A Travellerspoint blog

December 2012

Hello Thailand!

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A nice early 7am flight to Bangkok for us today! Needless to say our brains weren't fully engaged at 5am when we left our hostel which made it difficult to sort out the double booking that had been made by the hostel for our taxi to the airport! Oh dear.

On route to Bangkok we had a couple of hours stopover in Kuala Lumpur airport which was most productive! Jo managed to work out how to change her flight home in March having decided to extend her trip by two weeks to go to the Philippines, buy a Clinique chubby stick in the shade she's been after for a while(!), and locate a Starbucks for us to get our iced coffee fix for the day. I bought some new sunglasses as an early Christmas present to myself. We boarded the flight to Bangkok very pleased with ourselves!

On arriving at our hostel in Bangkok we were pleasantly shocked at how nice the hostel was. So modern, a huge bedroom and a fancy bathroom!! We feel like we're in the lap of luxury here :-)

This afternoon we went to the MBK which is a gigantic shopping centre...8 floors! The food court was amazing...there was a food station for each type of cuisine you can imagine. We opted for a random mix of Greek and Italian food! Yummy!

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Our evening was spent on some much needed grooming...exfoliating, facials, foot filing etc....we now feel a bit more human and ready to face the bright lights of the city!

Tam
xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 03:06 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand Comments (0)

Goodbye Malaysia


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The top ten things we've learnt whilst in Malaysia:

1. You'll feel surprisingly clean and refreshed after "showering" with muddy river water.
2. Don't go to a laundrette in Kuala Lumpur in the afternoon during rainy season...you will get stuck there!
3. Parakeets like Jo!
4. Turtles don't like Chinese tourists.
5. Probosis monkeys are RUDE!
6. Patch could out survive Bear Grylls.
7. Much like pandas, orangutans are greedy and hilarious!
8. Fish eagles are smart - who knew an empty bottle floating on the river was actually holding a fishing line beneath it.... not us!
9. Refusing to leave until someone lets you on the trip works!
10. Tammy likes to shop!

Posted by Tam-Jo 03:05 Archived in Malaysia Tagged malaysia Comments (0)

Goodbye sea!

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On the agenda for today was a boat trip to a local island in order to top up our tans before we leave the beaches behind us. We chose the biggest of the bunch - Manukan Island, which lies just a few kms off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. White sands, blue waters and jungle! Perfect, except for the staring locals and the destroyed reefs. But you can't always have everything your own way, I suppose, and we have been spoilt in the past! Even so, we had a nice day reading and swimming and eating before heading home to the hostel. En route back we stopped in at Starbucks for a taste of home and discovered a few promotional Christmas drinks, including the scrumptous Iced Peppermint Mocha. It was a little odd having such a Christmassy drink served cold, but neccessary in the heat! Despite the Christmas trees and tinsle everywhere over here, it still doesn't feel like Christmas to us without the wind and rain of home..... I'm sure we'll cope though!

In store tonight? Packing and bed - we have another early start tomorrow as we head to Thailand!

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 03:05 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo Comments (0)

Twilight!!

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Not much to report on today. We got an early boat back to Sandakan from Turtle Island and spent most of the morning at the hostel doing life admin and re-packing our (ridiculously messy) bags before flying to Kota Kinabalu that afternoon.

The two highlights of our day were a trip to Starbucks for some paninis (which the nice man behind the counter gave us a discount on as we didn't have enough cash for two!) and a cinema trip that evening to see the latest and final instalment of the Twilight Saga. It did not disappoint!!!! Jo and I have already decided to go and see it again as soon as possible :-) Total Twihards we are!!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 03:04 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo Comments (0)

The adventures of Patch Crusoe

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This story is dedicated to Bertha the Cow and tells of the epic South China Sea adventures of a monkey called Patch (or perhaps the story of how Jo kept herself entertained for a few hours on Turtle Island!)

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One day, when visiting Turtle Island with his friends, Jo and Tammy, Patch decided to try snorkelling. Whilst swimming around the coral reef, he caught a glimpse of a turtle and quickly swam after it. But, having chased the turtle for a few minutes, he got tired and was dragged out to sea by a strong current!

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He floated out at sea for a long while, before eventually washing up on the shore of an unknown island.

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After resting a while, he decided to explore the island in the hopes of discovering someone who could help him get back to his friends. But, alas, there was no one there but him.

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Knowing how much Jo and Tammy loved him, he was sure that they would have sent out a search party looking for him. To help with his rescue, he wrote an SOS sign on the beach, hoping it would be seen by a search and rescue helicopter. But after a few days, no one had come and he was beginning to feel hungry and tired. So he decided that he would have to use his immense survival skills, that he had learnt from watching Bear Grylls on TV, to keep himself alive until someone found him.

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He built himself a fire, and made a fishing rod out of the flotsom and jetsom on the beach. Then he built a shelter for himself. After all this he felt a little better. But after a few more days, still no one had come. So he decided that he would have to rescue himself.

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He spent days building a boat that would get him off the deserted island. But his first attempt at sailing it failed.

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After some adjustments he tried again... SUCCESS! Patch merrily sailed away from his isle in the South China Sea and was rescued a day later by a friendly man on a fishing boat. He found his way back to Tammy and Jo, who were very relieved to see him safe and sound, and promised never to let him go snorkelling alone again!!

The End

Posted by Tam-Jo 02:09 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo Comments (2)

The story of turtles and tourists

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After being advised by our hostel owner this morning that we should insist on being let onto the tour for Turtle Island today, we headed off to the docks (and Crystal Quest offices) early. The woman at the office was unimpressed when she saw us again and told us, once more, that the trip was fully booked. On trying to weasel information out of her, we decided that there was something dodgy going on, as she seemed quite evasive and kept telling us to go to see the tour operators. We politely declined and told her that, if she didn't mind, we would just wait on the docks until the trip departed to see if any last minute spots opened up.... low and behold, within fifteen minutes of people beginning to arrive for the trip, two spots magically became available! How strange!! WIN!!!

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So off we sped towards a set of islands shared between Malaysia and the Phillipines that act as a turtle reserve, with protected beaches for laying, and hatcheries to help protect the young when they make their way to the sea! Very exciting! On arrival, we grabbed our room key and made off for the offices where we could hire snorkel gear and then on to our room to get changed for an hour of sunbathing before lunch (can you tell we're Brits?!).

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After lunch (where we discovered that there were less than 30 tourists on the island, which can hold a total of 50 - and Crystal Quest thought the trip was fully booked?!) we wandered around the island - it didn't take long - and then headed back to the beach for some snorkelling. Seeing as this was a reserve, we expected the snorkelling to be good, but unfortunately it wasn't. We saw a few cool things, but it was no Gili Meno! Back on the beach, Tam worked on topping up her tan, while I entertained myself by doing a photo shoot with Patch (see blog below).

By 6.30pm we were back at the visitors centre to read all the information boards in the exhibition hall. They were not as well done as in Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, but we learned a little bit. The infomative video that followed was much better! And then we ran for the buffet dinner..... this was a cunning plan of ours as (I apologise now if this sounds a little racist, it is, in fact, just a fact!) the group of people on the island with us were mainly made up of a Chinese tour group and when it comes to food they are gannets! We made it near enough to the front of the queue and took as much as we could fit on our plates, as there would be no chance of going back for seconds! Second win of the day! :-) Dinner was delicious - there were potatoes!

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After dinner, we waited to be able to see a female come up to the beach to lay her eggs. We waited a long time. But as we've been told many a time whilst away - wildlife is wild and therefore unpredictable. But by 10.30pm the rangers were getting anxious to release the hatched young green turtles, so we headed down to the beach to watch the release. Cue hundreds of cameras and a general lack of respect for these poor young creatures. Tam, me and the other two Brits on the tour were a little horrified by the behaviour of the other tourists.... the poor little turtles were being manhandled left, right and centre! All the same, it was amazing to see such tiny little things making their way into the sea for the first time!

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After this, we overheard that a female was on the beach laying, so we headed over to take a look. Unfortuantely, the tour group got there first with torches and cameras and noise, and by the time we arrived a few minutes later, the rangers were looking as harrassed as the huge green turtle female, who had stopped laying because of all the disturbance. We watched the rangers taking measurements and then respectfully left to the egg transplantation at the hatchery. The rangers dug a deep hole, placed in the newly laid eggs and then loosely covered it with sand and marked it. The new young will hatch in 3 months time and be escorted to the release site to ensure their safety.

It was an amazing thing to see, but really made us understand the pros and cons of mixing ecotourism with conservation. But in the end, Tam and I had to resign ourselves to the fact that the disturbance of one turtle a night was not enough to justify the loss of such a large source of conservation funding. Still a great project and worth the visit.

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 06:05 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo Comments (1)

Back to civilisation

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It was another early start for us today though as there was space on the morning safari for us to go again...we couldn't say no! And thank goodness we didn't because we saw wild orangutans! There were a few but most scarpered pretty quick on hearing the boat noise. One large male stuck around though and we watched him for a long while whilst he enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of fruit high up in the trees. Incredible! We also saw and heard a lot of gibbons...the sounds they make are pretty distinctive! On this boat ride we also saw eagles, macaques and hornbills.

After breakfast back at camp we started the long journey back to Sandakan; an hour long boat ride followed by a two hour minibus ride. A quick lunch at Uncle Tan's B&B then we were off to our hostel.

On arriving at the hostel, we were met by the friendliest hostel staff we've come across yet. The owner kept feeding us! She served us tea anad banana fritters when we checked in then proceeded to offer us pancakes and bits of sticky sweet coconutty rice patty or the next half an hour while she chatted to us about our plans in Sandakan.

We explained that we would like to go on an overnight trip to Turtle Island, a place we are both desperate to visit. On her advice we walked to the Crystal Quest port down the road who are the operators of Turtle Island. I had emailed them several times over the last few weeks but had gotten nowhere. So off to the office we went! Our luck was not in...the tour for the day after was full! The lady advised us to go to some of the tour operators in town as tickets are sold to them to sell onto the public. Unfortunately, the prices were up to three times higher booking through a tour operator instead of directly with Crystal Quest. And we could not afford the prices they were quoting. :-(

The rest of our evening was spent blogging (during which I think I managed to crash the website from trying to upload too many photos at once...it was down for about an hour...oops!!) and sneaking out for a McDonalds!

We've also decided that we'll chance our luck tomorrow morning and show up at the Crystal Quest port early in case there are any cancellations for the Turtle Island trip...wish us luck!!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 17:14 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo Comments (0)

My, my, what a big.... nose you have, sir!

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Despite the "luxury" of our basic camp, Tam and I did not have a great night's sleep last night! Hence, we were already awake when the 6am alarm call came round for our early morning boat ride! On with clothes, mozzie spray and life jackets and away we went! What did we see? A beautiful, quiet morning on the river, along with some long-tailed macaques, two species of eagle, two species of hornbill and a quick glimpse of a gibbon swinging through the trees of the jungle. All in all, very peaceful! Back to camp for breakfast - pancakes! Yum!

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After a very rapid snooze, we headed out for a morning trek in the jungle. I get the feeling that most of our group were disappointed by our wander through the woods, and even the guide kept reiterating in an apologetic tone that we were unlikely to see any mammals or birds mid-morning. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed myself! We slipped and slided our way up and down the forest, spotting cool plants, insects and reptiles, including the pill millipede and a chameleon. Poor Tam gotten eaten alive by mozzies though and we were both glad of the wellies we hired from the camp staff, as the trail was muddy to say the least!

Post walk, we had another delicious lunch where I reverted to a child and shunned all the vegetables in favour of rice and tomato sauce (a favourite of my younger sisters when we were growing up - Sarah, I now understand why!) and cut up frankfurters! After this Tam and I took a jungle shower - standing in the jungle in bikinis and chucking buckets of muddy river water over ourselves - clearly our standards of hygiene have dropped as we actually felt clean after this! Then several hours of chilling out at camp, which nearly drove Tam mad from boredom!

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During our afternoon boat ride we headed down one of the tributaries of the Kinabatangan river in search of proboscis monkeys (monkeys with very big noses - not the most attractive animals in the jungle, but awesome all the same!). We were successful, even finding a very proud male who was happily showing us all there was to see of himself (see attached picture above, if you dare!).

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Back to camp for another hour of reading/relaxing before dinner. And then out into the wilderness for our night jungle trek! Amazing, despite being caught in a Malaysian rain shower and hence being almost immediately soaked to the skin through waterproof jackets! We saw several species of birds asleep on branches, which was strange. And a tree frog! Also some spiders - that did not impress Tammy who hates spiders!

All in all, an awesome day for such wildlife geeks as us!

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 05:16 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo Comments (1)

Into the jungle we go...

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After eating a nice breakfast (with no vanilla butter in sight) we visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. It is here that Orangutans are rehabilitated after either becoming orphaned as infants or after being rescued from being kept as pets (which is illegal). This rehabilitation process can take up to ten years and some orangutans never fully gain independence from the centre, continuing to visit feeding platforms on the edge of the centre for the rest of their lives.

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First stop...an educational film about the centre and orangutans. Jo and I love a wildlife documentary so this was thoroughly enjoyable for both of us :-) Then onto the boardwalk to the first feeding platform in the centre which is the only one that tourists are allowed to observe. We were there for the 10:30am feeding. As soon as the staff from the centre had hauled the bananas and milk onto the platform, the orangutans were on their way, swinging on the ropes towards their mid morning snack! They were fascinating to watch...so human in so many ways which isn't all that surprising as they share 96.4% of our DNA!! Lastly, a visit to the information centre in which Jo somehow managed to get herself locked in for five minutes! Then back to Uncle Tan's B&B for some lunch!

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Once we'd fed ourselves on the tasty buffet we packed our overnight bags in preparation for two nights in the jungle! We had a two hour drive to the port followed by an hour long boat ride to get to the camp. On this boat journey we saw rhinocerous hornbills, asian-black hornbills, pig-tailed macaques and long-tailed macaques!

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On arriving at camp we were both pleasantly surprised to find that it is not quite so basic as we expected. Ok, so there's no running water and only a couple of hours of electric at night courtesty of a generator. But there are wooden walkways, huts on stilts, mattresses for us to sleep on, mosquito nets and milo!! What more could we need?!

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After dinner this evening we went on a night boat safari! It was pitch black and the sky was incredible...the number of stars we could see was breathtaking!! I spent a fair amount of time just looking up at the sky while our boat travelled up-river! On this night safari we saw a blue-eared kingfisher, a night heron, long tailed macaques, proboscis monkeys and an owl!

Very much looking forward to two boat trips and two hikes tomorrow!!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 01:44 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo Comments (1)

What do you mean they're meant to be cold?!

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You'll all be relieved (I hope!) to know that we are now back to daily blogs as our travels pick up the pace again. Having said that, there is not too much to report from today as we travelled from our airport hotel in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, down to Uncle Tan's B&B near Sandakan in preparation for our trip into the jungle tomorrow. The most notable things that happened today:

Tam had several arguments with hotel staff - very amusing! Possibly the best of these was had over the state of the breakfast - noodles and curry (way too early in the morning for this!), toast, jam, vanilla flavoured butter (why would you do that to butter?!), some strange cut up meat and baked beans. We decided on having beans on toast. Then the following conversation was had between Tam and the breakfast lady.

Tam: Excuse me, the baked beans are cold.
Breakfast Lady: Yes.
Tam: Yes?
Breakfast Lady: They're meant to be cold.
Tam (incredulous): They're meant to be cold?
Breakfast Lady (looking at us like we're stupid): Yes.
Tam: Well I would like them hot please.
Breakfast Lady (looking confused): Hot?
Tam: Yes, hot. Can you heat them up please?

I think this was too much for her, but she did dutifully scamper off and heat up our plates of beans to something just shy of tepid! Needless to say, the breakfast was thoroughly disappointing.

And clearly the lack of a good meal pre-flight muddled with our brains as we wandered off through security for international flights, when we should have headed for domestic. Don't be fooled into thinking that we're two smart young women and so there couldn't have been any clear signs to tell us we were wrong - we saw the signs, discussed them and carried on anyway! We were eventually turned back around by an angry airport woman and directed to the correct place! But there we found a Dunkin' Donuts and all was right with the world again post tea and donuts!!!

Now we are at our B&B on the outskirts of the jungle and, having done a lot of boring life admin, are gagging for a beer. But there is no one around to sell us any, so we think we might just retire to bed with a hot cup of milo, a dairy milk bar each (thanks Mum!!!) and another installment of the twilight saga - rock 'n' roll!!!

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 23:34 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo Comments (0)

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