For those of you don’t know too much about Malaysia, it’s split into two parts, like New Zealand or Michigan. But instead of having two islands, or two peninsulas, Malaysia has one of each. Sabah is the name of the part of Malaysia that lies in the northern half of the island of Borneo, bordering Indonesia. This was my third trip down to Southeast Asia this year, and while the journey to Puerto Princesa in January remains the best, Sabah was still an enjoyable exploration. The furthest south I’ve travelled yet.
My girlfriend and I flew directly from Hong Kong to Kota Kinabalu on Thursday morning. It was only a three-hour flight so we were able to spend some time exploring the largest city in Sabah that afternoon. Formerly a British trading hub called Jesselton, Kota Kinabalu itself isn’t anything too special. It’s filled with markets, hotels and restaurants like most other touristy Asian cities. My favorite moment of that first day was walking around the State Mosque during the call to evening prayer. The place was fairly desolate but for a mesmerizing male voice, singing praise to Allah, or so I assume. Malaysia’s official religion is Islam though Sabah is actually more Catholic. Overall, one of the country’s biggest assets is its peaceful coexistence of dozens of different cultural groups.
The next day, we had a beginners’ scuba course. This was the activity I was most excited for and it didn’t fall short of my hopes. Our instructors and fellow divers were lots of fun and we managed to go on three decently long dives just off of Gaya Island close to the city. Unfortunately, I have no underwater camera to document the dives but we saw lots of colorful coral as well as Nemo and friends playing in the sea anemones. Scuba gear is such an amazing invention. I like to compare it to the airplane, which game humans the ability to fly like birds. Scuba diving allows us to swim like fishes.
Day three was a bit of a disappointment. After checking out a couple local museums, we went on a river cruise to that advertised itself as a great way to see both proboscis monkeys and fireflies up close. This ‘nature’ tour ended up being a two-hour drive to board a massive vessel with hundreds of loud people consuming a buffet dinner and socializing with one another. We saw a couple of monkeys that were dozens of feet away and one bush of fireflies. We expected peace and tranquility and got the epitome of lazy, "sightsee in your comfort zone" tourism. So it goes I guess.
The last couple days consisted of some thrilling whitewater rafting and a so-so tour of Mount Kinabalu National Park. My expectations were high (so to speak) for the tallest mountain in SE Asia but it ended up being mostly obscured by clouds and the flora and fauna weren’t anything as special as I read about. Or at least what we got to see. There was a special flower in the area but the tour guide asked us for about $10 US per person to see it so we declined. The rafting however, was totally exhilarating. Worth every penny to rock up and down the rapids of the Padras River.
Unrelated to being in Malaysia, it was wonderful to come back to our hotel every night at watch the Olympics. We really lucked out that our holiday timed itself perfectly with the games. It’s always so inspiring to me to watch people chase their goals with such passion and guts. And to see an American beat the Chinese frontrunners in men’s platform diving in David Boudia :)
I traveled up to Guilin, China after a day back in HK. You can read about that above soon. Here are some photos of Sabah.
|Sabah State Mosque|
|Floating dock on Gaya Island|
|Photo with a photogenic monkey photo|
|Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey|
|40 meters above ground on the jungle canopy walk|