Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

I met several people that raved about their time in the Sabah region of Borneo. I was lured in by orangutans & the rare pygmy elephants. Add in the beautiful beaches and snorkeling in Sapidan and I bought a ticket and was Borneo bound!
I arrived in Kota Kinabalu in the evening. Oh, what to do tomorrow. I decided to explore the city on foot. I walked down to the harbor and met Sharif. He arranges boat trips to nearby islands. He had finished his work and I told him I would return in the morning for a snorkel trip. As we talked about travel, he offered to take me across the bay to his island and see where he lives. You know me, I love these opportunities! We went to the port and he arranged a boat. The boats bow was sitting facing a corner. He told me to follow him. We crawled through the fence and jumped onto the bow of the boat. He made it look graceful and easy. Me...that was a different story. I stepped onto the bow and the boat started floating away from the dock. I had one leg in each direction and was staring down at the water between my legs. Oh no! I  am going to fall in! Sharif grabbed my hand and pulled me toward him. I ignored my fear and just jumped....luckily I landed on the bow as it rocked back and forth. Whew! I safely made it to a seat before we raced across the bay. The captain weaved close to fishing boats. I really thought we were going to have an accident. He was going full speed towards the rickety dock. I am not sure how we did not hit anything.

I crawled onto the dock/sidewalk as it weaved and creaked. I was not sure about this. The planks were not nailed down and many were broken. The planks creaked and bend with each step. I was not safe yet! I had to make my way across this rickety sidewalk to shore.
Rickety sidewalks throughout the village.

The village was poor. Three to four families lived together in each of these homes. No furniture and no electricity. I could hear a few generators running. The floors were covered in pieces of linoleum and a few plastic stools were sitting on the porches. Laundry was hung to dry and children were running from home to home. The villagers were headed to the mosque for prayer. Sharif asked if I minded if he went. I said it was fine and sat down on his front porch. His wife insisted I come into their home out if the heat. I played with his children and niece. Tic-tac-toe is a game known worldwide and requires no English to play.

A woman walking through the village on stilts.

Sharif returned from the temple with lunch. I declined his offer knowing most Muslims are fasting for Ramadan. He told me he had eaten today and insisted I try the food. We had grilled fish, tapioca and collagen. It was interesting but not something I enjoyed. I was happy when he poured me a glass of juice. After lunch, we walked to the shoreline. Children were playing volleyball, soccer and swimming in the bay.
What shocked me the most was the amount of garbage floating in the ocean. As we had walked towards the shore, I was almost hit by a flying used diaper. A woman threw it out her window and into the ocean. Obviously this was a common occurrence. And all of the garbage collected at shore. 

Most if it is plastic bottles, plastic bags, take-away containers and diapers. I was disgusted and sickened. I have seen this throughout SE Asia but this was my breaking point. No more plastic bottles for me. I bought a reusable bottle and Steripen to purify my own water going forward. I asked Sharif about the garbage and he said the government does not provide any assistance with garbage disposal so they let it pile up and eventually burn it when it gets to be too much. They do not recycle and it is what it is. I asked about the pollution and he said there are many other issues to worry about when you are this poor. 

We walked through the jungle and over a hill to another village. At this village I came across a goat with gold horns. I asked why his horns were gold and was told that the village drunk does it. He said sometimes he gives him cigars to smoke also.
The next morning I was sick, food poisoning! I wondered about eating at the village yesterday. No snorkeling for me! I was sick for 2 days. I finally forced myself to go in an evening tour of the jungle before I left for Sandakan. I took the Riverboat cruise on Klias River to see the Probiscus monkeys and fireflies. 
Klias River Cruise
There were many boats on the river and we spotted several groups of monkeys in the trees. I was keeping a watchful eye on the storm that was rolling into the jungle. When it started raining it was a downpour! We hovered under the overhang trying to remain dry. The monkeys seemed to like the rain and came out for a bath.
Probiscus monkeys enjoying the rain

The fireflies were beautiful. They lit up the trees like Christmas. A few of us started singing "O' Christmas Tree" as the fireflies twinkled. It was a fun evening in the river and some great memories!

1 comment:

  1. Hye, it's a good writing. Would love to read more bout the travelling.

    Sabah is a beautiful state. I love Sabah for its nature. And yes, there are some issues of pollution and beggar, and I hope that it won't be worse.

    See ya!