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After a very successfull adventure in South America in 2001-2002, it is time for another big trip.

Once the travel bug enters the brain, it stays there forever.

Already a year ago I started dreaming about doing a trip to South East Asia.

And as I said last time "You know how these dreams come and are always there, but you never actually start working on realizing them.

Now is the time to do it."

Keep on tripping!

Wim, August 2004

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Malaysia

Malaysia

Last additions:

22/2/2005 Sabah arrival

We are very lucky our first day in Sabah and are able to book everything we would like to do here... read more

04/01/2005 Malaysia

at 4.30am the movement in the bus wakes us up. It is time, we arrived in KL, short name for Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, famous for the Petronas towers, the largest in the world since 9/11...  read more


28/11/2004 Into Malaysia

at 4.30am the movement in the bus wakes us up. It is time, we arrNational Mosqueived in KL, short name for Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, famous for the Petronas towers, the largest in the world since 9/11. The first thing we do is ask around if it is safe enough to wander to the streets to get to on of the guesthouses ? A nice Malay guy, gripping on to his bags tightly says it is. So of we go, and 25 minutes later we get into the tiniest room we had so far, for a mere 30 ringit. 1 Malaysian Ringgit is about 10 Baht, so it is easy for us to calculate her. No thinking about Euros. 
At 9.30 we rise, after a short sleep to recover from the long journey. The 'Le Village' guesthouse is an old colonial building, in which card board partitions make for several 'rooms'. The upstairs rooms are a bit spacier, and we even manage to get one with a window. Our first impression of Malaysia is that it is aHindu temple very friendly country, with lots of cultures and religions living close to each other. It does not look like the unfriendly place some Thailand lovers nag about. There is more a feeling of exploring again, not the queuing tourism of Thailand here.
We wander around, do a free museum, see some historical buildings, and end up meeting Ann again, who left Thailand before we did, but ended up in the village as well. She takes us out to eat Indian , banana leaf plate with rice, some curries and veggie, eaten by hand. Great food for no price ! 

29/11/2004 Kuala Lumpur

Time to get money ! I had my replacement traveler's checks sent to KL. And it is close to the telecom tower. the view from the tower is more spectacular than from the 42nd floor of the Petronas, and off course, you get a great view on the PeWim, Ann, Sofie and the Petronas towerstronas !
After the TC pick up goes smooth. Than off to a shopping mall. Well pick one, the amount of shopping malls in KL is huge. Later we will find out that shopping is the national sport here, every town or city has several malls and there is always a big crowd there. We are looking for some hiking shoes, to go to Teman Negara National park, and to be used later again to climb mount Kinabalu in Borneo. But no luck here, or we can buy the cheaper fake and not good fitting copies, or the real deal, but at European prices... Lets think this one through before buying us expensive and heavy gear, maybe we don't even need it...
Back in the hostel we decide to cancel the Teman Negara park and go work on the internet for publishing Cambodia, damn, I am so much behind...

30/11/2004 Kuala Lumpur

More shopping today, but more fun, in the Midvalley Mega mall. Huge, with inside the a big cinema complex. We buy a ticket for Alexander, big epic, can't be too bad right ? And then we discover that there is a huge carrefour supermarket. We check it out and come back with chocolate, french bread, cheese, and 3 bottles of red wine. The cheese and bread get consumed fairly quickly in front of Burger King, and then off to the movies.
Anyone who has seen it will probably know, this movie is bad. The acting is, the screenplay is, the special effects are, the conversations, just everything. Even Angelina Jolie couldn't make me smile which is quite a bad sign.
But it was a nice day out, Ann is really a fun girl to hang out with. Back in the hotel the girls are tired but I stay up late chatting with Nadia, Josh and Nur and some other people from the hotel, and the wine just tastes perfect !

01/12/2004 to Melaca

we leave in the afternoon to Melaca, due to a lack of sleep and a slight hangover. But it is a short ride and Melaca seems another good place to relax and enjoy food and beers. Ann went ahead today, and we meet her in the atmospheric Discovery cafe, for some expensive beers...

02/12/2004 Melaca

We check out the histoSatay houseric center of this town, which was the biggest trading port in South-East Asia in the 15th century. The town was subsequently taken by the Portuguese, the Dutch and  the English. With a lot of importance the town attracted traders and business form all over, which resulted in a medley of Chinese, Islamic and European culture, with buildings of Peranakan shop houses, Portuguese and dutch architecture, Victorian vestiges, Buddhist, Taoist and Indian temples, and Islamic mosques. After seeing the Dutch Stadhuys, the Portuguese gate, St. Paul's Church and Chinatown, we settle in Capitol Satay. A whole fridge full of satey, wooden sticks with food on it, and a table with boiling peanut and spices sauce , just delicious. 

03-04/12/2004 Melaca

We laze around and explore some of the antique shops in Chinatown. We take the bus to Singapore very early the next morning, sharing a taxi with an old lady to get to the bus station first. I guess here the meaning of sharing is different then ours. ShMelaca viewe thanked us for the ride and took of without paying. Well, we have more than they do, so why bother over one more euro. Once at the immigration office it takes quite a while to get all the stamping done. Long queues of shoppers are on there way to a week-end shopping spree as well. If shopping is the national sport for Malaysians, it is the vain of life for Singapore.
Singapore is not part of Malaysia and has its own strong economy and curreny, the Singapore Dollar, about 0.45 euro, and is therefore also not cheap for tourists. Unless if you want to do some electronics shopping ! We stay in the Cozy Corner Guesthouse, for 18SGD per dorm bed. Luckily the rooms has air con, the showers are heated, and it is a pretty quiet place. 


05-06/12/2004 Singapore

Sofie hasn't got a digital camera and now is the moment to buy one. For 340 euro, she gets the new ixus 40, a very pretty camera, with a 512MB memory card, a spare battery and case and Canon gives her an extra 128MB card for Xmas. Not bad compared to European prices. the Us might be similar now, especially with the strong Euro, but hey, we are not in the US. 

07/12/2004 to Kuching, Malaysian Borneo

We fly with Airasia, for just 109 Ringgit, or 21 euro each, from Johor Bahru to Kuching , the nearest city on Malaysian Borneo. Flying from Johor Bahru, the Malaysian town next to Singapore, is much cheaper than from Singapore itself, a bit like Ryan air in Europe works.
Kuching is a elegant cozy town by the river, capital of Sarawak, one of two Malaysian provinces on Borneo. We check in the to clean and sec B&B Inn. The tourist office here is great, and we immediately book for a night in the superb Bako National Park

08-09/12/2004 Bako national park

Mangrove and rocky headlands, with some clean beaches in bjungle riveretween, backed by 27 square km of 7 different vegetation types, including rain forest ! We arrive early enough to start with a 8 kilometer loop, sending us through sand plateau, where we see lots of pitcher plants, over some rivers and logs, through swampy and muddy paths, and finally a nice plank walk back into the park headquarters. This last part is were it would be possible to spot the proboscis monkey, also called nose monkey or orang Belanda (Dutch man !). So we are very quite, and move so slow that the mosquitoes catch up with us and start biting at ranPitcher plantdom. But no monkeys here. 10 minutes later, between the park HQ buildings, we see some people looking up into the trees. Guess what they see, long nose monkeys... Finally we see them, not really were we expected them but hey. Also grey long tail macaques, silver leaf monkeys, palm squirrels and even a bearded pig steals the show. The evening we spent with Brian (from Holland) and his Kiwi friend Damon, sipping some bears and learning new card games. The next morning we

wake up with a monkey, opening the mosquito window, ready to come in. But Sofie puts on an angry face and runs of to chase the monkey away successfully. As we close the windows and open the curtains, we see a whole bus load of monkeys cruising around. They got lucky next door and while the guests where off for breakfast, the monkeys got there own. Soon all the monkeys are enjoying pringles, dry noodles, biscuits of all kind. When we get back from our breakfast, we see that the bearded pig is cleaning up the leftovers. This is fun to watch !

10-13/12/2004 Kuching

Back in town we check in in the much cozier and fun Borneo B&B. We meet Josh and Nur again, from KL, and have good fun and some nights out at the cinema and bars. Go see the Thai movie shutter if you like suspense ! We tried to arrange a visa for Indonesia here in the local consulate, but after letting us fill in all the forms, we get informed that the consul will not be in ,a nd so no visa can be arranged for us before the 20th. As we want to spend Xmas already in the northern province of Sabah, we'll have to be more lucky in Kota Kinabalu... 
The reason why we spent so much time here in Kuching is because we want to visit an Iban longhouse. The old headhunter tribes still live in long houses, doing traditional weaving, hunting and luckily no more head hunting. But Kuchingthe tour proposed to us gets canceled, late notice, because of flooded rivers. So finally we take of to Kapit, another town from where we could arrange a longhouse visit. Due to high water and currents we take a night bus to Sibu first, from there it is upriver, up the mighty Rejang river, to the small town of Kapit.

14-15/12/2004 Kapit

Last year we read a book of Redmon O'Hanlon, 'to the heart of Borneo'. So we were expecting this part of travel to be hard, as described in the book, but his writing might not have been completely nonfiction I guess, or a lot has changed here lately. The boat trip is quite comfortable. The town looks like any other small city center, with concrete roads and all. We take the best hotel in town, the New Rejang Inn, and immediately got spotted by Joshua, the famous hustler of Kapit. He offers longhouse tours at spectacular prices, and luckily we were warned about that. But this guy is also a bit creepy, he seems to keep following us...

Sofie and me are both a bit tired and have a cold. To much switching between air con and humid hot Borneo. So we don't do much the first 2 days day here.

16/12/2004 Kapit

With some look we have found another possible guide for a visiHeadhunters throphyt to an Iban longhouse. Mr. Philip is a teacher, who's wife grew up in an Iban longhouse. We can visit it for one third of the price that Joshua asks, the same longhouse ! So me, Sofie and our new companion Tony from Australia, do some shopping. You cannot arrive at a longhouse empty handed, you always bring gifts for the chief or in our case for our hosts, who will feed us and give us a place to sleep. So we buy pens and paper for the kids, biscuits and cookies, concentrated orange juice, and some chicken for our evening lunch and evening meal.

17-18/12/2004 Kapit, visit to Iban longhouse

We arrive with Philip, his kids and his old mother at the longhouse, after just 40 mHeadhunters throphyinutes drive over a newly constructed road, which dead ends in front of the longhouse. This was a promise made by some politicians, aiming to get the votes of the longhouse communities in this region. It took them 20 years to fulfill the promise. We cross the river and enter the longhouse veranda. First Philip takes us to his family. Then he goes to talk with the chief to see who is our host family. Traditionally the chief will welcome guests, but as other families get jealous for the income of biscuits and presents that generates, they worked out a rotation system.

We understand from Philip that his very annoying kids will stay there as well. Being kids from the town, they are not very amusing, they are over energetic, noisy and a real pain in the butt. Luckily Tony makes it kind of clear that we don't and will not enjoy there presence,a nd soon Philip takes off, with his kids and we start communication with our guest family.

The man is in his early forties, his wife as old as I am, and they have two little girls in the house as well. We are quite happy that he can speak some English, so it is easy to start getting around. But first the presents are presented to the hosts wife, who than invites the whole longhouse community on the open porch for biscuits and orange juice water. That is the moment where we can give all the kids a pen and paper. I can't really make out if they are happy with it , or would have preferred candy in stead.

Then we are ready to see or do things, so we join our hosts, called William and Sophia (what a coincidence), in gathering vegetables for the fooBeetle nut setd. They use slash and burn technique to clear some forest, grow hill rice, and all kinds of vegetables in between. After this we hang around a bit, until it is time for lunch. The chicken we brought is prepared and tastes delicious ! With lunch also grandma joined. She is very old, and doesn't say much. She doesn't like (or doesn't remember) how to smile. But I have the felling that she does like us. It is difficult to communicate, actually, we can't communicate at all. But as we sit down with her she doesn't mind taking here picture, and just continues chewing her beetle nut !

WIban longhouseilliams wife calls us, and the kids are ready as well. In the woven baskets are some goggles and we take of through upriver over the hills, regularly crossing the same river. It is time for cockle catching. These spiral shaped river snails attach to fallen threes and rocks, easily reached by swimming, if you have a goggle to see them. While William works a small fishing net, the kids gather small river crabs, and Sophia and we collect the snails. This is really big fun actually. And in an hour time we float all the way back down river, collecting half a basket full of snails. I wander what they will taste like though. We finish with washing ourselves at the river, where Sofie learns the little kids to was there face with a special facial soap.

Then we chat with some old ladies, weaving reed mats, and weaving nice colorful fabrics, on the long open porch of the longhouse. Well, there is not much talking, more sitting and smiling, pointing at things. But she doesn't mind and seems to explain funny things to the other lady doing the baskets. Then I hear the word tuak, and know what is coming. Tuak is fermented rice wine, brewed by the Iban themselves. It can vary greatly in strength, depending of the local tastes...

The lady takes a little sip herself, but pours us in a big glass, Cleaning lessonseach. Not to bad, but definitely too strong as a 4'o clock thee break... We have some fun with the kids, playing with a balloon and looking at there faces on the camera screen. Evening dinner is really good, the snails, prepared with garlic are fun to eat, sucking them out, and taste delicious. After tv goes on and they put on a violent dvd movie. Better to sit outside, where grandma sweet red lips continue chewing beetle nut and spitting out he red stained saliva.

The next morning breakfast is leftovers from dinner last day. No snails for me this early though, and after Philip's brother drives us back to Kapit, where we go straight on the boat to Belaga, deeper down the jungle, further upstream the Rejang river.

19/12/2004 Belaga

Last night we had some good drinks with Tony, and a very interesting English couple, Dave and Cath. Long talks about all the place they've been or still wanted to go, the night became rather long. To bad they move on already, but we would meet them again quite unexpected, the last day of the year.

We met wiBelagath Hamdani, a freelance guide, organizing longhouse tours for those who want to. When we meet him he tells us the old mother of a chief has died in one of the longhouses, and as he is also family of them, it would be no problem to go and witness a funeral. We don't really know if we want to do that, and decide to think about it. The town of Belaga itself is not very big, and normally we would fly out of here on Wednesday, connecting in Bintulu to Kota Kinabalu, capital of Sabah, the northern province of Malaysian Borneo. We first check with the Malaysian airline office (rather a desk), but it is closed. The twice a week flight to Bintulu of today, had a delay of 4 hours... Seems we better cancel our Wednesday flight out of Belaga and look for alternative transport.

20/12/2004 Belaga, funeral at Kayan longhouse

WIban longhousee go upriver with Mr. Hamdani for an hour and reach the bank of the river next to a Kayan longhouse. Some guys are preparing the funeral boat, to bring the coffin to the burial place, up on a hill on the other side of the river. We wait and then they bring the coffin, women with a white bandage around there head follow, chanting sad sounds. The boat then makes 3 circles in the river, for the spirit of the river, before reaching the muddy burial hill. As the mother of the chief, she will be buried at the chiefs family private burial hill. The next hour people are standing next to a kind of tomb, some do a small prayer, other or animist believers, some are laughing and smoking a cigarette, others are crying and singing. Everybody of the family helps , to close the tomb with cement, and then back to the longhouse.

There the people have us sit with some older but very funny guys, they are already (or still) drunk soon we are having gin and beer as well. We get to lunch with the mourning family, a tradition with a funeral to invite family and friends and in our case even strangers to the eating table. Then we sit back and the old guy is preparing uFunerals some beetle nut, rolling some chalk based cream on a peace of leave, chopping up some beetle nut to stuff in our mouth with it. The nut itself is quite strong, even a bit spicy, and soon saliva productions goes up, the cheek numbs a bit, and a feeling of first cigarette in a long time comes up. Then the same guy, talking in very funny drunk English, rolls us a cigar in banana leaf. Very strong stuff indeed, and we swallow it all away with some cans of beer. On the wall we see some pictures of important people of Sarawak, a nice drawing of the chief and under that, a postcard with... The King of Belgium ! Some previous tourist brought this postcard as a present and they gave it an honorable place on the wall !

Mr. Hamdani has fallen asleep, after a long night of playing cards, drinking and gambling, in this very same longhouse. The biggest fun comes as we leave though. Other family members are leaving as well, and the only way back to the boat is over some huge, very wet and slippery logs. All the people of the longhouse are waiting for somebody to fall, but it doesn't happen. Until some teenager kids throw in one of the girls he likes, straight in the river. The old lady thats going home can't stop laughing and screaming, than notices us, and tries to put the kids attention to us. Where is our boat, we would like to go now, I don't want to get a wet camera ! Luckily the kids are wise enough and a minute later we can all laugh when old lady herself trips and goes head under in the river. The whole longhouse is cheering and yelling, I almost forgot that this was a funeral we came from.

On the way back the guide stops another longhouse, this one from the Kenyan people. These people look quite similar, long earlobes is common with both men and women. Iban don't do the earlobe thing. Women of the Kayan also have tattooed arms, legs, hands and feet. It looks like they are black, but from close there is a small pattern visible. The Iban men also have tattoos, but they are more small symbols, traditionally needled in buy hand, not machine, on back and chest, some on there legs as well. The old warriors also used to have a neck tattoo, from chest to chin, once that they were proclaimed a good warrior. Which depended on how many head they hunted or blowpipes they emptied on rival tribes.

This last longhouse is very big though, about 600 people live here in what is more like a village than a long house. The kids are happy with the balloon they get as we stroll through the veranda, not clear when you stop being a kid here though.

22/12/2004 To Niah caves

We leave Belaga a day earlier than planned, as we can't trust the flight out of here to be on time. So we take a morning jeep, that bumps over some bad shape muddy logging roads all the way to Bintulu. There we grab a bus to Batu NiahNiah caves, and then a taxi to the headquarters of the Niah cave park. We walk around and reach the big entrance of the main cave. It takes 45 minutes to walk through it to the other exit, which has a connecting path to a cave were they found prehistoric drawings, by the first people who live here about 30000 years ago. Not much to see though, as the drawings are fences of, we can just see that there is some red paint on the wall, but can't figure out any meaning.

Back to the big cave, where some bird nest collectors are starting to work. There are some type of swift lets that make there nest in these caves. Curiously enough these nests are very popular, especially in China to eat as part of the bird nest soup. To collect them, flexible guys climb in long wooden poles to find the nests, mostly after sunset, as the birds return and make it easier to locate nests. We see the activity in front of the cave entrance grows, birds coming back, and thousands of bats leaving for there feeding frenzy.

23/12/2004 To Sabah

LaFokker plane to Sabahst day in Sarawak, and we get back to Bintulu by bus, then to the airport and to Kota Kinabalu, capitol of Sabah. Malaysian Borneo has two provinces, where Sarawak has more independence, and also has its own immigration controls. So before we leave we get exit stamps , end wait for the plain. And who do we see, a passenger from the Belaga-Bintulu flight. There was no delay and the flight was quite pretty, with a twin-propper, all for himself as he was the only passenger...

 

23/12 Sabah arrival

We are very lucky our first day in Sabah and are able to book everything we would like to do here. First of all we can reserve accommodation on the Kinabalu mountain, to climb to the summit on Xmas day. Secondly we find out that we can still dive and stay on the island of Sipadan, which will close its resorts after new years day. Above that the Indonesian consulate here is super friendly and efficient, and in the afternoon we are a 60 day visa richer and 75 US dollar poorer.

24/12 To Kinabalu national park

An early start for a long day. By bemo transport we reach the entrance of Kinabalu national park. The view on the mountain is amazing and we get ready for a steep climb to the base camp. The guide fee is quite big, but we are lucky that we can share it with 7 Jehovah witnesses, some of which are climbing the mountain for the 4th time already. The guide is not really necessary, there is only one path up, and it is not dangerous, but Malaysian parks are good in making money, with climbing permit, guide fee, park entrance... And then you still have to eat.Jungle start in Kinabalu national park

In about 4 hours and 20 minutes me and Sofie reach the main building of the park base camp. It is quite chilly up here, and luckily there is hot chocolate and thee to warm us up. And we also see Maz and Paul again, some nice and funny English folks we had a few drinks and lots of laughs with in Kota Kinabalu. The buffet is tempting but pricey, and we almost decide to rent a sleeping bag, as it really gets cold. But hey, in Belgium we are used sleeping without heating in the bedroom, even in winter. So we can survive a sleep in an unheated mountain hut right ?

25/12 Xmas day

And quite wonderfully we did sleep well, thanks to the extra blankets of the unused beds in our bunk bed room. The rest of the building is already empty, the occupants leaving a very dirty kitchen. But we manage to cook some instant noodles and hear a tap on the door around 3 o'clock (yes, that early). It is our 'guide', must say he looks quite funny, has climbed to the summit over 500 times, and grows hairs out of his ears which gives him a bunny look. Jehovah witnesses already left half an hour earlier and he is waiting for us to go. Not that we need him (we wont see him anymore until we are already descending), but he is responsible for us and so we leave with him, and leave him behind as soon as we start.

The first part to the top is quite a traffic jam, over wooden constructions, through bush and rocks. But one by one we can manage to take over full groups of exhausted people. The trees and bush make place for shear rock. And a cool breeze. Behind us, at sea level we can see Kota Kinabalu wake up, in front of us, rocks and more rocks. A snake of lights emerges from base camp to the top, and by the time we reach the latter, we find out we areHo ho ho descanding Mount Kinabalu the 3rd group of people to arrive, Jehovah witnesses left far behind. We were quite proud on doing the climb, traffic jams included, on 2 hours 15, but then a girl says she needed an hour and a half only, being a marathon runner and all...

Anyway, while we were ascending, the clouds made place for stars, the opposite happens when the sun is about to break through over the mountains. We can just not see it, but the view is still pretty amazing. We are happy to have our fleece and North Face jacket here, it is f*^%&ng freezing up here. 

Merry chilled Xmass to all of you !

Downhill is quite a slow procedure, and we rest for 1 hour in base camp before proceeding to descend all the way. The last part is making our knees bend over and over again, until they feel like elastic and shiver like hell.

We had the great idea of booking a night in the resort of Poring, where they have natural hot springs. But when we and Paul and Maz arrive, it seems to be that this idea was shared by all Malaysian families with annoying fat kids as well. So we end up playing card games, drinking 5 different kinds of beer, and eating instant noodles and chips.

26/12 Back to KK

We get out for a quick splash in the hot tub, which takes about 3 hours to fill one up, so we take one that was already half filled. And than on the bus back to KK, Kota Kinabalu. This city is quite a nice place to hang around. Lots of Chinese restaurants, which means well priced beers. A real party street, Beach Street, with live music form a Filipino band every night. Lots of good food, including Roti Chanai (flat kind of bread eaten with some curry sauce), Indian Bryanni, Chinese soups, and some western options as well. In the Trekkers Lodge we see some news on a heavy earthquake and supposedly some waves making hundreds of victims throughout South Asia. I go online to chat with my family, who are having the yearly Xmass dinner, and who make my mouth water up by showing me the food by webcam. They also heard of the tsunami and we all fear that this is much bigger then primarily projected. We are far away from it, and the people in this part of Malaysia are even having a good laugh, like it is so far from there bed, that they are lucky it didn't happen to themselves, and they find it very spectacular too. The reaction is a bit like of kids. The fact is that this is just another disaster, just something else that inflicts dead, or economic problems, or disease,... People here are used to things, but I am also sure they cannot grasp the scale of something like this disaster. Just as we can't either.

27/12 To Sandakan 

No bus for us to Sandakan, the place we wanted to stop one night on our way to Semporna the jump off point to diving Sipadan. But one bus company says they have 2 seats in the evening bus. When the bus is getting fuller and fuller with Filipinos and there excess luggage, we start getting the picture. Malaysia has done a special 'illegal immigrant' return procedure. If Indonesian, Filipino and others return, they will not be prosecuted. Tomorrow morning is one of the last big ferry boats leaving Sabah before new year. So that is why every bus was fully booked, and ours feel like there is more luggage then people. It takes us several stops and lots of wriggling and pushing before arriving at 4 am in Sandakan.

28/12 All the way to Semporna 

We have the choice to get to the bus terminal and continue to Semporna or go see the Orang Utangs and then continue ? We choose the first and in the bus terminal receive mostly conflicting information about an existing bus, but not driving today ? It gets clear when we find out that this bus, for thiMalysian coloured boat in Sempornas one day of the year, is chartered, not by Filipinos, but by a football team on there way to a soccer match. So we take of in another bus,4 hours later start hitch hiking, and an hour later arrive and check in in the well designed Dragon Inn.

29/12 Diving Mabul

At 8.30 the boat starts, we are on our way to Mabul, the island close to Sipadan, world famous for its drop off. Mabul itself will be the new resort island for divers to stay on. It was decided to give back Sipadan island to nature and the turtles. Diving will still be allowed, though controlled and limited to 80 dives daily, but staying on the island will cease the 1st of January. All buildings will be taken down, and dive shops will move there beds to Mabul. Borneo divers already planned ahead and there bungalows are luxurious and pretty, the buffet food includes Jacobs clams, big shrimps on  the grill, chicken, ... With Brian and Najaf we crack a bottle of wine, wisely acquired on mainland for one fifth of the islands price... Well deserved after our first two dives around Mabul, spotting several lionfish and loads of nudibranches, even frogfish and crocodile fish, hiding in the sand.

30/12 Sipadan drop off

We take the boat with our friends and a big Japanese group to Sipadan for our first 2 dives there. The place is wonderful, we see at least 20 green turtles, 10 white tip reef sharks, schools of about everything, and a nice drift current to Resting at the drop off, Sipadanfloat us the last 10 minutes. We get dropped off at Borneo Divers resort and a sweet girl gives us the full tour. But not much time to wait, we go in for our orientation dive from the drop off ! Sipadan is actually a huge pinnacle, sticking on the bottom 600 meters lower, just reaching above surface to leave a tiny sand beached island (20 minutes to walk around). What is so spectacular about diving with Borneo divers is that the underwater drop off is just 15 meters from the beach. No current and a plain wall of coral and rock to investigate while diving. A turtle cave, where old turtles get lost and die because they are out of air...

After the orientation dive we are allowed to take a fresh tank and dive as much as we want, off course respecting surface intervals.. So the same afternoon we dip in and explore the left side off the wall, and in the evening do our first night dive ever !

31/12 Sylvester 

To bad we can't stay here for new years eve, but I have another dive and walk around the island before the rough sea trip back to Semporna. Sofie has got a cold and her head is about to explode. So not many beers, just half a kilo of crab with cream and butter and then we play cards till midnight, in our hotel room at Dragon Inn. Happy new year dear friends and family !

1/1/2005 

Lazy new year, we still gonna do so much this year, we are allowed to spent the first day doing absolutely nothing useful.

2-3/1/2005 The direct bus to Sandakan is back, so we take it and stay one night, to explore the Orang Utangs the next day. The success of the Orang Utang reFeeding timehabilitation center is huge. We are standing in front of the feeding platform with over 200 people, mainly Malaysian holiday makers. The apes are beautiful and 10 of them show up, some of them drop in quickly and go out fast, others try to get attention, steel the show, and one is very shy. Very pretty, but I wander if so many people, every day, is good for educating apes to live in the wild again...

4-7/1/2005 Back in KK

Back at relax and party, at publishing online. And one day we go out with Eva and Daniel to do some rafting. The guys in the boat are definitely good in making fun, and they nearly succeed twice in flipping us over. Good fun and lots of drinks afterwards. But it is time to leave the country. We already decided to change our planning some weeks ago. Trying to go from Borneo to Sulawesi and down from there is going to be very time consuming and might get expensive and boring. So instead we fly to Kuala Lumpur and then straight down to Bali, Indonesia. Air Asia is so cheap, but that day also had a 3 hour delay. So very late in the evening we fly over Malaysia, not the last time though.

Malaysia is a great country, that surprised us in many positive ways. We didn't learn to speak Bahasa Malaysia, as everybody seems to speak English, the place is modern in most things, old fashioned and dirty toilet wise, has very well maintained national parks, some beautiful nature and old cultures still actively present. All the people we have met were nice, and very helpful, so many different cultures and religions living in peace together, prices are fair, although a bit more expensive then neighbors Thailand and Indonesia. I hope I can come back once, to do the peninsular east coast, and some more national parks !

22/2/2005

Keep on tripping,

tripping.be