Langkawi to Penang

Day 36, Wednesday 01 Feb 2012, Langkawi – Penang.

The day started much the same as the last two did, got up when I felt like it, just before nine and went to the restaurant and ate like a pig for forty minutes! More fruit today though. Spent a couple of hours in the lobby using the wifi and booked myself flights to Puerto Princesca on the Philippine island of Palawan for the tenth of February. I am flying from Singapore and going via Manila.  I screwed up slightly and forgot I needed to allow time to get from Melaka to Singapore, so I have cancelled a nights accommodation in Melaka and will leave there a day early now.

The ferry to Penang was not until two thirty so I dragged out my departure from the resort until five minutes before checkout then got  a cab to the ferry terminal in Kuah arriving there at one.

Damnit ! The two thirty ferry was full, so I had to get a ticket for the five fifteen, this meant a few extra hours at the Jetty with not a heck of a lot to do and too far in the sun and heat to walk a long way to town. I walked around the jetty area for a bit and then slobbed in Starbucks and used free wi-fi for a couple of hours. Langkawi means reddish brown eagle.

Yes I was bored, so here is a bridge.

The ferry was very full, every seat taken, so luckily the three hour ride to Georgetown on the island of Pelang was smooth ! We even got to go out on deck for a week bit. Inside the ferry it was absolutely freezing cold, I had my jacket on but my feet and legs were like ice by the time we arrived just after eight pm. I was originally planning on getting to Georgetown in daylight so I could more easily find my hotel without resorting to a taxi, but decided to give the walk a go anyway.

Penang’s location has made it one of the oldest trading ports in the area and has been heavily populated Chinese and Indian immigrants. Georgetown is the oldest of the English settlements in SE Asia. A part of Georgetown is now a world heritage park area and has apparently been well preserved, I walked through a section of it on the way to the Georgetown Hotel, my lodgings for two nights.  I am looking forward to exploring the town tomorrow.

The hotel is a wee bit further away than I would have liked and took me a good thirty minutes to find it, though surprisingly it was fairly easy, even in the dark. The room is ok, small, but clean and tidy, paper thin walls though!  I have never seen this before, everything in the room is for sale !

Frustratingly the wi-fi only works in the lobby, which they are decorating at the moment, so perched on the edge of a couch while they wallpaper around me.

I went for a stroll back towards town and had dinner at the Red Garden food court, along with a thousand other people !

In Malaysia, Vegetarian basically means no red meat, so chicken and fish are in vege meals.

Love this vege fish head mee toon

Ah, Luxury!

Day 33, Sunday 29 Jan 2012, KL and Langkawi

I was up at 6.00 after another bad night, in future I think I will stay in smaller sized dorm rooms if I have a choice, especially in these towns where there is a tendency for other travellers to stay out drinking all night. As I had no idea how long it would take for me to get from the hostel in Chinatown to the airport I wanted to leave nice and early rather than miss the flight. Yesterday I had taken the step of checking with the airport bus company as to what time they start running on a Sunday morning and what frequency they ran, so for a change, I was informed !

Even at 6.30 on a Sunday morning there were a lot of people scurrying around Chinatown, on the way to whatever business they had, no drunks though. There was a nice sense of peace around and it felt perfectly safe to stroll the streets. Near the station I came across a couple asleep – side by side, on their backs on the footpath next to their motorbike, they were sleeping with their helmets on. Must have gotten tired and just decided to sleep, it was quite bizarre.

The trip to the airport was quick, cheap and painless and I was easily there on time. For a welcome change I had my first McDonalds breakfast since I have been away, muffin and hash browns, just like at home! The flight to Langkawi was an hour long  and the plane was full and I was crammed into a middle seat with no leg room, next time I will pay Air Asia the extra two bucks and select an aisle seat so I am not so damn squashed in.

The Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort is at the lower end of the price range and is one of the older resorts on Langkawi, it is huge and my room is 476 paces away from the main area, at least I will get some exercise to balance all the eating I plan on doing! The reviews I had read online said things are expensive in the resort and they charge for everything as well, seems to be a true, a meal package of lunch and dinner with one drink was 129rm. I walked the 15 minutes to the main strip and had lunch for 6.50. People also commented on the place being tired and worn and I will disagree with that one, my room is great, especially after the 10 bed dorm! It is big and airy and has hot water and I do not have to share my loo with anyone else, and real sheets with big fluffy pillows, ahhhh luxury.

I took picture this as soon as I walked in the door, 5 minutes later it looked like my daughter, Meliesha had been living there – clothes and crap everywhere, it was very unlike me, but oh so nice to spread out.

I took a walk along the beach and had lunch at an Indian place in town and then headed back for a look around and a lie down, I really must try and spend the time I have here relaxing, I am not planning on seeing any of the sites of Langkawi, just the beach, the pool, the bar (where free wifi is) and local the cafes. I need a good couple of days to refuel with some good food and rehydrate as I have not been drinking enough water, those plus some good sleep time and I should be ready for another few weeks of travel.

The beach at the resort is very nice, lots of coconut palms and white sand. Sadly the skies are grey and not crystal blue.

Next to the resort is a small river that is the home to a number of small fishing boats. If I get a cloudless day there will be some great photos here.

After a snooze I wandered back into town to the local laundry and handed over all the clothes I had with the exception of what I was wearing. I also picked up some washing powder so I can wash what I am wearing when I get my clothes back, I also bought some really cheap beer – Langkawi is a duty free island. I had a very nice Thai chicken and cashew dinner and went back to the resort to use the internet. I had a good couple of hours on the web and four glasses of chilled Chilean red wine. Sooooooooooo nice to have a wine again, though not ‘cheap’, same as NZ bar prices so I coped 🙂  What I did not count on was the 10% service charge when I got the bill at the end of the night.

I think I am the only single person in the resort !

Some post-rock awesomeness from the now sadly defunct Aussie group, Laura – and no, it is not all melancholy ! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9mfxf0mOnU

Leech cures and Petronas at night

Day 32, Saturday 28 Jan 2012, Kuala Lumpur, part two

Just sitting in the lobby of my resort in Langkawi, accessing the free wifi and supping my first (second, third, fourth) red in over a month. Wine – how I have missed thee ! Ok it is a chilled Chilean, but it is still red and still wine.  More on Langkiwi tomorrow, this post is all about yesterday.

OK, I am going to say I loved Batu Caves, a great mix of history, culture and monkeys, definitely something you cannot see outside of Asia, so a great morning was had.  As I was leaving the weather packed in and it started to drizzle, I made a hurried walk to the station and missed the train by about 10 seconds. Luckily this is not Auckland so the next train arrived early and left on time, also unlike Auckland it had a chicks only carriage, or maybe there are just no ladies in Auckland, so there is no need for them 🙂

I got the train back to the old Kuala Lumpur train station and walked back towards Merdaka square, which was hosting a celebration of some sorts, not too sure what for, but there was a weird mix of dragon dancers, this awesomely loud car, playing appalling Chinese dance music.

And a Malay pipe band !

From Merdaka Square I wandered around little India for a while, which was pumping with lunch time crowds. I had one of these, a very thin waffle filled with crushed peanuts and sugar, very nice.

I loved these irons ! Awesome, I was sorely tempted to buy one.

After lunch of veges and rice i headed back to the hostel for a rest and got a phone call from an old friend from my London days in the eighties. Trefor had just taken a job in Kuala Lumpur and we arranged to catch up in the evening. I was planning on heading back to Petronas Towers to try for the night shot I missed last night, conveniently Trefor is now working for Petronas and has an office on the 19th floor and lives close by.

The late afternoon saw a massive downpour hit KL, possibly the heaviest rain I have seen and I was watching my night shoot disappearing down the drain.  Like all good downpours it was relatively short lived and I managed to sneak out just after 6.00. The sun obviously sets a lot later in KL than it does in Borneo as I had a longer wait at the towers than I anticipated, I took a listless half hearted walk around the mall and a very average chicken rendang for dinner – I should have asked for more chilli (what is becoming of me, more chilli !!!).  After dinner I headed out to the back of the mall area and set up the tripod and camera to await the dark. I took a lot of photos !

I then moved around to the front for a couple more. Did I say how awesomely well set out for photography this place is – OK I know I did but it really was worth mentioning again !

I was wrapping up my photo taking when I got a call from Trefor to say he had arrived at the towers.  At a very loud Irish bar in the tower mall complex, that appeared to be full of very loud expats, we caught up on a few years of each others lives over a lager or two. . I had an enjoyable couple of hours and it was good to catch up, Trefor works in the oil industry in project roles and has worked in some interesting places. When I am back in KL in a few days I am going to stay at his place, which is just awesome. As I had to be up early to find my way to the airport I left just before 11 and had a reasonably quick ride back to the hostel on the train.

I had just settled down in my bunk when there was a series of loud explosions outside, I lay there for a bit wondering what the hell was going on and finally decided to get up a for a look see, there was a massive midnight fireworks display, sadly there was a bloody great tower block between me and it so I only got to see the periphery. Damn it ! no idea what it was for and disappointed the hostel didn’t mention it to guests as it appears to have been a BIG deal, lots of big fireworks over a ten minute period.

I got back to bed and listened to some one snore for 6 hours – and no, earplugs did not work !

Play loud  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2D7uZ0LK9Y&feature=related

Batu Caves

Day 32, Saturday 28 Jan 2012, Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves

This could be my first two post day, if anything happens this afternoon it will definitely be, crikey it is all happening! I went to Batu Caves this morning and it is worth its own post, also because I am spending the afternoon  in the hostel until I go back to Petronas Towers for another crack at a night shot, weather dependant of course.

Interesting night in the ten person mixed dorm, there are nine beds with packs on them and by 11pm only two of us were in bed, I suspected it was going to be a long night, having said that, I kinda slept OK. Last person came in at 5.30 am and first people up at 5.45… I was talking to young English guys this morning, they said they were leaving KL after seven days as it was costing too much to drink. They had been to Petronas Towers and Chinatown, thats it – seven days worth of site seeing– and the hostel is in Chinat That made me feel all adventurous, as I had been further than that!

Batu Caves is a 15km train ride from thje local station and is one of KL’s key attractions. The fare was 80c and the train went all the way there, yay for KL !

The caves are the most import Hindu shrine outside of India and are dedicated to Lord Murugan. The site also has a 42metre high golden coloured statue of the lord, the temple cave is accessed via a 272 step staircase which must be ascended by devotees heading to the temple, many with their offerings.

I arrived there fairly early and missed the worst of the tourist rush, which was great. The site is also famous for its macaque monkeys, and as a poor Indian women learnt – it is advisable to not carry any food or drink…

Blessing before the climb.

Macaque peeling an orange.Lord Murugan and the famous 272 steps.

The climb.

I was looking back up stairs when I heard a woman shreak, as I turned round this monkey was undoing the screw top on this bottle of milk it had stolen from her. Milk is one of the key offerings made and is in the containers the women are carrying on their heads. The macaque didnt drink it from the bottle, just poured it on the ground.The cave temple and a shrine.

The view to KL

The site is also where the Thaipasum festival parade ends, I was talking to one of the devotees at the top of the stairs and he said in the day of the festival there will be 1.5million people there.  I imagine the trains will be packed…

I really enjoyed Batu Caves !

Homer reincarnated?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batu_Caves

Apologies, some of these images are a soft, will have to give the camera a clean as I am not sure if the auto-focus is picking up some dirt on the lens.

1 month of travel completed !

Day 31, Friday 27 Jan 2012, Kuala Lumpur

Well if you read my last, brief, post you will know that my first completed month on the road was not a day I will remember fondly. I had a lousy sleep as the hostel is internally not very soundproof, so people noise all night long kept me awake. I will stay the next two nights in the dorm and see how it goes and then decide if I come back here when I come back for Thaipusam in Feb, this hostel is very close to the start of the procession to Batu Caves so is a good spot for it. I am going to check the caves out tomorrow if the rain stops as they will be a few hundred thousand people there during the festival.

Anyways, back to the story, good breakfast and coffees and then started getting ready to hit the streets when I discovered that most of my US cash and some Malaysian money had been stolen from my money belt that was locked in a hostel locker, probably about 500NZD worth. I wasn’t angry, the hostel were unhappy about it, realistically they cannot do anything about it. I was pretty gutted, I had had a good day yesterday and was getting into a groove with being in KL on my own but now I was just feeling alone and lonely, with no one to share my disappointment with. The sun was out as I trudged out the door and went for a walk around the area, old train station and another building that I had no idea what it was but I did like these steps !

I then caught the monorail to the Bukit Bintang shopping area.

They had a good display of friendship buddy bears, there was no NZ one, this was as close as I got to my heritage 🙂

And Moldova was my favourite.

I spent a couple of listless hours wandering the shops, very uninspired, and then headed back to the hostel. Had a great chat with my oldest son, Dom on the phone and a Skype chat with a friend and was back into it ! I have decided (and booked) to take a couple of days out and fly to Langkawi in the north east of Malaysia and hang out in a resort by the beach and recharge. I was going to do it in the next couple of weeks but needed it now, it wasn’t cheap, but certainly nowhere near the price of the expensive resorts.  I will then come back to KL via Penang.

I then headed out for a planned visit to the Petronas Towers, I intended to spend some time looking around the outside, go into the big mall inside and have dinner then get a couple of night shots in.  I was absolutely blown away by the towers, they are stunning to look at, fourth tallest buildings in the world and they look so metallic, hard to describe, but I really liked them. What has also been done well is the front of the towers is clear of trees and buildings which allows easy access to take photos, so unusual and very well done !

I managed to snap a couple of shots before the heavens opened so I went inside for a couple of hours and came out just before dark. Still raining !!!!

So I left and went back to the hostel.

Sepilok – Orangutan town.

Day 29, Wednesday 25 Jan 2012, Sepilok

I took half a pill last night as I had had a couple of bad nights in Semporna, trying to sleep on the bed of rocks and was subsequently very tired. I had a good eight hours sleep and after a warm (but pathetic) shower I was feeling much perkier. I have a small sweat rash which developed a few days ago and was fine while diving but it has gotten worse again on the bus trip to Sepilok, I will have to take some care over the next few days. (is this too much info ?)

I had an omelette and loads of coffee for my included breakfast then headed over to the Seplilok Orangutan Research Centre, (SORC). The reason I stayed at the resort is due to its location next door to SORC and I can go to both feeding sessions on the one day entry – which, I will say, was four times the price of Semmengoh, near Kuching – Sepilok is a rip off !   As an aside in no way does the resort resemble what I would call a resort, I would post a picture of my room, but will save the photo upload time for more important things ! so if you think I am staying in the lap of luxury, think again.

I got to SORC just as 5 buses dumped their load of mainly bewildered, mainly elderly and mainly European tourists off. Bugger ! The walk to the feeding area was long and slow and I will say for captain impatient here, very painful, as the oldies staggered their way along the slippery boardwalk. However I did get an OK spot to take photos and now know where to go for better photo opportunities at thr afternoon session.

We saw two female orang-utans with their babies which was pretty cool, they came to the station one at a time and fed themselves. One of them also fed her baby. I took a lot of photos, most of which were rubbish, but a few keepers ! It is hard to shoot with a long lens at slow speeds in a crowd !

 

 

Once the orang-utans had left the feed station was invaded by a troop of monkeys who amused the reducing crowd with their antics, great fun.

After an hour I wandered back to the entrance, grabbed a shot of a nice sized spider and a tree viper (not its head) sitting in a tree.

 

As I left this little guy popped up for a wee snack.

I went back to my room for a lie down and to wait for the three pm feeding, which I will go to early to secure a better spot!

Just as I was about to head off at two for the feeding the heavens opened ! with umbrella in hand I walked over anyway and secured a reasonable spot, much nearer to the platform. There were significantly less people this afternoon which was great as the orang-utans didn’t really play ball to start with and hid away from my perfect possie. The rain stopped for a brief minute as the first two came out and then started again for the remainder of my time there. It is quite hard to take photos while
holding an umbrella, the light was pretty bad so lots of noise in the afternoon shots. The two orang-utans from this morning were back again this afternoon along with a young male. They were a lot less active this afternoon and I am putting it down to the rain. Just before I left I knocked my glasses from my pocket over the edge and had to get one of the guides to go down and get them , Doh !

As in humans, the young male was impatient for his food…

I had to skip lunch today as I am running out of cash. Last night I was told the fare to the airport is 18rm, but….. I was told this morning there is a two person minimum and as I am the only one it will be 36rm – I call rort, AGAIN !

After my dissatisfaction I still ended up drinking three beers, eating a plate of chips and then a calamari curry and having to use the credit card. But at least I got to use heaps of free wi-fi, it doesn’t work in my hovel room.

 

Diving Semporna, day 1

Day 26, Sunday 22 Jan 2012, Semporna

 I am going to start by saying today was pretty awesome !

Very warm dorm room in Semporna,  but I slept OK,  I must be getting the hang of hostel living. Up at 7.00 for what must be one of the better hostel “free” breakfasts, as well as the normal fruit and toast we had boiled eggs, yum. Bread in Borneo – and I am kinda guessing all SE Asia, is white and has as much body as a size zero super model. Unlike NZ, you cannot have a meal based around toast…

The Scuba Junkies shop was full of keen divers and snorkelers when we arrived at 7.45, along with the shop guys, the group going out Sibuan Island had three snorkelers, three dive trainees and Jay and I. It was a 45 minute fast boat to the island and it was beautiful, if the day had been sunny and still you would have said a tropical paradise ! The island is inhabited by twenty families of sea gypsies and they pretty much ignored us when we wandered about between dives taking photos. Our boat

The island is quite narrow.

Soon after we arrived a number of other tour operators turned, including this Malay group,  I was surprised the muslim women swam in their clothes and headdress, I guess it is obvious when you think about it, but it must be dangerous !

From what the dive guys said the sea gypsies are primarily of Philippine origin, but have been in local waters for a long time. As they are not Malay they are not allowed to set foot on the mainland so mainly live on stilt houses off shore. About 10 years ago they were allowed to live on some of the small islands and apply for citizenship, so there are a number of families living on the smaller islands.

We did three dives, all on different reefs around the island, one from shore (left shoulder) and two from the boat (Froggies Blvd) and Hawksbill Highway) . The dives were all around fifty minutes and each dive had a slightly different seascape, therefore some variation in sea life. The highlight was the second dive where we saw two turtles up close and quite a large sea snake swimming in the other direction. Seeing turtles swimming was pretty damn cool ! Along with some pretty awesome coral and a few moray eels, we saw an abundance of fish – too many to remember all the varieties we saw, but at least a tropical fish shop worth. We had a Malay dive master with us and he could spot fish and other life amazingly well, far better than the English guy we would have tomorrow.

We dived till about 3.30 and then had a quick ride back to town for a beer or two and a bit of story telling. Saw this awesome bit of transport on the way back.

I went for an late afternoon walk and saw this guy frantically paddling while sucking down a ciggie. I am (not really) amazed at how many people smoke, ciggies are cheap, 20 for NZD$4 and the majority of men and a lot of boys smoke constantly.

The water is foul here, I cannot believe they swim in it, there is a lot of garbage plus all the garbage. I heard that when they built the fixed jetty here, they started at low tide and then carried on. The boys are sitting on top of it at high tide !

Great day, night not so good, the mattress is made from two pieces of shaved paper I think. I can feel every slat.

Kota Kinabalu

Day 24, Friday 20 January 2012, Kota Kinabalu

I had an ok sleep, for the first time in a few nights the room was quite, no snorers and no squeaky beds. It seems Lucy is quite a grump ! and the ‘free’ breakfast is restricted to 1 cup of instant coffee, 2 bananas and 4 slices of toast. While I don’t normally eat 4 slices of toast I do like more than 1 cup of coffee of a morning ! Also discovered wifi is not available till 8.00 am and the showers are not only cold (not unusual, and i can live with it), but they are just not nice showers. The hostel has the potential to be awesome, I like the decor, but frankly she is a bit bitchy ! Plus it was full of some very unsociable northern Europeans ! J and I got our money back and moved out.

We ended up down the road at the Akinabalu youth hostel which was also recommended to me by Lizzie and Dave, should had listened to them in the first place, Akinabalu is waaaaaaay better. Much nicer atmosphere and i hadn’t even walked in the door when I ran into my first kiwi since I left home, chat city in this place, so different to Lucy!

J and I have decided we are going to head down to Semporna tomorrow on a 9 hour bus ride and try and get some diving in.

I am so glad we moved out of Lucys, while I liked the physical space, the atmosphere was just all wrong and after the relaxed and comfortable feel to the hostel in Miri I was having some doubts as to whether I could carry on if this was a ‘typical’ hostel environment. I am not sure what I am expecting from hostels, I guess a lot of people travelling are not travelling to meet people and share experiences, but I need those experiences to guide me on my travels as real information is hard to get. Anyway…….

Spent a fairly unproductive day in Kota Kinabalu, J and I went for a walk around town for a while and then settled for a hugely expensive (by local standards) Italian restaurant for lunch – lasagne, ice cream, chocolate – pig out for $20. Much needed respite from noodles and rice, and for me, meat that was not chicken and fish. KK was pretty much totally destroyed by the Allies (twice) and the Japanese during the war so it is quite a modern town and i guess lacking in some sort of character that has made things interesting in Borneo. It has the same highlights as other towns, like markets and boats, but very little to make it stand out. It is a fish town though

The Atkinson Tower from 1905 is one of the few strutures to survive the allied bombing during WWII.

I went back to the hostel for a lie down and an enjoyable Skype session with a friend in Auckland. I have decided that after Borneo in a couple of weeks time I am going to take some time out on a beach for a few days and recharge – take a holiday from holidaying.

With little else to do  I wandered down to the night market in the  very early evening, got soaked in a downpour and went back to the hostel to internet and suck down a whisky or two. 

Not too many, up at 6.00 tomorrow for the bus trip !

Tonights post is bought to your courtesy of Grants Whisky and Therapy? from the awesomely good 1994 album Troublegum, Nowhere. Somedays this is how I feel.

Brunei – Sabah, a day of travel

Day 23, Thursday 19 January 2012, Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei) / Pulau Labuan / Kota Kinabalu (Sabah, Malaysia)

Woke at 3.30 am to the loud, proud and constant snoring of the third person in our four bed bunk room, surprisingly up until that point I had slept OK. We were up at 6.00 a quick, cold shower in the rather dodgy bathroom and then a walk down to the bus station to find a bus to the ferry terminal to get the 8.45 ferry to Pulau Lubuan, which is a Malaysian island. From there we get another ferry to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, which is our final destination for the day.  It appears we missed the express bus, though it was a bit hard to tell as no timetables were in existence ! We decided to get one of the local buses for the princely sum of $1 for the 25km journey (Eat that Auckland Council !) The bus took 50 minutes to get to Maura , where we were directed to get on another bus that went to the ferry terminal, this bus was possibly the slowest in SE Asia and seemed to take every possible back street in Mauru. We were getting a bit tense as it was now 8.30 and we had no idea of the immigration and ticketing process at the ferry. If we missed this one then we may not make the final ferry from Pulau Labuan and be stuck there for the night, which doesn’t sound appealing !  Once we made it to the terminal it turned out our taxi driver was wrong and the ferry was at 9.15, whew !!

The ferry was a standard small car ferry, similar to the one that travels to Waiheke, unlike the sleek speed machines I caught in Sarawak.  Before we started  the staff put an Islamic prayer on the DVD, hopefully that was not a sign of the state of the vessel ! we had a quite and uneventful hour fifteen trip across to Pulau Labuan in Sabah, Malaysia.

J – my French travel buddy for a few days.

Sea Gypsies

We had a two hour wait until the ferry to Kota Kinabalu (KK) so had lunch and a walk around the shopping area. The island of Pulau Labuan is entirely duty free so I could not help myself and bought a 500m bottle of Grants whisky for about $ 8NZD. There was a great range of single malts and ridiculously low prices, but seeing as I had little space and was not planning on carting booze around I went for the smallest bottle I could find.

The ferry to KK left at 1 oclock for the 3 hour trip and was one of the sleek racing machines where you had to stay in the cabin. The movie that was played was Titanic 2 !!!! Inspirational stuff…

Another uneventful (thank goodness) ferry ride, a boring run as the windows were too high to see out of without really straining the neck so I just put the head phones on and completed three days of blog entries till the battery expired in my laptop.

We arrived in KK at 4.15 and thanks to the Canadians I met at Mulu, had a map of the town and could find our chosen hostel, Lucy’s Homestay where we checked in to a dorm for two nights. First impressions? KK looks nice, cleanest place I have been to in Malaysia…

Mooched around the hostel for a couple of hours then went out looking for some food. We wandered the night market for an hour so, definitely the biggest market I have been to so far, lots of pairs of $10 Nike and Adidas running shoes –  this is the first experience of knock off on a reasonable scale.

We found a seafood hawker market down by the wharves and selected a fish for dinner, which was BBQ’d and served with rice and vege. Extremely fresh – very nice.

Had my first child beggar experience at dinner, that it was a very half hearted effort, a young girl walking past tables with her hand out. Sad.

Yay – 3 weeks done, shopping time!

Day 21, Tuesday 17 January 2012 – Miri

Today I have been travelling for my minimum time of 3 weeks !

When I arrived back in town I planned on spending one night in Miri and then heading to Brunei, however I heard yesterday that the pre-festival to Chinese NY starts tonight in Miri with Lion and Dragon dancing etc so I decided to stay another night, I also wanted to do some shopping and send some stuff home.

After finding the day pack that came with the back pack was useless for anything but a short day out I decided to buy another day bag, especially one with the capability to carry 1.5 litre water bottles on the outside. Yesterday I also discovered that light weight tan shorts show sweat really really badly – luckily I wore my grey ones up the pinnacles or the others may have thought I was really scared on the climb ! so I wanted to get a couple of pairs of shorts as well.  I managed to get everything in a local department store that was having its CNY sales – bargain ! As you may see in some later photos the shorts are not normal Phil shorts and will clash badly with some of my shirts, travelling is so good.

Now I had a new large day bag I decided to also ditch the messenger bag I had been using for day to day so I chucked a pair of (not so clean) shorts, my really smelly macpac daybag, my nice headphones (too large) into the messenger bag,  wrapped it in brown paper from the hostel and posted it all too mum !  Cost – $12…  Mum – can you please wash the shorts and the day bag ?

I spent the afternoon, literally chilling in the airconned hostel, drank gallons of water to get my hydration back up to a reasonable level and caught up on some emails and facebook. I also spent a frustrating couple of hours trying to decipher information from  Lonely Planet plus various internet forums and web sites to try and organise some diving in Sabah and then plan the next week around it. I pretty much got nowhere, but did fire off a couple of emails to some dive places.  I have decided to wait until I get to Kota Kinabalu (KK) and see if I can get info from other travellers. I want to dive at Sipidan, which is one of the worlds top dive sites. It is controlled by the Malaysian Government and only 120 people can dive there a day. All the dive operators have an allocation of heads and can therefore charge what they like. Most will only allow a Sipidan dive if it is wrapped up in a multi day package deal that includes dives at other sites. This suits me Ok, I just don’t want to have to pay $1700 NZD for the privilege, which was the first quote I got back, though this was from a resort, so at the higher end.

My French friend, J came back from a day trip and we decided to go check out the festival opening and get some food in the market. The market was bustling and full of the normal Chinese tat (toys, shoes, plastic crap) as well as tons of food. We had noodles and chicken and I had a bright purple yam drink, which must have contained a kilo of sugar.

Purple yam drink, it may have been the ice !

Snake oil salesman…

yum

The festival was very crowded, lots of small people singing horrendously to piped music, very testing on the ears, after using his French-English phrase book, J described it as shrill – very apt. The lion and dragon dances were great, we had a good spot for the lion dance, but very hard to photograph, we were too far away for the dragon.  Sorry photos a bit wobbly….

As we started to walk back I had sudden urge to take a VERY fast walk back to the hostel with a very unhappy bowel – just made it, and felt fine after, whew !