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Life according to noddytravel
china, laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Solomon islands, mauritious, Indonesia, usa
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Published 3:34 am, 22 Nov 2014
KOTA KINABALU, SAPI ISLAND AND BACK TO THAILAND
A couple more bus rides later and I was back at the High Street Inn, Kota Kinabalu, as I had accidentally left some shirts there, plus it was easy just to stay at the same place again now that I knew my way around. I spent 1 day out on Sapi Island, a beautiful little spot just off the coast, 1 of a handful out from KK, you can either visit them all or simply choose one you like and stay there. Ferries leave from Jesselton Point regularly and cost 23 myr for 1 island, plus an extra 10 if you want mask & snorkel. Once on Sapi there are places to eat and drink, toilets and plenty of shade. On arrival there was a school of fish, as big as a bus, right underneath the pier.
I went with Chloe, a Canadian who had been on the Kinabatangan trip with me, and we had a few afternoon beers and a swim. She was keen for sunbathing so I hiked around the island, not seeing a person the whole way around.
The heat and hills made it a fairly hard hike and I was well relieved to drag my sweat drenched, aching body, back around the last bend to civilization, a hard earned cold beer was high on the agenda!
Sapi Island lays claim to having the 'longest island to island zipline in the world', which is most likely true as it's possibly the ONLY one in the world!
I was keen to go, merely for the 'bragging rights' involved in taking the longest island to island.....bla bla, but it in no way looked fast or dangerous enough to warrant shelling out 50 myr for!
Late in the afternoon we made our way back to KK for food and drinks by the rooftop pool at the Hotel Grandis, complete with amazing sunset views. It really is the place to be on sunset, with great food & drinks at reasonable prices, and the pool is an added bonus.
The next morning it was back on the plane on my way to Thailand, with a stopover in KL. I have been here nearly 7 weeks now and have many new adventures to post, just have to remember to have some quiet days now and again on the computer!
Some other fantastic places to eat & drink in KK-
El Centro - has a quiz night on Wednesdays, we ended up winning free drinks, plus their pizza's are awesome.
View from Hotel Grandis rooftop
Published 4:31 am, 12 Nov 2014
LAMBIR HILLS NATIONAL PARK, SANDAKAN & THE KINABATANGAN RIVER
On the way back from Niah we told our driver to stop at Lambir Hills National Park, which sits right on the bus route back into Miri, about 30-40 minutes outside of town. I fell asleep and when I woke we both realized that our driver hadn’t stopped at Lambir and I’m pretty certain he wasn’t going to turn around!! Bugger! After arriving back in Miri, I very nearly got on the next bus back out to Lambir but decided against it and had another night in town and made the trip the next day. My camera crapped out on me that day, so no pictures, but it is a beautiful park with many trails, pools and waterfalls to visit, definitely an overnight stay kinda place. The perfect scenario being what we had tried to do, 1 night at Niah and then stop for a night at Lambir on the way back. If you are really pushed for time it can be done as a day trip out of Miri. It was then time to decide on how to get to Kota Kinabalu, with the bus taking you through Brunei twice, meaning 8 border in-outs to get through??!! That did not sound in anyway fun and I opted for the easy and cheap way of flying up. If I had of decided earlier my ticket would have only been $13 au, but at short notice cost me around $50. Kota Kinabalu was another place I really loved (as usual!) a great little seaside city that was also ‘just about the right size’. Many islands to explore nearby and a busy enough metropolitan feel with all the modern necessities that westerner’s seem to crave so much! I stayed at High Street Inn for around $23 au per night. FINALLY, I could rent a scooter here!! I did some exploring by bike for a couple of days around the area and checked out the town, another place I could seriously live in. There are plenty of other travel options to the east of here for diving but that will have to wait for another trip, as I said, Borneo is just such a vast island to travel around, apparently the 3rd largest in the world? Now it was time to head to Sandakan by bus for a brief night’s stay before starting a tour of the Kinabatangan River for 2 nights. Not much to report from Sandakan, was just a night’s sleep at Hotel City View ($21 au) after another 7-8 hour bus journey, though there seems to be quite a few attractions around the place, simply more things for me to check out when I return! A mini bus picked me, and a handful of other traveler’s, up the next morning just near my hotel and drove us out to our jungle lodge, the journey taking around 2-3 hours. The group chatted on the way there and soon we arrived at our very own jungle hideaway paradise. Nature Lodge Kinabatangan was absolutely amazing, we stayed in basic, yet comfortable dorms and smaller rooms, though private’s are available, right on the river’s edge surrounded by jungle. It was one of the most scenic, tranquil places I have been, with a feeling of stepping into a completely lost world. After a quick briefing we were away on our first river tour, heading upstream to view the naturally beautiful landscape and search for wildlife. Plenty of monkey’s along the way, with the Proboscis being the draw card, found only on the island of Borneo. We were to have 2 nights and 3 days here, with 2 afternoon river cruises and 2 morning ones and plenty of other activities in between. The staff were great and the food spectacular, the kind of place on your travels that you will never forget. If we weren’t cruising the Kinabatangan River, we were night walking in the jungle to spot all sorts of creatures or daytime hiking to the oxbow lake, the name given for it’s shape, and learning about the different plant uses along the way.
There were 3 meals a day included in the price, with beer available to purchase also, my trip costing me around 420 myr (roughly $180 au) and was totally worth it.
We saw crocodiles, Proboscis and various other monkeys, wild pigs, monitor lizards right in camp, sleeping kingfisher’s, tarsier’s, civet cat’s (responsible for the gourmet coffee brewed from extracted beans from it’s faeces!), hornbills and various other birds.
I met great people and had one of the most memorable experiences to date. Do check out the Kinabatangan River and don’t hesitate to stay with the fantastic people at Nature Lodge.
Kingfisher and butterfly
Leaping from tree to tree
Published 3:29 am, 6 Nov 2014
SIBU, MIRI, NIAH CAVES AND LAMBIR NATIONAL PARK After the kayaking expedition down the Semadang River, I organized an overnight, possible 2 night trip out to Bako National Park. The park is not far out of Kuching and requires a simple bus journey and quick boat ride to access it. Accommodation is simple, cheap and must be booked in advance in Kuching itself at the National Park Booking Office at the corner of Jalan Carpenter and Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg. Although I had booked and paid $5 for a dorm room at Bako, I woke up that morning and decided to keep moving north and jumped a bus to Sibu. This cost 50 myr and took around 7-8 hours, never believe the time they tell you the bus journey will take ANYWHERE in Malaysia!! A great site for bus schedules, prices and almost everything Malaysian travel related If I had planned it earlier, you can actually take a river ferry from Kuching to Sibu, which I think would have been awesome, but you live and learn, I see myself back in Borneo in the future anyway. After arriving so late the first night, I decided to stay 2 nights here to check out the town, not much to report really, though as always, great food. Some quotes from wikitravel... sounds like my kinda place!! Though in all honesty, it didn't seem so bad. " Unofficially, Sibu has been coined the 'Wild West' of Malaysia and the term has existed for more than 20 years. The nickname came about due to the nature of 'lawlessness' and frequent triad activities in Sibu" "Bars and pubs, often occupied by the regular patrons. Take caution of shady characters. Do not stare back when looked at." "Travelers should take note that gossip is an endemic problem in Sibu. It can be difficult to escape unwanted and intrusive attention but keeping a low profile can help to reduce the extent of this problem. There are many shady characters in Sibu, whom one must avoid at all costs. Gangsterism is a problem in Sibu; most of the gangs are probably connected with some of the numerous timber barons in the town" I honestly can't remember where I stayed in Sibu, but it was soon time to catch another bus further north to Miri, 50 myr again and at least another 8-9 hours. As with most of Malaysia, the bus terminal is right on the out skirts of town and will require a taxi late at night or a local bus to get you into the town proper. In Miri I am booked in at Venice Inn Hotel for around $20au a night, which turns out to be just fine, I like the location and end up staying for almost a week. The number one choice for eating and drinking for foreigners and locals alike, seems to be the Ming Cafe. Boasting a great location, menu, ambience, drinks list and attentative staff, it became my evening hangout where I could hook up to their free wifi, watch football (via laptop) and meet all sorts of people. Unfortunately, as per usual, scooter rental in Miri was also non existent and I tend to feel trapped not having my own transportation and being limited to the bus routes. An overnight trip out to Niah Caves and National Park was on the agenda and is fairly easily reached, a local bus will take you to the main terminal where you jump on a south bound coach back towards Bintulu. Tell the driver you want to go to Niah Caves and he will drop you at a small junction near the town of Batu Niah (that has some really amazing food in one of those typically Asian bus-stop food halls, don't be shy to try the delicious buffet style spreads here). A taxi from here will cost you 30 myr straight to the park headquarters where you can organize accommodation fairly cheaply. There was another foreign girl waiting at the junction so I quickly assumed she was heading to Niah and soon we were teamed up ready to explore the caves and share costs. Sarah and I hit the trekking trails straight away, you have to cross a little river first which will cost you 1 myr and has a boatman waiting all day to ferry you back and forth. Once on the other side of the river it is a beautiful walk through the jungle, though most of the way is man made trails. Once you reach the caves there are once again wooden boardwalks and stairs to guide you through, I recommend bringing a face mask of some sort, the stench from the bird and bat shit can be fairly overpowering. We explored the cave then waited at the entrance for nearly an hour, hoping to catch a glimpse of the 'changing of the guard', where you can witness the 2 black clouds of birds and bats crossing the sky, the birds heading home and the bats going out to hunt. No such luck today though and we found ourselves walking back through the trails in the dark, the sounds of the jungle buzzing around us and the beautiful sight of fireflies all around made for a great walk. I had never seen fireflies before. Oh and I missed stepping on a decent sized snake by mere centimeters as he crossed the path in front of us, be aware that you really are in the jungle here. The park accommodation was very simple and so was the food, but they both served their purpose and the place is well worth a visit. Our plan was to stop at Lambir Hills National park on the way back to Miri and do an overnighter there also.
Still very few photos of Borneo..
Published 5:09 am, 30 Oct 2014
KAYAKING THE SEMADANG RIVER
One of the side trips I did out of Kuching was kayaking the Semadang River, an amazing day out in the jungle wilderness only an hour out of the city.
Although a little expensive compared to what I normally like to spend, this was totally worth it and should not be missed if you like outdoor adventure amongst some seriously beautiful scenery. Whether you have kayaked before or not, anyone can handle the casual pace and it really was an incredible day out.
Semadang Kayak will pick you up from your hotel and drop you on the banks of the river an hour or so later to start your paddle. We stopped at a mini waterfall for a quick swim before continuing on to a tiny village where a delicious local lunch awaits.
After lunch, we take a tour of the village, where they have an enormous array of plants and herbs that are still used for medicinal and obviously culinary purposes. Then it is back on the water to finish out the day's paddle.
We saw various wildlife and reptiles along the way and the whole journey takes you through some stunning natural scenery, with a feeling of being totally lost in the Borneo jungle.
A couple of helicopters fly overhead during the day, a reminder of how remote some of these villages and national parks are, the chopper sometimes the only form of transport in or out.
After arriving at another tiny village that signals the end of our trip, our guide burns a copy of all the day's pictures to CD for you to take home.
It was 188 myr for the whole package (around $65 au) but there was only me, one other customer and our guide for the whole day, the Borneo jungle all to ourselves. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Lunch at the village
Coffee beans drying out
I'm no stranger to mango plantations, but this was a 2 kg monster, I have never seen mangoes like it
Published 5:01 am, 27 Oct 2014
PANGKOR ISLAND - KUALA LUMPUR - KUCHING, BORNEO
After our very relaxing time on Pangkor, it is back to hectic bus and ferry schedules which sees us go north to Butterworth to see Noi off on the overnight train back to Thailand and then I head south again to KL for a few hours sleep before flying out the next morning to Kuching, Borneo.
Noi, being Thai, is only issued a 30 day visa for Malaysia and has to head back anyway to look after her mushroom farm.
Now I’m going to rush through the Borneo section to try and get caught up, plus I really feel that I didn’t get anywhere near as much out of my time there as I could or should have. I really underestimated the size of the place and the distances to travel, especially at the slow pace the buses seemed to run at.
I stayed at Hotel Westree in Kuala Lumpur, a bit pricey at $30 au, but a fantastic location with great cheap food a 3 minute walk away and KL Sentral station just across the road, the whole reason for staying there, where i caught the fast train to the airport the next morning. After landing in Borneo I was booked to stay in Kuching at Premium Stay Hostel, a nice enough, very large room with a super friendly and helpful owner, I would definitely recommend the place, though I had to move after a couple of days as they were booked out. This turned out quite OK as the new place was much better value and a really nice room at a great price, under $20 au, the Grand Supreme Hotel. The location was away from the town center, though had plenty of local nightlife and eating options right on the doorstep, plus it only took me about 20 minutes to walk in to town.
Kuching is an amazing little city, for me just the right size and I could seriously see myself living there. There is a great riverside promenade in Kuching that is a beautiful spot for a stroll in the evening as it comes alive with food, lights, art, music and people.
The whole city is a great mix of old and new, with all the infrastructure needed for the modern urban dweller, while retaining a small town feel and some seriously friendly people.
Speakeazy was a great little friendly bar/cafe and the staff were amazing. Definitely a place to check out in Kuching on Jalan Carpenter, which has a 'Chinatown' feel to the street and is home to many western and local oriented bars and restaurants.
I spent almost a week in Kuching just exploring the city and meeting new people, becoming good friends with one guy in particular, Johnny, a local business owner and keen photographer.
We still keep in touch and he may visit in Australia next year to do some photography in my hometown after looking at some of my pictures from home. He even took me to some model shoot party where we all got to practice our skills and I met a great group of locals.
There seems to be a lot of English speakers in Malaysia and plenty of wealthy people, more so than the other parts of SE Asia I had visited.
I really didn't take many photos in Borneo...
The Riverside looks so much nicer at night