Beachin’ in Borneo

Pictures are of the Kota Kinabalu night market where I had delicious bbq tuna steak and of the sunset I saw while camping at a small offshore island. Next blog post will have cooler photos. And I’ll try to upload more to facebook too.

After parting ways with Niki at the KL airport, I hopped on my flight to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the province Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo. My flight arrived around midnight and I was the only white person on my flight and the only white person in the airport. After over 5 weeks in Indonesia where I’d be automatically ushered to where I wanted to be by a commission-seeking local, I was completely ignored at the KK airport. Perhaps for most people, this would be a welcomed reprieve, but it just made me miss Indonesia. Of all the traveling I’ve done, I’ve come to realize that I really and truly absolutely adore developing countries. I much prefer the style of travel that they offer than more developed nations. Anyway, I hopped into my $15 cab, where I had to orderly queue in line and was dropped at my hostel. I have to pay for 1 night what I paid for my last 5 nights in Bali.

So, Borneo. I had expected untamed jungle, indigenous people, undiscovered off-shore islands, like Palau Tiga, where the first Survivor was filmed. Well, I was a bit surprised when I landed in Kota Kinabalu and discovered that it is a very developed city, the people are quite refined and the wealth of the local people is fairly apparent. KK isn’t too far from Brunei, where the world’s wealthiest man (until Bill Gates usurped him) lives. The wealth in this region is due to natural resources – offshore oil drilling and palm oil plantations. Borneo in general has a massive deforestation problem – the entire island (and mind you, this is the world’s 4th largest island) is on track to be 98% deforested by 2022. The natural jungle is cut down for rattan furniture and is replaced by rows upon rows of palm trees. As I’m sure you all remember from your science class days, any form of mono-cropping isn’t good for the environment and it’s particularly sad as Borneo is arguably one of the few places on earth with such biodiversity and many, many rare species. And gosh, just where will future episodes of Planet Earth be filmed?

Anyway, I’m digressing. As a result of it’s natural resources, this island is actually much wealthier than I anticipated and as a result, it has all the bells and whistles that a developed nation has. I wanted to climb Mt. Kinabalu straight away – which at 4,095m is Southeast Asia’s highest mountain (the highest mountain between the Himalayas and Papua New Guinea), but there’s a multi-day Climbathon going on, in which racers climb up the mountain in record times. So, I had to push my climb back a few days.

In the meantime, I decided to go camping on an off-shore island with Joanne, an Irish girl I’ve met and Sam, a 19 year old Canadian guy that tagged along. Joanne and I camped for 2 nights and Sam for only 1. The first Survivor was filmed just a few kilometers away from the island that we stayed on, which was pretty exciting. The sand was superfine and very comfortable for sleeping. We lounged, read, swam, snorkeled and ate way too many noodles and bread and peanut butter. It was nice having a bonfire on the beach – looking one direction was the vast South China Sea and a few islands in the distance, yet looking the other way were the bright city lights of Kota Kinabalu.

After 2 days of camping, Joanne and I headed to Mt. Kinabalu. We stayed in a 12-bed dorm that absolutely reeks of BO – and is the most I’ve paid for accommodation this entire trip – $10, including breakfast. As it turns out, everyone in our dorm, except us, is doing the climbathon. And, unbeknownst to us, we could’ve signed up for the climbathon and paid only $35, which let’s just say is a lot less than what we’re paying. But, we didn’t find that out until too late unfortunately. I don’t know how keen I’d be on running up the mountain. Next post I write, I’ll give an update on how the climb went.

Oh, and in other news, Niki just bought a ticket to India and will be joining me on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal! Woohoo! I’ll be doing that trek with Dean (my boss from Cushman and Wakefield), my sister and now Niki. At this point, I just can’t wait to get to India and Nepal!

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