Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nov.15-25 Julie & Andrew's Wild Borneo Adventure

Kota Kinabalu, or "KK" to the locals is coastal town that was essentially obliterated during WWII so it is fairly new and we found some decent accommodation. I actually quite liked the City Park Lodge: our room didn’t have any windows, but the common room had free internet and it’s central location was handy.

KK is home to Asia’s largest market – the KK night market. I can’t say for sure if it is the largest, but it’s pretty huge. During the day you can buy everything from cheap Philippine pearls to fresh seafood. At night, you come for the food. Most of the area is covered by tarps strung up between the tables and booths of the vendors. For an average North American male like myself, you gotta watch your head else you’ll be caught by the guy-wires. The stalls stretch as far as you can see through the maze of tables, tents and strings of lights, and combined with the countless bbq’s bellowing smoke it makes for quite the atmosphere. With the smoke choking you and the hawkers yelling out “dua ringgit! dua ringgit!” and visually so much for you to take in, it can be a bit overwhelming, but also really exciting.

Each bbq vendor has a long table setup for eating at, upon which you’ll find a plastic cup upside down in a plastic bowl marking each place setting, and a stack of drinks available and various sauces and seasonings. The cup is for drinking (either the water in jugs or the drinks on the table, ask for ice) while the bowl is for washing your hands (use a lime to get rid of the fishy smell). Another small plate is provided for making your sauce using the red chilli sauce as a base: add in some soy sauce, salt, sugar and lime juice as you see fit.  I’m not so good at making sauces but on our second time there the Malay fellows next to me were quite impressed when I sat down and started eating with my fingers.

It took some time but we found a great deal on a rental car and  decided to make our own adventure (again). We took off down south to Kuala Penyu but missed the train to go see the scenic Padas Gorge and white-water rafting.

Along the way Julie saw a sign and we followed it to the end of the road (literally, it was flooded). So we hopped on a boat for a tour down the Klias River. It provided a great opportunity to see long-tailed macaques, proboscis monkeys, kingfishers and when the sun went down the fireflies lit up the Ligura trees like a Christmas tree. Pretty neat. The fireflies also seemed to like the tangled mop of hair on my head too. Back at the town,the guide's family then cooked us up some fantastic Malay food. There were two other couples on the tour with us, but since they came from KK, we took our time eating before venturing off into the darkness.

Now it’s dark and we didn't know where we were or where to stay. Once again, Julie spotted a sign for seaside lodges so we figured that was our best bet. And then the road got worse and worse as it got darker. Driving the little Toyota Vios down this potholed road probably broke some clause in our rental contract and finally I declared it's time to turn back. Good thing because the arrow on the last sign we saw was actually pointing the OTHER way after a local escorted us to it. Once again we're in the middle of nowhere along a crappy road and suddenly there's a fancy resort and the people working there are totally unfazed by our arrival. is really nice and we really want to recommend it to everyone  but the rooms need mosquito nets and Julie got scared from things scurrying in the walls. Otherwise it's a beautiful resort and a great beach and we were blown away that we found it.

Sabah Adventure Day 2: Crocker Mountain range

Just a commute day today through the mountains on our way to Kinabalu Park for our mountain climb. Took the "scenic route" which turned out to be a bit difficult. We stopped at the Kipandi Butterfly park (mostly to use it as a picnic spot but we did learn about the butterflies and other strange insects of this country) on the way into the Crockers. Great road during the day and nice sights right up until dusk when half the road would disappear or the tarmac was simply gone leaving potholes and ruts. This would become a recurring theme: good road during the day and then horrible road when dusk fell and we were trying to find a place to stay. We joked that if the road was bad enough we'd find what we were looking for since karma would say we deserved it.

We did manage to make it to the Kinabalu National Park today and upon getting there we learned that our room [at Hill Lodge] we had booked was leaking. No worries, because as a result of being late all the other comparable lodging was assigned, leaving us with an upgrade into a really nice chalet [the Peak Lodge].  We even had a guy come out and fire up the fireplace for us! Which was nice because up here in the mountains the temp dipped down to 19.5degC.  We awoke to fantastic views of the mountain, and Julie’s first glimpse at what we were about to climb.


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