Adventure to the Borneo side of Malaysia and a long road transport journey from Kuching city to the Hilton in the jungle.
17.07.2010 - 19.10.2010 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.
The Dish is out