Send Kathie to Malaysian Borneo!

Jun 19th, 2005, 05:57 PM
  #1  
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Send Kathie to Malaysian Borneo!

I am planning for two weeks in Sabah and Sarawak in November. Yes, I know it's the rainy season, but it's when I can go. Besides, being from Seattle I'm well accustomed to rain!

I'm planning some time in the vicinity of Kota Kinabalu (one or both of the Shangri-Las) and some time in Kuching (the Hilton). I'd also like some time at one or more of the jungle lodges. I'd love some feedback from any one who has stayed at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge in the Danum Valley of East Sabah or the Hornbill Golf and Jungle Club near Kuching. If anyone has other jungle lodges to recommend, I'd be glad to hear about those as well.

I'm also considering a short stop in Brunei - perhaps to stay at the billion dollar Empire Hotel and Resort. I'd be intersted in whether people think that Brunei is worth a day or two and whether the Empire is worth the money.
Kathie is offline  
Jun 20th, 2005, 07:01 AM
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You know...this past weekend...here in L.A...we just had a big travel expo...at the convention center... that ABC news put together for free. Chuck Henry of Travel Cafe was there. He was great... and it was quite nice. There was a good representation of Asia and the Malaysia reps were very nice and had beautiful brochures. I picked up a brochure of hotels of Malaysia with photos...and I had also picked out the Hilton in Kuching for a future trip! Don't know when I'll get to it since the travel schedule is a bit jammed right now. Oh, also at the L.A. convention center there was a whole Thai expo that was separate from the ABC Travel Expo...which I found interesting. They were right next door to each other so Thailand wasn't represented at the ABC one, but had so many interested people...in Thailand and Thai goods... that they were able to throw their own expo...interesting Happy Travels!
Guenmai is offline  
Jun 20th, 2005, 12:54 PM
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We were in Sabah, February 2003. We did not stay at Danum Valley but did a 3 night tour from Sandakan to Selingan Island (1 night), and Sukau Rainforest Lodge on The Kinabatangan River (2 nights). There was a couple there that were continuing on to Danum, it's not that far. Google Sukau & Selingan and if they are of interest, I'll give you our impressions.
twofortheroad is offline  
Jun 20th, 2005, 02:24 PM
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Thanks for your good wishes, Guenmai. I will of course give a full report when I return.

Two, I'd be very interested in your impressions of the Sukau Rainforest Lodge. How were the guides? How were the facilities at the lodge?

I'd love to go to one of the Turtle islands, as well, but since we'll be there in November, I understand there isn't much of a chance we'll see turtles. DId you see lots of turtles when you were there?
Kathie is offline  
Jun 20th, 2005, 03:47 PM
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I visited Sabah, Brunei, and Sarawak in November, 2004. Don't recall any rain. Other than Kota Kinabalu in Sabah (not very interesting), I went to Sandakan, from which I took a day tour to the Sekau national park and had lunch at the S. Rainforest Lodge. Acquaintances of mine spent the night. They were only mildly enthusiastic. Perhaps the accommodations you mention are better. The best part about Sabah was seeing the proboscos monkeys in the park. I met six young European women who work in Singapore who had just climbed Mt. Kinabalu. They raved about how they enjoyed the experience, but their muscles were so sore that they could scarcely move. From Sabah, I went to Brunei and was fortunate to be there at the end of Ramadan, the one time of the year when the sultan opens his palace to the people. I went along, too, and saw everyone in his national dress. I took a taxi to the Empire Hotel (it is a long way from town) and enjoyed a wonderful mango smoothie in the stupendous lobby. I'd stay some place else, though, and save the money. Frankly, I found Brunei to be one of the dullest places I have ever visited in my life and getting from there to Kuching was an all-day circuitous journey by way of Labuan. With organization, you can see everything in Kuching in a day. There is a nice boat cruise on the river and the cat museum has to be seen to be believed. The Hilton (I stayed at a cheaper hotel next door) is a typical high-rise overlooking a very nicely developed waterfront area. Kuching is a pleasant place, but there isn't much to see. I hope to return to Sarawak someday and, when I do, I'll head upcountry or out to the eastern part for hiking and village-visiting. ZZ
Zambezi is offline  
Jun 20th, 2005, 04:35 PM
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Zambezi, many thanks for your comments.

If Brunei is as dull as you say, then I will skip it. I'm not sure of the dates of Ramadan this year, but I was aware they open the Palace during Hari Raya. What did you think was it stunning enough to be worth a day in BSB?

I understand that Kuching is the place to buy local handicrafts. I'm especially interested in weavings, and for fun I collect native cat figures (Kuchung has got to be the place for that!). I don't know if you noticed anything about crafts in Kuching.

What was the best day trip you took to see wildlife or scenery?
Kathie is offline  
Jun 20th, 2005, 04:41 PM
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Kathie, I'm a big "cat collector" too. Only one real live kitty but lots of cat things. Since I'll be in Kuching before you and plan on going to the cat museum, I'll definitely let you know what is for sale (and what I bought). I'll be in Kuching Sept 29 to Oct 1 and again on Oct 3 for another night.
laurieco is offline  
Jun 20th, 2005, 05:31 PM
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laurico, I'll look forward to your "buying"report. I have cat objects from all over the world and am always looking for more! Tell me more about what you have planned for Malaysian Borneo.
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Jun 20th, 2005, 06:22 PM
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Brunei is interesting enough for a day or two, but the difficulty is transportation to/from Kuching, if you are going that route. In Kuching, there are some nice craft shops, the best one, I found, being at the far end of the main street (away from the Hilton and the other major hotels), which has been run by a Chinese family for several generations. I'll try to find the name (I'm away from my main residence). I bought hand woven place mats and a nice blouse from upcountry. When a descendant of the famous Brooke family ("White Rajahs of Sarawak") visited there in November, she did her shopping at this place, in part because her ancestors were cronies of the Chinese merchant. The store has many other things. Elsewhere along the main street (whose name escapes me, but it is unique, as befitting a port), there is a shop where you can purchase Bario rice (reputedly the world's finest) and peppercorns in bulk, not in small, expensive packets. The gift shop at the cat museum is a disgrace. Don't count on buying anything there. In fact, for a city whose namesake is "cat," there is almost nothing about cats to purchase. The only day trip I went on was the one in Sabah because I was at the tail-end of a longer trip to Singapore and the Malaysian peninsula and had little time left. There are many excursions that you can arrange. ZZ
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Jun 20th, 2005, 07:04 PM
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Many thanks. I'll have to bring home both rice and peppercorns! I'll look forward to the info on the shop.
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Jun 20th, 2005, 07:23 PM
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That's very disappointing about the availability of cat things in Kuching, I was hoping to pick up a few trinkets to add to my collectiom.

Kathie, we'll be flying to Sandakan from KL and staying a few nights there. I mainly want to see the Orang-Utans but I'm open to suggestions as to what else to see while there. From there we fly to Kuching for a couple of nights, want to visit Bako National Park. We're then going to Batang-Ai for two nights to visit a longhouse and hopefully meet some of the native tribes people and learn about them. Then back to Kuching for another night before going to Penang and KL. About half the trip will be in Borneo and half in KL and Penang. Since it's our first time to Malaysia, I wanted to see several different places rather than spend a lot of time in just two. I'm thinking of this as more an introduction to Malaysia rather than something more in depth. If we like it, we will go back. In fact, even if we don't like it, we'll probably go back. I didn't like BKK at all my first time there but decided that Thailand was more than BKK so we went to Thailand for a few weeks and gave BKK another chance, and I fell in love with it and have been ever since. Some places just need more visits, I don't know if Malaysia will be one of them but I doubt it. The first time we went to BKK, we also went to Hong Kong and it was our first trip to Asia and I wasn't prepared for the "look" that many Asia cities have. I was expecting very exotic beauty and the grime and greyness and dilapidation were like a slap in the face after having travelled through Europe many times, where clean and order are the norm. I guess I had an idea of what Asia would be like and it was nothing like that in reality. But I've been back to Thailand several times and to many SE Asian countries and loved them all. It's my favorite part of the world. I've learned that you have to seek out the beauty and when you do, it's there. I don't know what to expect of Malaysia. That's probably a good thing.

Wow--you got more than you asked for! Sometimes when I start to type I just can't stop!
laurieco is offline  
Jun 20th, 2005, 10:22 PM
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good stuff.. I have been planning too make a run too borneo for a while but I have not done enough reaserch too kick me into gear too go or just totally skip it..

if I go I'll probably stay in a $3 doller dorm.. so if anyone knows off cheep places too sleep please post..
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brunai is one place I want too go just too check it off the countries I've gone list but it does seem like a pain too get there for nothing really..
orgy7 is offline  
Jun 21st, 2005, 03:29 AM
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orgy, Lonely Planet and Footprint Guides have many options for inexpensive places to stay in Malaysia. There seems to be no shortage of good, clean, inexpensive places to stay. Since you live in BKK, Malaysia isn't very far. If you decide to check it out at the end of Sept, early Oct, we'll be there. I'd love to meet up with some fodorites one of these days!
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Jun 22nd, 2005, 08:53 AM
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The rooms at Sukau Rainforest Lodge were very basic, spartan I would say. There are 1 or 2 alternative places, but I don't think the rooms would be much better. You do have a bathroom, with hot water, which in this area would be considered a luxury. There is no electricity or water supply. They use a generator, so you have electricity. If you google, there are some sights where you can see a picture of the room. We are used to 5* hotels, but for this wilderness experience, the trade off was worthwhile. The boat rides were magical, orangutans, proboscis, long tail, short tail
monkeys, birds, snakes, all in their native habitat. The guide who took us out on one ride was excellent, the guide that we were with for most of the trip was not. I would be very specific in booking that you want a very experienced guide. The common areas of the lodge were lovely, large platforms right on the river. Breakfast & lunch were not good, dinner was quite good. A huge plus for Sukau Lodge is a boat ride to the lodge from the jetty in Sandakan. You drive on very bad roads
to the other lodges. If you decide on this, I'll be happy to answer more detailed questions.
twofortheroad is offline  
Jun 24th, 2005, 01:49 AM
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Just found this site. We spent nearly 3 weeks in Sabah alone last year in August and loved it.

We stayed at the Danum Valley and had a great time even though it rained a great deal of the time - you are in the rainforest after all. The guides were great and we did some great walks. If you decide to skip one it is not a problem as you do about 3 a day. Saw lots of snakes, orangatan, birds etc. Get some leech socks though and take good walking boots. Took the most amazing photo of a leech as well. The Sukau lodge was excellent as well but the night trip the first night was a disaster as the guide was in a bad mood and just went like a bat out of hell so you did not see anything. The next night I did not take my camera and we were so close to kingfishers etc. I could have touched them -some you win some you lose! We also went to Sipadan as my husband is a diver however it is now closed but you can go to Mabul. The diving was specatacular by all accounts but I only snorkel however I was the one to see the hammerhead shark! A couple of divers also saw it as they were coming up so I was definitely not dreaming. We saw so many turtles and reef shark you gave up counting them. It was very basic but truly amazing. They do go over for the day from Mabul to Sipidan but the Malaysians closed it down at the end of last year for conservation reasons. Enjoy your trip it is all amazing and do stay at the Tanjang Aru in Kota Kinabalu. We stayed there and the other 5 star hotel in KK beginning with M as we could not get in to the TA on our return. The M hotel was dreadful and we had booked a suite as we could not get any other room and it was filthy when we checked in at 8 p.m.

Have a fabulous trip.
constanttraveller is offline  
Jun 25th, 2005, 10:36 AM
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Thanks for your response, constant. Where did you stay in the Danum Valley? And would you recommend it? How much time would you recommend there?

How were the rooms at the Sukau lodge? And how long did you stay?

I'm still in the processs of putting together an itinerary, so any advice yoiu can give is very helpful.
Kathie is offline  
Jun 25th, 2005, 10:43 AM
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Oops! I just realized that Sukau Lodge is the one described by twofortheroad.
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Jul 6th, 2005, 05:48 AM
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I have found the name of the craft shop in Kuching that I mentioned in an earlier posting. It is the EO Design at 26, Main Bazaar. That's near the farther end of the main street (from the Hilton and several other large hotels, that is). I doubt that I'll ever have the name for the wholesaler of Bario rice and peppercorns, but the shop is a modest storefront about half way to EO Design. ZZ
Zambezi is offline  
Jul 6th, 2005, 06:39 AM
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Many thanks for the info, Zambesi.
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Jul 6th, 2005, 10:55 AM
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Thanks Zambezi, I'll be sure to check out the shop as well, and Kathie, I'll report back to you on it.
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