Love You Forever, Borneo

Hey folks!

How are you all? I’ve just spent my day traveling from Kuching to Lombok, which seemed like a pretty good time to write another post. I’ve managed to catch a ridiculously early cab to the airport, three flights (Kuching to KL, KL to Jakarta and Jakarta to Lombok) and a local bus today. But let me start from the beginning again…

The good part of being at the Perhentians
If you read the last post, you probably remember that I struggled to find accommodation at the Perhentian Islands after I arrived. I’ve basically spent my first two days lugging my backpack around and trying to find a place to lay my head. Unfortunately, it was not that much easier on the second day – it turned out that a lot of Malay people have extended their official holiday by one more day and stayed longer.

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Although there were more rooms available, it still took me a long time to find one that I was willing to stay in. I’m not horribly picky, but I swear at some point I opened the door to the bathroom in one of the rooms I was looking at, and the door just split into two parts… I was both surprised and shocked, I barely even touched that thing! I imagine this is how Hulk feels.

Long story short(er), after another two grueling hours of wandering around the island, I decided to stay at yet another pricy room. It’s location was great though, it was one of the nicest rooms I had stayed in so far (if not the nicest one) and included a great breakfast buffet, so at least it felt like it was worth it.

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I mostly came to the Perhentians because of the diving and I quickly decided to take up the offer to do 6 dives in 2 days. And as expected, I loved it. The diving sites are very beautiful. I have to admit they don’t compare to Koh Lanta, but the diving is half the price in Perhentians. Plus, I finally saw my first shark! It was a baby bamboo shark 🙂 And as a cherry on the top of the cake, this was also the first time I managed to get a few pictures from the dives (courtesy of the diving school I went with), which made me very happy.

Nemo :P
Nemo :P

 

Underwater!
Underwater!

On my last day, I’ve decided to do a little snorkeling, as it’s almost guaranteed to see some turtles and even sharks (they are being fed there). Snorkeling after diving feels very strange and limited, but in the end it was well worth it. I saw a baby blacktip reef shark and a giant turtle. I even managed to snap a picture of the turtle with my phone and the cheap waterproof cover from 7-eleven! 🙂

My attempt to take a picture of a turtle under water.
My attempt to take a picture of a turtle under water.

Ever since I started diving, I’ve been quite enchanted by the underwater world, so these few days absolutely made up for the bad start.

About Kuala Lumpur
After the Perhentians, I flew to KL and stayed for 2 days. I already know that cities don’t really do it for me, so I did not have my expectations too high. Also, there is not that much to see and do in KL. I know a lot of people are going to jump on top of this, so let me just clarify – yes, there is a lot of things to do in KL, it’s a big, modern city, you can easily kill a week or two here. I simply mean that there is very little _special_ things to do, things you can’t do in literally every other city in the world. I can’t help but compare it to Bangkok and while I felt Bangkok is more interesting and exciting, KL is a little less chaotic, smelly, sweaty, hot, crazy and all of the other things that Bangkok is. I definitely felt more comfortable in KL.

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One of the main attractions of KL are the Batu Caves, a large Hindu temple inside of a cave. I enjoyed being there very much, I haven’t seen many Hindu temples before and this one was rather unique. Unfortunately, I think the day of my visit was some unofficial meetup of bad photographers, because majority of people I asked to take a picture of me did not seem to grasp that the head of the big statue behind me should be on the picture as well.

The Batu Caves entrance.
The Batu Caves entrance.

 

Entrance to the Ramayana cave.
Entrance to the Ramayana cave.

 

Before the stairs to the upper cave.
Before the stairs to the upper cave.

After Batu Caves, I got a little lost and during my efforts to find the gorgeous KL gardens, I stumbled upon the national mosque. I decided to go in and after the friendly staff covered me from my head to ankles (not toes though, they took my shoes away), I was finally allowed to do so. I overheard a Muslim woman explaining some of the Islam religion to a couple of tourists, so I joined in the listening and asked the occasional question. I think everyone who knows me better also knows I had a tough time not starting a discussion, but I managed 🙂 Afterwards, I talked to the couple (Nina and Matts) and we decided to visit the gardens together.

A photo shoot at the gardens, I assume it's most likely for a wedding.
A photo shoot at the gardens, I assume it’s most likely for a wedding.

I had a really great time with them – after visiting a butterfly garden, we got caught in one of the crazy storms and had to wait it out in the middle of nowhere, under a small roof, trying to shelter our backpacks 😛 When it calmed down a little (i.e., one and a half hours later), we run to the nearest convenience store and sat there, drinking a beer and eating junk food. They also taught me Yhatzee 🙂

This is how you shield your backpack from the rain :)
This is how you shield your backpack from the rain :)

 

The natural process of a road evolving into a river.
The natural process of a road evolving into a river.

Together we decided to visit one of KL’s sky bars. I think I’ve never been so under-dressed in my whole life before. While there were girls in fancy dresses and high heels and a few guys in suits, me and my new friends were wearing hippie pants and flip flops 😀 It was priceless. Being a backpacker, you really learn to not care in the slightest though. The view from the sky bar was stunning, it was a really good place to see the famous shiny Petronas towers. It had a pool and was super overpriced, just as expected. What more can you wish for 🙂

Pool at the sky bar.
Pool at the sky bar.

 

View of the Petronas twin towers.
View of the Petronas twin towers.

 

Drinking an overpriced caipirinha at the sky bar.
Drinking an overpriced caipirinha at the sky bar.

A week of wilderness
After KL, I was planning to visit Borneo. Everyone kept telling me that a week won’t be enough time, but I just stubbornly kept thinking to myself “they all say that about every place I go to”. This time they were right though. I suppose it’s mostly because nature is a little closer to heart than culture for me. I fell in love with the lush, green jungle, the amazing wildlife, the simple way of living and even the refreshing rains in Borneo. I haven’t had such a strong “I have to come back here” feeling on this trip yet.

Rajah Brooke's Birdwing butterfly. They were everywhere!
Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing butterfly. They were everywhere!

I also wish I had a real camera, some of my friends have made real great shots of what we’ve seen.

The Malaysian Borneo is divided into two states – Sarawak on the east and Sabah on the west. I knew I can’t possibly see them both and although I really wanted to go to Sabah, I’ve finally picked Sarawak due to safety concerns. Sabah currently has a negative travel advice and the beheadings and kidnappings just don’t seem like something I’d like to make a part of my journey.

I flew from KL to Miri and spent a night there. It turned out that Miri is the most boring place ever – there are a lot of very interesting places around it, so it’s a good base for exploring around, but having one night there is really not enough for that. Thus after being bored to death in Miri, I flew to Gunung Mulu, a national park I was very excited about. And it did not disappoint 🙂

Cut off in Mulu
Mulu is a beautiful, tiny place surrounded by hills and forests with just a few homestays for tourists and small local villages. Right at the airport I met two Dutch girls, Sabina and Lotte, with whom I spent my time here. Our accommodation was very basic, there was no wifi, electricity only worked for 12 hours a day (or more exactly night) and I’ve had ample opportunities to elaborate my system for ranking the cold showers by the amount, size and state (alive/dead) of insects present in them… but the surrounding nature was entirely too beautiful for me to be bothered by this.

Entrance of the Deer Cave with a little bit of sun after rain.
Entrance of the Deer Cave with a little bit of sun after rain.

Mulu is quite well known for its cave system, which is incredibly huge and still not fully explored. Because of this, we’ve mostly been trekking through the jungle and participating in organized caving tours. The caves were quite different, ranging from the biggest cave in the world (or second biggest, depends on if you believe Vietnam or Malaysia 😛 ) with millions of bats (and a terrible smell to it).

Permeability of lime stone - the rain water just goes right through it.
Permeability of lime stone – the rain water just goes right through it.

There were some small caves with beautiful formations or a cave which was still being formed by the river running through it. We have all taken a swim in the river coming out of the cave by the way, and it was freezing cold there 😀 And as if it was not enough, I decided to walk to a nearby waterfall afterwards and swim there as well. No regrets though 🙂

Our caving group - Catherine, Sabina, me and Raymond.
Our caving group – Catherine, Sabina, me and Raymond.

I also had a chance to try some of the local food here. I finally got a rojak – which is a type of a salad, mixing both fruit and vegetables, with a very powerful sauce (which unfortunately ruins it for me).

Enjoying a meal at with a peaceful river view.
Enjoying a meal at with a peaceful river view.

 

Rojak.
Rojak.

With Sabina and Raymond we ordered a bottle of local rice wine, called tuak, which was not too bad at all 🙂

Tuak in an old whisky bottle :)
Tuak in an old whisky bottle :)

My personal highlights of this place were the night walks, where I saw a lot of insect, spiders, sleeping birds, and a scorpion from up close and watching the bats’ exodus from the big cave. They just kept coming and coming, there was no end to it. It was very impressive.

Huntsman spider.
Huntsman spider.

 

A cute gecko.
A cute gecko.

 

Another giant spider (don't know the name of this one).
Another giant spider (don’t know the name of this one).

 

My personal favorite, a giant scorpion!
My personal favorite, a giant scorpion!

 

Bats' exodus.
Bats’ exodus.

Kuching, Semenggoh & Bako
After Mulu I headed to Kuching, the capital of Sarawak. I spent most of the time with Jamie, a guy with the smelliest shoes (which he luckily was very aware of and he threw them out). We met in Mulu and we were on the same flight to Kuching.

Kuching's waterfront.
Kuching’s waterfront.

From Kuching, we’ve visited Semenggoh, an orangutan rehabilitation center, known for the semi-wild orangutans. They live in the wild, however they sometimes come to get food from the park and thus are mostly used to people watching them. I’ve actually visited the place twice and I’ve been lucky enough to see two younger orangutans on my first visit and the alpha male, Richie, on my second one. They were all very smart, surprisingly strong and in certain moments I felt their body language was very human like. Richie really commanded respect, which was very visible in the vigilance and general behavior of the rangers around. I think I could easily spend days watching them, it was fascinating 🙂

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Two young orangutans, coming to grab some food.

 

Putting on a show :)
Putting on a show :)

 

Richie, the alpha male of the orangutan rehabilitation park.
Richie, the alpha male of the orangutan rehabilitation park.

 

Me and Richie.
Me and Richie.

I’ve also spent a night in Bako. I’ve heard pretty bad things about the hostel there, so I was happy to share a private room with Jamie and one couple we met at our hostel in Kuching, Vanessa and Thomas. Bako is another national park, known for its wildlife. We were there literally for about 30 minutes, when we were called to see the rare proboscis monkey and got passed by some wild bearded pigs right after that (they didn’t really care much about people, just kind of did their own thing).

Proboscis monkeys at the beach.
Proboscis monkeys at the beach.

 

Curious baby bearded pig.
Curious baby bearded pig.

 

Bearded pig, chilling next to my room.
Bearded pig, chilling next to my room.

I enjoyed seeing the proboscis monkeys so much 🙂 Apart from the funny appearance of their face, they are very cute in their behavior. Some of them can get rather big, they seem somewhat slow (although that’s only when they are relaxed, they can surely run fast once they get scared) and are generally adorable 🙂 We’ve done a fair deal of trekking in the area, which allowed us to see the beautiful nature and see a few more of them.

Proboscis monkey in its habitat :)
Proboscis monkey in its habitat :)

 

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Taking a break after one of the treks.
Taking a break after one of the treks.

And it would not be a proper visit of a national park without a night walk again!

Tarantula hiding under a tree.
Tarantula hiding under a tree.

 

Green viper.
Green viper.

Upon the return from Bako, our small group has split up and we each went our own way. I’ve stayed in a hotel nearby the airport, because I had to catch today’s early flight to KL. I also desperately needed to do laundry and I found an amazing laundrymat… my clothes haven’t felt and smelled this nice in months, I was so happy 😀 I miss these little luxuries sometimes.

How I became a famous millionaire 
I’ve only arrived to Lombok yesterday at night and I think I can safely say I officially became a millionaire, since the Indonesian rupiah is absolutely ridiculous. 1 euro is just slightly over 15000 rupees. I actually find it rather difficult to use the money, it’s really easy to miss a 0 here and there… I hope I get used to it, because right now I’m staring at every bill for way too long.

On my flight, there were approximately two white people on the otherwise full plane. I only became aware of this at the luggage belt, when about 10 random people (who were not together) just kept waving at me and randomly asking me “Where are you from?”. If it wasn’t for Myanmar, I’d have been freaking out 🙂

After my arrival here yesterday, I’ve managed to get a room full of bed bugs, which I promptly left (and somehow managed to get my money back in the process)  and I’ve also dealt with a minor spilled-shampoo-all-over-my-backpack disaster. It turned out my organizers are actually waterproof, which I was happy to find out.

Starting today, I’m planning to spend exactly 10 days on Lombok and the nearby Gilli islands. On the eleventh day I’m catching a flight to Jakarta and meeting up with Barry after 2.5 months of not seeing each other! 🙂

I’m just finishing my breakfast, I’m going to rent a scooter today and see the island a little bit. I’ll report back later! 🙂

I hope you guys are doing great and having fun 🙂 Thanks for reading again and take care!

N.

5 Comments

  • Jesse

    May 20, 2016

    Thanks for posting again, I truly love to read them.
    Also there are some stunning pictures in this post, rock on.
    Take care on the other side of the world 🙂

    Reply
    • Nicole

      May 20, 2016

      Jess, so nice to hear from you! I’m glad you like the pictures, even with my poor phone camera ^^
      How’s life treating you? Groetjes to Meike 😉

      Reply
  • Tineke

    May 27, 2016

    Hallo Nikky,
    Wat ben jij op mooie plekken van de wereld. Spannend en geweldig mooi. Wij genieten mee van de mooie foto`s die je plaatst. Wij wensen je een mooie tijd samen met Barry en fijn om samen te genieten van alles wat jullie nog gaan doen.
    Groeten van Tineke en Jacob.

    Reply
  • Lili

    June 15, 2016

    Hi there Nikola ^^
    It is amazing to see how far you have gone and also how much is still ahead of you 🙂 (btw sayin Hi to Barry ^^ )
    I must say good job !!! :)) I am happy you could have found so many nice friends and not so many insect-bug-spider-lechees’ friends (except that one naughty cockroach on your shoulder in hotel !)
    And it is great reading…I appreciate your honesty you put in and of course all the pictures !
    Take care, wish you more and more fun and hopefully for us,home, more writing, to keep up the journal :))
    L.
    p.s. Be carefull with the monkeys, I heared they can be pretty dangerous and even can carry a disease…
    p.s.s – you often mention reading…what kind of books are you reading while traveling in asia ?

    Reply
    • Nicole

      June 16, 2016

      Hey you! I’m happy to hear from you, it’s been a while. How are you doing? And Barry sends his regards 😉
      I’ve actually been reading some psychology books, mostly Brene Brown (highly recommended, I think you’d like her very much). And currently I’m in the middle of Anna Karenina.

      And no worries btw, I’m more than aware of the monkey dangers 😛

      Take care girl 🙂

      Reply

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