cooking oil and clothes as a gift to say thank you. Although visiting the islands and the people was an amazing experience we found ourselves feeling quite uncomfortable sometimes. Firstly, we didn't realise that there were two types of sea gypsies...the ones who live on stilt houses attached to islands who are educated in schools and have jobs with incomes and the "real" sea gypsies who live out to sea in their stilt houses with neighbouring fishing pontoons also out to sea with nets where they keep their catch of the day to grow until they are big enough to eat or sell. The parents of the gypsies are out in their
little boats all day long while the children, who don't go to school, play until they are old enough to work. We also didn't realise that the charity we had gone with wasn't giving money to this community but to those who already had homes and jobs. Our boat man had hired an anchor boy who had been taken out of school to work and who spent the entire trip asking us to buy him a school bag. It became quite irritating in the end and we learned our lesson. Local children almost seemed to tire of our presence and I even sensed anger from them when they realised we had no sweets nor money to give them. A good lesson in how to prepare ourselves for poverty in paradise.
Leaving Malaysia was difficult as we enjoyed our stay so very much. We made new friends and visited old. We explored pastures new and off the beaten track and got to soak up some much need vitamin D before heading back to the cold and snow of Sweden and England. The journey home was spent excitedly chatting about dreams of returning to do Dive Master certificates and live the
dream but before too long it was Monday morning and time for the first meeting of the week...
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