Thursday, 14 August 2008

A lot o' chips now

Where was I? Oh yes, We were about to head towards the jungle. We did, in a minibus with a few other people from Italy and the UK. They were a nice bunch. We arrived at our destination where another coach was offloading its passengers, including a family who looked SO annoying. Father: paunch, sunglasses, brand spanking new walking boots (still smelling of cardboard from the box they had been removed I'd wager), and worst of all a Manchester United cap. Kids: spoilt kind including Ali G wannabe son. We got over from the place where we were dropped to the lodge proper across the river by boat. The trip there was unremarkable for the fact that the landscape was mainly scarred with the orderly monoculture of palm plantations, some on what I assume was freshly cleared native forest. The road was tarmac half the way, then half-metalled the rest, so a very rough and dusty ride. Thank god for air conditioning

We got to the lodge then our room and set off on a boat cruise to see wildlife. We did pretty good. We saw lots of monkeys (macaques and proboscis), various birds including a few hornbills. Best of all though, at the end we saw a herd of wild elephants which was magical.

The elephants as seen from our boat!

That evening we set off on a night walk through the forest near the lodge and again saw various birds and insects, but also a Western tarsier (see below. {EDIT} this is now my own picture!) which we were told is pretty rare. It is one of the absolutely cutest things I have ever seen. There wasn't much in night life after that though, so we played cards and had a beer

A Western Tarsier

Next morning was a stupidly early one as we were to have a dawn cruise. We set off at 6. Well, it was actually 6:30 by the time we set off, but that was because people were late. We saw more monkeys, a big eagle and a python coiled up in the crook of a tree branch. There was breakfast, then a trip out to an oxbow lake which was through the forest. And another evening cruise later which went on way too long and we were in the last boat back, with it pitch black when we had returned. We had got to know the family a bit more by now and though the kids were fairly uninterested, and spoilt they were OK in truth. The father though really was something of an arrogant prig (that's being polite). The horror, the horror...

We were bussed back to Sandakan the next day for an impromptu stop in this shabby fishing port. Nothing much to write home about, so I won't. The highlight was Agnes Keith's house up a hill which was a taste of old colonial Malaysia from the mid 20th Century., and had an English tea shop which was amazing, and it did make a tranquil place to watch over the city below. Until we were literally inundated by a massive rainstorm. We were under cover so stayed dry. The croquet lawn was more of a croquet swamp by the time it had finished though.

It did make me think I was born in the wrong era and should have been part of Agnes Keith's generation. Colonial Borneo, tea on the lawn, gin and tonics to stave off malaria, and more local staff in the house than you can shake a stick at. No you wouldn't shake a stick at them, because you would have a man to do all your stick shaking.

We headed back to the airport then to KK again for two nights in the same hotel as previous. This time we had no window whatsoever, so it was like being in prison, but with poorly finished decor in the style of some crappy DIY programme. We discovered more about KK and really started to get to like the town as we uncovered more of its character. The restaurants (fish head curry is to die for!), the shopping centres (not like the ones at home which are a clone of the one in the next town, or the next town, or the next county), and the evening fruit and food market on the front that we hadn't seen previously.

Then we transferred to a posh hotel where I'm writing this. Beautiful, plush, with amazing pools, fantastic views (yes, we have a window over the golf course), and trips to nearby islands which we did today. This time it was a different island to the previous one. It was no less idyllic and had good snorkelling.

Tonight it's hopefully going to be live seafood again, and a few drinks in KK.

Next stop Manila, tomorrow.

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