A Travellerspoint blog

I made it to Survivor Island: Borneo!

I'm like a kid in the candy store and stoked to walk the grounds of the original castaways from Survivor 1: Borneo

overcast 78 °F

Today is going to be a great day! I have butterflies like a kid going to Disney as I am going to the very first location of Survivor. My favorite reality show ever and for those that know me it is a dream of mine to play the game…and I will…someday. It is 7/24/10 and I haven’t even been back to Kota Kinabalu city for 12 hours and I am off for the next venture in Borneo. I was informed that there was a single Malay guy that wanted to share accommodation with me to cut the cost and I was fine with that. I told the woman from the office that I would meet him at the resort and see for sure. I saw no problem in it as it is just like sharing a dorm. It was a 3 bed dorm basically so we did have 1 bed in between us.

I began my local bus venture from outside my place in Kota Kinabalu around 7am and would get to the junction in time to find a local transport to the jetty. One thing that wasn’t brought to my attention was that it was Saturday and some buses don’t run. No stress, I will make alternate plans and try to hitch hike to the jetty. I couldn’t contain myself as I was super stoked to hit this now famous island thanks to Survivor. I could see signs at the junction and while waiting for the local bus (that never came) I decided to make good use of my thumb and get a quicker lift. A lesson I learned is that sticking one’s thumb up for a lift is not the way they do it in Borneo. I was getting honked at left and right but no one stopped. They would just give me a “thumbs up” back. The others waiting for the bus just laughed at me but not for long. Once I got a nice guy to pull over and give me a lift, well, another guy asked for one also. The nice man never charged either of us a dime and I said it was his good deed for the day.

Nothing was stopping me from getting on the boat over to Pulau Tiga, aka Survivor Island. I actually met the woman who I spoke to so much about it and she told me Peter (the “maybe” roomie) was already over there. Everyone knew of my obsession with all things Survivor and really enjoyed my eagerness to get out and walk the trails that the very first tribes walked…even “naked” Richard. There was a Canadian couple (actually a bro and sis combo) among the group and they couldn’t help but chime in on the Survivor world. And I thought I was obsessed. Let’s just say they have re-watched seasons and followed them on twitter when possible. They knew so much that it became rather creepy. I did tell them they would see me play the game someday though and they commented on how awesome I would be playing the brutal everyday battles to outwit, outlast and outplay. Duh, I knew that.

After much delay and many hours of travel, I have arrived at Survivor Island and was greeted with great grub and a roomie for the night, an older gentleman Peter. I couldn’t help but think of "if only" they set me up with an age appropriate hunk of a guy but oh well. I was just spending one night and 2 days here and he was taking the very early boat back to the mainland so no worries.
After lunch, I had a chat with Martin from the resort for a bit and he showed me the rec room that housed many Survivor paraphernalia. Like I said, a kid at Disneyland was no joke. I was hopeful to someday be carrying my very own torch in hopes it would never be without fire. I took my fair share of photos and then it was time to hit the trails of the first 2 Survivor tribes. Martin knew of my where abouts and if I was not back by dark he would send the troops to look for me. I had my video camera and was ready to trek in 1 km to the mud volcanoes used in the first series. They had signs up every 100 meters so no worries on getting lost. The mosquitoes had their way with me and it was at the mud volcanoes where I lost something very near and dear to me or my foot rather. My croc flop of over a year of daily use had given up on me. It was stuck in the mud and when I tried to take my foot out, it just snapped. What was a girl to do that still had to trek 1km more to the Pagong Beach and then all the way back? I was ready to give it a go with just one flop but that would be a long trek due to the endless branches on the trails. That is when I spotted something big and blue near the bench…a men’s size 13 right flop. I know I lost my left one but being so big in size I could wear this on my left foot and not worry about cutting up my foot. I was impressed with my survival skills yet again and before I began to trek to the famous beach that was home to the Pagong tribe I ran into the Canadian duo. I completely forgot that when I go into the mud that I will have to trek back all dirty so I handed my backpack over to them as they headed back to the resort. I kept my camcorder in a plastic bag with me. I wore two right foot flops (one very large one in fact) and trekked to the beach. I spotted my roomie in route and he had to take a photo. It was classic. Just made me want to play all the more. Here I was full of mud, bites and I was not giving up. Peter lent me his flashlight just in case I didn’t make it back by dark. My camera was on the fritz but I still managed to take a few photos of the beach before going back to the mud volcanoes where I made many survivor application videos as I submerged my entire body into the very nasty mud. No worries on drowning as there was no possible way to stay down.
Some may wonder how one can entertain themselves for long periods of alone time but I managed very well in trying to make a video to send to CBS yet again. I say my 30th time should be a charm. Not many can say they headed to Borneo where it all began to make an application tape. I consider that to be a bit crazy but just the right amount one needs to be able to commit to such a viscous game. Heading back from the mud volcano was rough, and itchy as hell. I thought the mud layer would repel the mosquitoes away but I think they liked it. That and the itchiness of the mud drying on my practically naked body didn’t help either. I came across another couple and couldn’t help but laugh at the image they saw of me full of mud and with a huge flip flop. I was feeling the “survivor” life right there for sure. Never in my life did I want something more than at that very moment.

Once back at the resort I had to fight the ocean waves to get the mud off my body as we couldn’t go back to our rooms drenched in it. Did my skin feel smoother for doing it? I can’t really say I noticed a difference but it sure was an experience. My shower never felt so good and then it was on to the dinner with my two right flops. I spent much of the night chatting about the show with resort employees and one of which worked there at the time of all the filming. He informed me of a little kept secret that he actually gave one of the players some food while they were on the boat and both parties decided to never discuss it. He chatted about how the players thought they were the only ones on the island and when they did tribal council they had to shut the lights out at the resort because it was just meters away. It was fun to learn the tricks they used in keeping the show entertaining. I sure would have loved to be part of the original crew, before all the backstabbing and what not that goes on now.
Peter had long been asleep but I stayed out having drinks at the “survivor” bar which I was told was opened 24/7 during filming. Many employees, I and the Canadian duo had some homemade brew of something until after 2am. There was massive down pours so we had to stay in the bar until it settled down. My late night out led to a sleep in the next morning but no worries as Peter had already gone at 7am. The sharing of the rooms was fine after all. I only had to tell him once to stop snoring and the nice guy even brought my clothes in when it began to rain and I was still out at the bar. Breakfast was quick and I went back to the room to finish a movie before checking out the room where Jeff Probst stayed and a few other spots. I really enjoyed this island time and feel closer than ever to all things Survivor. I will not lie and know I will probably be scared to death to actually play but I am ready to be scared.
Lunchtime came rather quickly and it was back to chatting with the Canadians before our boat took off. I was still sporting the big blue flip flop and hoped to get a new pair back in Kota Kinabalu. I will sure miss my worn out croc flops though. Sometimes you just have to let go though, don’t you? Once we hit the mainland, I was able to get a free lift back from the Canadians as they pay heaps to prearrange transport. I was back and ready to hit my own room again back at the Asia Adventure Lodge but unfortunately that never happened. Sheila had off and the man working decided to let someone stay in my room one more night because they said they were ill. Yeah right, let me be the judge of that! Having felt super bad for me, Sheila put me in another hotel next to her and paid the difference. I was upset and ready to take down the “sick” guy but let it go. I had help carrying my things and still used the wifi at Asia Adventure and free breakfast. They were all too kind to me. One of the other ladies that worked there, and often did my laundry, asked me to go get local grub with her and a friend. Next thing you know, I am in a car with Nancy and Gung and eating local fish and rice with my fingers. They taught me the special way to use my thumb as a sort of shovel. Thank you ladies! Dinner was amazing and you would have been shocked to see me eating fish straight out of the sea on the Barbie. The tuna was one of the best yet and I loved the whole vibe of it all. I am grateful to be given the chance to eat locally with locals themselves. Kota Kinabalu is a must for those traveling to Borneo. I spent the rest of the evening using some wifi and spotted a cute American bloke staying at Asia Adventure as well. Unfortunately, I had to trek across the street to City Inn to sleep though.

It was a new day, July 26th 2010, to be exact and my brother and sister in law’s wedding anniversary. Today was also the day that I would leave Borneo and head over to Philippines. When and where was undecided until I found a Hilton in Mactan Island outside of Cebu. Let’s go flash packing yet again before I head back to Australia for Anissa’s baptism. I loved the travel and luxury to be able to flash pack that I even invited the cute American bloke I saw to tag along. Unfortunately he had a flight to Bangkok the following day. Looks like another solo adventure for me was underway yet again. I was having internet difficulties which led me to pay a bit more for a flight but what is new? That happens all the time with me and airfares. I booked my one way on Cebu Pacific and would leave later that evening.

In the meantime, I had to check out and was able to store my stuff back at Asia Adventure Lodge with Sheila and Nancy. They even did my laundry again. I spent the rest of the day sorting out a box to send back to the states, found some new flip flops and had a run in the rain and parking garage before I had to shower and catch a cab to the airport. What seemed to be a smooth ride turned nasty after my cab driver decided to side swipe a car and just as they were trading information I figured I had to walk in the rain to find another taxi or I would miss the international flight. Thank God I found a guy from earlier and he gave me a lift. I ran out of Malaysian money so he took a bit of American as well.

Check-in was complete and I was ready for a long night of flying and spending from 10pm-450am in the Manila airport before my connecting flight to Cebu. Just another chapter in the randomness of this thing called traveling without a plan. I knew of the connection but there was no other way and I figured then I would have free accommodation for the night as well, that is, if you could sleeping on a random airport bench as accommodation. Cebu Pacific is known to have late arrivals and long delays before connecting flights and one could tell by the massive amount of people fighting for the benches all throughout the airport. I managed to find a bench that I shared with an Irish lad until I had to use the toilet. I came back and it was taken. Just before I about took the lady down for stealing my seat (it was that or taking the old man out for allowing her to take it) I noticed she was pregnant.

Damn it! The time was nearly 2am and I just wanted to rest my eyes. I noticed a vacant hallway by the café and even though the wall was glass and you could see below, I didn’t care. I used 6 chairs to create a comfy bed, put on my eye mask and ear plugs in and grabbed my sarong for a blanket. I was set for a 2 hour sleep, or so I thought. I did notice a security guard checking me out from below but I wasn’t too fussed because I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Just as I got comfortable and acted asleep he tapped my shoulders saying I was unable to stay there. What?? I begged him for a little sleep and told him of the girl stealing my seat earlier. He asked the owner of the café if I could stay there and wanted me to pay him $10 USD to stay there for 2 HOURS because he needed food money. Now, I will give a bit but that is more than a night’s accommodation. I didn’t want to get into a brawl with the guy so I gave him $4 and even got a wake up call at 4:20am from the guard as part of the deal. Not sure how deep my sleep was but it was worth the $4. I didn’t fuss much either on the lack of sleep because soon enough I would be flash packing at the Hilton yet again.

Fun in the Philippines is about to begin. I made my flight from Manila to Cebu and was ready for the next adventure in the Dish Travel experience. I landed in Cebu very tired and managed to buy me some yummy dried mango and attempted to get a phone card and taxi to the Hilton. There was no free service but was given help by several airport employees to walk across the street for cheaper taxis. It would be a 20 minute ride at best to the flash packing headquarters in Mactan Island. Let the games begin!

jk livin’

The Dish is out :)

Posted by Dishtravel 06:45 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Kinabalu Mountain Madness

Trekking up Kota Kinabalu is tough, add rain and it's even tougher.

rain 75 °F

“Thanks for the ride mate! See you tomorrow as I flag you down for a lift back to the city!” That’s how they do it up in these mountain parts. It was nearly 5pm as I arrived at D’Villa guesthouse outside of the famous mountain. I managed to get a “dorm” room for the evening. I know, I do not like sharing but sometimes you have to suck it up for the sake of saving money. Besides, I just needed a place to sleep and get an early start anyway. The moment I walked into the room I could smell stale clothes and if you don’t know what I mean imagine walking into a guy’s dorm room in college. I claimed my bed and went to get some soup from the restaurant. The crisp cold and wet weather made me want to hop into bed that very moment and cuddle up to a nice book. Why didn‘t I bring a book?

After dinner, I had a quick chat with the roomies from Holland and began to count sheep at 8pm. I must have dosed off around 930pm praying for good weather and woke up by 6am to hit the mountain and find my guide. Call me lazy or “running late” but I caught a lift to the office and was told I had a 50/50 chance to make it to the summit due to the rainy season and the danger on the mountain, especially as you progress upward and into more clouds. I was on a time crunch to make it to the 6km hotel point by noon in order to continue up to the summit. Great! My guide, Joseph, was late by 30 minutes also. Have no fear as we will push it into high gear and do our best to make it up in good time.

As we were driving to the starting gate, well, it began to drizzle but I had a rain jacket on hand. It was just myself and Joseph for ages as I was the only “day climber” registered. We did run into volunteers and it reminded me of the Grand Canyon and how I missed PSAR volunteering this year. I will not get into all the details of this colossal hike but will say it was more of a climb. Wow! I like to use the word “fun” as much as the next guy but that was NOT the “f” word that I was frequently using during this difficult time. The first few kms felt endless and it continued as we headed up the mountain. Torture would be a good word, or prison perhaps. Yes, now that I think of it I wondered what I did to deserve such a sentence. It was hard to believe that I actually, willingly, signed up for this and even paid them! That is just crazy talk.

Time was a ticking and even though it was brutal our only break was for me to make a quick toilet stop along the way. We made it to the 6km hotel spot in time and were giving the okay to continue upwards. I managed to scarf down a plate of rice with jam (my new carb loading concoction) before we were off again. Now, we were not only climbing but using an attached rope on the steep, slippery slopes.

Guess what? Somewhere between 6-7km the weather took a turn for the worse. In a matter of minutes the sky went from little visibility to none and the rain began to fall. One moment I could see Joseph 3 feet in front of me and the next it was clouds. I had to video my guide so it didn’t look like I was giving up but he said it was unsafe to continue. Besides, if we did I would see nothing but more white clouds. I see why people usually do this in a 2 day period because as the day goes on, the clouds come and the rain follows. I mentioned the grueling pain, the endless battle but it was very much worth it to push myself and keep on trekking so to speak. Yes, we had 1 km to go but mother nature didn’t want us to go and you can’t fight with her, she is stubborn.

I took a few photos of the white clouds and no view at the 7km mark before we had to come down. I was glad to have the rope this time as I could basically slide on my bottom down the rock…and I did a few times on accident. No I did not give up! Although it was brutally hard I would have continued onward but felt no point to go 1 more km up when the weather was getting bad due to our height in the clouds. We had zero visibility and rain, not to mention Joseph said we couldn’t continue. Danger could very well be my middle name but I didn’t argue with him. We proceeded to make our way down the slippery rock and back to the 6km rest house to drop off the keys. What goes up, must come down but why is down so much more fun? It is equally if not harder on the knees (mine hated my guts). My attitude changed like a women who just found her favorite pair of jeans. You know, when you are all sad and grouchy then you find the “perfect” fit and all is ok.

Anyway, I was feeling the love and spreading it to all that I encountered on the journey down. I didn’t sugar coat anything and informed them of the insanity at hand. I even posed for a photo with some randoms. People love photos with Americans. We had to keep moving and had to be down by 4pm and I had to be ready to find that van of mine to head back to the city at 430pm. I didn’t want to be stuck in the dorm for another cold night.

Amen! We made it down by 4pm. Over 8 hrs of pure climbing/crawling/hiking and 5 minutes of sit down time. This girl is exhausted but couldn‘t stop just yet. I was on a mission and walked back to D’Villa to change and do a “shower” in a bottle so to speak (hand sanitizer and a napkin). Next up, I hit the road in search of the local “van” bus to bring me back to civilization. Within minutes, I was able to flag him down and off we went. No front seat for me but I can’t be selfish all the time.

The darkness hit before we made it back to the city of Kota Kinabalu and I couldn’t wait to get home. I walked back into the Asia Adventure Lodge and my very same single room was waiting for me, that and my clean clothes. I swapped out my dirty ones and it was off to get a much needed foot reflexology and a body massage before some nightly grub. It was a long day but tomorrow was fast approaching and I needed to prepare for the next adventure…Survivor Island!!!

Jk livin’

The Dish is out :)

Posted by Dishtravel 06:41 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Thank you Asia Adventure Lodge in Kota Kinabalu!

I survived the coldest night bus to Miri, an early flight to Kota Kinabalu and local transport.

semi-overcast 82 °F

What a day I have had and it is just nearly 11am on July 20th, 2010. Guess when you ride on a night bus as cold as Iceland and as wet as the ocean, then what can you expect but to be a bit groggy and tired the next day. I don’t even feel it is a new day because I didn’t get a proper sleep. As much as I am annoyed with myself for choosing the transport that I did, I am relieved to be in a plane landing in Kinabalu early enough so I can find a decent guesthouse and possible hit the office in regards to “survivor” island and the trek in Mt. Kinabalu. Forget sleep, I am up and this day has to be productive.

Just when you WANT a flight to be longer to give you a bit of a rest, it’s over. Can’t a girl catch a break? Or in my case a nice nap. No worries, I can handle lack of sleep as I have done it many times before. The tires just hit the ground and I an on a mission to get my backpack and maybe grab a accommodations brochure to give me some sort of direction. As I waited for my house of a backpack to makes it’s way to me, I spoke with several people on transportation. I can’t see spending anymore money as I already paid for the bus and the extra for the immediate airfare. It’s time to do it “local” style again. I put on my packs and proceeded to the main road. I continued to walk and didn’t notice any bus stops but saw a few “mini van” style vehicles that dropped people off and ran to ask for a lift. Turns out, that WAS the bus I needed and after a few stops we hit a station and I had help finding the correct transfer to drop me off in a central location. I forgot t mention that when I grabbed a brochure at the airport I spotted the Rainforest Café and wanted to check out availability. I can’t do the dorms, I just can’t but will hope they have reasonably prices singles.

People here are so friendly. I gathered heaps of information on where to go to ask on trekking up Mt. Kinabalu also and was told I could make it to the office before closing. However, I didn’t want to carry my big bag. I took my valuables in my small pack and set out to find some answers for the next adventure. Sure, I was a bit nervous for just leaving my backpack in the van but I had a good vibe from these people. There were also the ones to do local transport to the mountain. I was completely exhausted also and didn’t want to carry it anymore until I had a destination in mind.

In route, I stopped by the Rain Forest Café to check on a room. No singles so I said I would be back for a double. Yep, I guess I am going to settle on sharing a room. Hope they don’t snore. Next was to Wisma Sabah to organize a trek. I knew it was expensive but heaps more than I thought as they take advantage of tourists and the supply and demand with accommodation there. I’ve decided to try it in a days time instead of overnight in the mountain. They had one day as an option but I still have to hire a guide and pay some fees. I had a few days to wait for an opening as people rarely do it but then again, who said I was normal?

It was back to the van to get my backpack and have a chat on transport to the mountain in a few days time. All sorted! I don’t mean to toot my own horn but I am proud of my planning and transport tactics thus far. It was a very productive day on very little sleep. I grab my stuff and headed back to the Rain Forest Café, well that was my intention. Something told me to try a few guesthouses along the way. I was dying to have my own space. No luck and as the sweat continued to bead up on my forehead and run down my back, well, I proceeded to the Rain Forest but never made it. I saw one last sign and asked a store about the Asia Adventure Lodge and how to get there. They told me it was around the block and I guess my sigh of heat exhaustion led them to give me a private back entrance through their store. Thank God! It was there that I met Sheila, aka my angel for the next leg of the adventure. It is no secret that I like to negotiate on prices. Just so happens she was going through a slow period with guests and gave me a single for just $40 MYR (the USD is 3:1). I was stoked to have my own double bed, air con and free wifi. Show me the way! This girl needed a bit of a rest before a night of walking in the rain to see if I could find any movie theater. Never did but bought me some mentos and called it a night. I even stopped by the Hyatt just for fun.

What a difference a day makes! I slept like a baby in my bed, unlike the cold/wet bus seat last night. I didn’t feel bad for sleeping in and then began. Once I was up it was Miss Productive all day. I found out the costly price of going to Pulau Tiga (survivor island) and wanted to do it camping instead, however, they monopolize the ferry transport so that didn’t work. No worries, nothing can stop me from going to this place and I had the girl in the office on a mission to find me a roommate for the night that I will spend there. Like in all travel excursions, they base in on a 2 person minimum and we all know I am flying solo in life. While I was out, I popped into a watch shop to ask the time but they didn’t find it humorous. Really? They had clocks and watches everywhere but just looked at my strange.

I spent the rest of my time in the city gathering up some snacks, taking in a rainy jog in the parking ramps mostly and a bit bummed that I was emailed to send an auto audition tape via u-tube to the agency. However, I reminded myself that things happen for a reason and my inability to do such a thing was just the universe’s way of telling me that it was time to move on from that type of work. This girl needs benefits and a long term plan when I get back, right mom? I highly doubt that my backpack attire sans makeup or curling iron would have allowed me to create a “business professional” video. A Survivor video no problem and who knows maybe that is another reason why I couldn’t do the audition tape…because Survivor needed me instead.

Can you say “let’s go hiking?” After a great sleep and chat with Sheila to store my big backpack and save my room for the next evening, well, this girl was eager to get to Mt. Kinabalu. I scored big time on the front seat as Mario at the van station remembered me and totally hooked me up. Snack for the road, some darn good banana and rice in the banana leave. No, it doesn’t make up for my lack of bbq bananas here but it will due for now.

Mt. Kinabalu here I come!

jk livin’

The Dish is out :)

Posted by Dishtravel 20:47 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Jungle time at the Hilton

Adventure to the Borneo side of Malaysia and a long road transport journey from Kuching city to the Hilton in the jungle.

overcast 82 °F

It’s July 17th, 2010 as I mentioned in my previous blog and what a fine day in fact. I had no idea that I was able to check off yet another thing on my list of “to-dos” today. I will keep you in suspense for a few moments on that one.

First up, I gathered my things and put on my trusty backpack and walked down to the Hilton where I got a taxi to the bus station. As we drove, the driver informed me of my options to get to my final destination, the Batang Ai Hilton Long House. Luckily, I was able to get on the 11:30am bus (the time was now 11am) which would ensure I get to the jetty to jump on the boat in plenty of time. I was aiming for the 4pm boat, however, worst case scenario they did have a 5:15pm. I was told the bus ride was 3 hours to the junction where I must then ask a local van driver for a lift to the jetty which is 45 minutes away. Now I may not be a math whiz but we never got to the junction until 4pm. I reckon the frequent stops at markets and to pick up/drop off local friends along the way may have been the cause of the delay. Thank God for the last boat at 5:15pm is all I have to say.

The time was 4pm and I just arrived at the junction. Hmm, I see no local van transport but do see a few cars. I asked one driver if he was headed in that direction and he was not. Have no fear, I spotted a fellow bus passenger getting into a car with who appeared to be her parents. I immediately ran, well, sort of waddled as I can’t really run with my pack on my back, to their vehicle and asked what direction they were headed. I told them where I needed to go and before long I had my backpack in their trunk and was sitting in the backseat with their daughter as we jammed to local Malaysian music. They were my angels at this point and were getting me to the jetty. The father even offered me mentos. Hello! They were my latest sugar obsession ever since Bali back in August. 45 minutes had passed and I could see the Hilton boat and other people waiting for a ride. I thanked the lovely family and gave them money for the lift. We took a few photos and now I can check that “to-do” off my list. I would certainly classify this as “hitch-hiking,” wouldn’t you?

Timing, an open-mind, and a little bit of luck allowed me to get this far today. I was on the boat in route to this “jungle” resort. I couldn’t help but think of the game Survivor at this point as I practically sized up the competition (so I pretended for a moment that I was about to head off to play the brilliant game) on the boat ride over. I was thinking based on appearances and gestures alone, who would I align myself with in the game. I really need to play the game of Survivor and soon I reckon.

Finally, we arrive at the Hilton and were greeted with fruit juice as we made our way into the wooden resort. Thank you for the service I didn’t have to carry my pack up the hills and had it delivered to my lavish 2 story/2 bathroom deluxe suite. Now what? This is in total remote territory and I did my best to check out the place. Didn’t take long as we are indeed in the middle of nowhere. I attempted a jog around the property which was really a back and forth through all the long houses. Not much room to roam but I made the most of it. Then, I made my way to the “gym” outside by the pool. Hey, they had some weights and a loud bike (maybe one of the first ones ever) but this is the jungle in Borneo. What can one expect?

Another day is nearly over and off to get some grub. The thing about secluded locations is the supply and demand. Now everyone must eat so the price skyrockets. I was beginning to think that I should have brought my own wine. Wait, I can go a few days without it and I will at those prices. I did managed to work a deal for the buffet and it was back to my luxury suite for some movies and sleep. On the way, I made a quick stop by the tourist desk and arranged for a longhouse tour in the morning. It’s been a very long travel day and the king size bed was calling my name. I couldn’t help but think how awesome this place would be as my actual home. Very spacious, great layout. I could live in this long house.

It’s a new day and I am off to get some free breakfast. They had a great spread and using my brilliant brain, I also requested a take away box to nibble on through out the day because the woman that hooked me up for dinner had a day off. I had a fridge so score on that end and I will make my breakfast food last throughout dinner. Not hard to do as they had such a broad range of food choices at the Hilton.

After breakfast, I met with my guides to get on the tiny boat and head to a local long house to take in some culture. The boat ride was great and once we arrived (maybe 40minutes later) I spotted other hotel guests taking part in the same tour. We watched local dances, chatted with the families, tried some potent rice wine and then it was back to the boat for me. I had a bit of a nature shower on the boat ride back to the Hilton though. I enjoyed seeing such closeness in the families at the long house. That is one thing I see so often in South East Asia. They all live under one long roof and when the men are still single, they must sleep outside of the rooms (still covered by ceilings though). The girls are always allowed to sleep inside though…because we rock!

Once I arrived back to my deluxe accommodation, I decided to go for a run around the foot paths then hit the old school “gym” followed by some movie action and washing of clothes in the sink. This sure brings back memories of the term in Europe I did back in 1999. Best part of college by far. Now I already informed you of this place’s remoteness and having just one lobby computer with dial up internet sure confirms that statement. I was longing to use the computer to figure out some transport to the next spot, which was also unknown but would be defined by ticket prices. What I’ve learned is by staying at expensive, remote places, you don’t meet people too often. The backpackers are few and far between but it gives you a break no doubt. I can’t believe that I am admitting to my loneliness on this leg but I am. It was marvelous in respect to my bed and I used up all the luxury as I was a bit unsure of what adventure I would embark on next or when I would have a bed again. I can say this now because I know the end result but I can only laugh at the extremes I endure from one day to the next. What doesn’t kill make just makes me stronger. With that said, I should be able to fight the Hulk …and win!!

I woke up refreshed but anxious and a bit stir crazy on this island of a place. If the weather was more cooperative I’m sure I would have wanted to stay longer but it’s rainy season after all. I managed to actually meet a girl Laura today while I gave it a go at the computer again. She was traveling for 4 months solo but just met her parents here for the last bit. They offered me a lift back to Kuching the following day and I considered it. The only issue was that in order to get a flight out on Air Asia, one must book 24 hrs in advance and I was eager to get a move on to Kota Kinabalu. The offer was on the table but after much thought, I declined and got a late check out of 4:30pm and hit the ferry back to the mainland. I had a girl from the hotel’s dad waiting for me in a van to bring me to the main road where I would find a bus going somewhere.

Rain rain go away, especially when the van doesn’t have wipers. Take about scary. Down pour makes visibility hard with wipers and now this guy had none!!! Apparently they broke the day prior to this journey but by the looks of this van I highly doubt they worked since we enter the year 2000. With a bit of prayer and lots of luck, I managed to get to the main road and so called “bus” stop. I’m getting a bit familiar with how the locals travel and figured I would try. I refused to buy an overpriced ticket to Miri and insisted I gave the actual bus driver money. The man at the station wasn’t happy but the driver didn’t deny me of this act. I know he pocketed the money as they do so often with their friends along the way. Miri was on the way to Kota Kinabalu and upon my 6am arrival I would be able to figure out a flight or onward bus transportation.

Why didn’t I go back down to Kuching? Why? Stubborn me felt it was a waste to go backwards and pay a higher airfare to my next location. End result, my suffering in the 11 hour night bus to Miri. Granted it is very hot outside, muggy actually, but inside the bus was another story. I took out everything I could to wrap my shivering body but didn’t have enough. I had thoughts of what it must be like to play Survivor. I had to move seats at one point because the air con was causing such condensation that I didn’t know if I wet my pants or if it was a massive ceiling drip. I asked the driver to turn the temperature up as we all were freezing but there was just an on/off switch and no settings. Damn it! I had to wrap my backpack in a plastic bag because the floor was just soaking. At one stop I had to buy throat drops and vitamin C tablets because I was now getting a cold.

Will this ever end? Will I get a bed again? I had no plane ticket but knew that if I wanted to remain sane that I had to find a different form of transportation to finish this route. Once we hit Miri, I had them drop me off at the airport. It was 6am and no counters were open but I spotted a star bucks with free wifi. Thank you God! I purchased a yummy hot chocolate and checked out flights for Kota Kinabalu. Looks like I could stay in the airport for 8 hrs and hop on Air Asia flight or pay $35 more American to get on Malaysian Air in just 2 hours. I can’t believe I even considered waiting but I did. Malaysian Airlines won and I was on my way to Kota Kinabalu. I am so grateful to be off that horrible bus and onto a, well, still cold but dry airplane.

My rough plan is to arrange for mountain trekking at Mt. Kinabalu and taking a trip to Pulau Tiga, the home of Survivor 1. I was told it can be hard to arrange for the climb and advance notice is needed. That is another reason why I needed to get here soon.

Good Bye Hilton Jungle and Hello Kota Kinabalu.

Jk livin’

The Dish is out :)

Posted by Dishtravel 20:41 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

KL, the big apple of Malaysia.

It's time for a big of city life before heading to the jungle.

overcast 80 °F

Stayed tuned was right, I was not about to go to bed anytime soon as I didn’t waste any time before the sight seeing began in Kuala Lumpur. Again, much thanks go out to Alex and his email that I clenched in my right hand and used as my travel guide for the next 24+ hours in the big city. Who needs a book like the Lonely Planet when I just gather information from fellow travelers that I personally meet. It’s makes for a much more out of the ordinary journey, and we all know that I am far from ordinary. The nice gentleman who allowed me to get a load off my back (literally) informed me that one must stand in some very long line in hopes to get tickets to come back and tour the Petrona Towers later that same day. I am one that loves a free tour as much as the next guy but when the word “free” comes to play, there are many trade offs. In this case, TIME. If time is what it took to get a ticket, well, time is what I had to waste so it was a win-win situation.

No map needed as the towers are rather tall and with the help of a man-made map, I was on my way to the Petronas. I’m sure I have all the facts written somewhere but just Google them if you want to learn more. Basically, they are very tall and a major KL attraction. Sounds good to me as I just want to get the most out of my little time in the city before trekking off to the Borneo side. As I got closer to the towers I asked for directions to the line. I was just in time really as the line opened at 8am and it was just 15 minutes past the hour. Was I first in line? Heck no but I had a very good chance of getting a ticket for the day. I passed the time by people watching and, you caught me, I borrowed a girl’s Lonely Planet book to check over some Pulau Tiga and Kota Kinabalu information. It gave me an idea of what I was in for, cost-wise and transportation and time. You only live once and anyone reading this would know my passion to hike and obsession to anything about the game Survivor so I must do both.

Okay, let’s stay focused. I waited a good 2 hours before I got a ticket for an 11:15am tour which gave me over an hour to kill and what should I do? Let’s hit the mall. I was stunned to see The Gap and had to take a photo. It has been ages since I was at a proper mall. Seeing so many familiar stores made me a bit homesick. Oddly enough, I couldn’t really see myself buying too much either as the prices were high and I felt there is more to life than the material things (easy to say now I suppose but wait until I get back to the US…yikes). Yes, I just said I passed up on massive shopping. Maybe not having a job and unsure of what lies ahead had a bit to do with it.

Time flies when you browse around and it was now my turn for the Petrona Towers tour. It started with your typical video and then we went up to the connecting “bridge” if you will to check out the view. I could see school children playing in the park that looked like ants and the city view was spectacular. Check that off my list and it was time to venture back to the guesthouse where my things were but I could not remember the name. No worries, I chatted with a guy who showed me the way back to the main street and within a few minutes I found my guesthouse. I felt terrible but the price was too high and at this time the Green Hut had a single open so I moved my things there and then it was on to KL Sentral to buy an ticket for the next day to Kuching. You would think I would learn by now to book 24 hrs in advance on line to refrain from this inconvenience of waiting in lines and such but I did it again. The number that I picked was over 100 away and this could be along wait. Good thing I made friends with a local that had a closer number and he let me go up to the counter with him. Still, we waited a good 2 hours practically. My ticket was issued and I was headed to Kuching in the morning to find this Hilton in the jungle.

Next up, Time Square for a bit of shopping, I know I couldn’t resist, and I had to get a new camera charger. I found my favorite Asian-inspired store where I made a few purchases. It was justifiable in that I could not buy those types of clothes back home. Next up, a night run in the city. It was then that I spotted the Outback Steakhouse. Again, a bit homesick. Bummer it was too late to eat there but I got some local food where Alex suggested then it was off to the internet café to arrange transport to the Hilton. Unfortunately, it didn’t go too well and I was left having to try and find my own transport as they were charging me for 2 people, something that I have come across far to often. Are they all trying to tell me something? I should have a boyfriend or husband or a friend with me? I’m smart, I will fly there and figure it out myself.

The morning came far too soon as I was up until 3am but it was a quick run and then the monorail to the bus station where I would catch a bus to the airport. Not to toot my own horn or anything but I was very impressed with my new found transportation skills. Remember, this is a girl who fears, or feared, public transportation. Once at the airport in the check-in line, I met a local guy Hudson. He really helped me and gave me the idea to take local transport myself to get to this remote Hilton. He even offered to let me stay in his family’s longhouse but I never saw him once we landed in Kuching. He was on the later flight and by that time I was dealing with phone calls to try and organized everything. Darn payphones kept eating my change and with the help of some fellow travelers and the counter personnel I was able to arrange a plan. I was not going to the Hilton in the jungle that night as I would not make the 5:15pm boat at the jetty. I had no idea that my free stay would turn into such a chaotic mess. Just another lesson to learn from in my traveling experiences.

The night was drawing near and the rain had begun to fall. Two hours later and I am still finalizing a plan in the airport. I picked up a random budget hotel pamphlet and saw Pinnacles. Good choice on my part as the woman at the counter informed me it was right next to the Hilton. She even allowed me to use her phone and within a few moments I was in a taxi and on my way to the accommodation. I also phoned the Hilton to inform them I would stop by to speak with management directly. I must say, it does pay to be a Gold Member at the Hilton as they treat you like royalty, even if you don’t stay there. My room was sorted, I had a 6 person dorm to myself and it was on to the Hilton where I thought I would sneak a workout and chat about transfers to the jungle. Turns out I did speak to them and found I could do local transport from the hotel manager. He knew I was traveling alone and admitted himself how ridiculous costly it was to go through them directly. He offered me wine and then it turned to happy hour in the executive lounge. Not much else to do in the rain so I took in the Kuching views from the lounge window and played on the internet while sipping wine after wine. The gym never happened but I slept like a baby after I walked back to my accommodation.

It’s morning already, really? The day is July 17th, 2010 and it is time for my transport adventure to Batang Ai Hilton Longhouse to begin already. Thanks to my dad’s Hilton points I was able to get free nights and with my Gold status I was given a 2 story deluxe longhouse all to myself. It all sounded fantastic but little did I know what was in store for me to get to this little piece of heaven. Life on the road. It’s not always easy but it sure keeps you on your toes.

Jk livin’

The dish is out :)

Posted by Dishtravel 03:40 Archived in Malaysia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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