I cannot believe that I’m writing to you from an overnight train in Vietnam! I’m going to say that again – Vietnam! It’s a country that has also been on the must see list but I was never quite sure how or when I would get here. I also had absolutely no clue what to expect and I would never have dreamed this up. But all my Vietnam babble will come on another day. For now let’s talk about Borneo…..
I’ll be honest I knew nothing about Borneo – I actually ended up booking flights to the wrong place! I couldn’t believe I did that – I like to think I’m an experienced traveller but then I do things like this…. My mistake came not reading the fine print on an article of how to get to Sepilok. The fine print was the connecting flight from Kota Kinabalu (KK) to Sandakan. And that you only need that step if you’re flying in from an international port. Opps. But hey – how do you learn if you never make mistakes and now I can say that I’ve been to KK.
Kota Kinabalu (Our unintended stopover)
Coming from the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur, KK was a nice little break. People say that KK is a busy place but not in the middle of a Sunday. The bits that we saw felt like a little seaside town (admittedly we didn’t actually see that much though).
Our first stop was lunch. We ended up finding a cute Malaysian cafe called Lucy’s Kitchen. I really liked the vibe of the place – the pictures on the wall, the music. It was a delightful place to de-stress from the flight fiasco. The rest of our afternoon was spent wondering along the waterfront. The weather was perfect for a stroll and Seb loved the chance to play with his camera.
We also found this very odd beer bottle Christmas tree, in April. It was quite odd but I’m a bit in love with it.
Have you ever noticed that no matter where you go there are Irish Pubs? I had never noticed this phenomenon before but everywhere I turn in Asia there one is, probably right around the corner from a Starbucks. So as typical tourists we settled into the pub (Called the Shamrock). The pub is right along the water so you can watch the boats while you enjoy your beer and there’s a fan – which is a plus. And that’s it folks – before we knew it we were back on a plane to Sandakan. The flight was super short but allowed you to see Mt Kinabalu which was pretty cool.
Sepilok Nature Resort
This is what I came for! The one thing I knew I was doing while on this trip was that I really wanted to see some Orangutans! Seb felt the same way so for his birthday I organised a stay at the Sepilok Nature Resort. Words cannot describe how much I loved this place! When it’s one of the only places in a jungle you get a bit concerned that it might not be that clean or safe. But there were no problems (we tried to extend our stay).
The place is stunning – the rooms and main building are built along a river, there are plants along all the pathways and so many fairy lights. Even the snakes were nice! (There actually was a snake – I had a mild freak-out but it wasn’t venomous and it went on its way).
Our cabin itself was spacious and comfortable – not issues with bugs or heat. My favourite spot was outside our door where there was a perfect reading bench looking out onto the water.
The highlight was that two orangutans decided to visit the resort. It was amazing to be able to sit and watch them without all the people that are at sanctuaries.
I don’t know if you’ve had much Malaysian food – but I’ve been hooked since my first Nasi Lemak and Curry. My theory is because it fuses my other two favourite’s cuisines – Chinese and Indian. I wasn’t sure what to expect from food in the Sepilok area – there isn’t much beyond jungle. I was pleasantly surprised with the food and drinks from the hotel. They food wasn’t typical hotel food and also was very affordable.
The other food option is a food stall across the road. It’s an odd fusion between being a super local hang out (there was a grab driver having a nap while we ate) and being a place for tourists (you won’t have any trouble communicating). Regardless the food is outstanding! I insisted on going back before the airport because I loved it that much. And also coconuts – why wouldn’t you go back for the coconuts.
The Orangutan sanctuary was the best of the three. Within five minutes there was an Orangutan in front of me. I was elated but at every point you’re told that they might not actually show up.
Better than that there had been a few baby Orangutans born recently so we got to see them hanging out in the nursery. The only downside is that even though it was the low season there was still a frenzy of people at feeding times.
The Sun Bear sanctuary was surprisingly fantastic. Have you heard of a sun bear? I haven’t before but they deserve to be known.
Sun bears are the world’s smallest bear and are very cute. But sadly are also endangered which is not helped by the fact that people keep trying to keep them as pets. I was shocked that people try to keep them as pets, they are sooo cute but also they look like bears – I noticed the claws almost immediately.
In honour of remembering the bears and contributing to helping the cause we bought Alex! My new travel buddy. <3
The discovery centre was a bit different to the sanctuaries in that it’s more for seeing birds and learning about the rainforest.
It’s quite a peaceful place to stroll around, we did the canopy walk and a short rainforest walk. Both of which were quite fun. The view from the canopy was amazing (also slightly scary).
You can easily spend a day wandering around.
Going back to not knowing anything about Borneo – I hadn’t realised that WW2 had reached the Island. What I learnt is that the Japanese had created a POW camp in Sandakan and conducted death marches. The memorial park sits on where the camp used to be. Currently it is a serene park where locals hang out or jog. It also houses a small building that details the stories of the camp and its survivors. We only spent an hour here but it was worth the stop.
I hope you enjoyed Part one of my Malaysian adventure!