Travel Day to Semporna, Borneo, Malaysia
Semporna Travel Blog› entry 1 of 11 › view all entries
After a quick 2 hours of sleep, I was awake before my alarm was to go off at 4:30am. By 4:45 I was in a cab and made it to the airport just under two hours before we were due to depart. I wanted to give myself lots of time since Air Asia seems to have pretty strict cut off times for when you're allowed to check in your bags.
Check-in was uneventful, as was security and I was at the gate with about an hour to go before our scheduled departure time. We managed to lift off only 5 minutes late so I was startihg to feel more confident that I would make my connecting flight in Kuala Lumpur (KL).
I spent the duration of the flight in and out of sleep, aided by the lack of passenger in the middle seat and the woman on the aisle allowing me to stretch into the middle seat. I'm never able to sleep much on planes but I found myself drifting in and out of conscienous, waking enough to read some of the book I brought along, Eat, Pray, Love. I had started reading it before my trip to Europe but stopped after the first 1/3 of the book where she's in Italy. This time around, I'm finding the chapters on India are keeping my attention and I'm giving them a chance.
Before I knew it, I was deboarding the plane. The humidity I felt the second I stepped onto the staircase off the plane was quite the shock after 5 1/2 hours in air conditioned comfort. I wasn't sure what to expect when I arrived at the Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Terminal. The first thing I saw were lots of signs stating they are screening for Swine Flu and that we'd be walking past screeners that detect raised body temperatures. No one grabbed me out of the line, so that was good. While being herded into the lines for customs I noticed that the couple behind me had declaration forms. Apparently they handed them out on the plane but didn't give me one because I was asleep. I dropped my bags and darted under the security line to get one that I could fill out while in line. Luckily I didn't get in trouble and managed to fill it out just in time. The couple also had health declaration forms. I didn't see one of those in my sprint to get the other form so I was hoping the customs officer wouldn't notice. And luckily she didn't. They were asking people to drop the filled in forms into a cardboard box without anyone looking at them. It hardly seemed like the right way to go about it but I wasn't arguing!
Anywho, after picking up my bags, I had to find departures and check in again since Air Asia operates as a point to point operator and doesn't deal with the intricacies of connecting flights. So back to the check in line and then through security once again. It all went (surprisingly) well and once again I was boarding a plane.
Upon arriving in Tawau, we had to go through Customs again as we're now in Borneo, even though it's still part of Malaysia. Being the only Caucasian on my flight, the health inspector pulled me aside and asked me to fill out a health declaration form. Once I had all my personal details the woman in charge told me what boxes to tick and where to sign. Even if I did have some of those symptoms she didn't seem to care. Then she took my temperature and told me I was ok to proceed through Customs. Thank god I don't have Swine Flu once again!
Once I had my bags, I walked over to the taxi area to look for the van that was supposed to be sent by Sipidan Scuba, the company I'm diving with while I'm in Semporna. After looking around and expecting a sign with my name on it and finding no one, I went to the taxi stand and shelled out 95 rm for a taxi ride to Semporna. After paying I walked over to a group of men all smoking and chatting. When they realised the oldest man out of the group was going to be driving me, they did what I assume was tease him about it after a round of cat calls. I was just happy to have the nicest, oldest looking man out of the bunch to drive me over an hour away.
About 3/4 of the drive was in the dark but I did get to see a bit of the countryside. I was expecting nothing between Tawau airport and Semporna but there were quite a lot of houses dispersed along the road. My driver was quite good but I can't say that about all the other drivers. There are markers on the road that are dashed to let you know when it's safe to pass. I don't think anyone pays attention to these and my driver was constantly slamming on the brakes not to hit a car trying to pass coming towards us. I decided it was probably best to read or close my eyes once it got dark and I was jerked awake by us almost hitting what looked like a large cat / cheetah. The cab driver, who didn't speak a work of English besides "You Australia" to which I replied "yes" to keep things simple, yelled out something that sounded like "Hyen" which I assumed meant Hyena. Although I'm not sure if there are any in this country :)
There was road construction work in the dark with no warning signs are you're approaching. The only saw the trucks once we were driving past them and my driver only saw them because the car in front of us slammed on their brakes. When there were no cars coming, my driver kept to the center of the road, probably to enable him to speed quicker around the turns. At one point were going close to 140 km/hr.
The interesting sightseeing during the drive was that once we started getting closer to Semporna, most of the houses were built on stilts and they parked their cars on what we would call the ground floor. I guess you could call them open garages and in the houses with lights on and people around, front doors were wide open so you could see inside the house and what people were doing. We drove past a large store with a whole bunch of little stalls and tons of people around. I guess with weather like this, it's more comfortable to be outside than inside a non air-conditioned house. There seems to be people hanging around everywhere!
Since I thought the scuba company was coming to pick me up (and a lack of preparation on my part) I hadn't written down the address of the hotel I had booked. Seeing as my taxi driver wasn't from this town and didn't speak English this caused a minor problem. We flagged someone down and I wrote out the name "City Inn" on paper and we got directions from a random man walking by. It seemed very much like the Amazing Race although I'm by myself and not in a competition haha
So here I am in my hotel. There's super fast internet (YAY) for 3 rm per hour which works out to just over AU$1 per hour. My room is small but for 50 RM per night it's not too bad. The only problem is the lack of toliet paper which is replaced by a small bucket. I think I'll be purchasing toilet paper tomorrow and am thankful for bringing a small amount of my own. The only bad thing that happened today was my toothpaste exploding in my bag so now one of my dive boots, my towel a pair of pants and my bag are all minty fresh.
Tomorrow is my first of three dive days. Hopefully the company still has me booked since they weren't at the airport to pick me up!