Trip Start Sep 21, 2007
Trip End Apr 10, 2009

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hey everybody,
The last time I wrote an entry seems like ages ago, although in fact it was just a little over one month ago. However I can understand some of you like more regular updates, but sometimes I am just too busy travelling and enjoying myself... :-)
Anyway, here is the last month's story of my travels.
From Kapit I took the speedboat ferry back to Sibu. The air conditioning in this ferry was turned on at maximum freezing, and freezing was basically the result. It was so cold that after I arrived my camera was all wet from condensation! That was not air conditioning, that was air refrigerating! In Sibu I had to wait a while before I could board another ferry, this time to Kuching, the capital of Sarawak State. This ferry turned out to be way more relaxed as I could sit outside (and get sun burnt...). After almost five hours on this ferry I arrived in Kuching.
Kuching turned out to be a really nice city, especially since all the other cities on Borneo are dull to downright ugly. Kuching has a historic centre consisting of a mix of English colonial buildings and Chinese shophouses. I spent a few days here while applying for a new Chinese visa. The application went 180 degrees different than the application in Manila a few months earlier: there was no queue and there were no difficult questions asked!
Near Kuching I visited an orang utan rehabilitation centre in the Semenggoh Nature Reserve. It is always a nice sightseeing these red hairy forest creatures.
From Kuching I took a night bus on a 13,5 hour bus ride to Niah Junction, from where I took a taxi to Niah National Park. In Niah NP there are a few huge caves, where very old remains have been found of human habitation. It is also a sight for harvesting bird's nests (for export to China for the renowned bird's nest soup). Knowing that these bird's nests are made of the saliva of swiftlets, I have no appetite whatsoever for this Chinese dish. There are also a lot of bats, resulting in a lot of guano, which gives these caves a very distinct smell. This guano is also harvested. Both types of harvesting is limited to certain months, to protect the animals. After wandering a while in these huge caves, I met four nice Malaysian Chinese guys on a short holiday and eventually after the caves they took me all the way to Miri, where I was headed.
From Miri I took a short half hour flight with a Fokker 50 to Mulu National Park - as this is basically the only way (and the cheapest) to get there. Mulu NP is probably the best national park in Malaysian Borneo. It certainly didn't disappoint me! The most stunning feature is the Deer Cave, an enormous cave (think "a big cave" and multiply that by a lot) with the highest ceiling being 120 meter! It is the largest cave passage in the world, truly jaw-dropping! In the evening I was lucky enough to see the exodus of 3 million bats - in a half hour snake-like form. An amazing sight! There were other beautiful caves as well, including the Clearwater Cave, the longest cave passage in Asia. Also in the park is a 480 meter canopy walk, on a rather wobbly walk which truly tested my anxiety of heights.
From Mulu I took a flight to Kota Kinabalu, via Miri. In KK I met the Swiss girl Gabriela and the guy German Max. Every night we ate great and cheap food at the large night market. The next day we took a ferry to the Tunku Abdul Rahman NP, and we went to Sapi Island. The information we had told us that it was a quiet island, but quiet wasn't the scene we saw when we arrived. So we walked on a path over the hills through the forest and discovered our own private beach. Here we swam and snorkelled a little bit. The snorkelling was a little disappointing, because there was quite a lot of litter in the mostly destroyed coral.
Gabriela and Max went to Semporna the day after and I followed them the day after that. In Semporna they did a lot of diving and I joined them one day to go snorkelling. The island we went to was called Sibuan and this little tropical island was picture perfect. The water was very clear as well, so the snorkelling was really good, although also here there was some evidence of dynamite and cyanide fishing which damaged part of the corals. A few seconds after I went snorkelling I encountered a beautiful sea turtle about 3 meters away from me! What a gracious animal! I saw three sea turtles that day, which made the many colourful fish look a little bit less interesting. All the snorkelling resulted in me getting a sunburn on the back of my legs (I did wear a T-shirt - good advice from Max).
From Semporna I took the bus to Sepilok, where I joined the tour to Uncle Tan's Jungle Camp. From Sepilok it took a bus ride and a boat ride to get to the camp near the Kinabatangan river. The camp was mostly flooded, but the structures were still above the river level. I can say a lot about this adventure, but maybe you should check my pictures to agree with me that (for me) it was one of my best experiences this trip! I saw a crocodile, monitor lizards, orang utans, macaques, proboscis monkeys, red and grey leaf monkeys, bearded pigs, a tree snake, many frogs (including the smallest one in the world), lots of spiders, scorpions and other small creatures, eagles, snake birds, amazing hornbills, colourful kingfishers, small lizards, and a lot more... and that in just 2 days! This jungle is teeming with life and I got the chance to see quite a bit of it!
After Uncle Tan's Jungle Camp I took the bus back to KK. The next day I flew to Puerto Puerto Princesa on Palawan, the so-called 'last frontier' of the Philippines. The flight had a four hour delay and when the flight arrived from Puerto Princesa, there was only one passenger (an older lady). On my flight there were ten passengers on the 32-seater airplane. Once we arrived at the small airport at Puerto Princesa, we moved on to the immigration. That is actually a really big word for just one table and 2 officers with some stamps, next to the luggage belt (this was the second flight of this new and first international connection for Puerto Princesa).
The next day I went to Sabang by jeepney, together with a Swiss couple I met before in Semporna and who were also on the plane with me. The last part of this leg was unpaved. Sabang is a small village on the South Chinese Sea and we settled into a cottage near the beach and relaxed a bit after that. In the afternoon we then took a bangka to the Subterranean River, the real sight of Sabang. It is a Unesco protected underground river, supposedly the longest navigable underground river in the world. With a small bangka we only went in for about 2.5 kilometer. There were swiftlets and tiny bats in the cave and we also saw a snake deep in the dark cave.
From Sabang I took the jeepney back to Puerto Princesa the next day and a bus to El Nido the day after that. On the way to El Nido the bus stopped for a lunch break in Taytay, which gave me the opportunity to have a quick look at the Spanish era fortress of Santa Isabela.
The first day in El Nido I just relaxed and the next day I signed up for Tour A. Tour A went to a certain part of the Bacuit Archipelago, an area rather similar to Halong Bay in Vietnam or the area in southern Thailand near Krabi. It is possibly best to see my pictures to have a feeling of this area. I saw caves, lagoons, beaches and I snorkelled a lot - enough to get sun burnt, on my back this time. The next day I took Tour B, which went to another part. Both days I met three French friends from Toulouse: Mustapha, Minh and Thomas. I was the only one which signed up for Tour B, so the bottom fishing trip of the French guys was combined with my tour and as a result, I ended up fishing too and actually caught four fish! Later at lunch we enjoyed these fish, barbecued.
From El Nido, the French guys and me (and a lot of other tourists) took a big bangka to Coron on the island of Busuanga. Although it was an enjoyable trip, it lasted quite long, about 10 hours. But because of the boat being quite slow, I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets in my life and most definitely the reddest.
The next day I didn't do much in Coron, except hanging out with the French. The next day I teamed up with two Spanish guys from Pamplona to hire a bangka for the day to tour the sights around Coron: the Kayangan Lake and more snorkelling and a lot of relaxing. We also practiced our language skills: their English was as good as my Spanish. A sad thing for the Spanish guys was that they both got an e-mail during their one month holiday that they were laid off and would be unemployed when them came back to Spain!
That same night I took a ferry back to Manila, where I stayed another two nights before flying back (from Clark Airport near Angeles) to Macau. In Macau I took a city bus to the Chinese border and within one hour I was in China. The bus from Zhuhai to Guangzhou took much longer than the bus in the opposite direction, so I was a little bit later in Guangzhou than promised. But anyway, my girl was waiting for me at the bus station and it was very good to see her again! We are together again and will be travelling together soon, which is tomorrow.
I am planning to travel with her to Laos and Thailand - if we can arrange a passport for her. Let's hope this process will take not too long! In Bangkok I will let Peony fly back to China and myself will be heading in the direction of home! Although not directly, but my plan is to be back home at the beginning of April 2009! Still a few months away, but time flies when you're having fun! I am telling this now, so later you can't say I didn't warn you! :-D
That's all for now.
Thank you for reading this and I hope you'll get the picture of how much I enjoy travelling!
Everybody take care,
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