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Advice Sought On East Malaysia Itinerary

Advice Sought On East Malaysia Itinerary

Mar 13th, 2015, 06:34 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 908
Advice Sought On East Malaysia Itinerary

Hi everyone,

I am an adventurous lady bound for Eastern Malaysia in September. I have my international AA award tickets in hand, but I am still trying to build an itinerary, and I would appreciate your help. I am mostly interested in advice about the structure of the itinerary--ie am I going in the right order, are the number of allotted days in each city correct, etc. I would also like to know if I am hitting any holidays or festivals that will hinder my sightseeing.

My interests include day hikes, history, museums, culture, and street food. I do snorkel, but I am not a scuba diver. I am very slow and thorough in museums, and shopping is not a priority for me. I would like to see orangutans (Tabin and Borneo Rainforest Lodge are beyond my budget).

I am concerned about the US State Department travel warnings for Eastern Sabah, so I wonder if it is safe to go to Sandakan, and then the Kinabatanagan River area? I am wondering if I should substitute the Batang Ai area (perhaps the Hilton) for the Sandakan-Kinabatanagan "module."

Here it is---thanks in advance for your suggestions:

Saturday, September 5: Arrive Kota Kinabalu 7:40 PM from LAX via Hong Kong

Sunday, September 6: 6:30 AM visit to Sunday market, then day trip to Kota Kinabalu Park

Monday, September 7: 7 AM flight Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan, arrive at 7:40 AM
War Memorial (WW II POW site), Sepilok Orangutan Center, Sun Bear Sanctuary, Probiscis Monkey Sanctuary, Gomantong Cave

Tuesday, September 8: Take boat, or taxi from Sandakan to Sukau, leave early AM, stop enroute to see whatever I missed the day before.
Evening river cruise on Kinabatanagan River

Wednesday, September 9: More trekking, river cruising, fishing in Sukau

Thursday, September 10: More trekking, river cruising, fishing in Sukau

Friday, September 11: Private taxi from Sukau to Sandakan, then 10:55 AM flight Sandakan to Mulu (via Kota Kinabalu), arrive at 3 PM
Unguided short walking tours, guided night tour

Saturday, September 12: Tour Mulu caves

Sunday, September 13: Tour Mulu caves

Monday, September 14: 10:10 AM flight Mulu to Miri, arrive at 10:40 AM
Lambir Hills National Park: short hike, and relax at waterfall

Tuesday, September 15: Day trip from Miri to Brunei

Wednesday, September 16: 8:35 AM flight Miri to Bario, arrive at 9:25 AM (leave most luggage in Miri because of strict weight limits)
Short hike

Thursday, September 17: Bario hike, meet local people, fish

Friday, September 18: Bario hike, meet local people, fish

Saturday, September 19: 9:50 AM flight Bario to Miri, arrive at 10:40 AM (retrieve luggage)
City tour of Miri

Sunday, September 20: 8:40 AM departure for Kuching, arrive at 9:40 AM
Have driver pick me up at airport, go to Bako National Park for three nights, stop en route?

Monday, September 21: Trek in Bako--need guide?

Tuesday, September 22: Trek in Bako--need guide?

Wednesday, September 23: Taxi to Kuching, early AM --- stop somewhere along the way? Semenggoh Nature Reserve--3:30 PM orangutan feeding

Thursday, September 24: Day trip from Kuching to see indigenous people and cave at Indonesian border?

Friday, September 25: City tour of Kuching

Saturday, September 26: 9:40 AM flight Kuching to Kuala Lumpar, arrive at 11:20 AM
22 hour layover in KL to visit old friend (second visit there)

Thank you everyone,

California Lady
CaliforniaLady is online now  
Mar 13th, 2015, 08:18 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 2,760
i haven't been to Mulu so can't compare, but I'd highly recommend the Niah caves outside of Miri.
marmot is offline  
Mar 13th, 2015, 08:35 PM
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Hi Marmot,
Thank you for your suggestion. I had thought of going to the Niah caves, but it seems far from Miri. Can you please provide the details of your adventure, such as how long it takes to get there from Miri, what sort of transportation you used, and what you did once you got there? Thanks!
CaliforniaLady is online now  
Mar 14th, 2015, 12:05 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 2,760
CL, It was some years back so my memory may not be correct, but I believe it was about a 2+ hour drive from Miri then about an hour on a well constructed wooden walkway through the rain forest to the caves. Our son was 6 at the time and the walk to and through the caves was easy to navigate.

This is a pretty good description:http://www.sarawakforestry.com/htm/snp-np-niah.html

I remember thinking that if I went back again I'd spend the night in the park in order to see the "changing of the guard" at sunset when the bats come out and the swiftlets go in, but so far I've never had the opportunity.
marmot is offline  
Mar 16th, 2015, 09:55 PM
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Hi Again Marmot,

Thank you for all your help! How did you get to the Miri caves--did you drive, or take a taxi? I don't want to drive alone in a foreign country. I just did that in Japan, and I was so nervous the whole time.

Do you have any other suggestions for my itinerary? Did I miss any other places that you like?

CaliforniaLady is online now  
Apr 21st, 2015, 01:47 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,427
Hi CaliforniaLady,

I know we have corresponded elsewhere on your plans but just thought I would let you know that we have now arrived in Kota Kinabalu (after 20 years!).

Not sure if you have sorted you accomdation yet but In KK we have been staying at http://www.eden54.com and would highly recommend it. Excellent location on Jalan Gaya in the centre of town and walking distance to everything. Studio Rooms are spacious, very comfortable beds and great value. The owners are exceptionally helpful providing info and helping sort out any travel arrangements etc.

There are an abundance of great eating places in the centre but I would particularly recommend the Night Market ( aka Filipino mkt) on the waterfront for amazing fish at bargain prices.

On our way tomorrow to Kinabalu Park for a couple of days hiking. Not doing the mountain this time - once was enough! Will then probably rent a car to drive to the northern tip for a few days beach time and then either head on down to Sandakan/ Sepilok/ Semporna or return to KK and fly.

Mind you, I noted your comments re travel warnings and checked out the UK FCO site https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/malaysia and will now check locally re current situation. Diving Sipadan has long been on my bucket list but may have to rethink.

We will be visiting many of the places you mention over the coming weeks so I will update you on anything I feel may be of use.

Did you pick an operator for your Kinabatanagan River yet? Seems to be loads to choose from here.
crellston is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2015, 08:01 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2009
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Hello Crellston,

It's great to hear from you. How are you and Mrs. Crellston?

For all of you out there reading this post, I noticed that Crellston posted on this message board about his travels in Bario, so I found him via Trip Advisor with the same screen name, and I private messaged him there. He was so very nice to answer my questions about Bario, and told me that he and the Mrs. are travelling in Asia for a year, and when he got to Malaysia, he would relay his experiences.

Anyway, back to Crellston's questions:

I did write to the Eden 54 hotel in Kota Kinabalu about a reservation and help planning a day trip to Kota Kinabalu park, but they just referred me to a travel agent. Consequently, I found another hotel that made all my arrangements for me. Maybe I confused the poor lady at Eden 54 in my email.

Diving in Sidapan sounds nice, but since I am not a diver (I dabble in snorkeling, but the idea of putting on a wet, wet suit--yuck), I decided to pass. I try not to read the US State Department warnings, every country but Japan is dangerous, according to them.

Regarding the Kinabatanagan River area, I decided to do a home stay in Sukau. I researched tours to the Kinabatangan area, and they all seemed expensive and restrictive, with too many blocks of time for "resting", which I don't do very well. I found that there are about a dozen home stays in Sukau, and they are licensed. My host family is arranging a private guide for me, a visit to a local school, and will teach me how to cook. The only caveat is that I won't have private rest room facilities, which is difficult for me the princess.

Keep us all apprised of your travels, and thank you for thinking of me.
CaliforniaLady is online now  
May 17th, 2015, 06:13 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,427
hi CaliforniaLady,
Just thought I would update you given the concerns you mentioned earlier in this thread.

We are Kuching at the moment having left Sandakan a few days ago. Just read the morning papers which provide details of a kidnapping of 4 people from Ocean King Sefood restaurant by 4 armed men. Apparently some were relatives of the owner and they think it and inside job. They are currently being held for ransom in a north Philippines island.

Personally I felt safe there, but 4 gunmen turning up in a restaurant would certainly have put me off my grilled prawns!

Lots of tourists in Sandakan and Sepilok, local, Chinese and western nobody seemed particularly concerned about safety.

Also found out after we left that when we were in Kota Kinabalu the town was "in lock down after a group of teenagers with guns shot a mechanic in a garage during and argument.

UK govt alert https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/malaysia
crellston is offline  
May 18th, 2015, 08:03 AM
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Well Hello Mr. Crellston,

Thank you again for thinking of me, and for the safety update. I bought my domestic air tickets about a month ago, so I am committed to go. Is the moral of your story, "Don't eat seafood in Sandakan?" I'm kidding, of course. Others have explained that the terrorists are targeting filipinos living in Malaysia. Hopefully, they will leave the princess with the pink Ray Bans alone.

In any case, please give us a quick summary of Sandakan/Sepilok. Did you go to the war memorial, the Agnes Keith museum, or the orangutan sanctuary, or did you do the walking tour of the city? Sandakan is the last place where I am having difficulty finding a reasonably priced driver, so I am thinking of just walking around. Please advise.

Also, please tell us about Kuching. I will have 3 1/2 sightseeing days there, and I am having difficulty finding day trips that will allow a single guest (two person minimum). How many days can I entertain myself just wandering around? I may skip the day trips, and do exactly that.
CaliforniaLady is online now  
May 18th, 2015, 03:13 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,427
Hi CL,

You are right about the kidnappers targeting Filipinos or at least that is the line in the local press. Although some tourists did get kidnapped from Sipadan a couple of years ago. We found it safe ( and I only had my Aviators which clearly lack the obvious protective qualities of pink Raybans!)

Sandakan town has seen better days to be frank. We stayed at the Ibis on the harnpbourside which was very nice. Even nicer and 3 x the price was the Sheraton.

Didn't make it o the cemetery but really should have as my Great Uncle survived as a POW in Borneo in WW2. Agnes Keith's house was great and well worth the climb up the hill. Fascinating woman! I am going to buy a couple of her books when I can find them. Right next door are the English Tea Rooms. Looked liked good food and a love
Yo location/ setting. Might be worth a trip late afternoon for "high tea".
The SIm Sim seafood village requires a taxi but given recent events most people are avoiding it!

Better to stay in Sepilok for a couple of nights rather than Sandakan but avoid Paganakan DIi where we stayed - awful place! Certainly not fit for a princess! Some nice looking places right at the Orangtan Rehabilitation centre gates. Nicer place, more food options and walking distance to the Orangutan centre, sun bear centre and the and to the Rainforest Discovery centre.

The Orangutans were excellent. We saw more action in the afternoon when it was quieter than in the morning feeding session when there were a lot of very loud Chinese tour groups around. The Sun Bear sanctuary was only half open and was a bit dissapointing. Same price as the Orangutan centre but no comparison. The Rainforest Discovery centre was a great diversion for a couple of hours, especially the canopy walkway.

Our second visit to Kuching and to be frank we have just been lazing around enjoying the vibe of the city rather than getting out and about. Most of the day trips are easily done by public bus or by taxi but most agencies will combine people to make up a tour. A taxi for a day out in Bako NP was around 250 RM ( plus boat fee). The fairy cave and wind cave taxi rates are 60-70. The Orangutan centre costs 50RM pp for one feeding session 80 for two from the tour desk at our hotel.

A day will provide enough time to see most of the town. A cruise on the Sarawak river, visit to the orchid garden ( really good) and a few of the museums ( not inspiring).
crellston is offline  
May 18th, 2015, 03:31 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,891
We enjoyed our time in Kuching and didn't do any day trips outside the city. But we had a local who I'd met here on Fodors who showed us around. We were able to see the garden of the "Borneo Orchid King" (if you have read the Orchid Thief). Do try some of the local Laksa - fabulous! - best Laksa I've had.

We enjoyed strolling by the river and visiting many of the shops on the river walk. We also thought the museum was worth the visit. I think we had 3 full days and would have enjoyed even more.

Kathie is offline  
May 28th, 2015, 07:02 PM
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Hi Crellston,

Thank you for your wonderful summary of Sandakan activities. Based on your insight, I am going to drop the Sun Bear Sanctuary, and go the Orangutan Center in the afternoon, in order to avoid big tour groups. So there was a big, loud Chinese tour group there? What a surprise. I think there is just one Chinese group touring the world, set on annoying me. This was the same group that demanded that I move out of their way at Angkor Wat so that they could take a picture.

Hello Kathie,

Thank you for your suggestions on Kuching. I did study your trip report when I was planning this trip. I will definitely visit the garden, and try laksa. You also mentioned a museum in Kuching. Which one did you like? Aren't there several museums there?
CaliforniaLady is online now  
May 30th, 2015, 07:06 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,427
"I think there is just one Chinese group touring the world, set on annoying me" I am surprised we haven't bumped into one another as the same group seem to be following me around!
crellston is offline  
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