Into the Jungle at Kinabantangen River

Standard

Our Jungle trip are about to start, waiting at the cafeteria in Sepilok, looking around to see if we can figure out who our travel companion will be. As this is in the middle of the feeding time, most of the visitors in the cafeteria is probably there for a similar reason as us. Mr Aji arrives and we are 8 adults + 1 child that will camp together for the following days. Looks like a nice group, but there is one obstacle, the weather forecast! For the following 3 days it is mostly promising rain. Should we cancel and wait for better weather or go and hope for the best???

We are optimistic, and on our way to the village of Sakau the weather is nice. We arrive to our accommodation, which is simple but we didn’t expect anything else, and are ready for our first river cruise. And just in case – bringing a raincoat! On this first afternoon river cruise we are heading downstream to look for crocodiles. None seen, but we are passing close to the first family of Proboscis Monkeys. Mr Aji, our guide, can mimic their sound, and the monkeys actually answers him. During this boat trip we then pass several groups of  macaques and a few more families of Proboscis,we also spot a wild pig, one or two species of the hornbills birds and some silver leaf monkeys. No elephants, no crocodiles and no orang-utan.

It has been raining quite heavily, but we have been so busy looking in between the trees to spot the animals that we have hardly noticed how wet we actually have been.

image

Rainy weather

After dinner it is time for night tracking. Due to all the raining we actually pass this part of the programme. The rest of the group join, but it seemed that they didn’t explore much except some huge insects. Raining all through the night, but stopped just in time for our morning walk. No boat trip this time, but 1,5 hours very muddy and slippery walk. We heard and could smell some monkeys, but did not see any, and we climbed over some elephant dropping that had been there a while as it grow mushroom in it. After this the breakfast tasted great!

When it was time for our afternoon boat trip, the weather had become better and it had stopped raining. Today we went upstream, and very soon we spotted our first crocodile. Laying on the ground long enough for us to have a good look. Soon after we spotted crocodile number two and number three.

image

Rhinocort Hornbill

We also spotted 6 out of total 8 hornbills birds that lives in Borneo, the most beautiful is the Rhinocort Hornbills, but this one we had a very close view on at In Pulau Pangkor some years ago

image

Clearing the way on the small river

We are now going into the very narrow part of the river, but some trees have falling down so we can not continue. But we did see some more of the Proboscis monkey.

Back on the main river Mr Aji spot an orang-utan. The rest of us just see a tree, but after a while we see something dark moving around. We are told just to be patient and wait, in half an hour the orang-utan will go to sleep, before that it must build the nest for the night, and have dinner. And the tree next to the one were the orang-utan is hiding right now contain delicious fruit.

image

We spotted some brown shadow in tree

image

Now it is no doubt, we see a silverback and this is a grand old lady or man

image

Finally it turnaround and we see it is a grand old man

We are waiting, and now something is moving, we see the back of grey-silver orang-utan, and then it turned around and we see that it is a male. Just as we were told, he is moving to the other tree for eating, then building the nest and at five o’clock he is sleeping! Amazing.

Next morning we stop half-way on our way back to Sepilok for our last walk, this time not inside the Jungle but on the big road. We see red leaf monkey and also the pig tale macaques.

image

Orangutan night nests

And we se lot of orang-utan night nest up in tree, many of them recently build, but we are not able to spot any wild orang-utan, even though we are almost certain at least one is hiding in one of the big tree in front of us. We wait and wait, but no one shows up.

All in all we have spotted quite many wild animals, 6 different monkeys, 6 out of 8 hornbills birds, wild pig, crocodile, other birds, butterflies and various insects. What we missed was the gibbon, the pygme elephant and the leopard ( and probably a lot of different birds).

And in media we can follow the discussion of building a bridge over Sakau river.

image

Car ferry at Sakau instead of bridge

And after 3 days in a rainy and muddy jungle we were in desperate need of laundry, specially for our shows. Luckily we had a self-service place in our neighbourhood. And from the hours spend there we can tell that on a Saturday afternoon in Sandakan it is the young men and boys that are handling the family laundrys.

Advertisements

Trapped in the Splash

Standard

Water festival or Songkran in Pattaya is just crazy. Our first day we were walking outside our hotel trying to avoid being splashed. Then getting the fantastic idea in order to avoid getting soaked, let’s jump on the Songtha / Baht bus. This was probably the worst idea we had, getting completely soaked at least 10 times during the ride.

The day after we had a different approach, leaving the hotel somewhat earlier, we were able to get to the next alley, just hit a few times by different wsterguns. Then we found a taxi, that drove us the the shopping mall, Central Festival. After finishing our dinner inside the shopping mall, we relaxed with a mojito from the cocktail car bar outside. Here we could stay dry as long as we was inside the bar area. Anyone trying to splash water was stopped by the bar guys (and they had the biggest water gun of all). Time to go home, we got a taxi again, maybe a little high price, but again it cost to stay dry.

Our third day was the finale in Pattaya, and we woke up by street disco from the corner of our hotel five o’clock in the morning. From then it just get worse. We tried to go out early for lunch, but at every corner of our hotel it was just crazy, water splashing everywhere, and since we did not want to get soaked again, we turned around and stayed inside the hotel area. Does this mean we have become grumpy old tourists not able to have fun anymore?

Partly yes, but we had already celebrated Songkran in Chumphon area together with friends. It started very innocent, we were in Pak Nam Chumphon eating on the market. Kids were playing outside, but we’re probably told not to play at the food stall. On our way back to the car, we were passing four kids, wonder if they dare to splash us. They did, the youngest turned around with a big toothless smile, shouting “Falang” and the running after us with his water gun. But this was just fun. Back on Thun Wualaen Beach we were surprised about the long caravan of cars drivin through the beach. But it was still rather innocent, of course we were hit now and then, but never completely soaked, and every time hit, it was combined with a big, big smile. When the sun got down it was over.

imageimageimage

Songkran second day, we were heading towards the beach, dressed in a way that a water splash doesn’t matter. And we were soaked and several times and got the colored powder in our face and on our clothes. But this is a beach area, if you get to dirty, go for a swim, and so we did. Heading back to our guesthouse we were met with dry towels. In the evening on the other hand there had been knife fights, one dead and four seriously injured on hospital.

The third day of Songkran  it was a bit slow start, and during daylight it was mostly children and young being out. Going for lunch we hoped to be able to keep dry, but luckily we had dressed for the opposite. We had not gone many meters from our guesthouse before hit the first time. But miraculous we did not get particular wet on our way  to a lunch restaurant, but our faces had all kind of colors, so we were not completely clean. Just before entering the restaurant, we stopped a minute, and then I got completely soaked by the owner of the restaurant we were going to enter. This was absolutely a new way of inviting gusts in. But we got in, had our lunch, and after that joined in the Songkran festivals for hours, splashing anyone passing by, and now and then being completely soaked by our play mates.

When the sun get down we went home, and the next day it was over, we thought, until we arrived to Pattaya, where the water festival was prolonged and last for three more days. But we had had enough of splashing and wanted to stay dry, that’s why we acted as grumpy old tourists.

 

 

 

 

 

Vietnam for one week

Standard

This year we made a visa run to Saigon, as a Nordic citizen you do not need a visa to Vietnam if you stay 15 days. Just show your return ticket to the passport control and you can stay 15 days.

This is the first time we have made such a short trip, normally we stay 3 month. So how did we spend our days? Coffee, Beers and Crocodiles.

Vietnam have probably among the best coffee in the world, and as usual it is best enjoyed at a small street cafe so that you can enjoy the vibrant life around you. But since we very visiting for so few days, we did not enjoy the street life at all, it was in our ears only a loud annoying traffic noise all the time, combined with high pollution leading to sore throat and red eyes.

Beer – this was much more easier to enjoy. Quite many new and exclusive craft beer pubs has started, we visited only one of them, Pasteur Brewing Company. The beer was good, but expensive, and with the lack of any Vietnamese customers in the pub, this could have been located anywhere in the world. Everything has become more expensive since our last visit (2014) except the microbrew bars. Here the prices was the same as before, but the number of Vietnamese customers had really increased. Our favorite this time was visiting at Bigman Beer during lunch time and observe all the different business lunches. You could see some bring tons of paper and documents to hand over to their business partner, but after the first hand shake the other part will just drink beer and do not look at any of the documents at all. On some other tables you find the small company with the boss celebrating some special occasion with their staff. After a while many around the table are rather drunk and we wonder who will fall asleep first. When leaving, they all go down to the garage and drive out on their motorbike(!)

Some years ago we visited a very strange theme park outside Saigon. Time for a new visit to Suo Tien theme park, including everything from temples, water park, amusement park, zoo, crocodile farm and of course a lot of restaurant and food stall. I wanted to revisit the crocodiles and feed them. Last time we visited we were almost the only one there, this time the park was rather crowded, and the crocodile not very easy to tease with a bit of red meat.

image

Feeding the crocodiles

imageimage

Much more fun was actually the horror house, if you were able to go by yourselves and not have any young Vietnamese in front or back. Why? They go with the torch light on the phone, destroying all the fun. The idea is to get into the dark and be scared. The Harry Potter house was great, with a mix of dolls and humans grabbing you. The Buddist Hell (Unicorn palace) would have been great if the light on all the phones had been banned. You kind of mising the point going into the darkness, bringing light with you.

image

Time for power-naps

 

 

Back in KK

Standard

2170 km later we are back in KK and TH hotel. 382 ringit spend on 166 litre of petrol during 31 days.

After this road trip we did not have any more adventures Idea for how to spend our remaining days in Borneo so we made it simple. Enjoying the dance performances in Imago shopping mall and the sunset spotting outside the fish market. And as the finale watching the movie Kong: Skull Island (and after that I have stopped eating squid).

image

Sunset in Kota Kinabalu

And the car are dropped off at the car rental office at the airport.

From our notes………

Petrol 1: one of the challenges was to calculate how long the petrol would last as all the long distances we drove up the mountains had no petrol station at all. We made it a routine that whenever we passed a petrol station we filled up the gas tank.

Petrol 2: first pay, then fill up the thank. Not always easy to know the exact amount – and going on a long ride you need to have the gas tank full (some petrol station accepts credit card and there it was no problem, fill it up first, then pay)

Parking1: first you park, then you pay. Simple, if you only could find out where to pay. In the parking house, the automat paying machine is not necessarily placed on each floor or close to the exit.

Parking 2: In Sandakan we had parked on the Street, and received a parking fee on our return. But how and where should we pay the 0.80 ringit? Parking guides were walking around we were told, wearing green vest. We never saw any. Then you could also pay at any of the parking kiosk inside city, we never found a kiosk that were open. After several days we gave up and the receptionist at our hotel promised to handle this for us.

Parking 3: Stop the car, and it is considered parked! But when we tried to do the same, less than 5 minutes later we had a parking ticket (and yes, it was not a good parking close to a corner, but at least we did not stop the car in the middle of the road as so many others) of 100 ringit, then we had to figure out how to get to the police station to pay for it

GPS map: most of the time it works well, only a few road junction and roundabouts not updated. But you need internet coverage – and on many of the places in the more remote areas internet coverage was lacking

Printed road map: works also off-line, but the infrastructure is developing faster than the road map industry, and our map was printed 2007 and at least 3 of the roads ( rather big roads) we used did not exist on our map.

Tipping: after tipping at a restaurant in Keningau, first our waitress smiled and said thank you. On our way the rest of the serving staff said thank you and on the outside the chief smiled and said thank you while chopping vegetables and meat.

Labuan – paradise or not?

Standard

We stayed one night at Beaufort, just to be able to plan and prepare for how to go and where to stay on Labuan. The ferries are going approximately every hour and it is not necessary to book ahead. We start early, arriving on the quay jut in time for the ferry to leave. But we needed a ticket and that took some time? First of all there was no rules or marking of where to park the car, so we tried just to park as long to the side as possible. Then we were looking for the tickets. The ticket booth inside was only for passenger going with smaller boats, and we were told that the ticket were sold outside.. But where? We couldn’t see any open ticket service any place. After som help, we find it, but it was turned away from where the cars entered, so no good logistics here. Then we needed to find where to pay our departure tax, inside the first ticket office. And then we could enter the ferry.

image

Car Ferry at departure

Safety first it says in big letter, then so many signs about what you are not allowed to do. No smoking, turn of the engine, no passenger in the cars. Reality? Everyone smokes, including staff, passenger sitting inside the car with engine on during the entire trip (2,5 hours).

Approaching Labuan, it does not really look like expected for a tropical white beach island. We had read that it was a financial centre, and was expecting high buildings, but not all the big boats.

image

First impression of Labuan

This is also a Duty Free island, so before heading to our resort, we stopped to buy some drinks. This costed us a parking ticket! Yes, we had parked to close to the corner, but after so many weeks I Sabah, seeing so many cars parked just in the middle of the road, we thought our parking was quite good. Now we had to find the police station first, in order to pay or parking ticket.

Finally reaching our resort we receive some good news. We are given a front view room, and even if the resort itself (Palm Beach Resort) is slightly outdated, the room(s) are huge with a really big balcony. Surprise number two, the restaurant serves quite good food. This will be a nice end to our Sabah experience!

image

Great food at Palm Beach Resort

We have to take a swim in the ocean, even though there are warnings was both jelly fish and string ray. The water is so hot, probably more than 30 degrees. There is a nice beach bar as well, but we are heading towards the pool, and a nice drink in the pool bar. The next day we only relax in the pool, but at night we see that we have got quite many insects bite from sand flies. Strange, it was only the first day we were at the beach. Next day we decided to only be in the pool, not on the beach or at the sunbeams. Still we have got many, many more insects bits from sand flies, so for the rest of our stay we have to relax and enjoy the resort from our balcony instead.

image

Night view from our balcony

image

Our resort

And every morning we were served a splendid laksa soup by Peter, the egg and noodle chief. He told us that he used his grandfathers secret recipe, and the soup was just fantastic. Some nights he also served his Laksa soup on the beach, still really good. Labuan had many beaches, but after the attack of sand flies we were not very keen on going swimming on any of those. But a nice place to spot the sunset.

image

Sunday afternoon at a public beach

Leaving Labuan and back on the mainland it was sign for how to get to the “survival island” known from television. But we had had enough of sand flies for a while, so not attempted. What we did try to manage, was a river cruise on Klias wetland. But all the tour company was only approaching groups / package tour from KK, so when we were arriving in the morning they were all closed, except one tour organisation. But they charged an extremely high price so we said no thanks. Instead it was lunch in Papar and watching Papars old railway bridge.

image

The old Railway Bridge in Papar

Keningau – the friendliest place in Sabah?

Standard

Leaving Kudat we had a lot of option on where to go. First option was to go to Kota Belud, to visit the Sunday market, alternatively continue on the coastal road to Kota Kinabalu or beyond. But as we were getting close to the Kota Marudu junction the weather was so nice that we decided to go to Poring again, driving towards a beautiful mountain view. This time we almost could see the famous mountain. As usual we were more or less alone on the road, and could stop for anyone photo moments we want. Road condition very good and it felt that we reached Poring in no time.

Going to the Rafflesia farm, but this time they had no flowers blooming. After lunch in Ranau, it was time to decide next step.

We decided to go towards Tambuan and thereafter decide if we go to KK or to Beaufort (or any other place). Easy going also to Tambuan so we continued our adventure. But now the road condition started to be worse. So many places up the hill were the road has wiped away. Again, if there is a traffic sign warning about bad road condition, take it seriously. When driving around in Sabah we have for many roads been the only car, with one exception. Everywhere we drive, no matter how small the road is, we always meet the red pickup car from the electrical company, so also this time, and it felt safe knowing that the “help” will be close if needed. Approaching Keningau, the first we saw was a nice hotel at the roundabout, so we decided to finally stop. The room was nice and the hotel personal very helpful so our planned one night stop-over became several days.

In Keningau they had very nice handicrafts, so if you want to buy some basket or rotting, this is the place. They also had a Sunday Market with really cheap fruit. For the first time on this trip we could buy some delicious rambutan fruits, that we bring with us for a picnic inside Crocker Range Park. This park is much bigger than the more popular Kinabalu Park, but much less visited. As usual we could bring the car inside the park, so after we finished our fruit picnic, we drove around. At the visitor centre it was a nice display of the different tracks to go, and since they had a Rafflesia spot only a few hundred meters away we decided to go for a short walk. We had plenty of waters in the car, but since we were only going a few hundred meter we didn’t bring any. Luckily we changed our shoes from sandals to trainers. And off we are, after a few step the path continue straight as well as to the left. We continue straight, going downwards and further down. Then we see a sign “ welcome to Crocker trail”. As this trail only was 2,2 km long we continued. The trail were well maintained, with signs every 100 meter, but as we have reached the bottom, the following 6-700 meters were straight uphill again. It took us around 1,5 hours to complete this “short” trail ( without any water), ending on the highest point, and just getting downhill again to were we parked the car was tuff. And the Rafflesia spot we missed, as it were on the path we didn’t choose.

The next day it was time to leave, and we decided to continue to Beaufort, but wanted to go by the new Kimanis road over the mountain . Very steep, up to 19% on some parts. We were glad we had a relatively large car wit a strong engine. The view was fantastic. When we have started on the road to Beaufort, we see a sign “Ferry Memnok”, so we changed plans again and decided to take the ferry to Labuan, for some relaxing beach days.

image

Beaufort, view from our hotel room

Kudat and the Tip of Borneo

Standard

We had looked forward to this drive, finally being able to some nice view along the coast. This will also the most challenging one when it comes to petrol management, as the next petrol station is in Pita, 4,5 hours away with a humpy road quality. And in Sabah you must pay before you fill up with petrol, so it can be a bit challenging to ensure your gas tank is full.

The first hour run very smooth, but a bit boring as we have driven here quite many times already. After the right turned into the Pita road, we are the only car for hours. Road condition is extremely good (remember we had very low expectations), could be due to all Palm oil plantation, because when we are closer to Pitas there is no more Palm oil plantation, only Jungle and huge pot holes in the road. When there is a warning about bad road condition you should take it seriously. 600 meter takes more than 10 minutes to pass. We are never worried that the car will not make it, we are still more or less the only car, so we can use all the road space for navigating around the pot holes, more worrying is if the petrol will last. The last two hours we have had no internet coverage on the phone (no updated gps map), our printed map is too old and the road we are on hardly exist so when we ends up in a junction we had to go by our guts feeling for the correct choice. No problem, we made it to the petrol station with at least a few decilitre petrol left.

After a short brake at a very breezy seafood restaurant we could start driving on the costal road. The rest of the way to Kudat was easy, and we had no problem finding Ria hotel in the middle of this small coastal town. After a nice breakfast at the coffee shop next to our hotel, we went exploring all the beaches in the area. Starting with the one close to town, Bak Bak Beach, quite nice, but empty, and I have no idea how to actually get into the water to swim.

image

How do you reached the water at Bak Bak beach?

Continue up to the tip of Borneo for more pristine and empty beaches, and at the tip itself look into the Sulu Sea at the right and the South Chinese Sea to the left. Combine this with a nice breeze and it couldn’t be better. Well maybe some more clear sea so we could go snorkelling, but you can’t get it all. At least we could swim here, and for the following days we tried several of the beaches around the tip, always being alone. Our favourite was the Kelambu Beach wit its two bays.

Kudat is a very small town, but it has an esplanade that is nice to visit for some sea food. Even if we have visited better restaurants, no doubt that the food were fresh, as the were fishing outside, while the owner controlled it all from his hammock. Also the small coffee shops are nice to visit for some snack.