June - August 2016
  • Day51

    Batang Ai and the Iban tribe

    August 6, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Our time in Kuching was short but sweet, today we left in the search for the Iban tribe; the indigenous people of the Sarawak region.

    Our 4 1/2 hour journey from Kuching was a bumpy one and took us to a remote region called Batang Ai. We had to board a boat which navigated the man made lake and eventually reached the Batang Ai resort; our accomodation for the next couple of days.

    The resort itself was a modern upscale twist on the traditional Iban longhouse, with several dozen rooms all adjoined to one another by a large, long corridor. From the vantage point up on the hill, a spectacular view of the lake presented itself at sunset.

    In the morning we embarked on our adventure to the native Iban tribe settlements which can only be reached by the precarious narrow boats. The boat pulled up to the longhouse jetty and with a bit of intrepidation we stepped off, unsure at what was in store for us inside.

    Firstly we had a tour of the longhouse, which inhabits one whole extended family. Our guide explained that behind each door within the longhouse is an immediate family of up to 14. All sharing two rooms, the single comunal space where they relaxed and slept and the kitchen.

    We were invited to sit with the men of one of the families on the kitchen floor. They offered us wild boar 'off-cuts' and we reluctantly accepted 😝. Next up was shots of rice 'whiskey' and wine. They were drinking it like water whilst I could barely manage a sip it was so strong! Steve thought it was palatable.

    As well as this, during our afternoon at the longhouse we watched and participated in the traditional Iban butterfly dance demonstration and drank yet more rice wine, before meeting the tribes chief and presenting him with a customary gift. The gifts from all of the visiting tourists were equally divided between each of the rooms. When I say equally I mean to the last lolly pop and packet of crisps!

    Surprisingly we learnt that 30% of Sarawak's population still practice the traditional Iban way of life. Our guide informed us of the Iban's culture and most surprising to us was that tradtionally, marriage was arranged within the family... pehaps that would explain why a man had 12 toes and 12 fingers 👐😲.

    Before we left, some now very drunk guides demonstrated their skills at the at the traditional way of hunting, using a blowpipe💨. Quite obviously they were in no fit state to hit anything but we each had a go and all hit the target!
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  • Day49

    Cwtching in Kuching

    August 4, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    Too soon the time came when we had to leave Lankayan Island 😣. (Kicking & screaming) we returned to the mainland by speed boat and caught our flight to Kuching ✈.

    The next morning we were picked up by our guide and we ventured to Bako National Park, notable for its incredible biodiversity. Our guide was Alex, a very enthusiastic individual and he clearly had a love for nature 🐛.

    We arrived at Bako via boat ride and waded onto the shore barefoot where we were greeted by Macaques on the beach foraging for flowers. As we progressed inland, other animals emerged such as more probosis monkeys, bearded pigs, silver leaf monkeys and a green pit viper.

    Alex took us on an unexpected and very sweaty jungle hike. This led us to a sandstone plateau where the search for various species of carnivorous plants began.

    Throughout the plateau we found pitcher plants of varying sizes. These ranged from the size of your little finger to ones as large as a water bottle! The plants lie waiting for an unsuspecting creature to venture a little too close to its edge, fall in and inevitably get digested alive by the juices within.

    Along the trail we came across a small snake lying on the path. Unsure what type of snake it was, Alex asked us what colour it was. We bent down to take a closer look and replied "redish brown". Flicking through his personalised snake book he was not 100% certain on the species and we moved on...

    At the jetty awaiting to leave Bako we got talking to another guide who excitedly told Alex that he had seen 4 species of snake today 😄. We wondered if we could trump his snake sightings with ours. We showed him the photo of the one we saw and he confirmed it was a Coral Snake! He exclaimed that we had just seen one of the most deadly snakes in the world, 2nd to the black mamba found in India! I still can't believe we were casually looking at it so closely! 😰

    Apologies for the lack of blog photos at this point, my phone has deleted photos 😕. But don't worry, Steve's on his 2nd memory card 🙈👍.
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  • Day46

    Paradise Island of the Sulu Sea

    August 1, 2016, Sulu Sea ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    Our speed boat pulled up to the island's jetty and my jaw dropped to the floor 😍😃. In fact, we spent the next few days with our eyes wide open trying to absorb the beauty of this island. Lankayan was a little piece of heaven in the Sulu Sea. 🌴🌊❤

    A couple dozen cabins were dotted along the sand where the jungle met the sea, and I felt relaxed knowing I wouldn't be sharing our room with any lizards 😆.

    During our short time on the island we had a few options... lie horizontally, eat, sleep, dive or snorkel 🐠🐟.

    Steve chose the full on, three dives in a day option while I chose the lie horizontally on the beach and bed option. He really enjoyed the ship wreck dive, seeing the assortment of marine life such as small sharks, turtles and the colourful coral.

    The sea was crystal clear and we could look into the water from the raised walkways and spot turtles and tropical fish.

    The small stretch of sand was post-card like and the whole beach was ours! We could have swam in our birthday suits and no one would have known 😲...

    If all of this wasn't enough, at 5.30 pm each night we were called to witness Green Turtles hatching. At the hatchery we learnt about the conservation of the turtles and watched in amazement as approximately 150 turtles emerged from 2 nests. Once they had made their way out of the sand they were counted and taken down to the beach.

    Carefully the turtles were released onto the sand where they quickly found their way into the sea instinctively. Watching them begin their journey into the ocean was an amazing experience!

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  • Day45

    Sandakan, Malaysia

    July 31, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ☁️ 31 °C

    It was now time to move on from Sakau. Our busy itinerary has meant that we feel like we have been in Borneo for ages, with our travels in Europe becoming a distant memory.

    We travelled to Sandakan by overland journey 🚗, and on the way stopped at the Sandakan War Memorial. This was where we learnt about the Japanese occupation of Borneo during WW2 and the struggles the allied POW's faced during the occupation and the so called "death marches".

    The same afternoon we stopped at the Rainforest Discovery Centre to take a bird's eye view of the tree tops from the canopy walkway and hanging bridge before we explored the botanical garden, home to various species of flora and fauna.🌸🌹🌺🌷🌿🌻🌼

    Following our bat cave experience 😣 and sharing a room with 3 lizards, we were due some luxury! 🌴...

    We stayed a night in the Sepilok Nature Resort where we relaxed in the pool 👙 (the first one on our travels!). The following morning, we made our way to the jetty to catch a speed boat to Lankayan Island... 🌴🌴🌴
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  • Day44

    Indiana Jones and The Cave Of Doom

    July 30, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    On our last day in Sakau, our guide Jeffery took us to Gomantong Caves, home to millions of bats and... what he forgot to tell us, home to millions of cockroaches. The smell of the cave when approaching it was a sure sign of things to come, IT REAKED! 💩 Amongst the wrything cockroach infested surfaces, long-legged centipiedes, spiders, rats, beatles and swiftlets made their home. All of these creatures feasted on the bat droppings that has fallen to form a huge heap below.

    This was the closest I was EVER going to get to an Indiana Jones experience!!!!💀 - The cockroaches were all over the board-walk, hand rails and walls. If one wasn't careful,  you would hear a crunch underfoot as you went by.

    We all made our way along the boardwalk 👣👣, a constant challenge and battle for us and both proud to say we did it!👫 We made it to the end 👏and out just in time to watch the exodus of the millions of bats as dusk fell.

    When I asked Jeffery why there were no other tourists here, he basically summed it up as it doesn't attract too many tourists & children👪, NOW I KNOW WHY!

    After that I wouldn't have been surprised if they had served us monkey brains for dinner!🙊

    On a brighter note, this afternoon was also the closest we've gotten to wild orangutans 🐵.  There were three of them in total. We witnessed a mother orangutan breast feed her baby. It was amazing to watch! 😍
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  • Day42

    Sakau River Safari

    July 28, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    We woke up at 4.30am in Kota Kinabalu for the long day ahead. Firstly we caught the 7am flight to Sandakan where we were transfered directly to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre just in time to watch the orphaned orangutans arrive at the feeding platform 🙊. This was our first sighting of orangutans in Borneo and we could have watched them swinging through the trees all day! We also got the chance to visit the outdoor nursery where the baby orangutans are being encouraged to learn to climb, swing and play as they will do once released into the wild. One cheeky Orangutan just wanted to do rolly pollies on the lawn and one of the centres workers had to chase her about 😁.
    After this we also visited the Sun Bear Rehabilitation Centre where the sleepy bears were in the trees or foraging.

    In the afternoon we continued to Sakau Greenview Lodge, situated on the banks of the Kinabatangan River. This was home for the next few days. On arrival we were told of our action packed itinerary for the duration of our stay💪.

    At 4pm we were to take our afternoon boat cruise for our first river safari! During our stay we had 2 early morning cruises, 2 afternoon cruises and 1 night cruise. We were on the river for 2 hours at a time on the look out for wildlife, along with our guide Jeffery 😎,who had eyes like a sniper! He could see things a mile off which always impressed Steve and I. Other activities included a jungle trek and a night trek.

    Unfortunately we didn't see any Pygmy Elephants because the heard had migrated down stream 😔🐘🐘🐘.

    I could talk to you about this place all day long 😀(and I'm sure I will when I'm home!). The few days spent here has definitely been one of the highlights of our trip so far! Some of the animals we saw included a Cat-Snake, Monitor Lizards, Probosis Monkeys, Long-Tailed Makaks, Grey Leaf Monkeys, a baby Crocodile, Hornbills, Blue Kingfishers, Green Lizards, Serpent Eagles, stick insects and of course Orangutans. 🐍🐒
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  • Day39

    The big B! Kota Kinabalu

    July 25, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    On our first day in Kota Kinabalu (Borneo) we took a boat to the Bunga Raya Resort on Gaya Island. This private resort was simply stunning! Crystal clear, warm sea and soft white sand beneath our feet - this is my idea of paradise 😄. We quickly grabbed some snorkels and off we went into the sea! 🌊We saw a blue star fish, clown fish (aka Nemo) and a clam. TO NOTE: suncreaming your bottom when snorkelling is recommended! 😖...
    After lunch we practically had the beach to ourselves, the water was so calm it felt like a lake 😍.

    On our second day we were picked up by our tour guide and together we took a drive to Kinabalu Park, the starting point for the climbers of Mt Kinabalu. We had a short tour of the botanical gardens, but unfortunately not many of the flowers were in bloom. Our guide took us onwards to Kinabalu Poring Hot Springs where we ascended the tree top canopy. Hanging bridges created a 50m high walkway above the forest floor.

    Later on, we followed a path which arrived at a small waterfall. We paddled in the water and the small fish came to nibble at our feet, just as they would at a fish spa.
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  • Day36

    Sights and Smells of Bangkok

    July 22, 2016 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 34 °C

    We arrived into Bangkok airport and managed to get through passport control by sneaking into the priority queue - Steve strikes again 😊.

    We're staying in a hotel close to Koh San Road. We tried to catch up on some missed sleep then ventured to Koh San Road where we had our first taste of Phad Thai from a street vendor- a really good change from pizza and pasta dishes🍕🍝.

    We're already experiencing a big culture change compared with Italy and it's really refreshing. The smells of Bangkok smack you in the face as you walk down the street, from fermented fish (not so refreshing 😝) to the mixed spices which flavour the Thai curries😍.

    On our 1st night we couldn't resist getting a 30 minute Thai foot massage for 150 baht (£3)! This was very much needed after all the walking we have done on this trip so far 😊. I don't know how, but I managed to get the more pain inflicting massuse! Whilst Steve had a nice relaxing foot massage next to me, my woman decided to flex my leg up towards my head!!! I had to laugh and grip Steve's hand. Couldn't help but think the woman enjoyed stretching my leg and inflicting this kind of pain on me! I was too scared to go for the full hour Thai message after that!

    We have visited several temples in Bangkok including the Grand Palace - Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho - The temple of the reclining budda and Wat Arun - The temple of dawn. We got to wear some very fetching outfits at these places because we forgot to cover up (oops).

    We also went on a half day tour, firstly stopping at the Maeklong Railway Market 🚂🚃🚃🚃; famous for the daring market vendors who line either side of the railway tracks selling their produce. We walked down the middle of the track and took in the assortment of the fresh produce.

    At 9am the horn signaled the arrival of the train. Very quickly the vendors moved their engineered stalls backwards and instructed us to stand back with them as the train went through. We managed to catch this scene on video!

    For the 2nd half of the tour we arrived at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. This place was a hive of activity with vendors lining the water banks. I finally got the 'gondola' experience (minus the singing) that we missed out on in Venice, but instead of €80 for 40 minutes it was £6 for 30 mins to float around the market! Steve and I shared a pork noodle soup made by a little man on his paddle boat 😊🍲.

    An evening at "The Calypso Cabaret" was an interesting experience... It was a night of various renditions of camp classics from around the world performed by an equally camp collection of boys and lady- boys. However, even under close inspection, some of the transformations had to be seen to be believed they were incredible!
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  • Day34

    Dubai Airport

    July 20, 2016 in the United Arab Emirates ⋅ ☀️ 41 °C

    Short stop in Dubai before the final leg of the journey to Thailand. The Emirates flight was really nice! Our 2nd flight was on the Airbus A380 aka double decker plane! I'm still determind that I'll be upgraded to first class one of these days 👸Read more