Finally had to leave the wonderful Philippines with time ticking on and a RTW flight schedule to try and keep to.
Flew into the capital, Kota Kinabalu, and Bryn struggled on and off the full public bus into town at every stop with our full rucksacks in order to make room for people....not good in the searing humidity! Got our first taste of Malaysian food since a trip to Penang 6 years ago - as good as we remembered. We loved the Philippines, but the food really is poor (thank you America!)
We had a lovely trip to see the fireflies and Proboscis monkeys on a jungle river just outside KK, courtesy of Pip and Colin's wedding present - thank you! It was great to see the trees lit up like christmas, which considering it was lashing with rain was quite impressive, even if we were cowering under our lifejackets. Photos impossible though
On to Sepilok for the Orangutans at the rehab centre, which we thought was really good (others thought a little to captive). They really are all characters! They all live alone though which is wierd - what do they do each day?
Also came face to face with a roaming green viper!
Again - the heavy rain was a little frustrating but you just have to go with it.
On to our Jungle Lodge in Kinabatangan - The Last Frontier - which Bryn had booked up in advance....a bit of a treat really....a couple of slightly more luxurious days than many backpackers have in the jungle! French cuisine, ensuite bathroom, air con private 4wd transfer, private wildlife spotting boat cruises. Its a tough flashpacking life!
We got a better look at the human-like proboscis monkeys; plus got to see hornbills and eagles. The long lens came in handy....finally worth lugging it round for 5 months!
We went on a short jungle walk tracking animals and were upset to see palm plantations as far as the eye could see instead of pristine jungle
The pre-dawn boat cruise was all a bit much for some........
Our final destination in Sabah, Semporna, aimed to further capitalise on Bryn's newly acquired scuba skills and Fi's newly acquired dive buddy. We did three days diving at various islands, based from our resort on a wooden platform in the ocean - Singamata. Our resosrt had it's own aquarium which we could snorkel in....it had some really giant fish which was great fun.
Off on our dive trip, our boat actually got lost in the middle of the ocean on the first day as the rains came in and we weren't able to see more than a few hundred metres. We were literally going round in circles in the mist for an hour!
It was hilarious to see the fishermen fishing in their pants as it rained - although the dancing guy complete with Peter Stringfellow g-string and posing pouch was a little too much!
And although we're not complaining It was so cold from the constant rain that between dives we had to sit in the water to keep warm!
The coral wasn't as good as in the Philippines but we got to see massive turtles from a couple of inches away! Also saw schools of Jackfish, Devil Scorpionfish, an Octopus etc etc (god we are turning into dive bores! Bryn and Fi felt pretty good now buddying up together with perfect buoyancy.....a lot better than poor old Marco, the nice Italian in the group, who refused to let go of his inflator and shot up and down clattering coral left right and centre! Big let down was that we were unable to get permits for Sipadan, which is the premier dive spot (only a limited number of divers are allowed per day), but together with Mount Kinabalu, which we were also unable to get permits for, they will make for a great future 2-3 week holiday.
After a 10 hour night bus, and 7 hour boat trip we were now in Brunei, oil country! Picked up some duty free wine on the way and nearly got into problems at customs for not declaring it in a Dry State ..ooops.
This Sultan is seriously wealthy. Checked into the only cheap hotel in the country - the youth hostel....separate dorm rooms for Bryn and Fi. The capital BSB is immaculately designed and cared for, with immaculte roads, flower border, gleaming mosques and no crime issues. The problem is, it is a bit boring after a couple of days - even the locals say so! Dry state and everything closes at 6pm, even the buses stop running. However, the salaries are good and as the Sultan provides free education and healthcare, cheap efficient public transport and subsidised pilgrimages to Mecca(!) people seem to stay. Virtually all the museums and sights are free which is nice, as tourism revenue is small fry next to oil money. Don't know what will happen when the oil runs out in 10 years if predictions are correct?!?!
The beautiful main mosque..........
Over half of the capital's population live on the river villages - a complex network of stilt houses, so we thought we would hire a boat and get a better look........
Not quite a Barratt new build development, but similar.....
The villages are all fully self sufficient, complete with their own....
satellite tv, parking spots
gas stations (possible the most scenic in the world!)
exposed electrical switchgear!
Also good to watch all the locals having some banter down at the market....
Our main reason for staying so long in Brunei was actually to get our Chinese visa for Tibet. We'd been warned not to tell the embassy that we were planning on going to Tibet.....but the problem was they asked for our flight details out of China so we had to fess up. We had a tense half hour as the head honcho explained that we were supposed to have a pre-visa authorisation from officials in China. After some whining and glum faces, they eventually agreed to process our visas without this form...phew!
Off now to see the largest cave in the world and hike to 2500m at Mulu National Park in Sarawak - will keep you posted!