Selamat Hari Raya!! (Happy Eid, in Malai)
Nov 14, 2004
|That's right, the end of Ramadan is being celebrated all over Malaysia, and being in Borneo on the Malaysian side, we are right smack dab in the middle of the festivities. But I am jumping the gun a little...let me tell you first how Yehia and Meghan met up in Asia and arrived on the beautiful island of Borneo.
Yehia arrived late in the night to Bangkok and met up with Meghan in a designated hostel, in the touristy part of the city, Khao San Road. The next day we took a public transport boat down the river to visit the grand palace as well as a couple of temples in the vicinity. The beauty of these temples and especially the palace will have to be described by pictures rather than by words to do them any kind of justice. Highlights included gold coated buildings reaching for the sky, a massive reclining Buddha, a man trying to scam us into buying expensive clothing and jewellery and a walk around the crowded streets of Chinatown, trying to determine what was actually being sold to us!
The very next day we decided to take it easy and plan what we were going to see and do when we arrived in Malaysian Borneo, that evening. This actually took a lot more time than either of us imagined, but was well worth the effort, especially as Yehia was still getting adjusted to the time difference (of 12 hours!) That evening we took off from Bangkok for Borneo...only to be told 1.5 hours into the flight that we were heading back to Bangkok because a plane had skidded off of the highway in Kota Kinabalu (where we were supposed to land) and the airport was closed until the next morning. We managed to get ourselves onto the next flight to Kuala Lumpur and from there had a nice cosy sleep in the airport terminal (don't ever hope to do THAT again!) and then boarded the first flight out the next morning (our bags however were on the following flight...a slight hassle, but worth it!)
In Kota Kinabalu, we reserved spaces in the various activities we wanted to do and took it very chill, as we planned on climbing the tallest mountain in South-East Asia the following morning (Yehia at this stage is recovering from jet lag and a sleep-over in the airport!)
We arrived at the bottom of the mountain in one piece (with a green, nauseous, bus-sick Meghan) and started climbing around 9:45 am. The idea was to get the first 6 km behind us that day and then (keep breathing Sue) wake up the next morning at 2 am and finish the last 3 km by flashlight so as to catch the sunrise. :) The total height of the mountain is 4095.2 meters or something like 13,500 feet, the tallest that either of us had climbed. People actually complained of altitude sickness (2 on our trip that I was aware of) but neither of us was affected, aside from a very slow climb in the morning. What an experience! We had a guide to bring us to the top, and while Yehia and Meghan huffed and puffed their way up, the guide sand and whistled, and told us how some of his friends and himself could summit the mountain and be back at the bottom within 2 hours. This is just INSANE...he was a blast! After 6 km, we were above the clouds and sitting eating gorp with some guy from Australia in the restaurant near our huts. There were lots of school kids from Hong Kong that totally cracked us up (singing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when they thought no one was listening). They also totally showed us what kind of shape we COULD be in (we blamed it on our old age...) ;)
So the morning summit. We had flashlights, and there were ropes and we made it to the top in about 2.5 hours. Which really was unfortunate, because our guide gave us way too much time to get to the top, which meant we had to sit and wait for the sun to rise for 1 hour. Think Meghan (BAD, horrible circulation, sitting at 4000 meters for 1 hour) and now you know what Yehia had to deal with :) At 6:01 when the sun was up, we ran down the hill with our guide and prayed that Meghan still had toes. Yehia had socks on his hands. It was cold!
The walk down was uneventful though impressive as we had no idea what we had climbed through. Lots of pictures taken, some quite good. Sunrise was spectacular (Meghan sadly, had to be told).
The next day we lounged in hot springs healing our wounded muscles. Actually, we did that for about a day and a half...good times. We hung out with some Montrealers (who woulda thought you could meet them at the top of Mt Kinabalu?!) Then the following day we headed to a city called Sandakan, where we joined a group that ventured into the jungle, for a wildlife tour of 3 days and 2 nights. I have to mention that there, we met two more Montrealers...they are just out in droves in these parts! ;)
On the safari we saw all kinds of animals. Along the water we were able to see long-tail macaques, a type of monkey. Yehia also spotted the largest Monitor lizard any of us had ever seen (hell, it was the only one we had seen at that point, but it turned out to be the largest!) We saw the rare probuscis monkey, crocodiles, kingfishers, hornbills, civet cats and a personal favourite, wild (read WILD) orang-utangs. Very very enjoyable. And there were plenty of interesting people to help pass away the scorching (sorry fellow Canadians) afternoons. We also learned how to find scorpions, snakes, spiders and frogs in the dark. Very cool.
And here we are now, back in Kota Kinabalu (KK) and ready to head on tomorrow to Brunei. We are keeping our fingers crossed that we will be able to meet the Sultan in his palace in Brunei, shake his hand and maybe get his picture! :) Ah to be a tourist. Then we are heading by land over to Sarawak (the second province of Malaysian Borneo) and to Kuching, where we will hang out for a couple of days before flying to Kuala Lumpur (KL). The bus ride(s) from the capital of Brunei to Kuching will total 20 hours....yeah....
That is all my friends. Love and best wishes to you all, and if you read this far, you have awesome endurance.
Yehia and Meghan