A Travellerspoint blog

May 2010

Rocking round KK

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It is often said that travelling is a rollercoaster ride. Sometimes you are on top of the world and sometimes you are down. As this is my second entry and I have only been here for less than 5 days, it may seem a little premature to ‘be down’...already. The good news is I’m not, but I was at least for an hour a day when things have recently went wrong. I have fastly realised that Borneo is a different breed of travel (one that I have not experienced before) especially for the unprepared traveller when you are battling with a time budget. When we booked our flights to Borneo, we allocated one week to climb Mt Kinabalu and see the surroundings. After that, our intended plan was to fly from KK (Kota Kinabalu) to Penang (Northern mainland Malaysia) where we will chill on a paradise island congratulating ourselves after the hefty climb. It sounded full proof, but we quickly discovered things aren’t that easy over here.

On our first day in KK, we decided to explore the city by foot. We decided to take a local bus from our hostel instead of taxi for two reasons. The first was the bus ride only cost 13 pence (yes 13p, 25 aus cent) and it was cool to mix with the locals. As soon as we stepped on the crowded bus, a number of kind gentlemen offered Paula their seat. It seemed it was rude to refuse, so she accepted and I was stuck sandwiched in between 30 Malay men with a burning sensation underneath my feet, which developed into a slight fear that the gear box was about to give way at any moment . Thankfully it didn’t.

The first task of the day was to find an ATM and get money. Once we located the main shopping mall, I inserted my card into the ATM, typed in my pin, hit withdraw 400 Ringgit (£125) and waited for the cash which kinda looks like Euros minus the King with the big hat who sits proudly on the notes...to receive ‘Your card is not supported and inactive’. Great, just what I needed. I think it’s also important to stress that Paula transferred all her money to my bank account before we left as I receive free international withdrawals. Also, using credit cards aren’t exactly widely accepted at stalls or food courts so it was slightly inconvenient. I then tried another 4 ATM’s to receive the same message. Overall, this was slightly annoying. We then decided to walk around the mall aimlessly, lost and not knowing what to do with ourselves. As we sat down, I then realised my backpack was slightly open and after immediately checking my bag my heart stopped (for probably 2 seconds, maybe 3, possibly 4),... my yellow folder which holds my passport was missing. I nearly died. No money, no passport, first day in Asia, all within 2 hours, it could only happen to Warner! I then tried to retrace my steps, spending time on the squeezed bus with the friendly locals, walking round the streets like a lost puppy, a White tourist hovering around every ATM in every bank. Someone had nicked my passport right under my nose, it was our first day and I was totally rooted.

We then paid for a taxi with our final cash, raced back to our hostel to check if my passport could someway be in our room. Although this only took 10 minutes it felt like a lifetime. When we arrived in the room, a cataclysmic overarching level of joy raced through my veins, the god dam folder was sandwiched in-between my uni work. I then recalled thinking, ‘I won’t be needing this today’ and removed my uni work and someway my passport folder got stuck amongst my work. Hallelujah!!! A ridiculous gut-retching low turned into an unprecedented high just as fast as the Aerosmith Rocking Rollercoaster does 0-60 in 2.5 seconds in MGM studios, Orlando, Florida. On that note, if you haven’t been to MGM studios you really should – the Rocking Rollercoaster is brilliant!

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You may be thinking, ‘But what happened about your money Warner?’? Well, I telephoned my bank immediately once the office opened at 8AM UK time and it went a little something like this...

Bank: ‘Good morning, you’ve reached Bank*** how can I help you [in a very unenthusiastic, depressed Southern English accent]?’

Warner: ‘Yes, my name is Mr. Karl Warner, please do not put me on hold, I am calling from Sabah, Borneo, near the jungle, I am stranded here with no money as my Bank*** ATM card isn’t working, I’m not very impressed [in a very disgruntled but firm Scottish accent]!

Bank: While probably chocking on her extra large Costa Coffee with extra shot, ‘Oh dear, lets see what we can do Mr. Warner...’

As expected, the bank cancelled my card, but they were able to reactive it and I was cash rich once the telephone call ended. On the up, we then strolled around KK and stumbled on the marina to view the most spectacular sunset (as pictured) I have seen in a very long time.

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We then incidentally bumped into Jo (who we shared a taxi with) and went for an amazing Malay curry and decided to travel to Mt Kinabalu together the next day. And there you have it, our first day in Asia rocking round KK...rollercoaster style!

Karl

Kota Kinabalu, Borneo.

Posted by karlnpaula 07:28 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Goodbye Beautiful Brisbane

sunny 30 °C
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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.

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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.

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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.

Karl

Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

Posted by karlnpaula 07:09 Archived in Singapore Comments (2)

Welcome to our Travel Blog

sunny 25 °C
View Karl & Paula's Adventure (so far...) on karlnpaula's travel map.

Hi Everyone.

Firstly, we both like to thank you for taking the time to click on the link and welcome to Karl and Paula’s South East Asian Travel Blog. We know the blog title is a bit naff, but it will most likely change as we visit more places, countries or perhaps continents. But for now, welcome to our travel blog and we both hope these readings will find you well, perhaps envious, but hopefully inspired to check out this ridiculously manic but wonderful part of the world we have just landed in.

Over the past 11 months it is safe to say we have both been avoiding the radar when it comes to staying in touch with friends from Scotland and beyond. For anyone who doesn’t know, we have been living/’researching’/working in Brisbane, Australia. The year went far too quick and we both feel we have been very sloppy in keeping friends informed of our Australian adventures. We hope this 6 week travel blog will compensate for our sloppyness!!! The way the blog is going to work is we will write individual posts depending on where and what we are doing and who has the energy to write. No doubt this will encourage mixed perspectives where you are likely to get (un)interesting hard hitting facts from Karl and emotional/sensitive posts from Paula. That is the plan anyway, and we will see how things fair over the forthcoming weeks.

As you will discover, we both had an amazing time in Australia, were very sad to leave and we’re both sure this will become apparent in our posts. To fill everyone in, we spent our last two weeks in Northern Queensland sailing the Whitsunday Islands, white water rafting along the grade four Tully River, scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, trekking (but mostly sunbathing) in Captain Cook’s Cape Tribulation and partying in Cairns. It’s been a tough couple of weeks but someone has to do it!

Once again welcome to our travel blog and we look forward to seeing/speaking with everyone very soon.

Mucho Luv,

Karl & Paula. X

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Posted by karlnpaula 22:45 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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