Borneo or Sri Lanka for vacation?

Old Feb 18th, 2013, 12:38 PM
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Borneo or Sri Lanka for vacation?

For anyone who has vacationed in both places, which one of these two did you prefer and why? Which would you go back to and which do you say "OK been there, done that, don't need to go again". I know they are two entirely different parts of Asia with different cultures and food and it's a tough comparison to make. We have been to most SE Asian countries on vacation and am looking for somewhere different to go in Asia. We will be going to Indonesia, to Java and Bali in August and have been to peninsular Malaysia for a 10 day vacation 15 years ago. We have not been to India, and I do not want to.

Our travel style is middle level of hotels, nice 3-4 star local places. We won't be staying at luxury resorts, that is not important in a vacation. We like having a private tour with a driver/guide taking us around part of the time. We do not like big group tours. We are fine with trains and local flights between cities.

We are looking for a trip with wildlife, some outdoor activities like snorkeling and hiking as we are physically fit and active for our ages (58-63) We also want to experience local culture, temples, museums. The wildlife sanctuaries on Borneo appeal to us.

One note for me is about food: I cannot eat spicy food with chilies and curries. The cuisine and food part of a vacation is important for me. My husband not so much.

Our time frame to travel is the first half of 2014. As I will be using FF miles, it's about time to start making decisions if we wanted to go in Feb. or March. We could do a stopover with the award tickets in another Asian city that we pass through, like Seoul (want to visit, never been there). Total length of trip we can take is 14-16 days.

Comments and advice please.
Thanks, Susie
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Old Feb 18th, 2013, 12:57 PM
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We've been to both Malaysian Borneo and to Sri Lanka, loved them both.

Sri Lanka has more variety - amazing ruins, tea country, wildlife, beaches. Sri Lanka also has one of the best collections of small boutique hotels of any place I've visited. We used Boutique Sri Lanka to set up our trip and will use them again when we return to Sri Lanka.

If you want to visit Borneo, you'll want to visit Sabah and Sarawak, the Indonesian side of Borneo is more difficult to access. And you can cross Brunei off your list. We loved our time at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. We spent time in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. We really enjoyed Kuching, KK a bit less. There are nice beaches in both Sabah and Sarawak. We have talked about returning to Borneo, but feel more draw to return to Sri Lanka.

I have trip reports on both places here. photos at www.marlandc.com
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Old Feb 18th, 2013, 10:39 PM
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What an extraordinarily difficult question! The two places are so very different. On balance, I preferred Borneo to Sri Lanka but we were on a very active trip visiting all the places Kathie mentions in Sabah and Sarawak and a few others. Climbing Mount Kinabalu was a highlight - it does not involve any technical climbing and is accomplished by people of all ages ( but you does need to be fit!) we also hiked in the Bario highlands which are completely unspoiled and rarely visited. Gunung Mulu NP was spectacular and has some great hiking. Didn't get to any of the wildlife lodges so can't really comment.

The food in Malaysia is IMHO the best and most varied in Asia and is a mixture of Malay, Indian, Chinese with a little Indonesian thrown in for good measure. Not always as spicy as you may think ( an you can always ask for no chilli). I don't think we had a bad meal in Borneo ( unless you count the boiled pig fat and rices we were offered at a ceremony in a tiny village in the highlands!!)

There are a wide variety of places to stay in all ranges. We stayed in every type from the Shangri Las to backpacker lodges and private homes. Standards were high and prices low when compared with many places in Asia. Snorkelling and diving is good in a number of places.

Sri Lanka has an amazing amount to see packed into a relatively small island. hiring a driver/ guide is probably the best and most cost efficient way of getting around and making the most of the island. Kathie had a good experience with Boutique SL, I used a different operator for half of ourntime there and had a few problems so do your research and ask the operators a lot of questions before you decide, particularly re guide experience. The rest of upr time we travelled independently.

We stayed in a variety of accommodation, mostly B&B, 2-3* and a couple of home stays . Standards were variable but overall pretty good. I love spicy food, the spicier the better so Sri Lanka was a bit of a let down. Most of the hotel typ restarants did not seem to add any chilli to there cooking at all and in many place we had to ask for spicy food. After a while we decide to forego eating in hotels and tourist restaurant in favour of local and " hole in the wall" type places where the food was both excellent and cheap. One of the highlight of the cuisine for us was the "short eats" you choose from and endless variety of small pies, croquettes, samosas etc. addictive and great for lunch.

The archaeological sights of SL are arguably the main reason for going and are certainly very impressive. I can speak for the wildlife as we simply could not find accommodation in Yala ( the main wildlife area) at all. We did however see many wild elephants along the way.

Two very different places, but if given the opportunity to return to either, I think I would choose Borneo but that is based purely on my interests and preferences.
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Old Feb 18th, 2013, 11:55 PM
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Here is another vote for Sri Lanka.

1) Car and driver are easy to arrange
2) There are lots of options for hiking. I think there must be for snorkeling as well, but I am not familiar with them.
3) Sounds like you would probably prefer the food in Boneo to that of Sri Lanka. I loved Sri Lankan curries! There may be other culinqry alternatives, but I did´not focus on those.
4) As Kathie mentions, you will be spoiled fo choice as far as lodging in Sri Lanka.
5)Local culture and temples, Sri Lanka wins for sure.
6) Wildlife: Sri Lanka wins again in my opinion. I would love to explain in depth, but my flight is boarding now. You could take a look at my trip report on my visit to SL.

You cannot go wrong, whichever destination you choose!
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Old Feb 19th, 2013, 12:37 PM
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As I've been reading about Sri Lanka wildlife, I see that there are a few places to experience a "safari" for one day. I know Yala National Park is one. On Borneo there are eco lodges for seeing oragutans.

The option of a stopover in Seoul is appealing if we choose Borneo and fly on OZ. If we go to Sri Lanka it would be Feb. or March, if we go Borneo it would be late April or May as those seem to be optimum times for seeing each country without too much rain or monsoons.

As I will be using AX MR points put into the ANA miles plan and flying *Alliance carriers, this also factors in to where we go and how we get there. Borneo is easier to get to on *A partner airlines, Sri Lanka is easier to get to with OneWorld partner airlines.
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Old Feb 19th, 2013, 01:02 PM
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Sri Lanka is easy to get to via Star Alliance carriers. You fly through Bangkok and take Thai Air to Colombo.

We couldn't get to Borneo via Star Alliance, only as far as Singapore.
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Old Feb 19th, 2013, 06:25 PM
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I know I could use Thai or Singapore to Columbo, but having visited Bangkok 3 times and Singapore once, I'd rather try for a routing to do the stopover in a new city. Hence the Asiana routing through ICN.

Sri Lnka is very easy to get to with One World-Cathay via Hong Kong or Royal Jordanian via Amman.But no stopovers.

You can get to Columbo on Korean Air through ICN, but that would require trying for Skyteam awards from DL which are impossible to get.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2013, 11:17 AM
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Kathie:I can see a routing on Air Canada that goes MCI-YYZ-FRA-CMB but it's very hard to get J award seats on AC flights. I'm leaning towards Borneo/KK due to the easier flight path getting there and being able to snag the award seats, and do a stopover in Seoul. But I'm still seeking opinions and input, reading travel books to make a decision.

Can anyone tell me if it's easy to buy domestic Malaysia air tickets online from the US or do you need to have a local TA get them? I would need to fly from KK-Sandakan and back, then KK-Kuching and back.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2013, 11:25 PM
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www.airasia.com flies those routes. Fares are usually a bit cheaper than http://www.malaysiaairlines.com/de/en.html which also flies those routes. Both sites are easys to use from overseas.
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Old Mar 1st, 2013, 08:17 PM
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Definitely Sri Lanka, much more variety than Borneo.
You may want to read this BBC article which appeared yesterday

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21628758
14 dead in secretarian clashes in Sabah.

Also, the hotels are better in Sri Lanka!
Check out rates on Agoda or booking.com, select the hotel and call / eMail the hotel directly, you will get a better deal!

nJoy!
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Old Mar 1st, 2013, 11:42 PM
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Sugary "Also, the hotels are better in Sri Lanka!" What Nonense! Clearly you have never been to Borneo
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Old Mar 2nd, 2013, 05:49 AM
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Sugath: thanks for the link to the article. I read it, and it doesn't worry me. Looks like a bunch of kooks decided they owned part of Malayasia and the police were fed up with them and rousted them out.I wasn't planning on going to Lahad Datu if I do go to Borneo.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2013, 05:56 AM
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What an awful situation in Sabah. The center of the fighting was Lahad Datu - a sleepy little town you land in on your way to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. I wouldn't let that incident make my decision for me, though.

I have to admit that Sugath is right about hotels, though. While we stayed at very nice places in Borneo, Sri Lanka has perhaps the best collection of boutique hotels in the world.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2013, 07:44 PM
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Hey crellston I was working at the Hilton Kuala Lumpur for three years so I have "traveled a bit" within Malaysia....and I am now based in Colombo, Sri Lanka so I have had the opportunity to experience the best of both worlds, I believe the hotels are definitely better in Sri Lanka.
Obviously, "liking" a hotel is completely a personal judgement so I will leave it to the travelers to decide!
Cheers!
Sugath
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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 10:44 PM
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Great when people get all passionate about countries.

It helps to look at the age and interests of a reviewer to know who to trust more.

If you are a 65yo woman, listening to a 22yo adventurous party animal may not be useful at all and vice versa.
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Old Aug 18th, 2014, 12:07 AM
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You may like to see this article

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0Bz4X...JiS3k4ZmM/edit
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Old Aug 18th, 2014, 05:37 AM
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susiean is long back from her trip. This thread was topped by an advertiser.
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 11:39 AM
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Next trip in November is to Myanmar, then South Africa and Botswana in April 2015, then a cruise to Canada fall of 2015. Sri Lanka is back on the radar for planning, to go in early 2016. Seems the best months to visit there are between Jan.-March. To use ff miles I'll start looking at setting up this trip early 2015.
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 02:01 PM
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How was the trip to Borneo? Would love to hear about it!
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Old Nov 24th, 2014, 06:52 PM
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I thoroughly enjoyed Borneo. We went to 4 different locations over 12 days: flew into KK. Flew to Sandakan, then 2 nights at Kinabatangan riverlodges.Then 3 nights at Mulu National Park. Then to kKuching. I booke dall hotels and flights myself for halk the cost of the same tour if put together by a travel agent.

I would highly recommend Borneo as a less visited destination.
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