17.05.2010 - 17.05.2010 30 °C
We’re in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo. It’s only been 48 hours since we departed Australia but it already feels like a decade ago. On our final weekend, we jetted down to Brisbane from Cairns on the Saturday evening where Rish and Anna kindly picked us up from the airport and took us for curry. We then spent our final day packing and walking around Beautiful Brisbane saying our goodbyes to friends and the city. Our flight from Brisbane-Singapore was not until 2:45AM so we had a lot of time to burn. This time was best spent with our Aussie friends in the Plough Inn, a Queenslander pub which has direct outdoor views of Brisbane’s modest but mounting skyline. The only cause for complaint is there was a slight 10 degree chill in the air which made me realise I had been here for a full year and the dreaded Queensland 6 week winter was about to arrive. Thankfully, we were escaping for hotter times.
Spending another year here has made my affection for Australia and particularly Brisbane only grow. It’s safe to say Australia is my second favourite country I have visited as Scotland will always be a tough one to beat. Not to ramble on about Australia for much longer, but in my view, I think it’s important to note that out of all the cities I have visited, I would have to say Brisbane is the most ‘liveable’ city (on paper) I have come across. The climate is wonderful, the Queensland architecture is very unique, big business is knocking on the city’s door and most importantly, the Queensland pubs take 365 day alfresco drinking to a new level. There is one catch however (as there is always a catch) Australia is becoming expensive so if you want to experience it, get in fast. The Australian expat-British journalist Clive James, once said and I paraphrase ‘Australia is like Britain but on Prozac – same people at heart but minus the depression’. I would agree with this to a certain extent, but there is so much more to this country than just sunny weather. Sure the commonwealth holds together some cultural ties, but Clive’s comments can only be fully unearthed when you consider geography. Britain can fit into Australia almost 56 times (so size is a difference), but I think the real cultural distinction is when you consider the land, wildlife, marine life and Australia’s Oceanic and South East Asian neighbours. Sure escaping to Europe for a holiday is concentrated with rich cultural diversity similar to Asia (arguably more), but there is one fundamental difference – Asia is bonkers, Europe (and Australia) is not. With this in my mind, this is what makes Australia even more special as you have a country rich in Western values, but is located adjacent to a chaos that can only be considered organised when you have directly experienced it through backpacking and travel. I write this confidently as I visited the SE Asia exactly five years ago with my good friend Steve Wenzel. Having spent less than 48 hours here, I’m reassured nothing has changed.
Okay now that I have wrote something about my last 11 months, I feel I can move on. In sum, getting to the Island of Borneo was a nightmare. After departing Brisbane at 2:45AM we had an 8 hour flight to Singapore (which Paula was unable to sleep) and a 9 hour stop-over in Singapore waiting for our flight to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. For our 9 hours free time, we decided to explore Singapore. The first thing which I forgot about was how hot, humid and clean it was. It is an amazing ecologically efficient city and a model example for the rest of the world on how countries should be run. On a quick visit, it also seems significantly cheaper than Australia for food and transport which is always a bonus in Warner’s world. After walking around the city sweating and half asleep, we decided to call it a day and headed back to the airport to catch our connecting flight. If you don’t get a chance to visit Singapore, I would at least recommend visiting the airport – it’s the next best thing, it really is. The airport is amazing as it offers free internet and WIFI for all passengers, there are comfy couches and it apparently has a gym with a pool if you a fancy a swim. I never discovered the gym, but that’s the airport word on the street.
We arrived in KK (Kota Kinabalu) at 9pm local time with no booked accommodation and it was dark and smelly. Probably not the best idea to start our trip (especially being awake for 30 hours), but we survived. Thankfully, we bumped into an English girl from Norwich who had been travelling independently around India and South East Asia for 4 months who was organised enough to have booked a hostel. We agreed to share a taxi and gatecrash her hostel. The hostel was called Borneo Global Backpackers and looked like something out of the film The Beach. The hostel was located close to a shanty town and felt slightly uneasy. The good news was it was only £2 per night for a private room (no windows unfortunately), so we padlocked the door and headed to bed.
In the morning, we thankfully woke alive, fresh and unscathed. I then realised we had finally arrived in South East Asia. From the kitchen window, I could see a local fish market, wild dogs, cats and chickens running around and locals honking their horns on un-roadworthy scooters. It was also clear the location of the hostel was fine, but darkness and the smell of rotten surge bring on a new sense which is not unearthed when walking around the West. The purpose of the day was to explore KK and plan our climb of SE Asia’s tallest mountain Mt Kinabalu. I think this is best served for my next entry. Until then I hope everyone has enjoyed my first post.
Kota Kinabalu, Borneo