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Trip Report Tanuki's Borneo trip report-January 2009

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I have just returned from my first trip to Malaysia, where I spent the entire time in the Bornean states of Sabah and Sarawak. I left the U.S. in the wee hours of January 1 and returned January 20, Inauguration Day! I went back to work the next day and am still not entirely unpacked or over my jet lag but I will be posting some reflections of the trip over the next few days. I live in Nashville and traveled with a friend who was flying out of Atlanta, so we used that as our gateway city. I thought initially that we would have to fly to Kuala Lumpur and double back, but that was not necessary. We flew Korean Air to Seoul and then their flight from Seoul directly to Kota Kinabalu. Round trip air fare from Atlanta was $1392. US, including all taxes, booked on orbitz.com. My trip included time in Kota Kinabalu, Selingan Island (sea turtle conservation site), Sepilok Orangutan rehabilitation center, Sukau/Kinabatangan River, Sandakan, Borneo Rainforest Lodge, unexpected overnight in Lahad Datu due to cancelled Malaysian Airlines internal flight, and Kuching. It was a wonderful trip and I enjoyed the Malaysian people very much. The wildlife, tropical vegetation, and cuisine were terrific, and as always it was great to broaden my horizons and learn more about another fascinating part of the world.

Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah and is located on the South China Sea in the foothills of the Crocker Range, the pinnacle of which is Mount Kinabalu, one of the highest peaks in Southeast Asia. Some of the submerged mountains form the islands of the Tunku Abdul Raman Marine Park, accessible by public ferries from the KK wharf. KK was occupied by the Japanese during WWII and most of the buildings were destroyed by Allied bombing, so it does not have the architectural charm of an older city. We stayed at the Jesselton Hotel (“Jesselton” was what the city was called during its British colonial days), a small boutique hotel in a convenient location on Gaya Street. The room was $79 US per night, including breakfast, booked through asiarooms.com. The Sunday market takes place right out in front of the hotel, and this was a fun and colorful experience. The market caters to locals as well as tourists, with vendors selling everything from produce and pets to housewares, snacks, and a range of souvenirs.
We spent part of the first day at the Sabah Museum, learning about the history, multiple cultures, struggle for independence, and much more. I am interested in textiles and ethnic costumes and enjoyed their exhibit of weaving and the traditional wedding costumes of the various tribal groups of Sabah. We had lunch at the small café in the courtyard. The friendly proprietor offered us his newspaper to read while we waited for our meal to be prepared, and I noticed a headline stating “Amok dies after police shooting.” I have always found the phenomenon of “running amok” interesting from a clinical and linguistic standpoint and was intrigued to encounter an example, referred to explicitly, on my first day in Malaysia. We chatted with the proprietor and when he learned that we were Americans, he expressed happiness and hopefulness about our then-president elect. We met the same response over and over again throughout the trip.
I am running out of steam at the moment but will write some more later.

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