Following a mediocre Air France flight via Paris, we arrived in bustling and diverse Kuala Lumpur 2 weeks ago! On a quick side note, Emirates via Dubai or Etihad via Abu Dhabi would have been better as they provide more meals for dietary restrictions and their in flight entertainment is better. The Air France flight crew was pretty nice but the experience definitely fell short of our recent trip to Dubai, Singapore and Melbourne, Australia on Emirates earlier this year. The plane tickets on Emirates were only a little bit more originating in Dublin, but we liked the idea of having a 12 hour flight to sleep rather than two 7.5 hour flights because that’s more disruptive to resting, especially with so many movies to choose from! We’ll save an airline review for another time though.
We arrived to find ourselves at the Midvalley Cititel hotel which is attached to the Midvalley Mega Mall (Like Americans, Kuala Lumpur residents love massive and sleek air conditioned shopping centres). We were surprised by the number of chain restaurants at the mall, everything was there, even a Kenny Roger’s Roasters. Border’s bookstore was also at the mall, which recently went completely under in the USA. The Midvalley Mega Mall was actually the largest mall we’d ever been in and it also housed plenty of Malaysian and other Asian eateries, several grocery stores and even a bowling alley! The reason we were put up at the mega mall is that it’s relatively near Malaya University, which is where Bell was consulting on their research study on ageing. In a bizzaro world moment, I swung into a Doc Marten shop and saw shoes made in…England! A few were absolutely beautiful, and the prices ranged up to 2,000 Malaysian Ringits. That’s 500 euro ($650 USD), for shoes, in Malaysia, made in England!
The highlight of KL was the Batu Caves and watching the cheeky Macaque monkeys playing around the 276 steps up to the caves. They really know how to put on a fantastic show! Also, the 42.7 meter statue of Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war and victory was very impressive. We’ll be writing more on this in the near future as it’s extremely worthy of its own post. And after all, who doesn’t love copious amounts of monkey photos?
Currently, we are in the Malaysian part of the island of Borneo, the world’s 3rd largest island, and specifically the northern province of Sabah. Sabah is famous for being one of only two places to see orangutans in the wild, the other being the nearby Indonesian island of Sumatra. And it’s the only place in the world to see one of the world’s weirdest looking monkeys, the proboscis monkey. It’s also home to the world’s largest flower, the rafflesia, though the flower can also be found in other parts of southeast Asia.
Often when we travel for more than a week, and it’s not the busy season (it’s currently low season in Borneo because it storms more frequently from November through February), we like to keep plans open and see where our current whims take us. However, if it were high season in Borneo and we had specific resort or diving plans, we would definitely need to book in advance. So far this has served us well. We were in Kota Kinabalu for 4 days, and needed to be there as Alex came down with food poisoning (bad luck as it can happen anywhere) and unfortunately missed the North Borneo Railway trip. Bell, however had a lovely morning riding a Vulcan steam engine back into past.
A short flight over to the other side of Sabah, had us land at the Sandakan airport and be whisked off to the Paganakan Dii Tropical Retreat in Sepilok. This place receives rave reviews… our review would be that for one type of traveler they would LOVE it, for others, it lacks certain facilities and as you are out in the jungle you are very much stuck with their food, which was only ok. The rooms are basic, which isn’t a problem aside from there being large cracks in the floors, walls and roof, and all the while you are free to run the air conditioning! So if bugs aren’t your thing, then this place is not going to be for you. But we were able to visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center and watch these beautiful creatures eat some dinner, while the cheeky Macaque monkeys stole fallen bananas and other treats from around their feet!
We then moved into Sandakan and spent a night at Four Points by Sheraton… this is a fantastic bargain, at 41euro (180 MYR) a night. They have a beautiful pool, rooms have a lovely view of the sea and the staff are just so friendly! Then, we were quickly off again to the amazing Sukau Rainforest Lodge, situated along the Kinabatagan River. To get there, we took a boat for over two hours, and on our way we were so lucky to have our guide spot a family of pygmy elephants! Pygmy elephants aren’t that small, they were still rather big, especially the male of the herd. We wouldn’t want to mess with him, but they were just beautiful and it was an unforgettable experience. We then spent a wonderful evening cruising around the river, spotting monkeys, crocodiles, hornbills, lizards and snakes arranged by Borneo Eco Tours! After such a busy day, we collapsed in our lovely room and listened to the tree frogs and crickets chirp the night away. We spent the night 2 doors down from where Sir. David Attenborough slept when he visited the Sukau area.
Now we are writing this from Sandakan, and we’re back at the Four Points by the Sheraton… where we’re off to next is still a bit of mystery, but we’ll be sure to let you know! If anyone has any tips for us, please share in the comments. We look forward to sharing more about this beautiful and wonderfully diverse country! With a mix of Malays, Chinese, Indians and other minorities from around the region, Malaysia truly lives up to its slogan as “Simply Asia.”
We would like to thank the Sabah Tourism Board for their help in arranging both the North Borneo Railway trip and our stay and tour with Borneo Eco Tours and Sukau Rainforest Lodge.