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Published: July 18th 2010
We gave the bus driver two ringets (Malaysian currency). He said the price had changed to three ringets. This is the way traveling in Malaysia works; read one thing, plan according to what you read, come to find out what you read is outdated or untrue. The difference between two and three ringets is about 30 cents so it wasn't a big deal but when stuff like that happens over and over and over on a bigger scale (like buses no longer operate at all or on a different schedule than they did yesterday) it gets to be a bit (or a lot) trying and frustrating.
We paid three ringets and boarded the city bus for a half hour ride to Bako National Park which naturally ended up being an hour-long bus ride. The next step to get to Bako is to hire a boat to take you the rest of the way to park headquarters. Thankfully we hooked up with two other couples to share a boat and split the cost with us. Walking down the dock to the boat I ignored the warning signs that crocodiles are common in the river and that life jackets must be worn
in the boat. Into the boat the six of us go and the boat driver hands out five life jackets. We all stare at him wondering what his response will be to the lack of life jackets. He ignores us, starts the engine and we're off. With both Bob and me clad in life jackets we joked, perhaps inappropriately, that he took the last life jacket and was probably the least likely to need one, having a long background of teaching swim lessons. But we weren't about to give up our life jackets.
We checked into our hostel, dumped our bags and checked out the wild boars grazing in the mud pit in front of our room. We found a hike we could still get done before dark and headed off into the jungle. The hike was great and led us to a decent beach. While exploring the beach a macaque monkey decided our backpack looked like a good treat and crept out of the trees and onto the beach. Bob spotted him before he ran off with our stuff. He hung out in the trees eying our backpack until we left the beach.
The thunder we had
heard for the entire hike in finally moved over us on the hike back and dumped refreshingly cold rain. We arrived back near the park headquarters just before dusk. By then the rain had stopped but as we climbed down the last steep section of trail we started feeling enormous rain drops coming down in spurts. Pausing to see what was going on, we found proboscis monkeys jumping around on the trees right over our heads. As possibly the main highlight of a trip to Bako we felt pretty successful in getting to see these monkeys within hours of arriving at the park. The walk back to park HQ on a plank walk through the mangrove forest produced an impressive show of both macaques and proboscis monkeys coming out of the jungle at sunset in search of dinner.
We then had our first taste of the canteen at park headquarters which is an adventure in itself. We asked the prices of different dishes and got a Malaysian answer of, “depends on what you get.” Thanks for the direct answer that gave me no information! My plate of food ended up being three ringet and Bob's was 13. How? I
have no idea. We asked and got a similar no-information answer. It seems as if the pricing system goes based on how much the lady at the counter likes you. The following morning I took both my plate and Bob's up to the counter to pay where the lady charged me six ringet total for both plates. See how this makes no sense? Welcome to traveling Malaysia.
We opted to just hang around the park headquarters on our second day. Our hike on the first day was great but we saw little wildlife in comparison to what we saw near park HQ. We wandered the beach where we saw swallow's nests on the rock face (the nest harvested to make bird's nest drink), mud skippers skimming the shore and those tiny crabs that make small balls all across the beach. We watched silver leaf monkeys and macaques run around the beach and up into the trees.
That evening we went on a guided night trek where we saw fireflies, glow worms, a flying lemur, spiders the size of my hand, lizards, frogs, a baby crocodile and monkeys sleeping in the trees resting up for another day ahead of
stealing whatever people leave unattended. The people in the dorm next to us had macaques steal their Monopoly game and a towel. Another guy had a cake stolen from the table in front of him and a girl had a tube of toothpaste taken out of her hand on the way back from the bathroom. The park guides call these monkeys “naughty monkeys.”
Overall, Bako was a nice adventure into the jungle to do some light hiking, swimming and see a variety of wildlife.
Some information about a trip to Bako:
The bus from Kuching to Bako is 3 ringet.
Once the bus drops you off, you need to hire a boat to take you the rest of the way which is 47 ringet so try to get in a boat with others. We split the boat with two other couples, lowing the cost to 8 ringet/person.
The park hostel is decent but just decent. Four beds to a room, although there was no one else in ours. Watch out for anything mice might eat (even soap apparently) because they visit your room at night.
The food at the park, as stated above, ranges in price dramatically.
Normally I paid 3 or 4 ringet for a plate of food. Bob always got charges at least 6 ringet. Make friends with the mean lady at the counter; maybe that will help?
A big bottle of water is 3 ringet, as well as any soda or canned coffee or juice.
There is no hot water in the showers attached to the dorms.
The night trek goes every night it isn't raining and costs 10 ringet and is well worth it. Those guides can spot the smallest creatures!
Bring toilet paper. They sell it at the canteen but it's 2 ringet.
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