KL to Borneo

As a perfect antidote to India, Malaysia was well organised and clean. The shuttle bus took us from the airport to within a five minute walk to our hotel in Chinatown.

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Having dumped our bags in our ‘compact’ room, we were able to find a place to drink beers and watch people passing by on Petaling Street before turning in ready for the next day’s sight seeing.

The hotel (The Lantern) provided us with breakfast and a decent map, so we set off in search of Petronas Towers. We found some graffiti along the way – as with the food, there were many excellent varieties.

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The towers were impressive, with an immaculate park at the base, and an immense shopping complex where you could purchase all brands of designer goods. We purchased Haägen Dazs ice cream and tickets to get to the top.

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First stop was the sky bridge, where Nikki got a good shot of the supporting structure (always good to check).

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The view from the top was almost spectacular. The ‘haze’ restricted visibility. Basically, most of South East Asia was under a cloud of smoke caused by the burning of rain forests in Sumatra and the Indonesian part of Borneo – it’s a deliberate and illegal act with the economic motivation of preparing land for cultivation of cash crops (rant over).

The following day we made our way to the Botanical Gardens. Nikki had a wonder with the camera, while I slept on a wall next to the lake. It is a peaceful place.

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The Bird Park was nearby, and it was a real treat. Here are a very small selection of the birds that we saw.

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Kuala Lumpur had been a joy, but we were bound for Kota Kinabalu, which is the largest city in the Malaysian State of Sabah in the Northern part of Borneo. Once settled into our suburban hotel (Borneo Swiss Guesthouse), we made our way into town.

Fresh seafood was being hauled ashore.

You could find all manor of locally made items in the craft market, though this frog seemed quite annoyed that it had been made into a purse.

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Having explored the city, we decided to go in search of Tanjung Aru beach. After an hour’s walk, we found a beautiful sandy shoreline with bars and restaurants along the seafront – Nikki seemed pleased.

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Next day we booked for the trip round Kinabalu National Park. Mount Kinabalu was shrouded in a mixture of cloud and ‘haze’, which also dimmed the long reaching views, which would have been spectacular.

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To walk through the rain forest canopy was a privilege, though due to the humidity and the height, a sweaty privilege. The foliage was lush and dense.

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We were also guided towards the Rafflesia, the plant with the largest flower in the world. It emanates the putrid stench of rotting flesh, which is impressive enough to get it onto the ten ringgit note and be the state flower of Sabah.

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No trip to Borneo would be complete without seeing an orangutan, and we were lucky enough to see two. They were not truly wild, but were part of a rehabilitation programme run to prepare juveniles for release into the wild. The tour took us the one hour drive north from Kota Kinabalu to Rasa Ria where the programme was being operated in conjunction with the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre on the other side of the island. As eager spotters we were herded onto a platform close to where the great apes would be having there morning meal. The wardens made the call, and we waited.

The first thing that we saw was the a distinctive swaying of the trees which were the conduit for the creatures’ movements. They looked slow to the eye, but were covering distance quickly. The shy one came down first, got to the platform, sat down in a corner and started eating. Then came the show off. He was a little older (six) and bigger. He was clearly aware of the audience, and keen to demonstrate his physical prowess, even hanging upside down at one point, making sure he could be seen by everyone in the gallery.

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Once the eating was done, they moved off the platform back into the canopy, and then disappeared. We had been mesmerized, and just sort of of hung about on the off-chance that we might see them some more. Then the trees started moving in that way, and we could track their movement as they swung by for a final look at us, and us at them.

We felt like we’d got to know them a little bit.

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