Borneo- A Surprise Visit Home

Borneo Travel Blog

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Sunset from the Shangrila Tanjung Aru Resort. Just Magnificent. I was wow-ing at the Sunset everyday.
My primary purpose of returning home to Sabah is to surprise dad and mom. Secondary, but also very important is for me to experience home the way I knew it. Bringing back a sense of nostalgia. This is important for me to document my birthplace like never before, before it becomes ironically foreign to me.

Having lived abroad for nearly 6 years, in a land quite different to Malaysia, I think I have been become quite comfortable with the way of life here in Sydney. My perspective in life has definitely changed over the years. I begin to forget a lot of details of home, and expect things to be the all the same, at home and here.

Planning this trip back home has already created a feeling of home-sickness, remembering sights, senses, tastes, feelings of the place and people I grew up with.
At the Monsopiad Cultural Village, a headhunter is on the look out for foreign heads. This is a time I am proud to be Malaysian.
It would be interesting to see how some of these memories have changed over a period of a couple of years.

I come home now as an outsider, respecting the fact that I was born and raised in the town of Kota Kinabalu. I am drawn to the beauty of the land and am truly am excited to seen things through the eyes of a local "alien".

My plan didn't quite pan out as I thought it would. Initial flight delays from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur formed part of the reason I missed my connecting flight back home to Kota Kinabalu. I did not realise that the Low Cost Terminal, for my Air Asia Flight was ages away from the international airport. After rushing through customs, and missing my flight, I was praying that there was a later flight which I could take, so at least the chaos of the situation would come to an end.
Durian. The King of the fruits. Some love it, some hate it. Its like blue cheese. Its either you like it or you don't. I am one of those people who loves it! It has a soft custardy texture, the smell... because I love it so much, it great!

From the taxi heading to the Low Cost Terminal, I called my dad, who was in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), taking another flight back to Kota Kinabalu. I could not get myself to break the news to him, that I was in the country. So I hung up. I called my mom straight after, and thought I'd tell her that I have arrived home and to pick me up at midnight from the Air Asia Terminal. It sort of worked out, I didn't achieve the full effect of the surprise, but I was glad that I was finally home.

I plan my trips to the extent that I detail what I'd like to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, places to go, things to get, pictures to take. Not that I am anal at following them through, but more as a guide on how I could make full use of my time there. I planned a visit to the Markets, Mt Kinabalu, Island, and the newly open Zoo.
Mount Kinabalu. Can you imagine me on top of that mountain?
Most memorable were my trip up Mt Kinabalu and my Island hopping experience.

This climb was not my first, but it has been a while since I climbed up that mountain. I was prepared. Got my chocolate, my macadamia nuts, honey pork (thinly sliced pork, seasoned and barbecued), 4 ltrs of water, fruit, sweets, gloves, changes of clothes my whole camera kit (weighing about 3kgs). I arrived, got myself a guide (mandatory) and a porter (optional). My package included meals, and so when I commenced my hike up the mountain, I was given packed lunch. My adventure begins. With my guide, my porter and myself. The first day (25th January 2008).

Along the way, I met 3 Australians and a German. We continued up the mountain as a group. Kinda had an instant bond, as I flew in from Sydney, and they from Melbourne, and the German, well, he was on a trip round Malaysia finishing his year of internship in a Malaysian Engineering company.
The 3 Aussies and the German. Guess who the German guy is.
Found out one of the Aussies was a music student, studying Opera. The other two were doing double majors in something really smart. So, I guess we all kinda sang our way up the mountain. The journey was not easy, but it definitely was a whole lot of fun. It took us approximately 5 hours of up hill climbing to reach our resting place.

We reached Laban Rata, our shelter for the night. Washed up, had dinner, and off we were to bed for an early rise (2am), for our ascent to the peak to experience sunrise on top of the world.

2.00 am, 26th January 2008, I woke up to find that I didn't want to put myself through the pain of another four hours of torture. Reluctantly, I forced myself to refocus on my goal to reach the peak, and to complete what I set out to achieve. So, one step at a time, I thread up the dark, cold, wet mountain, psyching myself up with only positive thought.
Food. Paella in Barcelona Restaurant in Kota Kinabalu. Owned by a friend.
Slowly but surely we made it to the peak, just as the sun was creeping up the horizon. We took out our cameras and took pictures of the sunrise. ANd being Australia Day, we all volunteered Tess (the singer in our group) to sing the National Anthem. We all joined in, struggling to sing the first verse let alone the other 2 or 3 verses, and went on to sing Peter Allen's song "Still Call Australia Home". I couldn't help it, but all of a sudden, I felt patriotic. And who wouldn't be with lyrics as below:

I've been to cities that never close down,
from New York to Rio and old London town,
but no matter how far or how wide I roam,
I still call Australia home.

Anyway, after all the excitement, and thrill going up the mountain and breaking into song, like what Newton would say, what goes up, must come down.
The grass of Penampang, on the way to Monsopiad Cultural Village.
We commenced our descent. Descending was slightly more complicated as our legs were wobbly at this time, and our bodies were starting to ache. We all managed to have fun, exerting our bodies to its limits, and after all that, we all went off our separate ways. I think I managed to say that it was an exhaustingly pleasant painful experience.

The pain didn't go away for about 3 days, to which on the 4th, I think I still feel pain, but was probably so used to the pain that it felt good. It was then that I managed to get myself out and about, doing fun stuff. Wanted to dive, but it was not a good season to dive, so I decided to do some snorkeling in the nearby Tunku Abdul Rahman Parks, 20 minutes off the city, to check out the visibility to perhaps dive the next day. I chose 2 islands for the day, rented some snorkels and fins and off I went.
Baby Proboscis monkey. They are the cutest things on the planet, next to me.

Spent about 4 hours in Mamutik Island, and another 3 in Sapi. Or was it the other way round. I was so busy looking at the fishes that I didn't realise that I was starting to cook. After 7 hours out in the sun (please do not try this at home), I was ready to be eaten! And oh, I forgot to mention, I decided the day before I went to the island to shave my head.

That night, I had difficulty sleeping, as I was in pain again. This time, from the sun burn. My whole back and head started to bubble. This lasted another few days. And obviously the diving did not materialise.

My trip, though painful was generally fun! I got to see the places I wanted to see, and do the things I wanted to do, eat the food I had been dying to eat. All the fun stuff and a bit of extras.
Island. I think this is Mamutik Island, just 20 minutes off Kota Kinabalu.
That makes traveling so interesting. The good and the bad.

Till next time, take care of yourself, and say hi to your mom for me!


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Sunset from the Shangrila Tanjung …
Sunset from the Shangrila Tanjung…
At the Monsopiad Cultural Village,…
At the Monsopiad Cultural Village…
Durian. The King of the fruits. So…
Durian. The King of the fruits. S…
Mount Kinabalu. Can you imagine me…
Mount Kinabalu. Can you imagine m…
The 3 Aussies and the German. Gues…
The 3 Aussies and the German. Gue…
Food. Paella in Barcelona Restaura…
Food. Paella in Barcelona Restaur…
The grass of Penampang, on the way…
The grass of Penampang, on the wa…
Baby Proboscis monkey. They are th…
Baby Proboscis monkey. They are t…
Island. I think this is Mamutik Is…
Island. I think this is Mamutik I…
2,776 km (1,725 miles) traveled
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photo by: chriswebb1988