Kathie's Borneo trip report

Reply

Dec 3rd, 2005, 08:11 PM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,601
Kathie's Borneo trip report

I'm going to post this in segments over a couple of days. I decided to include lots of detail, as this board doesn't have a lot of info on Sabah and Sarawak, in contrast to, say, Bangkok. So bear with me through it all.

Background: Each year, we go to someplace new during our annual trip to Asia. As we explored possibilities for this year (we already had tickets in and out of Bangkok) we became increasingly interested in the option of going to Borneo. We were interested in seeing wildlife and were interested in the indigenous cultures there. The Malaysian side of Borneo is more accessible than the Indonesian side, and we started narrowing our focus to Malaysian Borneo, Sabah and Sarawak.

We really wanted to see the orangutans. As you probably know, there are a number of orangutan rehabilitation centers in Borneo. These places take in orphaned or injured orangs, with the goal of re-introducing them to the wild. The problem has been that the orangs become reliant on being fed and accustomed to people, and the centers, while successful in rescuing these orangs, really have not been able to make them wild again. I was well aware that the best chance to see the Orangs was at the rehab centers, and probably the only way to get good photos was at the rehab centers. Nonetheless, I had my heart set on seeing them in the wild. There is an excellent thread over on the Thorntree on the SE Asia Islands and Peninsula branch on where to see orangs in the wild. This information was invaluable to me as I planned my trip. The author�s assertion was that the best place to see the orangs in the wild is the Danum Valley area. This is an area of primary (never logged) rainforest. There is a research center near the edge of the conservation area that now allows only bona fide scientists to stay there and there is the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. There are no other places to stay in the conservation area. We decided to book a three-day, two-night package at the BRL to experience the rainforest and in the hope of seeing an orangutan in the wild. I also had a �plan B� which was that if we didn�t see any orangs there, we could still visit one of the rehab centers in either Sabah or Sarawak.

Background reading: We both read Eric Hansen�s Stranger in the Forest and Redmond O�Hanlon�s Into the Heart of Borneo. Both books give riveting accounts of crossing Borneo on foot. If you are interested in orchids, I�d also recommend Eric Hansen�s book, Orchid Fever.

Putting together the logistics proved a bit complicated, as you can�t fly directly to either Kota Kinabalu or Kuching from Bangkok. Also, the trip to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge takes another flight to Lahad Datu. You can only fly to Kota Kinabalu from Lahad Datu, which further complicated our planning. Eventually, we used Eddie at SeaTours (the Am Ex agency in Bangkok) to book our plane tickets. Eddie was very helpful. He booked all of our tickets for us, charged them to my credit card for no extra charge, and our tickets were waiting for us at the Royal Orchid in Bangkok when we checked in. His email address is [email protected]
Kathie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 3rd, 2005, 08:13 PM
  #2
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,601
First stay in Kota Kinabalu: We flew from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur and on to Kota Kinabalu. This was an all-day task, and we arrived in KK in the evening. KK strikes me as a rather gritty town. They have not yet taken advantage of their beautiful setting to make the town more inviting. We had reservations at the Hyatt in KK. The Hyatt is a block from the water, and is nice, though not up to the standards of most Hyatts. The suites have not been re-done lately, but the Regency Club rooms were nice. After staying in a suite the first time around, we opted for a regular Regency Club room the second stay. We wanted to stay in town for our limited time there, so decided against the very well regarded Shangri La on the beach near KK. We stayed two nights the first time, with just a day to explore KK. For our day in KK, we got up early and went to the market. I love markets, and enjoyed seeing all the wonderful fresh produce and interacting with the locals. We also walked through the crafts market, but didnt see anything compelling. We had a nice lunch at an Indian restaurant. Prices were very reasonable. We saw an ad for a special at a local day spa - body scrub, steam and hot stone massage for 188 RM per person. We decided that is what we would need after roughing it at the BRL, so made appointments for the morning after we got back from BRL. We opted to pack all we needed for the BRL in a small carry-on and a suitcase for both of us. We left the rest of our luggage at the Hyatt. We also used a Hyatt safe deposit box to leave extra money, jewelry, etc. in KK, rather than taking it to the BRL with us.
Kathie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 3rd, 2005, 08:15 PM
  #3
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,601
Borneo Rainforest Lodge: The Borneo Rainforest Lodge offers three-day two night packages or four-day three night packages. Everything is included in the package price: transport to and from the airport, your accommodations, all meals and the services of a naturalist guide. (They do recommend tipping your guide, and we tipped in excess of the recommended amount.) We opted for three days and two nights for $730 for the two of us. While it sounds pricey, it was worth every penny. We arose early the next morning for our flight to Lahad Datu. Its a 50-minute flight on a turbo prop Fokker 50. The plane was pretty full, and we were the only westerners on the plane. We were met by two BRL employees and taken to their in-town office for a bit of paperwork. We were then told to get some breakfast and some water for the ride to the Lodge. Its a 2 to 3-hour ride to the Lodge. The first twenty minutes are on a nice road, but then it deteriorates to gravel and dirt. Perhaps two hours into the drive, one of the employees shouted. I didnt understand the first word, but the second word was orangutan. The driver stopped and let the vehicle roll slowly backwards until we had the best vantage point. Initially, all I saw were branches moving in a tree perhaps 20 yards from us. Soon, I could see him, a big male. He moved around a bit, then sat very still and we watched him watching us watching him for a while before he got spooked and left with great swinging from the branches. Wow! What an introduction to the Danum valley. We were excited about the sighting, but so were the staff, who said it is very rare to see an orangutan from the road. A short time later, our guide saw a clouded leopard head into the forest. We werent fast enough and saw only the undergrowth still moving, but it was a thrill to have come that close to seeing a clouded leopard. We saw a number of birds, which were identified for us by our guide.

Upon arrival at the Lodge, we were served a welcome drink (local fruit juices) and were briefly oriented to the Lodge. The Lodge overlooks the Danum River, and the grounds are planted with native trees and bushes. The Lodge itself is lovely, constructed of river rock and wood, and gorgeous ironwood floors. The rule is no shoes or boots on the main (upper) floor of the lodge, which keeps the dining area and seating areas nice and clean. There is a small store that sells books, t-shirts and those very necessary leech socks (15 RM). The lodge has a safe for you to store passports, tickets, etc., in the main office. The rooms are individual cabins connected via raised wooden walkways (the deluxe rooms) or a few older cabins that have two rooms in each cabin. The capacity of the lodge is perhaps 40 guests. The day we arrived, there was less than half that number. The cabins have electricity 24 hours a day and a switch-on water heater so you can take a warm shower. Each room has a double and a twin bed and a full bathroom. The cabins are basic but clean and functional. The windows are screened, and there is an overhead fan (no AC). The floors are hardwood, and the rule is no shoes or boots in the cabins as well. We unpacked and went to the lodge for lunch.

Food is good, hearty, and mostly Malaysian. They do ask about any special dietary needs and make sure there are things you can eat at every meal. They offered fresh salads, and I ate them. The produce is washed in purified water. They also supply drinking water not only for meals, but also to fill your water bottle when you go out on a hike.

We sat and enjoyed the view from the lodge, looked around a bit, and then dressed for our first walk with a guide. Our guide was Rayner, and he was excellent. Hes a local, grew up in Sabah. Almost all of the employees are locals, and the sense is very much one of the local people preserving and valuing the rainforest and its inhabitants. Everyone who works at the lodge is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the wildlife. At lunch the waiter might point out a particular bird, and if you saw something, the wait staff could probably identify it. My sense is that all of the guides are really good. All are naturalists as well as certified guides.

We headed of on our first walk that afternoon. Our destination was the canopy walk. As we walked the dirt road to get to the trail, Rayner spotted long-tailed macaques in the trees. From the very beginning, he taught us how to watch and listen for animals. We watched the family group of at least 6 macaques for a while, as they swung through the treetops high above us. The canopy walk is a suspended wooden walkway, high above the treetops in a ravine; the highest area is about 230 feet above the ground. The walkway is anchored to huge trees with little seating areas around the trees. The walkway does sway as you walk on it. It would be very hard for someone with a fear of heights. As we walked slowly from one tree to the next, it was amazing just to be in the forest and above the forest. This is a great place to spot birds. As we were standing and watching, we heard a branch fall, and we were all quiet. Soon, more branches were moving and there was a female orang in the trees below us. We stayed and watched her for a long time. Orangs are very shy, so we only saw glimpses of her as she moved about quietly. After a while, we started back and almost immediately saw something moving on the other side of the walkway. It was a young orang, coming to join the adult female. When orangs are moving through the jungle, they can be amazingly loud as they crash through the trees, but once they see, smell, or sense people, they are very quiet and move quietly. We were able to watch the younger orang join the older female through glimpses through the trees. Eventually, a woman from the lodge came and joined us. She watched and was eventually able to see both orangs as well. We returned to the lodge just before dark. By the way, we saw no leeches our first day.

The people we met at the BRL were quite an interesting bunch. We enjoyed talking with them. One couple, ex-pats from the UK, were currently living in Moscow. He had been posted to Brunei years before and loves Borneo. We also met a zoologist who had been one of the people initially involved in choosing the setting for the lodge. He is retired and now lives in KK. His wife is a local and owns a bookstore in KK, Borneo Books. Its in the shopping block next to the Hyatt and has a wonderful variety of books on Borneo. He brought a retired botanist friend who was visiting from the UK. A number of people noted to us that there are few Americans who visit.

That evening we had a night game drive. We all piled into an open-air truck, and one of the guides was operating a spot light from the back of the truck. As we drove, he scanned to treetops with the spot light. Initially, we didnt see anything. Finally, he spotted glowing eyes in a treetop and we stopped and watched. He said it was a flying squirrel, but it took a long time before he got the squirrel to move. When it flew it really soared it was an amazing sight! Over the hour or so that we were out, we also saw a family group of 5 Sambar deer, a number of black squirrels, a mouse deer and 5 hornbills perched high above us. Looking for wildlife was great, but I just loved being out in the rainforest in the night with the amazing number of stars shining.

The next morning, we awoke to the sounds of the gibbons calling to each other. We never saw them, but we heard them a number of times. We had an early morning walk in the mist. We heard lots of interesting birdsong (including a hornbill that sounds remarkably like a chainsaw). We saw more macaques, black squirrels, a lizard and our first leech. It was small brown leech sitting atop a stump. Rayner demonstrated how the leech senses your body heat, stands on its tail and searches for a way to make contact and attach to you. It can sense a mammal within a meter of it.

We came back for breakfast, and prepared for the roughest hike up the ridge across the river from the lodge. Most of the trail is steps of roots and mud and it is all uphill. The rainforest here is quite wet, and we saw lots of leeches. The trail goes to an old burial (about 500 years old). There is a small babys coffin on a ledge on a cliff, and a stack of crania and some other human bones, then a more elaborate adult coffin. At the point where the trail goes to the burials, there are broken pieces of crockery that originally held offerings for the dead. The burials have not been disturbed, and because access is so limited the burial site is pretty well preserved. We went back down a bit and rejoined the mail trail for the last climb to the peak. From the lookout, you look down on the Danum river valley and the whole BRL. It was a spectacular view.

We were absolutely exhausted when we got back. I had upped the intensity of my workouts prior to this trip, but I realized that real preparation would have increased the incline on the treadmill even more and would have required moving the treadmill into a steam room. We opted to rest in the afternoon, just watching the river and the birds and butterflies from the deck of the lodge.

That evening, there were only 4 guests at the lodge, the British zoologist and his friend the botanist and the two of us. The staff had planned a Hari Raya party for themselves, and the zoologist talked with the manager about inviting us to the party and closing the kitchen for the night. That seemed like a good idea to everyone, so we went to the staff party. Before the party, the two Brits brought a bottle of Laphroig and we sipped the single malt scotch together as the rain poured onto the roof of the lodge.

The party was an interesting experience. There was lots of good food, and the employees and their families were there (the employees live on the grounds). We were warmly welcomed, and they poured large glasses of the local rice wine for us. It was pretty potent stuff. The party included karaoke and dancing, and they taught us a local dance. It was fun to be included in this, as it gave us a perspective on their lives in the rainforest.

We were up early again in the morning, and sent word to our guide that we wanted to head back out on a trail at 8:00. As we left the lodge, there was a troop of red leaf monkeys playing in the trees. We stopped and watched them for a while. We chose a trail that follows the river and is relatively flat. We saw lots of interesting plant life and fungi. There were tiny white mushrooms sprouting from a dead limb, as delicate and beautiful as a branch of orchids. We saw ebony trees and ironwoods; huge birds nest ferns and orchids. We also saw lots of leeches. We saw a barking deer by the river and watched it until it got spooked. W found some fresh elephant dung by the trail. Rayner said they ran into an elephant in that area the previous week. We heard lots of birds and some gibbons. On our way back to the lodge, Cheryl spotted an owl sitting on a branch of a small tree. She took a series of photos of it, and it never moved. It was a juvenile brown wood owl.

After showering and changing our clothes, we went to lunch. There were new people that had just arrived at lunch. As we started to eat, I looked up and saw a group of red leaf monkeys eating in one of the trees in front of the lodge. It was a large troop (probably the same group we saw earlier) and they seem unconcerned about our presence. There was a mother with a small, light-colored baby, as well as at least 10 others. The monkeys played and ate in full view for perhaps 30 minutes. What a great way to end our stay at the BRL!

Leeches: One man we met told a terrible leech story of finding a huge engorged leech on his penis (not this trip, but when he lived in Brunei). He had worn leech socks, but was wearing shorts and a leech crawled all the way up and attached. I had seen a German guy in the lodge earlier who had identical bandages on the back of each calf. I then realized that he probably wore shorts with his leech socks, and managed to get bitten on the backs of both legs. There are two types of leeches in the forest, the small brown leech that is found on the ground, and larger tiger leeches that often cling to leaves and jump onto you. You can feel the bite of the small brown leech, but the tiger leechs bite is painless. Several times on our hikes, Rayner would pull a leech off of himself. On our last hike, I saw a leech on Rayners arm that has bitten him. He said he almost always finds a leech on himself when he gets back from walk. When you pull a leech off that has bitten you, the wound continues to bleed for a while as the leech injects an anti-coagulant when it bites. When we returned from our last walk, we were congratulating ourselves on not getting bitten by any leeches. We started washing our boots off, and Cheryl suddenly said ouch. There was a brown leech in the mud on her boots and it had bitten her hand. We got it off, and I washed my boots very carefully, noting that there was at least one leech in the mud on my boots as well. We headed back to the cabin to shower and pack before lunch. I dropped my dirty clothes on the floor and got into the shower. As Cheryl was picking up the clothes, she found a tiger leech on my pants. They are remarkably difficult to remove, but I got it off my pants and we packed our suitcase.

We were driven back to Lahad Datu. We stopped to look at a vivid green snake on the road, but there were no orangutans this time.

Our time at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge was really a remarkable experience. Obviously, we highly recommend it.
Kathie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 3rd, 2005, 08:17 PM
  #4
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,601
Kota Kinabalu again: We returned from Lahad Datu in the late evening, checked back into the Hyatt for three nights and were reunited with the luggage we left there. We had the Malaysian buffet at the Hyatt that night. Its quite a spread an incredible variety of Malay food. At the dessert table they had ice creams. It pays to ask what the flavors are, as the ice cream came in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, yam and corn.

The next morning, we needed to get clothes to the laundry. While I normally use hotel laundry services, the prices at the Hyatt were so ridiculous I refused to use them (a pair of slacks was 18 RM++, about US$5.75. We had so much laundry to do it would have cost us about 500 MR ($135) to do it at the Hyatt. I went across the street and found a laundry that did it all for us for 28.80 RM (about $7.80). We then headed off to our spa appointments. The Six Senses Spa is a bit out of town. The concierge called and got directions for our cab driver. (By the way, there are no metered cabs in KK. Its a fixed rate to and from the airport, and there is consensus about rates within and around KK. No one tried to charge us more it was amazing.)

The spa was delightful, and just what we needed. We decided to have pedicures as well. The spa cost about US$51 each for 2+ hours, and the pedicures were about US$12 each for almost two hours! What a deal! For dinner that night, we went to a new place in town called the Atlantis Bistro. Its right on the water, and the cuisine is probably best described as fusion. We had the most amazing Prawn martini there. They note that this special appetizer is enough to share It comes in a humongous martini-shaped glass, with 4 enormous tiger prawns still in the shell, about 8 or 10 large shelled prawns and a salad of small shrimp in a delicate dressing. These prawns were the freshest, sweetest prawns Ive ever eaten! (remember that I live in Seattle and am accustomed to high quality fresh seafood) We had the appetizer, a good bottle of wine, entrees and desserts for about US$66. Obviously, I highly recommend this restaurant.

Kinabalu Park gets rave reviews for the diversity of plant life. We decided to hire a driver to take us there. We contracted with one of the taxi drivers for an all-day trip to Kinabalu for 250 RM (about $67). Its a two-hour drive to the park through some interesting scenery. We visited the mountain garden, which is very worthwhile. We had mapped out the trails we wanted to hike, and did hike one trail. We were so disappointed after our experience at the BRL! The area is not primary forest, and there is not the diversity of plant life we expected to see (pitcher plants and wild orchids, for instance.) We were told you could see pitcher plants at Poring and Poring has an orchid conservation center, so we decided to add Poring to our itinerary, which added 100RM ($27) to the trip. Frankly, Poring was also a disappointment. I really think we would have enjoyed this trip more had we not been to the BRL. The highlights of this trip were the mountain garden and a stop at a commercial nursery to see some really unusual native orchids. If I had it to do over again, Id skip Kinabalu Park and add this day to our too-short time in Kuching.
Kathie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 3rd, 2005, 08:47 PM
  #5
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 834
Absolutely fantastic report Kathie - love the leech stories.

Such great detail is just great - makes me really want to go (minus leeches though!) - don't hear a great deal about this area as you say.
MaryW is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 3rd, 2005, 09:01 PM
  #6
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,034
I love the leech stories! Of course the rest of the report is excellent....but the leech stories are great!
KimJapan is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 3rd, 2005, 09:36 PM
  #7
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 563
kathie...what an incredible adventure...i have read the threads about leeches but never gave them much thought till now...
YUCK!!!

your trip must have been amazing...and to see so much wildlife outside reserves and rehabilitation compounds...

i am loving your report...
divediva is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 3rd, 2005, 11:27 PM
  #8
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,924
kathie---fantastic review....what a trip....just what you wanted no doubt...looking forward to next segment...
rhkkmk is online now  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2005, 02:47 AM
  #9
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 121
fabulous report kathie. am really enjoying it. how lucky you were with the wildlife
hornbill is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2005, 04:43 AM
  #10
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 6,664
Thanks Kathie. The walk in the canopy sounds incredible. It sounds like you were really lucky in your wild sightings of Orangs and monkeys.
Gpanda is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2005, 07:37 AM
  #11
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,873
Kathie, really enjoying your report. I obviously made a big mistake by going to Batang Ai and not the Danum Valley. I'll know better for next time. I could live without the leeches though!
laurieco is online now  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2005, 11:31 AM
  #12
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,601
I want to pause here and give a special thank you to Hornbill, who lives in Kuching. She and I corresponded while I was planning this trip, and she was wonderful to us while we were in Kuching. Because of her help we were able to do some things we never would have done otherwise.

Kuching: The next morning, we were off to Kuching. Its a little over a one hour flight. We arrived mid-morning. The airport is in the midst of a huge reconstruction project. Im sure it will be beautiful when it is done, but for now its a mess. You have to fill out a new immigration form when you enter Sarawak, but they dont hand them out on the plane. Instead, you have to fill them out a midst the chaos of the construction in the middle of the immigration area. We were so glad to get out of the airport!

We had reservations at the Hilton in Kuching. Im not particularly a fan of Hilton hotels, but this place was truly lovely. The location is great, just across the street from the river walk. Since we got to the hotel at 11:00, our room wasnt ready. So we relaxed in the Clubroom for a while, and then decided to have lunch in their excellent Chinese restaurant. After lunch, we settled in to our lovely suite on the executive floor, with the view from the bedroom overlooking the river and Fort Margharita and the view from the living room overlooking the city. We unpacked a bit, then headed out to see Kuching. Kuching is a beautiful and charming city. There is a beautiful walk along the river, with lovely large trees for shade and on the other side of the river park area is a row of old shop houses filled with local crafts, but also with places frequented by the locals. The city is pedestrian friendly, with the wide river walk and a pedestrian mall through the old Indian part of the city. However, the drivers are NOT pedestrian friendly. We discovered that they tend to ignore red lights at crosswalks, so step into the street carefully and make sure the car coming is really going to stop! The people are warm and friendly and seem genuinely delighted to see visitors enjoying their city.

Hornbill picked us up at 7:00 at our hotel and drove us to Magenta, a restaurant in an old Malay house. This was our Kuching get together. She invited another physician who came to Kuching from the Mayo clinic to join us. Hes been in Kuching 5 years, but plans to return to the US eventually. The food was good, the company a delight!

For those of you saw the episode of Anthony Bourdains show on Malaysian foods, the one thing that looked good to me was the Laksa, the famed breakfast dish of Kuching. (As I dont have a tv, Laurico was kind enough to burn it to a dvd and mail it to me. Thanks again, Laurie!) Everyone in Kuching has their own favorite, and wed corresponded with Hornbill about trying her favorite Laksa. Well, she surprised us by delivering hot laksa to us at our hotel the next morning! It was really excellent, and what a heart-warming and mouth warming gesture!

We walked the riverfront, then on to India Street where we bought some jewelry, and then to the Sarawak Museum. Again, I have to comment on the friendliness of the people. We met a couple from West Malaysia on our walk, and they wanted to have their picture taken with us. We met another couple from a different part of Sarawak in the museum, and talked with them about the longhouses in the museum.

We shopped a bit in the afternoon. I had been told to buy peppercorns in Kuching. I stopped one place, and they had either packaged peppercorns that had been processed by a company, or bulk peppercorn that were processed by the individual grower. We bought half a kilo of the locally processed peppercorns. I dont remember the price, but they were very cheap. Someone had told me that you could also buy nutmeg, but I didnt find any, nor did I find vanilla beans. There are also several types of local rice that are highly recommended, but it was becoming clear to me that I wouldnt have enough space to pack all the things I wanted to buy!

In the late afternoon, Hornbill picked us up and took us to see some of the local nurseries. Hornbills aunt from West Malaysia was visiting, and she came along.
If you read the book by Eric Hansen, Orchid Fever, youll know about the Borneo Orchid King well, we got to see his nursery. For someone who loves gardening and orchids, it was quite a treat!

Cheryl had a cold, so she decided to rest the next morning, and I went out to shop. There are a fabulous variety of local crafts (both new and old) in Kuching. I am very interested in textiles, and hoped to be able to buy some Iban textiles while I was there. Hornbill did a bit of local research for me, so I had an idea of what I might be able to find. The pua kumbu is the sine qua non of Iban textiles. Pua means, literally, blanket. So while puas vary in size, they are large pieces. I also found that there were smaller pieces that were woven by women before they married that were skirts, bidang. This was a rite of passing into adulthood. As they were a first effort they are often not as finely woven. I found these smaller pieces were more in the price range I wanted, and I really loved the idea of these rites of passage. The Iban textiles are hand-woven of course. Most are done in an ikat technique. Depending on age and where they were woven, they may have all natural dyes, all commercial dyes, or a combination of the two. Also, some are made from cotton thread that was hand-spun, some from commercial thread. These variables are related not only to the age of the textile, but also to exactly where it was made. Those made farther out in the jungle are more likely to have used more of the natural dyes and more likely to use hand-spun cotton. The motifs on the textiles are very interesting. The weaver chooses her motifs from her dreams, so only she can say exactly what they mean. There is quite a vocabulary of motifs that are common in the textiles, such as ferns, deer, birds and perhaps my favorite, copulating leeches, a symbol of fertility. The shops usually have their older and more expensive items in the back or upstairs. If you express interest, the shopkeepers are glad to show you many items and talk with you about their history. I learned so much from the shopkeepers that enhanced what Id already read about the textiles. I was able to buy a piece for a friend who is a fiber artist, and two pieces for myself. All are of hand-spun cotton in natural dyes, which is just what I was looking for.

If Id had more time, I was also interested in the wood carvings. I have a couple of wood carvings done by Indonesian Iban that I purchased many years ago in Jakarta.

In the afternoon, we scoured the bookstores for books on Iban weaving, and I bought two. The author of one of the books, Edric Ong, has a store where he sells new textiles, done with traditional motifs and natural dyes. The scarves and clothing are beautiful, though pricey (and he doesnt bargain).

Hornbill picked us up, and we got to see her home and meet her parents, which was lovely. Hornbill, her aunt, Cheryl and I went to Damai, a seaside town for seafood. The scenery was lovely, and we stopped at several beach resorts to look at the beaches and the setting sun. She took us to a seafood place right on the water. This is the sort of place youd never find on your own. There is fresh seafood on ice and you tell them how you want your prepared. For the four of us, we ordered an oyster omelet (much different form the Hangtown fry we have here), a steamed pomfret with ginger, prawns roasted in salt and chilies, along with midin (ferns) sautéed with spices. The food was wonderful and more than the four of us could eat.

We had a wonderful time in Kuching. Thanks to Hornbill, we had some experience we simply couldnt have had otherwise. I feel like we got a real flavor for the town. There was so much we didnt get to do there, well be back. Wed like to go to a longhouse, perhaps out to Bako, wed like to shop for more local crafts and try out more local restaurants. And wed like to go back and visit Hornbill again!
Kathie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2005, 11:53 AM
  #13
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,601
After breakfast the next morning, we headed to the airport to fly back to Bangkok via KL. We were all on the plane ready to take off, when they made us get off the plane. We never were able to find out what the problem was, but eventually, we took off about three hours late. (I must say, I always appreciate knowing what is going on. I find Asian airlines to be quite opaque about such issues.) Of course, that meant that we missed our flight to Bangkok. I wasnt worried, assuming that there must be almost hourly flights between KL and Bangkok. Wrong! Between Malaysian Air and Thai Air, there are only three flights a day. So we had about 6 hours to wait for a 9 pm flight. Fortunately, Malaysian Air has a beautiful airport lounge and we had access to it as we were flying business class. So we relaxed in the lounge, had foot reflexology done, drank champagne and awaited our flight. By midnight, we were back in a suite at the Royal Orchid.

Practical issues:

All of our flights within Malaysia were on Malaysian Air. The service is good, and except for the unexplained delay in Kuching, everything went very smoothly. If you are considering going to Kuching, there are three times a week flights from Singapore on either Singapore Air or Silk Air.

ATMs are readily available in KK and Kuching. I did find that there are some ATMs that take only local cards, but Maybank, for instance, takes international cards. Credit cards are widely accepted.

Health issues: I am very conscientious about immunizations and am up to date on all my routine inoculations and what I consider to be routine travelers immunizations such as Hep A and typhoid. While Malaysia has eradicated malaria in most areas, the rainforests of Borneo are still malarial risk. We took malarone (as we have on a number of previous trips to malarial risk areas), and as before, had no side effects. We also used a 27% deet spray. The mosquitoes werent too bad in the Danum Valley, but Im apparently very tasty and always get some bites no matter what.

Weather: We traveled at the beginning of the rainy season. There were afternoon rains perhaps half of the days we were in Sabah and Sarawak. The only time they were a problem was on our return from Kinabalu Park, when streets were flooded and it took an extra hour to get back to our hotel. Otherwise, the rains were intense but brief.

This was a wonderful trip. We were delighted that we were so lucky and saw orangutans in the wild in Danum valley. But even without the orangutans, the Borneo Rainforest Lodge was magical. If youre up for some adventure, Id highly recommend it!
Kathie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2005, 12:11 PM
  #14
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,873
Wonderful report Kathie! You obviously had a better time and saw more than Eric and I did but I do intend to go back to Malaysia sometime and I will do things differently. And I most definitely want to be in Kuching when Hornbill is in town!

I will be "picking your brain" about Java in the coming months. I want to make the most of that trip and not repeat the mistakes made in Malaysia (not that we didn't have a good time but it could have been so much better).
laurieco is online now  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2005, 04:39 PM
  #15
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 834
Thanks for the fabulous report.

A pity about the delay and missing your connection but there is certainly something to be said for flying business class. My husband regards it as an "insurance policy" so you get treated well and have somewhere decent to wait if necessary (as well as the nicer inflight facilities). I wish I could use it more often - we do when we go to Bangkok as its a reasonable price - but for us just up to Singapore (only 5 hours) its almost 4 times the economy. Pity!
MaryW is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2005, 04:57 PM
  #16
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 121
thanks for the kind words, kathie. its nice to be able to share kuching with you and cheryl too.
hornbill is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 5th, 2005, 12:32 PM
  #17
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 682
Thanks for the great report Kathie. Borneo sounds fabulous (except for the leeches, that is). Yikes!
Ericka is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 5th, 2005, 08:12 PM
  #18
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 563
kathie...i had a dream last nite about leeches...not sure if it was from reading your trip report or from watching Grays Anatomy
(tv program) that had a storyline about leeches used for their anti-coagulating properties .

either way...i was squirming when i awoke.,
divediva is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 6th, 2005, 08:00 AM
  #19
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,601
Diva, you'll laugh but I almost felt disappointed that I didn't get bitten by a leech after all of my preparation.

I felt like I had to be not freaked out by the leaches, otherwise I'd be attending to the leeches rather than enjoying the experience of being in the virgin rainforest. So part of my preparation was to do lots of reading about leeches (particularly about the medical use of leeches). If you get bitten, the lodge will give you a certificate as a blood donor to the Danum Valley Conservation Area.

Despite my mild disappointment, I wasn't tempted to get bitten intentionally!
Kathie is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 6th, 2005, 10:44 AM
  #20
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 888
Kathie - thank you for an inspirational story (with leeches as an added bonus!)
Bella_Bluebell is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:58 PM.