Note: Click on pictures that have blue boarders to see a full size image. Use browser “back” button to return to travelogue.
January 9, 2009 Friday (continued)
Layover. When we arrived at the Kota Kinabalu airport, we perused the list of hotels (5 star, 4 star, etc.) and decided to take cab to the city center and get a recommendation from the cab driver for a good hotel at a reasonable price — 90 ringgits. We settled in at the Hotel Full Hua. Only one star, but quite good. No remote control for the TV, but none needed. The hotel was almost full and we got a 4th floor supreme double room with a queen-sized bed (for a short queen and short-sheeted, but comfortable). There’s also a 5th floor undergoing renovation, but that’s another storey. J The Xmas holiday decorations are mostly gone, but the Chinese New Year decorations are starting to appear everywhere.
January 10, 2009 Saturday
Nasi Lappy. It’s a very pretty day in Kota Kinabalu. I hunt for a breakfast place — Soon Fat next door is Chinese buffet. Construction starts early. We get a cab over to KK airport and Clyde tries to talk Air Asia into making some itinerary changes. No luck. While we wait in line for our flight to Sandakan, I notice all the Muslim women who are wearing head scarves. The scarves are for modesty, but I noticed that no two were alike. They were pretty and stylish in different ways. Back in the Philippines the national footwear is easily flip-flops (slippers or sandals). Clyde shopped for a new pair, and there was an endless selection of colors and designs, much more than you’d ever see sold at a beach front.
On the flight, I got lunch of piping hot rice with chicken, all of which slipped off my smooth plastic tray and into my lap ... a meal that went straight to my hips. That was a mess to clean up, so the steward gave me a chicken and cheese sandwich out of sympathy.
In Sandakan, we got a cab to the @Ease Boutique Hotel which Clyde picked out. It is scarcely more than a year old and quite a step up from Hotel Full Hua. Yet it’s also cheaper. It’s elegant, clean, and right on the bay. The bathroom has a single thick frosted glass door that swings out to enclose the bathroom and swings in to enclose the shower. We walked down to the Tiger Harbour Bistro and ordered dinner outside. Some of the customers were young people using the spot as an Internet café while rock music played. A few were tourists. One little cat made the rounds of the tables, looking for scraps. The full moon emerged from the clouds over Sandakan Bay, and the evening breeze felt good. Clyde’s keeping track of our ringgits. Some Malaysians are boycotting US goods to protest U.S. support of Israel as it bombs Gaza, but they have to worry about not banning American Muslim products and services. So it goes.
January 11, 2009 Sunday
Church Guys. We had our complimentary breakfast buffet in the Signature Café. We helped ourselves to Malaysian food, but the chef knowing we were unfamiliar with the set up, felt sorry for us and brought some freshly cooked omelets to our table. We thanked him. Clyde and I took a hike around town afterwards, going through the Sunday market street sale downtown to check out food and merchandise. We also dropped into a music store to pick out some local rock CDs. We decided to hike up to St. Michael’s Church for an Anglican service. We arrived in time, but the 11:15 a.m. service was in Bahasa Malaysian. We were the only westerners in the congregation, but the scriptures and praise songs were displayed on side screens at the front of the sanctuary, so we followed along, singing - sort of liturgical Jabberwocky. We didn’t always know what we were singing, but we knew who we were singing with, and what we were singing about. Communion was simple to follow since we know the Anglican Eucharist almost by heart. Even the Nicean creed sounded familiar in Bahasa Malaysian. The sermon was long, but, since it appeared to be a very evangelical piece on women submitting to men, it’s just as well that it was not in English. We were asked to stand and be recognized as guests and everyone applauded us. The stone church was built back in 1893 and is one of the few structures to survive World War II bombardment.
We then walked back to the @Ease Boutique Hotel and went to the Sepelok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. We arrived in time for the 3:00 p.m. feeding and spent an hour watching seven orangutans and a couple dozen macaque monkeys swing down through the jungle to have milk and bamboo lunch on the platforms. The orangutans brachiate around using all four limbs or just their super-long arms. There are ropes strung nearby to help them. The monkeys approach in no-nonsense single file up the wooden walkway to jump over to the feeding station off the trail. They defer to the much bigger orangutans, but the baby orangutan doesn’t get much consideration from the macaques. A number of scientists think that the shy orangutans are smarter than chimps. In my judgment, chimps play football; orangutans play poker (so to speak). The scientific literature lauds how orangutans use big leaves to keep off the rain. They probably have umbrellas in the bush which they’ve swiped from tourists. That doesn’t look as good on your species intelligence resume, however.
When we got back, we had dinner on Sandakan bay at a traditional Malaysian restaurant. They must have liked us, because they charged us traditional Malaysian prices rather than tourist prices. Their crushed ice fruit drinks were the best.
January 12, 2009 Monday
Deathless and non-tragic. Sabah is “the land below the wind” for avoiding the Philippines’ typhoons, but it still has a rainy season. We’re in the middle of it today, with lightning, thunder last night and rain all day. Well, I paid for a tropical rainy season, and, if we didn’t get any rain, I would have demanded my money back. We spend most of the day around the hotel and have a good time. I did some work online. It’s flooding over in Sarawak province, but it’s not that bad here. We dine again at the traditional Malaysian family eatery. It’s a lot cheaper than the hotel restaurant. They made us up some fried bananas on our request. The paper reported on the recent fiesta in the Philippines was, according to the police, unusually “deathless” and “non-tragic.” I’d like to see that kind of news in the U.S.
January 13, 2009 Tuesday
Survival of the Ugliest. Today, Clyde and I went out to the Sanctuary for Proboscis Monkeys. It was a long road trip. The monkeys’ mangrove preserve is on the edge of a palm oil plantation, set aside by the owners for the sake of the monkeys. We saw an amazing oriental pied hornbill — a sort of black and white toucan, a pretty tame otter following the staff around like a dog, and a pack of silvered leaf monkeys greedy for bamboo shoots.
The male proboscis monkeys have big Joe Camel noses and potbellies, like evolution’s booby prize. Actually, the big nose helps them to handle heat, and the potbellies have multiple compartments for digesting mangrove leaves to extract its many toxins and then regurgitate old digested material as cud which is then more palatable for them. It’s not just for cows. It’s sort of like teaching ancient philosophy. The long-tailed macaque monkeys try to horn in, but the dominant red male proboscis didn’t stand for it. Actually, it’s not just an alpha male show. His harem of females has its own life. We spotted them climbing over a log to seek out their own food across the creek. As soon as they found it, the alpha male rushed over and conspicuously plopped down amongst them. One lone long-tailed macaque left its group and tried to attach itself to the proboscis troupe for lunch, but they clearly didn’t think it had any business dining with them. Like orangutans, the proboscis need plenty of territory to survive, but they’re pretty sociable primates. The orangutans are more solitary and also much more laid back about monkey intruders. The proboscis are real climbers, whereas the bigger orangutans prefer to swing along and swing alone, or with a baby.
Malaysians seem more prosperous than Filipinos, but they also seem to have less disposable income or rather seem less inclined to build super malls where they can dispose of it. Clyde scouted around for some whiskey to treat his throat, and, even in a Muslim country, spotted a bottle in a local grocery store. The alcohol content was questionable, but it helped his throat.
January 14, 2009 Wednesday
Churchy Changes. Today, we fly back to Kota Kinabalu and then on to Kuala Lumpur where we’ll spend the night at the Concorde Inn at the KL airport. The Sandakan Airport terminal is an A-frame with beautiful stain-glass windows at both ends of the terminal. The brief 45 minute flight got us to KK. We brought our bags up to the quieter mezzanine, found some wi-fi, and KFC. We went right to bed when we arrived at the Concorde Inn.
January 15, 2009 Thursday
Warm welcome on a cool morning. We get up early this morning to catch our Air Asia flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. On our early taxi trip to the LLCT airport, we noticed some construction at the terminal. They had a white store mannequin dressed up with an orange safety vest rigged to wave a red flag up and down. That works much better than a fancy amber electronic warning sign.