Monday, March 06, 2006
Selamat tengah hari! (This means good day in Malay). So, Tarak and I have spent basically the last 2 weeks in Borneo, the eastern island of Malaysia, having a great time!! The first few days in Singapore were basically a huge culture shock after 6 months in the homeland...I felt like a little Indian village girl...I kept telling Tarak, "wow..it's so clean here"..."wow, it's so quiet...how come no one is honking their horns??"..."where are all of the cows and camels?".."wow, $2 for that meal, that's expensive".....anyway, we left Singapore and made a day trip to our first Malaysian city of Melaka. It was only a 4 hour bus ride, and the city definitely has some unique charm. We took a city tour in a local "trishaw" (basically cycle rickshaw) and it's amazing the combination of Portuguese/Dutch architecture along with Victorian, Buddhist, Taoist, Islamic and Hindu influences. We rode up and down harmony street which housed nearly all houses of worship along this simple street.
Afterwards, we left Pennisular Malaysia and flew to Borneo to the city of Sandakan. Here, we stayed in the Sepilok Jungle Lodge and visited the Orang-Utan Sanctuary. It was pretty neat...it is one of only 4 orang-utan sanctuaries in the world and it has so far, rehabilitated 100 or so orang-utans that have been usually orphaned or injured along the way (so sad). Our little tourist group was allowed on the "public" platform where the orang-utans are fed fruits twice a day, and we were lucky enough to see them come and claim their bananas and milk.
Initially our plans were to catch a glimpse of Borneo's infamous rhinoceros hornbill bird, however the Kinabatangan river was flooded so we re-routed to Kota Kinabalu National Park. Along the way, we met some fun people, Peter and Sara, who also accompanied us to the park. Here we enjoyed some cooler temperatures thanks to the altitude, and were persuaded to climb Mt. Kinabalu. Although it's no Everest, it is 4100m, and it's the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. Most people climb it in 2 days, and of course, at first we didn't think we were "fit" enough to do that...so what do we end up doing?? Trying to do it all in one day..it was kind of crazy. The initial 6 km was basically ALL ASCENT...it was painful, but the views up the mountain were gorgeous. We saw many orchids, rhodendrons, and the well-known insectivorous Nepenthes (pitcher plants).
Once we got to the highest camp, Tarak and I decided against the last 2km up, since we wanted to actually be breathing for our upcoming Pinnacles trek. This was actually a good thing, since the 6 km trek down nearly killed us...our knees were so wobbly by the end and let's just say for the next 2 days, every time we quickly sat up or down (much worse), we looked like we were little 80 year old women. Afterwards, the four of us we went to the Poring Hot Springs (more like glorified bath tubs) and loosened up our muscles. We then left for the capital of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu and had a very nice, very long overdue Italian meal including wine!! Our next stop after the state of Sabah, we headed out to Sarawak to conquer Mulu National Park and to see the Pinnacles.