I made it out of Thailand alive after my very crazy last night in Bangkok and then after 2 hours sleep, flew to Singapore. I only had one day there and as it was my birthday, decided to have a drink at Raffles to celebrate. The guys there were lovely and when they found out it was my birthday they gave me free food and drink!! The waiters were fab. Some Australian guy came and invited himself to have a drink with me at one point and all the waiters were giving him evils, like, whats he doing with our girl, it was quite funny. So my quick afternoon Singapore Sling turned into another party and I ended up staying until gone 11…with a flight to catch the following morning with check-in at 7 or something.
Borneo has been pretty hard to get around as an independent traveller. Its fine if you come in a tour and have the money to spare (one tour I looked at quoted me 1500 ringgits, over 200 quid. I did it alone for 500 ringgits, under 100 quid!!) but not for me. I met a lot of backpackers, actually its been the easiest place so far to group together with other people and see things, go out, stay together. I think we all know we are in the same boat. For a start, buses never come or you have to wait forever for one. There are no direct routes to interesting places. I even – dare I tell you all – thumbed a ride – but needs are a must. Additionally, for females, there is the constant harassment by the local men. Generally, Sabahians are nice people, but the guys really wear you down. On every corner you hear “hello, you are beautiful girl”. GRRRRR! Some girls I met said they were hissed at quite regularly too. Borneo is tough-going. Did I say that already? But rewarding…
Everyone knows about Mount Kinabalu and almost everyone I met climbed it and although I set out with the plan to do it, the 9km trek uphill in Thailand left me mentally exhausted. I dont think Kinabalu is even that long? Had I not climbed mountains there with the risk of being eaten by giant red ants and long-limbed spiders every time I slipped, as well as running out of water in the heat I would have done it. But I’ve had enough of big steep things.
Anyways, my main goal in Borneo and in fact my world trip was to see orang-utans! There is an orangutan sanctuary here, Sepilok, the largest in the world but you are not allowed to touch them cos they catch our diseases and stuff. I did go visit and it was cool anyway. One monkey wandered onto the walkway and I got up close but the ranger told her off when she started to grab peoples hands and she ran off. I had heard about a tame orang-utan called Jackie who lived in the jungle and came down to the Poring Hot Springs for food every day (thanks Ruth!!), so I set off to find her… She was taken care of by the people at Poring and then released into the wild, but still comes back. I arrived at Poring not happy as I got thrown off a bus (it was going the wrong way even though I was told it was going my way) and had to hail down someone to take me the rest of the way or risk getting eaten by the birds as I waited for a local bus that would never come. I got there and headed straight for the jungle. I was so desperate to see Jackie I didnt think about getting someone to come with me or a guide or something, so I wandered in. It got darker and more humid as I went in. I stood still at one point and leaves fell down around me and I heard lots of noises. I didnt really think about what I would do if leeches fell on me or a snake jumped out in front of me, which is pretty stupid. So I made my way out again! As I came back to the world, I saw a man and told him I was looking for Jackie. Turns out he feeds her! He told me to hang around in the afternoon and she would come out of the jungle herself.
So later on I sat patiently at the foot of the hill leading to the jungle. A couple of girls came by and said they were looking for Jackie too! They had read about her in Lonely Planet, so maybe it was not such a secret after all. And then two Japanese guys wandered by saying they had simply asked locals where they could see monkeys. So just 5 of us sat down for about 2 hours in the sun eating melted chocolate waiting for the monkey. It sounds stupid doesnt it? A group of Macaque monkeys came by and just as they were taking our attention away, we saw a fuzzy ginger thing bounding down the hill!! It was her. She came all the way down, let herself in under a fence and headed straight for the rangers quarters. We followed her and she saw us and just looked at us. Then a ranger came out and gave her some milk and some rice. It was soooo cool. We touched her. Her hair was coarse and her hands felt human. Im so glad hardly anyone knows about her. You have to fight the crowds at Sepilok to get a good photo. It was worth waiting for Jackie. We played with her for nearly 2 hours before we started realising that getting back to town was becoming a priority.
I also went to Turtle Island and watched baby turtles being hatched and then we helped them go back to the sea, they’re sooo cute. And visited the little islands surrounded by coral reef. Very pretty. Have wandered into a couple of other jungles..I’m just glad that I’ve been on my anti-malarials although they did make me ill for a bit, and all my jabs have been done. You see some funky little insects. Spiders have not been toooo bad. I escaped the leeches too hehehe!
My hostel was great, the people I met were great. I hung out with 2 Swedish girls when I got here and they moved on and then I met some Aussies and a French guy on a long-distance bus so we stayed together, that was cool. I just wish I had more time here, it’s great.
Australia next, cant believe Im going there! Thanks for the emails, will try to reply in the next century….