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For the second time to Borneo
Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) to Tenom (Malaysia), Jun-16-09 / Jul-04-09

Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) is a city where we spend some time once in a while. It is like Bangkok in Thailand a city where it is great to enjoy all the good things that the city has to offer and to make use of the good air connections that these cities have. We make especially use of the services of AirAsia (www.airasia.com), a young and sexy price fighter with very good connections for very reasonable prices in this part of Asia. The traditional European and American airlines will get a lot of trouble from this fast growing company. Gradually, AirAsia is extending its network to also Australia and Europe, and soon also to the US.

We use Kuala Lumpur to recharge again after our visit to Indonesia and Timor-Leste (East-Timor). We found a nice hotel in the city centre and find regularly our way to the Subway for some wheat bread with vegetables. We also discuss what our next destination will be. We are already in the second half of June, and the date that we will fly back to Europe for the second time is less than four months away. Our initial plan was to go back to The Netherlands for a second family visit in March or April 2010, but Edwin’s parents are married for forty years and want to celebrate it in a special way; so we decided to go back earlier. However, in the first half of December, we fly back to Bangkok for the third stretch of our journey.

On the way to the airport with Kuala Lumpur's Skytrain
We have four months left before we fly back from Bangkok to Düsseldorf in Germany. We agree that we want to use these four months to finish our visit to the countries in the South-eastern part of Asia. That means that we start with finishing our visit to Malaysia. We saw already a big part of the country last year, when we travelled through Malaysia with the parents of Edwin. However, we didn’t visit Sabah (Eastern part of Borneo), so that will be the part of Malaysia where we start our second visit. We book two tickets to the town of Tawau on Eastern Borneo, and two days later we start our visit to Sabah in the small town of Semporna. Semporna is the base for diving daytrips to the world-famous island of Sipadan. World-famous among divers to be more specific. Sipadan is seen as one of the most beautiful diving spots in Asia. But when we arrive in Semporna we are told that it is high season, which means that the permits for diving around Sipadan are already booked for the coming weeks. In spite of this, we ask to be put on the waiting list, but we know better. We book a diving daytrip for the day after to one of the other islands in the area, but we are disappointed. There isn’t a lot of fish to see and most of the coral is destroyed by dynamite fishing. When we notice that we do not make any progress on the waiting list, we decide to move on.

Our next destination is Sandakan. The five-hour bus journey from Semporna to Sandakan takes us through palm oil plantations, palm oil plantations and palm oil plantations. It is really sad to see that almost no jungle survived in this part of Borneo. We made a booking for a three day / two nights jungle camp stay at Uncle Tan’s. Uncle Tan’s is almost legendary and is one of the most popular places to go in Sabah to experience the real jungle. And even better, it seems to be quite easy to spot the Orang-Utan in the wild. And of course, that is something we really want, even after we saw them before in Gunung Leuser National Park on Sumatra in Indonesia. We have to wait a couple of days before we can go on the tour and we spend these days in Sandakan. On the day that the tour starts, we take the bus for the thirty minutes drive to the operations base of UncleTan’s from where all their tours start. Eventually, we have mixed feeling about our visit to Uncle Tan’s jungle camp. It is indeed great and easy to see many animals in the wild, including the Orang-Utan. However, the environment is really disappointing. Most of the jungle is gone which means that the wildlife is retreated in some remaining pockets of forest along the Sungai Kinabatangan River (see also the article, photo-impression and short video about Uncle Tan’s jungle camp). It is like a semi-zoo where the surrounding palm oil plantations form the natural fences.

Great view on Sabah's (Borneo) Mount Kinabalu

Our next destination is the capital city of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu. Near Kota Kinabalu, Mount Kinabalu is located, the biggest tourist draw of Sabah. This mountain of 4095 metres is the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. The mountain is relatively easy to climb, and for that reason very popular. The climb in the high season is so popular, that you need to book months in advance to climb the mountain for a reasonable price. The mountain is leased to a Japanese company who now has the monopoly on all activities on and around the mountain. The result is that the prices are inflated, especially in the high season when it is almost impossible to get the more reasonable priced accommodation. We talked to two Dutch people who paid 360 Ringgit (= € 75.-) per person for a bed in a dormitory. Another couple paid € 160.- for a simple double room with shared facilities. However, if you are fit enough, you can do the ascend and descend in one day. But the Japanese are not stupid. They only issue four permits per day to climb the mountain as a daytrip. All other climbers are forced to stay at least one night in the overpriced accommodation on the mountain. ‘Not in one hundred years’ is what we said to each other. The mountain is beautiful, but not so special to spend so much money for the climb. We prefer to keep the money in our pockets and to use it for some other mountain where you do not have to ascend to the summit in columns of more than a hundred other people. But of course, we still travelled to Mount Kinabalu National park to enjoy the views on the mountain and to enjoy the beautiful trails than can be found on the lower slopes of the mountain. We checked-in in a small hotel just outside the park and walked everyday the two kilometres to the entrance. It is a great park to spend some days, even if you are not climbing the summit.

By now, we arrived in the little town of Tenom, in the western part of Sabah. We are here to visit the Sabah Agricultural Park that is both an agricultural research station and a theme park. It is a park where you can see all the fauna of Sabah. After Tenom, we travel back to Kota Kinabalu and from there we take the boat to the small oil sultanate of Brunei. After spending some days there, we travel further east to the western part of Malaysian Borneo (Sarawak). Oh yes, and we also know already how we are going to spend the remaining time in Southeast Asia before we fly home in October. We will stay in Malaysia till August 7th. On that day we will fly for one month to Vietnam, and after Vietnam we will spend a month in Taiwan. After that visit we will fly back to Bangkok, via Kuala Lumpur. And than we have to sleep a couple of more nights, before we head back home till the beginning of December. So, some months to look forward to.


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