24 Apr 2010
|Kota Kinabalu (KK)
Early wake up and checked out of Hyatt Regency Kuantan. Passed 2 Malaysia Airlines staff at reception, who turned out to be our air stewards. Managed to doze off for a while on the flight, to be woken by the steward as meals were being served. Meal was good, flight was uneventful, and only managed to watch 30 minutes of the dvd (Max Payne) during the flight. Arrived at the new Kota Kinabalu International airport - nice new efficient airport, where we had to go through customs to enter the Malaysian state of Sabah… go figure!
After arriving at the hotel, (Hyatt Regency Kinabalu) we had a power nap (nana nap, or as Wendy likes to call them - alpha nap’s) and woke up in time to catch the sunset over the bay. Went for a walk in the muggy evening air, where we managed to hunt down a Sushi King. I think we may be addicted, as we’ve noticed there isnt one in Australia and discussing the possibilities of buying the licence to open stores in Australia. However, Its a nice dream, and one that would probably lead us to consuming any and all profit from the restaurants. Not good for the wallet or the waist.
Woke up and had breakfast in the Atrium restaurant and both had an omelette with the works (hold the chilli!). Went for a walk around town, went to the Sabah Tourist Office (beautiful building) which occupies one of three buildings that werent razed to the ground during World War II. Turns out the train doesnt run from KK (as the locals call Kota Kinabalu) to Tenom, and we would need to be up early in order to catch a taxi to Beaufort to arrive before 7:30am. It would cost 60 ringgit (aprrox AU$21) to charter the taxi, as its usually 15 ringgit for the taxi, based on per person for 4 people. It would be about a 90km drive from KK. We then walked to the Atkinson clock tower, another of the three buildings not razed to the ground in WWII) and proceeded up the hill to Signal Hill Observatory where we had a great view of the town of KK. We walked back down, but this time we found steps which lead to Australian place, the site of the Australian Armed Forces camp site after WWII. As we were walking past the Museum Kopitiam and Borneo Backpackers building, we noticed 3 plaques, one with the Australian Coat of Arms, the other commenting on why the area is called Australian Place, and one commemorating the Australian troops effort in overcoming the Japanese occupation of KK. We noticed through the window a Lest We Forget sign, so decided to enter for a look. The restaurant-cum-memorial had some incredible photos of the area, and Australian troops and ships, detailig the history of the area. There was an incredible smell in the place, which turned out to be Anzac biscuits that were being baked for a tour group that owudl be stopping by on Sunday after the SANZAC (Sabah, Australian & New Zealand Army Corps) service for coffee.
We went for a walk through the new Sabah Suria (shopping complex) and was amazed how such a big complex could have so few tenants, and that the various shops were so widely spaced apart due to other shops not being tenanted.
Returned to the hotel where it was observed that some diggers had arrived. One belched in the lobby, and when he apologised it was obvious from the accent he was an old Aussie. It was also obvious as tits on a bull, as his slouch hat had an Australian Armed Forces crest on the side of the hat. We asked if they were here for Sunday, when the old fart responded “Whats Sunday”. Mark managed to pick his jaw up off the floor of the lift to inform him it was ANZAC day, and old fart replied that they wouldnt be here for that. Talk about gob stoppingly incredible!! I havent been able to stop wetting myself since, and keep throwing out “Whats Sunday” with snorts and chortles following.
Wandered back to Museum Kopitiam for dinner, I had the Nasi Lemak Special & Mark had a local style Chicken Curry - both were very delicious, as were the 4 Carlsbergs we had with dinner. Total bill came to 38.50 ringgit (AU$13) - Mark being the worldly philanthropist tipped 50 sen. Whislt at the restaurant, we met Stephanie who is doing her practical here at a local tour company in the marketing department, suggested some sights to see. Being limited on time doesnt help, but we hashed out some tour plans with Questor to go visit Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South East Asia (although we wont be climbing the 4,095 metres/13,435 feet to the top), Poring Hot Springs and also visiting the local ANZAC War Memorial.
Woke up early (6:45) and headed back to Museum Kopitiam for breakfast where Questor was already waiting for us. Had toast and Kaya (Coconut Jam - yum!) and a cup of coffee (double yum!) which is roasted by the proprietor’s father. Would have to say it is the best coffee we have had since leaving home. After breakfast we jumped in the 4x4 and headed off. First stop was a local market, where the smell of dried fish (a local delicacy) was strong. The fresh fruit and vege looked delicious, healthy broccoli and cauliflower - obviously no Woolworths around here! We climber the observation tower which provided impressive ciews of the countryside and valley, before heading to Kinabalu Park. Heritage listed area, amazing forest area and had a look around. They have a yearly mountain climb competition, where they have a Mens Open, Womens Open & Mens Veteran class. The quickest time for the open mens was 2 hours 40 minutes, and the veterans mens was 3 hours and 9 minutes - less than half an hours difference! Veterans are classed as over 45, and we’re talking about an 8 km trek up. The tourist guides we have been reading say to allow 2 days and 1 night to do the climb up and down, staying overnight on the mountain approx half way up at a hotel (which, incidentally, the building supplies were carried up the mountain. Amazing views of the mountain from the park area. It was noted in the local Sabah paper that a Malaysian photo-journalist had completed his challenge of climbing the mountain 111 times in 111 days. An impressive feat which has earned him a place in the Malaysian record books, with the journalist stating this was proof that Malay’s could accomplish great records similar to the Westerners. We are extremely confident that we wont be breaking that record! We left the park area and stopped off at a restaurant perched on the side of a hill where we had Carrot soup (with chicken stock), Sweet & Sour Fish, Crispy Chicken, Fried Rice and fresh Papaya, with Chinese tea. Fully sated, with no leftovers, we continued our tour and went to the Kundasang War Memorial, commemorating the Australian & British soldiers that perished on the 3 death marches. An amazing memorial, where (we assume the organiser, Sevee) had received the Order of the British Empire. Elizabeth R II had signed the top, but the decree actually came from Phillip. We watched a 20 minute story (hosted by Jana Wendt on the Sunday program) in Australia Hall, where it was an emotional time. Two ladies up the front, who we later discovered were Australians, found it too much and had to leave part way through. A staff member had to, during the article, tell an Asian lady too be quiet - lucky for her it was him, as I was about to do it myself. Strangely enough - she didnt stay for the entire story. The show finished and we had a wander around the memorial, where an ANZAC service is to be held on Sunday. Glad that we wont be there for it, as it will surely be an emotional time for all who attend.
Incredible to learn that of 2,400 PoW’s, (approx 1,600 being Australian troops) were forced on the death marched by the Japanese with only 6 survivors. The story traced some Australian troops doing the trail of the death marches, with the fitness instructor having to be taken to hospital due to dehydration. It was noted that the Australian government had planned to rescue the troops, buit due to bad intel that the troops were on the West Coast, and as such, more troops perished.
We left Kundasang and headed to Ranau, where some monument had been constructed to remember the fallen. We bumped into the 2 Australian ladies again, and asked if they were here for Sunday. The shorter lady mentioned her dad had survived the death march, and she had been hurriedly reading and researching the travesty. She remarked that it was amazing that as Australians, soo little is known of this moment in our history, and as Mark later suggested, this could be due to the fact that the government completely failed the troops. She also commented that according to her father, it was no big deal. It was surprising that this was no big deal, as the troops that redid the trek, had the luxuries of modern day, with camel hydration packs, good food, and decent footwear. A sombering moment in the day, and one that really makes you appreciate being an Australian, and what the troops have actually done for us all.
After finshing lunch, we continued on to the Poring Hot Springs, where we did the canopy walk. Despite warnings not to do it if you’re Height Phobic, Nathan continued up the hill to the canopy walk. A brown undies moment was almost experienced when he noticed the drop to the floor of the forest out of the corner of his eyes. Definitely not as cool as the Kinabalu Park, it was quite muggy in the forest. After the canopy walk we had a dip in one of the hot springs, where it was mentioned this was only a warm pool, and there were hotter pools around. Nathan had issues, and after about 10 minutes, was able to fully get into the spring bath. Questor mentioned there was a cold pool, and Nathan went off searching and managed to find it. There was a small pool, and a large pool. The small pool was refreshingly cool, only to discover it wasnt the coldest pool, as the large one definitely was shrivellingly cold.
We continued our tour, where we decided to go have a look at the Rafflesia plant - the largest flower in the world. Taking aprox 12-18 months to grow from bud to flower, the flower only lasts 3-7 days before dying off. The flower allegedly emits a rotting meat smell (not that we could smell), in order to attract flies to pollenate the flower. A 5 minute drive to meet our guide, followed by an alleged 15 minute walk to the flower. On arriving at the flower, it was decided that it was definitely worthwhile. Reminiscent of coral or something plastic, it was amazing. On the drive to meet the guide, we passed the 2 Australian ladies again… talk about a small world!
We left and started our drive back to KK, where we saw some amazing cloud formations with the sun shining behind the clouds giving them an eery silvery outline. The sun was starting to set, and we spent most of the drive through the mountains going into and out of cloud cover - several eery Twilight moments were had, in between Nathans moments of consciousness (the day proved to be a bit to taxing for him and found him nodding off in the back of the car!)
When we got back down the hill, there was in impressive storm with quite a lot of rainfall, which was good, as the area hasnt seen any rain in the last 4 months.
We arrived back at the hotel a little after 7pm, after almost 12 hours out and about around the country side.
Went for a wander to hunt out a local Malay restaurant, where we dined at a local Malay/Chinese restaurant full of locals. Heeding this as a good sign, we sat down and ordered a tallie of Tiger beer, and reviewed the menu. Comprised 98% of pork, Nathan was horrified to see local delicacies on the menu consisting of Fried Chicken Legs, Pork Intestine, Pork Trotters and the like. One of the staff came to take our order, and we queried what was in the claypot for 2 (Bah Teh Tak) and were told that there were intestines and bits in it. Assuming she saw Nathans horrified look on his face, it was mentioned that if we didnt want intestines, we could have meat balls, pork, and spare ribs. We ordered, and Nathan started to fret that we didnt specify the meal was not too inlude intestines. Thankfully, we assume she realised we didnt want them, and the meal was delicious and cheap! (I’m still convincing myself there weren’t any “offal” in the meal! Although it looked like spare ribs and pork, however not too sure what goes into the meat balls!)
We returned to the hotel and decided to have a beer at the Hyatt’s Shenanigans Fun Pub, when we noticed we didnt meet the dress standard as Mark was wearing running shoes. An employee stated there was no issue, and yes, we could charge back to the room and happy hour is currently underway. We ordered a jug of Becks as it was happy hour prices, and had some potatoe wedge/chips served to us. Delicious as they were, we had only finished dinner less than 20 minutes earlier, and managed ot eat most of them. She came up later to mention that Happy Hour was going to finish soon, and would we like to order more drinks at Happy Hour prices. We decided on a Vodka & Coke each, and then the band started. They were called Live 8, and it was incredible to hear them speak in clear English (albeit with a slightly American twang on one of the singers). The place started to get busy after Happy Hour had finished, and noticed some beer towers on the bar. Equivalent to 3 jugs, they have a frozen core to keep the beer cold. Have never seen them at home, so maybe have a business venture when we return in importing them. Not too sure how that will go with the Responsible Service of Alcohol laws, though…
Went back to the room about 10pm, where next door were having a Birthday party in their room…
Woke up and had a leisurely breakfast after going to pick up our 4 kilos of washing from the local laundromat, where we paid 20 ringgit (slightly less than AU$7) and went back to the room to pack. Mark noticed the 2 Australian ladies from yesterday sitting in the lobby (really truly such a small world!), and Nathan noticed old fart (“What’s Sunday”) waiting to depart with the rest of their group.
Arrived at Terminal 2 (the “Budget” terminal) and checked in for our flight to Macau. There’s something about travelling with Mark, as we had issues with another flight. After checking the status monitors continually for details and noticed that our flight status was “Calling”, but no announcements had been made. The re-scheduled fligth was due to depart at 14:20, and at 14:30 a flight delay announcment was made. The plaine had been delayed due to weather coming from Kuching and would be departing at 14:30. We boarded and started taxiing at about 14:45, so it wasnt all bad. Much better than when they made the first announcement and incorrectly said 16:30… We made comments about the Asians, as after the stewards broadcast to reian seated and fasten seatbelts, they were still rummaging in the overhead cabins, and walking up and down the aisle. They had broadcast several times about sitting in the assigned seats, but this all fell on deaf ears. After bitching and moaning about them, the Chinese guy sitting next to us piped up and (quite correctly) mentioned that the announcements were in English and they dont understand english. It got to the point where a steward loudly asked if anyone spoke Chinese, as one lady came and sat herself down in the emergencty exit row and kept smiling when repeatedly told to return to her seat. A few people were also told to turn off their mobile phones, but after the stewards left, they turned them back on to change their sim cards...
Landed in Macau and walked across the tarmac to queue for Immigration. True to form (and for some stupid reason it still amazes me) everyone was up eagerly grabbing luggage from the overhead compartment before the plane had stopped taxiing and with the seatbelt light still illuminated - one day my prayers will be answered and the pilot will slam on the brakes sending the idiots flying. That bloody Murphy family struck again, as the immigration queue we chose was the slowest. An immigration man walked down our line and did a head count, and I eagerly watched the goings on when he returned to the other staff. As I suspected, they opened another immigration and I raced all the Asian’s to be at the front of the queue. Talk about rude people, they had the gall to laugh at me, so to stick it to them, I turned and made eyes at Mark and blew a rather loud raspberry to all & sundry. Strike 1 for Nathan!!!