A Travellerspoint blog

Borneo - Part 1 - Monkeys and Sunbears


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After a brief stop at Kuala Lumpur airport hotel we got a flight to Sandakan in Malaysian Borneo (the north east of the island). Once we landed we were waiting for our luggage when a girl started chatting to us and asked us where we were from. Bizarrely she then wanted us to pose for a photo with her. Being quite British we just went along with it and didn't ask any questions, despite then discussing how strange it was afterwards. We were collected at the airport by our tour company with whom we'd booked a 7 night tour of Borneo who drove us to Sepilok to stay at a lodge close to the orang-utan sanctuary/rehabilitation centre.

We had two nights at Sepilok staying in a chalet. The main lodge looked out over the lake which had loads of birds and fish, and to our delight a couple of otters and monitor lizards (they were however very difficult to see). I managed to spot a monitor lizard swimming in the lake one afternoon which I was really happy about.

Here's the place we stayed:

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Whilst we were in Sepilok we visited the orangutan centre, where they take in orangutans and try and get them rehabilitated and back in to the wild. The rainforest has been/is still being destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations which is now the main export and money maker for Malaysia. So many animals, including orangutans, are at threat of potential extinction. There is action being taken to try and save the remaining rainforest and certain areas are now protected though I'm unsure how effective or wide-ranging this regulation is.

We saw plenty of orangutans at feeding time, both the smaller ones still in the 'nursery' and the older ones who are allowed out to roam the surrounding rainforest areas at will. Once they are fully rehabilitated and released they sometimes still return to the centre from the adjoining forest (mainly because they know they can get fed at set times, though the centre do only put out what they call 'bland' food so that the released orangutans naturally hunt for other food they need in the forest). This young orangutan was just sat on the path area:

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This older orangutan had been rehabilitated and was living in the rainforest, but returned with her baby to pick up some food:

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After the orangutan centre we visited the sunbear conservation centre. Before going to Borneo I had never even heard of sunbears. They are the world's smallest bear and are endangered, again largely due to habitat loss.

A sunbear living in the forest (a very large area) at the conservation centre:
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Afterwards we visited the discovery centre and garden, and a canopy walkway with our guide. We saw our second wild snake at the garden!:
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As well as a green crested lizard that changes colour to adapt to its surroundings - here is a picture:
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Posted by TashandTim 05:16 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Our last night in Peninsular Malaysia


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Sadly we had to say goodbye to lovely Redang on 24th April and get the public ferry back to Kuala Terengganu. It was a quicker journey this time for some reason. We had no desire to hang around slightly smelly Kuala Terengganu with our luggage in the boiling hot sunshine, so we got a taxi straight to the airport knowing that would mean we'd have to hang around for 6 hours before our flight to Kuala Lumpur.... in a tiny airport with hardly any shops/cafes that's quite a feat but the time didn't pass too slowly.

Whilst we were at the airport we decided to try an automated massage chair as we had so much time to kill. Malaysians seem to love them and they are everywhere - airports, bus stations, shopping malls... they also have shops renting them out to people to take back to their own homes. You often see hundreds of empty shops in malls but the massage chairs outside are full of people asleep/having a break, so they seem to be a hit. We were intrigued and had a half hour session each for 5 Ringgit (about a pound). They were quite firm and we weren't sure if we enjoyed it but it helped pass some time!

Somehow we managed to spend over 6 hours in the tiny airport hall and then boarded our plane to Kuala Lumpur. On the plane we were lucky enough to sit next to someone really interesting: a university wildlife researcher called Reuben. He was from Singapore but worked in Malaysia and was telling us all about his research and conservation in the Malaysian rainforests. He also showed us photos on his laptop from his wildlife camera traps and so we got to see pictures of amazing animals wandering around - including elephants, clouded leopards and tapirs. It was really interesting and meant the short flight passed really quickly.

By the time we got to Kuala Lumpur it was 9.30pm and we stayed over at the airport hotel before catching our flight to Sandakan (Borneo) the next morning.

Posted by TashandTim 02:22 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Some photos from Redang


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We have been without an internet connection for a little while as we've been in the rainforest, but we're back in civilisation (Kota Kinabalu) now so here are a few photos from wonderful Redang Island...

A long-tailed macaque on the roof after breakfast, having waltzed in and stolen some of the buffet - note the evidence on chin
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We stayed at the top of the hill/cliff and had some great views wandering down to the beach
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A twin-barred flying tree snake we saw by chance!
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The view from the bar/cafe that we had our lunches/afternoon drinks at
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A long-tailed macaque monkey who had brazenly rifled through all of the stuff on this motorbike until finding something he wanted to keep. He then ran off in to the trees with the items he wanted!
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A monitor lizard we spotted going down to the beach one day
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Another macaque
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A view to the right from the end of the wooden pier. We saw a turtle in the sea out towards the beach on the photo when we were on the boat back from snorkelling.
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I've also just updated our schedule now we have a few more things booked on this page

Posted by TashandTim 23:39 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

A stop in paradise... photos to follow


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After our ferry journey from Kuala Terengganu we arrived at Redang Island where we stayed for five nights. Another totally different experience from everything we’d done so far, this time it was our turn for a bit of luxury on a paradisiacal tropical island. We were quite pleased once we arrived at the hotel (after nearly 2 hours on a noisy ferry) to be handed a refreshing face towel and welcome drink. These six days felt much more like a holiday and we spent time relaxing on the beautiful beach, bathing in the warm clear sea several times a day, and being waited on a little bit.

The hotel buildings were nestled in to the edge of the jungle and next to the white sandy beach and turquoise sea. It was just our resort in the bay and it always felt quiet with plenty of free loungers on the beach. Whilst we were there we were happy to see several bits of wildlife around the resort: a tree frog in our corridor, a few brightly coloured sunbirds (they look a little like hummingbirds), a couple of sea eagles, and a few animals we managed to photograph but unfortunately we can't upload at the moment as our current place (in Borneo) has a very weak internet connection. So photos to follow of a monitor lizard, some brazen macaque monkeys, and a rarely seen twin-barred flying tree snake.

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One of our favourite experiences so far has been going out snorkelling around Redang Island. We were taken out in a slightly rickety small speedboat which was very bumpy and uncomfortable to start off with but we got used to it! We made four different snorkelling stops and we saw hundreds of different tropical fish in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colours and patterns. It’s amazing what you can see under the surface of the water and it felt like an aquarium! There is also a lot of coral and creatures on the sea floor like sea slugs. We couldn’t take any photos as we don’t have an underwater camera (many divers and serial snorkelers do) so you will just have to believe us!

There are also reef sharks but we didn’t see any – they are wary of humans and are not dangerous. We did see a few turtles, though only from the boat.

We enjoyed our breakfasts at the hotel – they had an expansive range of everything you could want – and they would also ferry you around the resort or to/from your room on golf buggies. The staff were very friendly which was nice, and one night there was a small problem with Tim’s food so we were quite chuffed when we received a huge platter of fruit and a selection of gourmet desserts. The resort attracts honeymooners and there is also a very expensive private villa you can hire - with a butler and security guards – slightly out of our price range. We were quite sad to leave, but we were really pleased that we got the opportunity to stay there and to see the marine life that you’d never know existed.

Posted by TashandTim 19:41 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Kuala Terengganu

semi-overcast 34 °C
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We haven't had chance to update on here for a while as we've been without a reliable internet connection since we left Kuala Lumpur. We're now at an airport waiting to fly back to Kuala Lumpur for a night (after which we'll fly to Borneo) and we have a few hours to kill so it's a good opportunity to get the laptop out and do some updates.

After Kuala Lumpur we flew to Kuala Terengganu, a city on the east coast of the Malaysian mainland and the 'capital' of Terengganu state. We spent four nights there staying outside of the town centre near a small (and extremely quiet) marina. The resort was made up of traditional wooden chalet-type buildings on stilts and was bordered on both sides by rivers, making it a small island. We soon realised once we'd got to this new part of Malaysia that it was a lot different to Kuala Lumpur - it it obviously a lot smaller than the country's capital but it's also a lot less western and more conservative. We could hear the calls of at least three different mosques from our hotel throughout the day, many of which were on the river banks, and there is no alcohol to be found anywhere in the city/state as far as we could tell. The state is much more Muslim than other parts of Malaysia - 97% compared to a national average of 62%. It was far too hot to be able to do anything outside, even sitting down, but thankfully there was a nice cool swimming pool that we spent a lot of time in. We ventured in to Kuala Terengganu a few times and were surprised at the number of stalls/shacks lining all the roads - many selling the same thing: often durians (a type of smelly fruit often compared to the scent of sewage), gold jewellery, some kind of home cooking usually done on a portable stove and served on kebab sticks, or some kind of unidentifiable drink. There wasn't an awful lot to do in Kuala Terengganu considering it was the capital of the state; it is obviously not a usual tourist destination and it's not a very big city. We visited the main indoor market (the number 1 attraction in the city!) which we were not prepared for - unfortunately the melting pot of aromas was not for us and we found ourselves gagging on the smell so had to make a quick exit, which was easier said than done due to the layout of the stalls.

Unfortunately there wasn't an awful lot to take pictures of in Kuala Terengganu - it's not a particularly pretty city and there aren't many views. We're also having problems transferring photos from our phones to the laptop. So here's a gecko, and a picture of the pool at night!

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After four nights the jetty in the city centre was where we caught the ferry to our next destination: Redang Island. We weren't sure what to expect catching a public ferry - it turned out to be a fairly noisy affair but otherwise fairly comfortable with airline-style seats. It wasn't the smoothest hour and 45 minutes but neither of us were seasick and I actually fell asleep. It was a lot cheaper than arranging a private or hotel boat transfer and we arrived safely on the island for our next leg of the trip.

Posted by TashandTim 02:37 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

A quick stop off in Kuala Lumpur

sunny 33 °C
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Flying with Air Asia was fine - much better than Ryanair and even cheaper! After a short flight from Singapore we arrived in our second country, Malaysia, at Kuala Lumpur. We had hoped it would be less humid but we were wrong; the city being more densely crammed in meant it felt even warmer! Kuala Lumpur was MUCH cheaper than Singapore and we found it had many more vegetarian/veggie-friendly restaurants. After we checked in to our hotel, we went for an evening walk and some food. We realised we had been somewhat spoilt in spotless Singapore; KL seemed more like a 'normal' city in that it was grubbier, noisier, and much more chaotic. Crossing the road was almost impossible and the roads were crammed with hundreds of scooters and cars constantly going through red lights. We saw quite a few road accidents whilst we were there!

We only had one full day in Kuala Lumpur during which we visited the Petronas Twin Towers - the tallest in Malaysia and highest twin towers in the world at 452 metres or 1,483 ft. We also spent a bit of time in the park that sits below them. We walked around the city which seemed to be a building site in places. It still had a few of the giant malls we'd encountered in Singapore, but they were much less opulent. We did however find one with an indoor theme park! Sadly we didn't have time to try it out but we will if/when we find ourselves back in KL.
^ At the park

^ At the park

^ Trees at the park

^ Trees at the park

^ Cooling off our feet in the pool at the park

^ Cooling off our feet in the pool at the park

^ At the top of one of the towers looking to its twin. Behind that is another tower which was just across the road from our hotel; that tower was the tallest in Malaysia until the Petronas duo came along.

^ At the top of one of the towers looking to its twin. Behind that is another tower which was just across the road from our hotel; that tower was the tallest in Malaysia until the Petronas duo came along.

^ Looking beyond the city to the landscape

^ Looking beyond the city to the landscape

In the evening we visited Merdeka Square where Malaysian independence from the UK was declared in 1957. We wandered back to our hotel and had a few drinks in the hotel's rooftop bar which had great views over the skyscrapers and towards the Petronas Towers. The next day we travelled back to the airport for our second Air Asia flight to the east coast of Malaysia; this time I think we were the only non-Malaysians on the plane. We were certainly the only non-Asians!

Sultan Abdul Samad Building at Merdeka Square; it used to be home to the British government, later becoming a court and now the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture

Sultan Abdul Samad Building at Merdeka Square; it used to be home to the British government, later becoming a court and now the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture

Not the best quality photo (taken with a phone) but hopefully you can see the twin towers in the background; this is from our hotel bar.

Not the best quality photo (taken with a phone) but hopefully you can see the twin towers in the background; this is from our hotel bar.

Posted by TashandTim 06:29 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

So long Singapore


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On our final day in Singapore we decided we'd spend the first few hours at a place called Gardens By The Bay, where we went on a walk between the trees. The gardens are huge and part of a project by the city to try and introduce as many parks/forests as possible.

^ The 'tree top' walk

^ The 'tree top' walk

^ A view from the gardens towards the wheel

^ A view from the gardens towards the wheel

^ The Marina Bay Sands from the back

^ The Marina Bay Sands from the back

^ Leaving the gardens. Note extremely sensible footwear!

^ Leaving the gardens. Note extremely sensible footwear!

After the gardens we went on the Singapore Flyer (much like the London Eye) via a couple of shopping malls with air conditioning! Tim also went and had his hair cut at a Singaporean salon where you pre-pay at a machine, get a coupon, and then have a 10-minute hair cut - the same price and time regardless of the cut you ask for.

^ The Flyer from the river

^ The Flyer from the river

^ View towards the sea from The Flyer

^ View towards the sea from The Flyer

^ View towards part of the bay from The Flyer. You can also see the pod in front of us.

^ View towards part of the bay from The Flyer. You can also see the pod in front of us.

Before we left Singapore we made sure we had a swim in our hotel pool as well, and the next morning we got the underground to the airport which was quick and easy - the only downside was having two suitcases and having to negotiate lots of steps in some of the stations. We were at the airport quite early before we got our first 'Air Asia' flight to Kuala Lumpur.

Posted by TashandTim 19:17 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Our Schedule :-)

Just in case you want keep track of us, here's our itinerary that we meant to include earlier on... this is what we know so far, we'll keep updating this page as we go along

7th April: Flight Heathrow - Singapore
8th April - 13th April: Singapore
13th April: Flight Singapore - Kuala Lumpur
13th April - 15th April: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
15th April: Flight Kuala Lumpur - Kuala Terengganu
15th April - 19th April: Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
19th April: Ferry Kuala Terengganu - Redang Island, Malaysia
19th April - 24th April: Redang Island, Malaysia
24th April: Flight Kuala Terengganu - Kuala Lumpur
25th April: Flight Kuala Lumpur - Sandakan
25th April - 2nd May: Borneo 7 night tour - staying in various places in Borneo, Malaysia and ending in Lahad Datu
2nd May: Flight Lahad Datu - Kota Kinabalu
2nd May - 6th May: Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia
6th May: Flight Kota Kinabalu - Manila, Philippines
6th May - 8th May: Manila, Philippines

We will be in The Philippines until 19th May, but we don't yet know how we'll be splitting the time across the islands. After 19th May the plan is:

19th May: Flight to Hanoi, Vietnam
19th May - 5th June: 17 night tour through Vietnam and Cambodia, ending in Bangkok, Thailand

After Bangkok we'll spend some time in Thailand before we fly to Kuala Lumpur for a flight to Auckland in New Zealand on 24th June.

Posted by TashandTim 06:59 Comments (0)

Stormy Singapore

storm 30 °C
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It's our last full day in Singapore as we fly to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow afternoon. It's only 11.30am at the moment and usually we'd be out sightseeing but it's been thundering and raining heavily all morning. So we are still in our robes in the hotel room as our plans have been scuppered due to the weather; we'll head out this afternoon and later this evening it should eventually stop raining.

In the meantime, we got some good photos yesterday. We went on a cable car which took us up to Faber Peak and across to Sentosa Island. It was another really sticky humid day and we tried to catch the underground rather than walk, but we ended up walking round a lot anyway. We went to have a look at parliament and some nice older buildings nearby, and in the evening we went out to get some night shots of the city. We can't believe how many gigantic shopping malls and shops there are in Singapore and how lavish most of them are. Before we got the underground back to the hotel we watched our second light show at Marina Bay and then got a hot chocolate from Starbucks - English and American shops are everywhere here so we had to try one.

Photos to follow; we've decided to go out as the rain seems to have eased off (famous last words...).

We're back from our day out so here are a few photos from yesterday....

At Faber Peak, the top of the cable car ride

At Faber Peak, the top of the cable car ride


Sentosa Island, note all the ships in the sea... it's like this for miles and miles (we saw from the air as we flew in)... tankers, cargo ships and so on

Sentosa Island, note all the ships in the sea... it's like this for miles and miles (we saw from the air as we flew in)... tankers, cargo ships and so on


Parliament area

Parliament area


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Walking to Marina Bay

Walking to Marina Bay


Marina Bay with the country's famous Merlion symbol

Marina Bay with the country's famous Merlion symbol


Light show at Marina Bay Sands

Light show at Marina Bay Sands

Posted by TashandTim 20:21 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

A bit of a trek

semi-overcast 33 °C
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Today we decided to do a 'nature walk' at a rainforest nature reserve outside of the main city. We hopped on the subway and walked for 20 minutes to the nature reserve. On the way we imagined strolling round at a relaxed pace, spotting animals, stopping for an occasional iced latte and so on... in reality we ended up spending 4 hours trekking through the dense jungle in 33 degree heat and stifling humidity, completely drenched head-to-toe in sweat, feet full of blisters and fingers swollen up like sausages. I was fed up after about a third of the way round and I have no idea how we survived it to be honest! We started off full of optimism, slowly scouring the rainforest for any signs of animals and stopping every time we heard a branch creak; by the end we just couldn't wait to get out of there and wanted to murder the cicadas (crickets) with their 'singing' noise that we'd been listening to for at least 3 of the 4 hours.

However it wasn't all terrible, we enjoyed seeing the wildlife and we saw our first wild monkeys! We were a little disappointed not to have seen any snakes or monitor lizards but we did see several skinks, two terrapins, plenty of monkeys and butterflies as well as hearing loads of birds. We will (probably) never moan about walking around in the humidity again though we can't promise anything. We had to have an easygoing evening as we can now hardly walk. Here are some pictures from today...

The view from the tree top of the jungle; we had to climb up there

The view from the tree top of the jungle; we had to climb up there


A pensive monkey

A pensive monkey


A terrapin we were lucky to see swimming by

A terrapin we were lucky to see swimming by


A young monkey

A young monkey


Monkey in a tree

Monkey in a tree

Posted by TashandTim 07:33 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

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