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FromDC Jan 4th, 2014 05:40 AM

Updated Borneo itinerary and starting Japan planning
Because of (limited) availability at Borneo Rainforest Lodge, we had to switch some things around from our earlier draft itinerary. I have a couple of days to fiddle with and would be happy to have comments:

Day 1: Arrive SIN just after midnight, get a few hours sleep at airport hotel then take 9am flight to Kota Kinabalu. Probably stay at Le Meridien
Day 2; KK
Day 3: early morning (7am ish) flight to Sandakan, then transfer to jetty for trip to Turtle Island
Day 4: Transfer to Bilit Rainforest Lodge
Day 5:Bilit RL
Day 6-8: Transfer to BRL, stay 3 nights
Day 9: late afternoon flights from Lahad Datu to Kuching via KK
Days 10-13: Kuching

I feel like 4 full days (5 nights) in Kuching is sufficient for everything I want to do there, including day trips. On Day 15, we have an 8:55pm flight to Tokyo from KUL. I gave up the idea of going to the Cameron Highlands, so here is the dilemma. I’m not particularly interested in spending 2 days in K/L. We were there 5 years ago and did a couple of days of sightseeing and I feel like I’ve really done everything I want to do there (Petronas Towers, Bird Park, Butterfly Park) except perhaps a food tour of Chinatown. I’m not sure there is enough time on either Day 14 or Day 15 for a trip to Malacca (I think I’d be pretty nervous about spending the day there when we have the flight out that night). Any suggestions about filling those days? I really hate to “waste” them just passing time waiting for the next flight but I can’t seem to fill them (no to Batu caves, DH doesn’t do caves).

There is an alternative and I would welcome comments: Day 15 we fly overnight via BKK to NRT and arrive around 8am and we have 4 days in Tokyo. One possibility is changing our flight from KUL to NRT on Day 14 (there are still FF seats available, I checked, the change fee would come out of our AMEX annual airline credit). That would give us an extra day in Japan so I would feel comfortable doing an overnight to Hakone or somewhere else (I don’t want to do an overnight outside Tokyo with only 4 days). I haven’t begun the Japan planning yet other than to read all your wonderful trip reports!

Comments, suggestions welcome. Thanks everyone.

FromDC Jan 4th, 2014 05:42 AM

I tried to tag this with both Malaysia and Japan but alas, my tech skills are pretty poor

Kathie Jan 4th, 2014 06:19 AM

I'm wondering if you can add a day somewhere in Malaysian Borneo, so you end up arriving in KL the day before your flight to Japan. You could add to KK and do a day trip to Kinabalu Park, for instance. But the idea of changing your flight so you have another day in Japan sounds even better.

mareeS55 Jan 4th, 2014 07:27 AM

FromDC, re Sandakan: Go to the Death March memorial park, and meet people who preserve history. No need to be bored with the Cameron Highlands, this tale of wartime abomination will set you wondering about where and why you travel.

You can also see orangutans, they hang around there if that's your thing. Also in Sabah and Malaysian/Indonesian Borneo, have a wander around the stilt villages. Lots of unseen impoverished Asia in those places, people living in shacks over swamps. Good photos to be had for the folks back home in the next travel piece.

I used to photograph and write about this stuff for a living, but I don't any more because it can convey a taint to one's soul when people use travel as a form of birdwatching.


FromDC Jan 4th, 2014 08:41 AM

Maree, we won't be spending time in Sandakan as we will be dropped off in Lahad Datu after the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. I'm hoping that we will see orangs during a day trip while we are in Kuching. If you have specific suggestions about stilt villages that are accessible from KK or Kuching, please let me know.

Kathie, I guess I wasn't very clear in the itin above (using Day 1, etc is harder to follow than being specific about the date). As it stands now (without yet having made internal flight reservations), we have 4 full days in Kuching (Sunday-Wed). We would fly to K/L on Thursday (time totally open) and fly to Japan on Friday night at 9pm. I just can't figure out a way to fill in that time in K/L. I have three alternatives that I can think of ( I guess there is a 4th if we add a day in KK before flying to Kuching but we will have spend 2 days in KK already so I'm not sure I want to go back. I remember you weren't impressed with the park after having been at BRL).

1)fly to KUL in the morning on Thursday and go straight to Malacca (not sure how to do this most easily from the airport - - do taxis do this?). Spend the night in Malacca, then go back to KUL straight to the airport in late afternoon on Friday (not wild about one nighters but I think this might be OK)
2) fly to KUL on Thursday and just hang around, do a Chinatown food tour but I can't think of much else - - unless I get some suggestions from folks, this is probably the least preferred option because I feel like I would be wasting two days
3) Go to Japan a day early, this would give us Friday (arrive at NRT 8am) through Wednesday so I feel like I could squeeze in an overnight trip.

Kathie Jan 4th, 2014 08:51 AM

Ok, if I understand correctly...

You might spend a night in KK between Lahad Datu and Kuching. When we were there, there was no way to get from Lahad Datu to Kuching in one day. Initially, I thought it was going to be wasted time, but we went to a local spa in KK which felt great after all the time in the rainforest. We also enjoyed browsing Borneo Books, a wonderful bookstore owned by a local woman and her English naturalist husband. (He helped decide where to build BRL)

You certainly could take a taxi from KUL to Malacca and do an overnight there. I think that is enough time to see Malacca. I agree with you about one-night stays, but this one might be ok.

Going to Japan a day early isn't a bad idea, as a day trip outside of Tokyo can be a welcome respite from the city.

FromDC Jan 4th, 2014 09:38 AM

Kathie, We are able to make a connection from Lahad Datu to Kuching in one day, getting to Kuching around 9pm. But thanks for the input about Malacca - - I think the top two options are Malacca or an extra day in Japan.

The problem is that I would like to make the decision while there is still seat availability but I haven't done any planning at all for Japan yet so I am not sure how/when to fit in an overnight and how tiring/how much of a hassle it would be to do an overnight in Hakone. I'd love to hear thoughts about this: If we take an extra day in Japan we would arrive at NRT at around 8am on Friday after flying all night (we'll get some sleep in Business Class) and leave Wednesday morning. If we keep our current reservations, we will arrive on Saturday morning and spend the 4 days only in Tokyo. PS if we do an overnight in Hakone, I would like to stay at a nice ryokan. When I was in Japan 35 years ago, the highlight of the trip for me was the ryokan in Kyoto. Any suggestions about that? It might tip the scales.

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