Friday morning I was up and out after, a goodbye to Amanda, at 7am - heading to the airport. The taxi driver looked like he’d been awake all night and just wanted to go to sleep! Not hugely reassuring as I’d received a message overnight from my friend Anna who is travelling in South America saying she had been in a car accident the day before (she’s ok fortunately).
The day was pretty uneventful as I spent pretty much all of it in airports or on planes. Arriving at Don Muang airport (and after a long check in line) I was straight through passport control and immigration and onto my second Starbucks within a week (terrible….). Anoushka and I were hoping to grab a quick coffee before we both flew – as she was heading to Myanmar on the same morning – but unfortunately I had wrapped up and headed to the gate just before she arrived.
The first flight was just an hour and a half down to Kuala Lumpur – spending pretty much the whole of it working on my journal as I wanted to get it up to date as far as possible before meeting Sarah / the tour group the next day – the time just disappeared. I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, negotiated my way through the airport to the transfer queue (completely bypassing what looked like one of the worst immigration queues I’ve ever seen) and cleared immigration with just two people ahead of me in the queue. I had a couple of hours to wait there in which I continued with my journal and also spoke to a very drunken CP (it was 2pm with me in KL, so midnight in Nashville) – quite entertaining.
The second flight wasn’t quite so enjoyable as I was in the middle seat in a line of 3, had no leg room (which is a bit of an issue for me!) and had a lady who seemed to enjoy farting the entire journey. I put my headphones, continued with my journal and just tried to ignore the entire thing.
We arrived at Kota Kinabalu in Borneo at about 6pm, a quick passport control – interestingly you have to go through it again, and get another stamp, to get into Sabah – and I was on the hunt for some food as I had 4 hours to wait until Sarah arrived on her flight. Note to anyone having to wait at KK airport – there are VERY limited options and I ended up succumbing to a McDonalds double cheese burger meal, fries, coke and an ice-cream sundae…. Really not an ideal first meal in Malaysia! I managed to shamelessly steal McDonald’s wifi for a long time though and uploaded some journal, chatted to mum and generally managed to waste a lot of time.
Sarah’s flight was due in at 10pm so at about 9.45pm I headed down to arrivals to work out the taxi situation so we could make our way as soon as she arrived. The process was quite a good one as you pay at the counter before getting the car which means there’s no way of being ripped off and it was sorted before she arrived.
Seeing Sarah for the first time was so lovely – I spotted her just before she came into the arrival hall through the automatic doors with her bright orange scarf on. It so weird to think I haven’t seen her for 6 months….big hugs, the mandatory selfie and non stop chatting we made our way into the city.
The hotel was just 15minutes from the airport so we were there in no time, it was a nice little place – comfy and cosy twin room, good shower and decent beds….we chatted for a while, a bit of a download and then headed off to sleep in an attempt to adjust Sarah’s body clock as quickly as possible.
We set our alarms for 8am, again to try and get Sarah’s body clock onto Malay time. Up and about, a quick breakfast and we set ourselves a few things to try and get done to keep us moving and to prepare ourselves for meeting the tour group later that evening.
We headed directly to the shopping malls to pick up a water bladder for the hike for Sarah, head torches for both of us (as both of ours seem to have decided to give up the ghost recently), a sports top for me and a water bottle for Sarah. We then wandered a little and stumbled across a hairdresser – Sarah had mentioned she wanted her hair trimmed a bit so she did that – seeing what a good job the lady did for 20MYR (about £3.70), I decided to follow suit as my hair was SO thick and SO heavy having not had it cut for 6 months. She cut quite a bit off and it felt completely different. It’s still pretty dry having been in a hot climate for a while but it was so much lighter, it felt lovely. Our final stop before lunch was to get a manicure for Sarah (as you can see it was a hectic day!)… we found a massage parlour in which the owner insisted they would be able to do her nails if she waited around for a few minutes. It’s so funny in these countries, they don’t tend to have staff on all day everyday but obviously know where to find them if the demand comes in. The lady turned up and seems to have done a good job while Sarah and I collapsed on the really comfy massage chairs in the main room.
By the time we were done we decided we were both quite hungry – we had planned to go up to the viewing point in the city before lunch but changed plans given how long the nails had taken and how we were feeling. We had passed a huge food hall earlier in the day which wasn’t open at the time so we decided to head back there as it looked really good. Unfortunately on arriving there still wasn’t a huge amount going on so we headed across the road to another couple of streetfood places we had seen on our walk down to the malls. We stopped at a great one where we had rice and pork / rice and duck with pork steamed buns and a drink each….costing us the gran price of 29MYR between us £5.36.
Full and happy with our lunch find we began to make our way to the other side of town and up to the view point. It wasn’t really the most difficult of walk (taking approximately 15minutes up) and, o be honest, the view was pretty uninspiring…. Kota Kinabalu really is a something in nothing city but it was nice to get out and about.
We headed back down and stopped for a quick coffee (Sarah) and cake (me) in a really lovely little café before wandering back to the hotel. Sarah was struggling a bit by this point and so decided to lie down and have a bit of a nap…. Interesting I completely flaked out as well – I think I have a sugar crash from the (absolutely gorgeous) cake I had just eaten and found myself asleep for the best part of an hour and a half! I woke with a start at 5pm as we were meeting our tour group at 6pm so I quickly jumped in the shower to get ready, followed by Sarah…. We couldn’t believe 6pm had crept up on us so quickly!
We met our guide for the next 12 days – Edwin – and the other members of our tour group in the reception area. We were so pleased to see it was a small group – there are just six of us (7 including Edwin) travelling together. We have a couple from New Zealand who are spending their house deposit and at the beginning of travelling the world because the housing market in Auckland is too depressing(!), an Australian girl from Sydney who is on holiday having opened her own business last July and taking her first time away since opening, another Australian girl from Perth who is at the beginning of a 6 week trip – she is heading to London directly afterwards as she used to live there so is heading to visit some old friends, and Sarah and I!
Edwin gave us an overview of the trip, some tips and a full briefing on our next day before we headed out to get some food together. Sarah and I were so happy to find that he took us to the food court we had tried to go to for lunch! He ordered so much food – vegetables, chicken satay, calamari, dumplings, rice, fish and meat dishes, the food was absolutely beautiful, all cooked fresh and costing a tiny amount! It was a fantastic evening and a great way to get to know the group a little ahead of our adventure!
When we had finished Edwin said his goodbyes as he had to get back for dinner with his family. This week was supposed to be his week off but there was an issue with another guide so he has had to step in…. good for us but unfortunately means he isn’t at home with his family for another 12 days. The rest of the group went off in search of water and wet wipes – two essential items for our journey over!
We headed back to the hotel and said our goodnights to everyone, getting a decent night sleep before we headed up to the mountains the next morning. Sarah and I called Rachel, Ian and William – grabbing them just quickly before they headed out to a colleague of Ian’s child’s naming ceremony, and then also briefly to mum. We had to let them know that we were likely to be off wifi for a while so not to panic if they didn’t hear anything from us!