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Travel/booking agent in Malaysia for Borneo vacation?

Travel/booking agent in Malaysia for Borneo vacation?

May 20th, 2010, 06:05 PM
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Travel/booking agent in Malaysia for Borneo vacation?

No surprise here, I was booked for my Thailand trip June 19- July 4th and changing gears
in a hurry. Now redirecting to Borneo, same dates. I would like to go to Sabah for the Orangutans and Sarawak (Kuching) for the culture. If I can get in some snorkeling time, that would be great. Honestly, I did all the booking for Thailand online and it was loads of work and research. Even more work in canceling everything. At this point, I'm burnt out on travel planning and would love to find assistance with a reliable booking/travel agent in Malaysia that can put together a trip for me. We like mixing authentic culture and adventure with 4 star hotel breaks in between. Basically, I like to say, we vacation like travelers not tourists. Does anyone have a good suggestion? Also, as I'm rebooking my Cathay Pacific flight, any advice where I should fly into? Singapore, KL or Penang?
debnyc is offline  
May 20th, 2010, 07:28 PM
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Sorry, I can't suggest an agent, I booked everything myself either directly with the hotels or through a booking site like agoda.

I loved Penang and if you want another place to visit, it would be great, but I think you'll use up all of your time in Borneo. Besides, it takes two flights to get from Penang to either KK or Kuching.

For purposes of Borneo, you'll want to fly into either KL or Singapore. KL has somewhat better air connections.
Kathie is offline  
May 21st, 2010, 07:55 PM
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Thanks Kathie,
I'll book my flight into KL. As far as my itinerary and booking agents....I've just spent the evening on Thorn Tree forum. For those interested, it has an extremely robust forum on Borneo. Just reading through the many postings that have been very helpful in terms of where I should go. Now I just have to figure out timing.
In terms of booking agents, not many. People seem to do individualized tours. I was being lazy and hoping one agent could coordinate my flight and timing but that doesn't seem to exist unless it's some prepackaged tour...UG! . I'm doing the legwork. I'll post my itinerary as I figure things out a little better, but basically I'm looking at-
Kuching (longhouse village, Kuching, Bako and Semenggoh)
Sandakan (Kinabatangan, Sepilok possibly, Seligan Island)
(TARP maring park and markets)
a day before and after for arrival and departure

Not sure if there's time for Mulu caves. Any advice with timing and hotels with these interest are enormously welcomed.
I'll keep this updated as Fodors seems short of advice in this area of the world
debnyc is offline  
May 21st, 2010, 08:21 PM
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I also found Thorntree to be a good resource when I was planning my trip, especially the long thread about seeing Orangutans in the wild.

I don't know how much time you have, but remember that it will take time to get from place to place. More time at fewer places is better in general.

Take a look at Malaysian Air's website. You could book all of your flights there. In fact, if you are using Malaysian Air for your international flight, you can often get better prices on the domestic flights. You could also opt to call Malaysian AIr to book.

We stayed at the Hyatt in KK which was ok and at the Hilton in Kuching which was very nice. (But don't go the the Hilton "longhouse!")

BTW, the are several other Borneo trip reports, and Craig, a regular here is researching a Borneo trip for 2011. I know he has researched some hotels.
Kathie is offline  
May 23rd, 2010, 08:17 PM
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Hi Kathie,

The Thorntree post was a good read . I'm really beginning not to like Sepilok from all I've read. But seems like a typical stop along the tourist route that all tours do. Basically, unavoidable.
I would love to do Danum Valley, but, it's a bit out of my price range. After much reading; trip advisor, lonely planet guide book and thorn tree, I found recommended booking agent for Sandakan that has exactly what I want. They provide mid-price range accomodations and excursions.
Abai seems less touristy and it also provides an opportunity to do a bit of volunteer work.
I'm also thinking of stopping at the Gomantong Birdnest Caves and turtle islands.
Gomatong caves seem to have nice reviews, I'm on the fence about turtle islands. (mixed reviews)
Overall I think I have this leg of my trip nailed. 4-5 days in Sandakan and booked thru SItours.
Onto the next part....
I can arrive in Kuching and just book day trips as I go. (longhouse, semenggoh, Bako). I figure give that 4-5 days.
Here's where I'm getting lost....seems like there are no direct flights from Sandakan to Kuching. (which I would like to do). If no flights are going there then I need to fly to KK.
Do I spend 2 days in KK....beach excursions then go onto Kuching?
Also..Mulu seems to be the big thing to do. But after reading the lonely planet guide description of "walking through guano of over 2 million bats", I'm not sure if it's an excursion for me
It also seems like a complicated thing to get to. Did you go there? If so, is it worth the guano?
So to sum things up.
Sandakan- 4 nights ( booked through SItours)
Kuching 4 nights (figure it out when I get there)
3 nights KL (before and end of trip)
In question...do I stay in KK and explore beaches? Go to Mulu? (I'm looking for a 2night 3 day thing)
And what is a good order for my trip Kuching or Sandakan 1st?
Thanks, Kathie. You've been a huge help.
I'd love to see Craig's research. Lonely planet is a fabulous resource but it does skew towards the backpacker, which I'm not.
debnyc is offline  
May 23rd, 2010, 08:27 PM
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BTW...Hilton in Kuching was $70 something dollars on agoda.com. Also had nice reviews on trip advisor. I'll take your advice and stay there. Sounds perfect.
debnyc is offline  
May 24th, 2010, 07:11 AM
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Deb, your planning is really coming along well. I'm glad you found an agent to help.

Logistics in Borneo are complicated. Basically you have to fly through KK to get anywhere in Sabah, and to get to Sarawak from Sabah, you have to fly through KK to Kuching.

There are some nice beaches outside of Kuching (Damai) if you want to visit a beach.

We did not go to Mulu. I think it's one of those things people either think is cool or else they wonder how they go tricked into paying to walk through bat guano. If you think it doesn't appeal to you, it probably doesn't.

I think your idea of going to Sandakan first makes sense. I'd just spend a day in KK on the way in and a day on the way out. Kuching is a charming town, and it's worthwhile to take a few days to wander the city. (The Hilton is in a perfect location, ask fro a room with a view of the river.)

Playing it by ear in Kuching is a good idea. We went to the Danum Valley in hopes of seeing Orangutans, but had as a back-up plan that we could go to Semenggoh if we didn't see Orangs in the wild. As we saw them in the Danum Valley, we didn't go to Semenggoh. If you really want to see a longhouse, an overnight trip is the way to do it. We didn't but would do that the next time. There are lots of small family travel agencies in Kuching who will arrange a longhouse visit for you.

Here's Craig's thread on planning for a Malaysia trip:
Kathie is offline  
May 25th, 2010, 04:28 PM
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Hi there,

Our family of four is traveling from Boston to Sabah in April of 2011. I have just finished finalizing my itinerary and have made initial deposits.

In the end, I put the trip together piece by piece. . . But I had a lot of help from Shirley of SI Tours (they operate lodges on the Kinabatangan). She was amazing, and I'm sure could put something together for you. She is very responsive (if you send her an email tonight, she will respond tonight), and will get you the same prices you could get yourself if you were to contact each lodge on your own.

Her email is: [email protected]

Good luck! I hope you have a great trip! We aren't sure how we can possibly wait 11 more months for our trip, we're so excited!
jrn is offline  
May 25th, 2010, 04:29 PM
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I'm sorry, I should point out . . . Although I "found" Shirley by contacting SI Tours (because I wanted to book at their lodges), my understanding is that she arranges travel all over Borneo and, I think, much of Asia. . .
jrn is offline  
May 26th, 2010, 05:41 PM
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Thanks guys,

You're a huge help. No Mulu caves for me and I'll definitely send Shirley an email.
So here's my itinerary for my 2 week trip (June19-July 3)

July 19 fly to KL
June 20- arrive in KL and spend overnight
June 21- Fly to KL to Sandakan on Malaysia air. Overnight Sandakan. (I figured we'd be pretty jet lagged and better to hang in Sandakan for a day than KL)
June 22-26 Book "tour thru SI tours. They have a 5 day 4 night tour- 1 night in Turtle Island, 1 night in Abai Jungle lodge (with 1 day volunteering at village) 2 nights in Kinabatagan Riverside lodge and then do the usual stop at Gomanton Cave and Sepilok Orangutan Rehab.
June 26- fly from Sandakan to KK. We really like snorkeling and was wondering if we should stay for 2 days to go to the Marine park or just connect thru and go to Kuching.
If so...
June 28- fly to Kuching. Spend 2 days, 1 overnight Longhouse, 1 day Bako..
July 1 or 2- fly to Penang on Malaysia air. Have 1 or 2 days there
July 3- fly back to NYC.

Basically, I'm questioning time in KK for snorkeling. Is it worth it? How touristy is it. Is it too much back and forth from the airport? Also...Should I just fly to Penang on July 2nd (day before) I fly out to NYC or give it an extra day? Is turtle island worth it? Should we cancel that and add the extra day into KK for snorkeling?

I'll also write shirley and see what she has to say.
Thanks again!
debnyc is offline  
May 27th, 2010, 02:16 PM
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I'm definitely not an expert -- we haven't even taken our trip yet! (And I suppose that after a two week trip I still won't be an expert! ;-) But, have you considered doing your snorkeling out on Lankayan Island, since you'll be right there?? I think that they could arrange a night on Turtle Island, then a direct transfer to Lankayan . . . It seems like it would eliminate a lot of travel time. Good luck!

Here is the Lankayan website (it's a "dive resort", but the snorkeling is supposed to be fantastic, too):
jrn is offline  
May 27th, 2010, 02:20 PM
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BTW, we're traveling to Borneo from Boston next year -- nice to meet someone else on the East Coast doing this trip!

Our itinerary (we'll be traveling with two kids -- ages 6 and 8) is:

3 nights KK
3 nights Borneo Rainforest Lodge
3 nights Kinabatangan (SI Tours lodges)
3 nights Lankayan
2 nights sepilok
jrn is offline  
Jun 13th, 2010, 12:50 PM
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So I'm off to Borneo in less than a week for a 2 week jaunt.
After an intense round of research, most of the trip is booked. I can say Lonely Planet seems to be an expert in this area of the world and their forum has been rather helpful.
Another wonderful inspiration was Anthony Bordain's visit to Malaysia. Here's the Part 1 in a 5 part series. It is an inspiration to go.
After watching this, I actually added a day in KL to visit the Batu caves. I also took good notes on what hawker stalls to visit.
Still looking for a tour/guide to the longhouse 3D/2N from Kuching. If anyone can recommend a guide that would be much appreciated. I'm trying to get in contact with Borneo Adventures as they seem to have great reviews on the web. Unfortunately, I am still waiting to hear back from them. Any recos here would be much appreciated.
And BTW Kathie, I'm definitely getting my pepper fix in Kuching
debnyc is offline  
Jun 13th, 2010, 12:53 PM
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One more note...thanks jrn, I booked through SI tours for Kinabatangan. They seem to have great reviews for their lodges and was recommended by LonelyPlanet.
debnyc is offline  
Jun 13th, 2010, 01:24 PM
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Have a wonderful time, Deb. And please do a trip report for us.

You can book a 3 day 2 night longhouse stay once you arrive in Kuching. There are lots of little family-owned agencies that can set this up. Just ask when you get to Kuching.
Kathie is offline  
Jun 13th, 2010, 02:47 PM
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Have a great trip, Deb!! Please post a trip report when you return!!
jrn is offline  
Jun 13th, 2010, 05:18 PM
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I found the rehabilitation centre for orangutans near Kuching (Semenggoh) a lot better than Sepilok. I was a lot closer to the orangutans and there were more of them. I would also recommend SI Tours in Sabah.
silverwool is offline  
Jun 16th, 2010, 05:35 PM
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Hi silverwool,

We have a day and a half in Kuching with no set plans. I was thinking about Bako as a daytrip, but not so sure as it sounds like a lot of long hiking and we might just be pretty jetlagged.
And really, not so sure how high Bako is on the "must see" list.
We'll also be visiting the Nanga Sumpa longhouse 3D/2N wih Borneo adventures. Great reviews all over the web.
Then we're off to Sabah with 2 D/1N in KK before heading to Sandakan.
We booked our jungle lodge and tour through SI tours.
(as per so many good recommendations) We'll be staying at the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge and the Abai Jungle Lodge. We'll also be doing a stop at Sepilok. But to your point, Sepilok doesn't seem to have many good reviews.
Being that we'll be going to Sabah do you still think Semeggoh is worth it?
Do you have any favorite places and things to do in Kuching or KK?
debnyc is offline  
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