...images from planet Earth
Sunday 5th March - Kuala Lumpur
Arrived at the impressive Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 7am. Checked into Corcorde Hotel in the financial district to the east of the city. Arranged a city tour before sleeping off some of the jetlag. At 2pm I was picked up and I boarded a coach with 20 other people. We visited the King's Palace, National Museum (which wasn't so interesting - mainly animals and not much history), National Monument (commemoration for the defeat against the Communists) and the Lake Gardens where 6 Asian countries are acknowledged as allies. Last stop was the Supreme Court, one of the nicest buildings in KL, built by the British in the 1920s. I was impressed by the overall greenery and tropical vegetaion of the city. About 6pm walked to the KL Tower (4th tallest communications tower in the world) to get a view of the sun setting over KL. Then I got a bus into Chinatown. Walked around, got some food from a roadside stall and went looking for some Hindu temples. Got a taxi back to my hotel and went to bed at midnight.
Monday 6th March - Kuching
Picked up at 5am for my transfer to the Airport. Arrived at Kuching at about 9am..Arports are usually quite dull but at Kuching airport there was so much greenery, especially those oil palms which I had seen so many of in the peninsular. I met up with a couple at the bus stop and shared a taxi into town. I checked into the River View Inn (which was nowhere near the river). Went for a walk westwards along the river towards the market. Food was so cheap - for only RM5.90 I could buy a huge plate of chicken and rice (with a Coke). Kuching was a nice city. Again, lots of greenery, colourful Chinese temples, bustling markets and an attractive waterfront. Visited some tour operators to arrange the longhouse tour. No luck - none had any bookings for the dates I wanted. In the evening, did more exploring with my camera, searching for decent photo opportunities. Back in my room, I discovered that my room wasn't the bargain I first thought. A broken shower, broken air conditioning and a cockroach forced me to move out the next day.
Tuesday 7th March - Bako NP
Caught the 8am bus to Bako national park. Met a Swedish guy, Hakan, at the bus stop who was also going. Arrived at Bako national park just after 10am after a 20 minute boat ride from Bako village. There were plenty of macaques near the headquarters. They got aggressive if you got too close but if you stand your ground they back off. Did the 4 hour Lintang trail. Steep in places and hot in the exposed areas. No mammals along the trail but good plantlife such as pitcher plants. Later in the day we went on a shorter trail to a beach to look for proboscis monkeys (5pm was the best time). We didn't see any at the beach but saw a few in the trees on the way back. Also saw a bearded pig and leaf monkeys. There was a nice sunset that night and people gathered on the beach to take pictures.
Wednesday 8th March - Bako NP
Woke up at 6am to walk a trail to another beach which was said to be the best for spotting proboscis monkeys. We didn't see any at the beach but saw plenty of macaques up high in the trees on the way back. Later in the day I ventured into the forest alone and took my time looking for proboscis monkeys and I was rewarded with several sightings. On the way back I saw a monitor lizard and a pencil snake. Bako was also a nice place to relax and for the rest of the day we stayed at our chalets until our boat came to collect us at 4pm. Back in Kuching we went for a meal at Hot Spot, an open air place were with lots of mini restaurants. I fancied some western food so I ordered steak and chips. Checked into the B&B Inn, a better hostel with plenty of travellers.
Thursday 9th March - Semongok rehabilitation centre
Saw an advert for a longhouse tour at the hostel on the dates I wanted. Met with the guide and three other people interested - Marty (Australian), Cathy (English) and Erika (American). We arranged the tour, departing tomorrow. The three of us went to Semongok wildlife rehabilitation centre. I had heard from other travellers who didn't see any orang utans when they visited because they are set loose in the forest and only come for feeding if the want to. We were lucky because two orangs got very close to us. There were also other animals in cages, such as hornbills, porcupines and gibbons. At the hostel, I met another guy, Martin from Holland, who was interested in joining us on the longhouse tour. We went out for dinner in the evening.
Friday 10th March - Longhouse tour
We left about 9:30 and four hours later we reached the jetty. From here it was another two hours by longboat to the longhouse. There was another addition to our group - Amanda from Wales. Soon after we arrived we had dinner and started drinking arak (rice wine). The inhabitants danced for us and we inevitably joined them afterwards.
Saturday 11th March - Longhouse tour (trek)
We packed our things for the trek. We took a short longboat ride upriver, and the rest of the hike was on foot, through rivers and forests, five hours altogether. We finally arrived at an abandoned longhouse. This was where the families we stayed with last night used to live. They were told to move by the government because this was too far upriver. It was overgrown with vegetation and seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. We sat and talked in the evening until 9pm when we set up our mosquito nets and crashed out.
Sunday 12th March - Longhouse tour (return)
We left the longhouse straight after breakfast. A tough two hour trek over a rocky terrain was a short cut back to our starting point at the other longhouse. We got there two hours later at 10:30 and and two hours later we were back at the jetty. When we reached Kuching late that afternoon, I checked back into the B&B Inn. In the evening, four of us from the trip went out for a meal at Denis' Place and I said my goodbyes to them.
Monday 13th March - Kuching
I spent my day walking around Kuching and in the afternoon I visited the Sarawak Museum. The new wing was closed for refurbishment so I went to the old wing only - carvings, statues, weapons and longhouse exhibits as well as sections on wildlife, Malaysia's energy resources, the Earth, space etc. Following a brief walk along India Street I went back to the hostel where I prepared for the Mulu trip.
Tuesday 14th March - Mulu
Caught a taxi to the airport which got there in 10 minutes through the empty streets. I met the agency's agent at Miri airport and left my big pack with him. In the waiting lounge I met Amanda again who was on the longhouse tour with me and two Dutch girls who were doing the same tour but with a different agency. The flight to Mulu was about 30 minutes in the 18 seater plane. Met by my guide at Mulu and checked into the chalet which was nice. Just before our visit to the Deer and Lang caves it began to rain heavily and luckily there was a plankwalk. The rainforest we walked through was amazing and alive with activity. Lang cave was the most impressive of the two, well lit with nice formations. We waited for the exodus of bats from the Deer cave but it was still raining so they stayed inside. We got back to HQ at 7pm and I had a much needed early night.
Wednesday 15th March - Mulu MP
Woke up early to walk around in the forest before breakfast. Along the Sungai Melinau we stopped of at a Penan settlement before reaching Wind cave which was even more impressive than Lang cave. Five minutes further up was Clearwater cave (which had the longest cave passage in South East Asia). After this I was taken by boat to the start of the trail to Camp 5. It was a nice walk. The forest was amazing, and the pulsating screaming noises were loud and alien to me. The trail was 8km long and we reached Camp 5 after 2 hrs 40 minutes. There, we met the group tavelling in the opposite direction. It was a nice location overlooked by two forested peaks on one side and the towering Gunung Api on the other. Washed in the river and ate dinner under the shelter. It began to rain and the noise was deafening. Hung my mosquito net using vines I cut from the jungle and, feeling proud of my effort, went to bed as the generators switched off just before 9pm.
Thursday 16th March - Mulu NP (Pinnacles)
We left for the Pinnacles climb at 7:30. We wanted to get there before 12pm to avoid the mist and back to camp before the afternoon rain. The trail was tough - very steep with slippery jagged rocks. It was even steeper at the top and ladders, ropes, planks, metal steps drilled into rock faces were provided to make the climb possible. We reached the top in 3 hours at 11:10. There, we had lunch and enjoyed the view of the Pinnacles on the other side. We headed back down at midday. The descent was more difficult and we reached camp at about 4pm.
Friday 17th March - Mulu NP
Packed my things and left at 8:30 for the Headhunters Trail. Compared to yesterday, the trail was easy and I was able to enjoy the forest. After a couple of hours we reached a shelter. We heard a screech in the trees and spotted my first hornbill in the wild. It was a Black Hornbill and the whooshing sound from its wings was as loud as I had heard about. We reached Kuala Terikan, the end of the 11.3km long trail, at 1:20. From here I was transported by longboat to the Mentawai Park headquarters where I had to sign the guest book to say that I had left the park alive. We reached the longhouse at 4:35. This was a much larger longhouse than the one I had stayed in before and the 'garden' at the front was nice with lots of oil palms and other greenery. A welcome sign listed each of the 45 families living here. I was shown around the longhouse and after dinner, the generators came on and all the kids gathered into one one room watching American wrestling. That night there was a wedding celbration and when I went to have a look. I tried to remain inconspicuous, but I was spotted and called inside to join in. Before long I was drinking tuak (rice wine) and dancing with a feathery hat. I realised that I was lucky to have gone with the tour operator I did; despite being alone, the people at the longhouse I went to were really friendly and welcoming and I had an excellent time there. Had I gone with the other group, I would not have had such a good experience, as I found out the next day when I bumped into the other group. I went to bed at 2am, but the party was still going strong.
Saturday 18th March - Limbang - Kota Kinabalu
I woke to the sound of cockerels at 6am and left shortly after 8am. A 40 minute longboat ride took us to Medamit jetty and from there it was about an hour to Limbang town. Had about 6 hours till my flight so thought I could go to Brunei for a few hours but boats only leave when full so it was too risky. Spent hours at Limbang airport hoping to get on an ealier flight but couldn't. I arrived at Kota Kinabalu at 7:15 and got a taxi to the Trekker's Lodge which was very clean and bright place. That night I went for a quick walk around town and was thinking about what islands to visit in Tunku Abdul Rahman. I decided on Gaya (the largest) and Sapi (cow) island for the wildlife and beaches.
Sunday 19th March - Kota Kinabalu
At 9:30 I left for the jetty and arranged with a boat operator to go to both Gaya and Sapi islands. I arrived at Gaya just before 10am. I had read about Police beach and decided it was worth the effort of walking across the island to reach it. It was a tough walk but I did see some macaques. The beach was nice but I couldn't stay long. I got back to the park headquarters just after 2pm and was picked up and taken to Sapi. The beach was better here but quite busy. That eveing I went for a walk to Signal Hill were I got a good view of the city.
Monday 20th March - Kota Kinabalu
Today I was going to spend all day at Sapi island. I went on one of the trails and when I returned the macaques were out looking for food. I spent ages taking photos of them and spent the rest of my time at the beach (got burnt again) and left at about 3pm. That evening I went to Centre Point, a shopping centre with stalls selling cheap Malay food. By coincidence, I bumped into the two Dutch girls from the Mulu trip. Relaxed for a couple of hours at the hostel watching TV.
Tuesday 21st March - Kota Kinabalu
Again I headed for the islands. I had decided on Mamutik because of its corals and its relative isolation. Hired a mask and went snorkelling for the first time. I was amazed at what I saw at even shallow depths. There were corals of different colours, spiny black sea urchins and lots of tropical fish. They all swam towards me and within a few seconds I was surrounded by schools of different fish. There were orange and white clown anemonefish and purple and green moon wrasse. I got back to the hostel at 4pm and quickly packed my things before taking a taxi to the airport. I stopped of at the state mosque on the way to take some pictures. As I waited at Kota Kinabalu airport, the skies began to darken and there was an amazing view of the sun setting behind a Boeing 737 with the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman in the background. That was my last view of Malaysia, and it wasn't a bad one either.