An open-ended adventure by Brian
Currently traveling
  • Day44

    Langkawi island

    March 3, 2018 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 34 °C

    We were picked up from our lodge and went by speed boat again to Sandakar to connect with our flight to Kota Kanabuli . An overnight here at the same hotel we used before ( fortunately the Chinese New Year had passed, so it was much less frenetic) and then we were off to Langkawi island via KL. Langkawi is a group of islands off the west coast of Malaysia.

    We arrived in Langkawi minus one suitcase which happily rejoined us six hours later. We have five nights here staying at a nice hotel right on the beach. A very beautiful and relaxing location.

    We have spent most of our time here sitting by the pool admiring the view from the infinity pool overlooking the beach and ocean. It’s been a steady 30+ degrees and the pool is almost the same temperature - very pleasant in the morning, but more like bath water by the afternoon. We were able to ‘enjoy’ the excitement of Kinsale’s heavy snowfall vicariously via updates from Patrick and Paula who had left Calgary specifically to avoid the snow!

    We did make one expedition to go bird watching one morning. Our main focus was to spot a Giant Hornbill, but it was not to be. This hornbill is 1.4 metres long! We did see a Crested Serpent Eagle and two varieties of Kingfisher. It was a very pleasant morning spent with a very knowledgeable guide.

    After a very lazy and relaxing few days it was time to tackle the journey home. Amazingly our suitcases arrived on the same plane as we did after changing planes three times in the journey. The return trip was very smooth and we were soon back in Kinsale just in time to see the last of the snow gently melting away.

    Overall we enjoyed our trip and saw many interesting sights. It was however a lot of travelling and in future we will be finding a base somewhere for an extended period then travel from there to visit nearby locations of interest.

    We will spend the next while recovering and reflecting on all the interesting places and sights that we have experienced.
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    Carrie Fine

    Anne and Brian what an amazing journey and travelogue. I have been exhausted simply following your trip. We are hoping to travel to Vietnam and Cambodia next February, but nothing quite as adventurous as you. I am sure that you are now ready for some rest and relaxation....minus the bats (too bad you missed the bats and the cockroaches). Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. Xoxo Carrie

  • Day38


    February 25, 2018 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    We were picked up at our nature lodge by our new guide and taken to the Sandakan harbour where we boarded a speedboat with about ten other people. The trip took about three hours of pretty fast sailing. We did experience a couple of heavy showers along the way, so we all got a bit damp - the boat had a roof, but was open at the sides.

    Along the way the guides got very excited as we saw their version of the ‘ big five’ - Pygmy elephants ( which max out at 2.3 mtrs tall) , a wild orangutan sitting in a fig tree having a great feast on the fruit. Once it started raining heavily again, we watched him cover himself with branches and even break off a branch that had a good leaf cover and use it as an umbrella. We also saw proboscis monkeys, a crocodile and a rhinoceros hornbill. The boat ride was great as we really felt we were in the deep jungle - mangroves and lots of thick bush.

    We arrived at our new lodge which is one of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World. The accommodation is great - we have our own chalet with a deck that faces the jungle. After settling in, we joined our guide for an evening boat cruise - this time we came prepared for the sudden showers as Brian quickly purchased ponchos for us. We saw more probiscis monkeys but little else except the jungle scenery.

    We got back just in time for a mediocre dinner with our guide and discussed our plan for the next day that was to include a visit to a cave to see the bats leaving in the evening ( high on Anne’s list of things to do). However, he went on to explain that the area is covered with cock roaches - apparently all the handrails are covered with them. In addition there are also long legged centipedes, but the final icing on the cake was that you are provide with masks due to bat guano dust, and a helmet to stop stuff falling on your head! One look at Anne’s face, I realised that my life long ambition to watch millions of bats fly out of a cave had to be shelved! Anne did offer for me to go on my own, but I wouldn’t want to do that would I!!

    The next morning we set off for our early morning boat cruise at 6:30 and discovered why it’s called the rain forest. It had rained hard all night and at 6:30, it was still bucketing down. However, being hardy Brits, we donned our newly purchased ponchos and set off regardless. Not sure the effort was worth it, but we did see a crocodile, a stork-billed kingfisher, Black Hornbills and a number of monkeys. Our guide is such a keener that we stayed out much longer than the other people only to find, when we got back to the lodge, that they had scoffed most of the breakfast!

    Later in the morning we did a short walk on a covered walkway around the lodge, but as it was still raining hard, the birds and animals were wisely keeping a low profile, so we only saw a few monkeys but had some interesting information from our guide about the trees and plants that we saw.

    Later in the afternoon, we ventured out with our guide once more for our last boat cruise. It had rained solidly all day, so donned in our ponchos, off we set to see if we could spot any wildlife. As you can imagine, there wasn’t a lot of action, but we did spot more Black Hornbills, a White Bellied Sea Eagle, a Brahmin Kite. We also spotted some Silver Langur (Silver Leafed Monkey), some pig-tailed Macaque and a flock of night herons. Not a bad haul considering the weather.

    We leave tomorrow to go back to Kota Kinabalu for a night and then on to
    Langlowi Island for our last five days before returning to Ireland.
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  • Day37


    February 24, 2018 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Aftera 50 minute ride in a small prop plane we arrived in Sandakan - BA and Aer Lingus could learn a lot from the Asian Airlines - impeccable service AND we were served a meal! We were met by our guide and taken to the MY Nature Lodge which is set in one of the oldest rain forests in the world. It’s very clean, but quite basic and very environmentally aware, I.e. biodegradable hair products, body soap etc. plus solar panels on each chalet that provided hot water. There are only 12 guests at the moment, mostly Brits with a couple of Germans thrown into the mix Everyone is very chatty and there are lots of stories about their travels to date.

    This morning we were taken to the Orangutan sanctuary in time to see the young ones being fed. We spent a fascinating hour watching them play and eat. Some of them orphaned while others had been taken as pets and then released into the wild when they got too big. Of course, they couldn’t provide for themselves so the people at the sanctuary are rearing them with the hopes that they can be rehabilitated. There are no fences to stop the animals leaving and mixing with the wild ones who live in this area. They generally lead a solitary existence rather than living in a group. One young male has been taken to the jungle several times when it was deemed he was ready to go, but he just keeps coming back. He’s known as the naughty one and obviously is quite lazy as he has decided it’s a much easier life to get three squares a day without having to do any work for it! They were each given a coconut and it was interesting to see firstly their strength as they tore the outer husk off the fruit then banging them on the ground to crack them enough to drink the juice then finally to split them apart to get to the coconut flesh.

    Afterwards we went to a feeding station that is out in Jungle. A couple of Macaques monkeys had got there first and are so aggressive that the oranutangs were afraid to go to the platform for the food so they had to wait until the monkeys left before getting the leftovers.

    Our final stop before lunch was at a Sun Bear sanctuary. Again the keepers are working towards rehabilitation for the bears - some were there because again they had been taken as pets and released when they grew too big, some were orphaned and some had been rescued from bear farms.

    By now, it was really steamy, so we retreated back to the lodge for lunch and a cool down.

    After lunch we set off to visit the proboscis monkeys and watch them have their lunch. No one would ever think of them as good looking, but they are interesting. We watched a hareem at the feeding station with the one alpha male. There was one female whose baby had died but she was still carrying it around with her, apparently they will do this for a couple of days before accepting that it is dead and let it go - quite sad. When the food arrived they all sat together and had the food. Clearly sitting with all the ladies gave the male ideas, so he promptly mounted a couple of them much to the consternation of some of the more naive elder human lady observers, who did not understand what was going on.

    That concluded our exertions for the day and we returned to the lodge for a rest and cool shower. We must say that the food here has been uncompromisingly local, no western dishes at all, strictly rice and some local veg, fish and chicken. The staff are delightful and keen to help but are not very proactive about giving out information - our room was not serviced because we hadn’t given them the key - who knew!
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  • Day35

    Shangri La Kota Kinabalu

    February 22, 2018 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    We are now on the N coast of Borneo having arrived here via KL airport. The trip had two legs each of about two hours and we were informed by Malaysian Airways that for flights under three hours, there is no booze on board. Guess we are now in a serious Muslim country!

    As we arrived at our hotel after dark we did not appreciate the size of the hotel until the next day, although we did consider dropping breadcrumbs along the way when the porter was showing us to our room! It’s huge some 500rooms and it caters for families. This being Chinese New Year it means that it’s full of Chinese families in particular. Unfortunately Chinese children seem to be extremely poorly behaved. There are multiple bars and places to eat - it’s a bit like Butlins Holiday Camp of old.

    The good news is that It’s located in a great spot, just opposite several offshore islands, that have good snorkelling and diving sites. The other good news is that there are several pools on the property, one being strictly reserved for adults and I am very happy to say that the lifeguards strictly enforce this rule. If a child as much as dared dip a toe in the adult pool, a shrill whistle was heard and the children were ushered away.

    We did suffer a bit of culture shock after all the more sedate hotels we haven staying in. As we descended a flight of steps to the morning breakfast buffet room, we were greeted first by someone dressed up as a tiger, wearing big red Ronald MacDonald type shoes, (possibly a dog as it is the year of the Golden Dog), whose role it was to get all the kids excited. The buffet was huge, catering for western foods, Chinese foods, Malaysian food and Korean food. It was surrounded by hordes of adults and children grabbing their food. There were many signs saying don’t take too much food as it will be wasted, but it was “kid heaven” - one little boy had fried rice, dim sum, fried egg and a chocolate coated donut in the middle of his plate - yum! The next day we learned that this particular area is referred to ‘the war zone’ by the hotel staff - the next day we ate outside in relative peace and quiet.

    The hotel fulfilled its purpose of giving us a day to relax before journeying deeper into the rain forest. We made the most of this by enjoying a pleasant day by the pool.

    We are now off to the rain forests to see the orangutans, sun bears and various monkeys and do some bird watching. The highlight for Brian will be to see Anne cringing when we go at dusk to watch millions of bats and raptors fly out of a cave!
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  • Day33

    Tonle Sap

    February 20, 2018 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    It was a bit of a struggle getting moving today as we were both a bit stiff after the unaccustomed exercise of yesterday. Once we moving we went off to visit Tonle Sap. This is one of the largest lakes in the region and quadruples in size during the wet season as the large amounts of water in the Mekong River cause the Tonle River, which normally drains water from the lake, to reverse its flow and fill the lake instead of draining it. The inhabitants on the lake live in floating villages and they merely move their houses from one location to another, depending on the level of the water.

    We had our own tour boat, but there were lots of craft of different sizes and seaworthiness around. Some were making a six hour journey to Phnom Phenh - these seemed popular with back packers, many of whom were sitting on the roof of the boat along with their luggage. Another boat filled with a group of Boy Scouts had such a severe list to port that we were surprised that it did not capsize! We had a nice cruise along the river and out onto the lake where we visited the local village complete with its school, police station, church and temple. We stopped at an crocodile farm, shop and cafe that offered a view over the village. Quite interesting trip.

    The afternoon was spent relaxing by the pool and keeping cool.
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