3rd June 2005 – London Heathrow – Brunei
Somehow, I always manage to have a packing panic just before I go away but at last I was tucked up in a Heathrow hotel, after a nice dinner and ready for an early start the next morning. My alarm woke me at 5:30am, after a strange night when (and this was the only time it has ever happened) I dreamed that Richard was there in the corner of the room saying “What the ****** **** are you doing, setting off half way around the world”? I obviously ignored him and caught the Hoppa into the airport.
I met and chattted to someone who was also going to Borneo with Saga but doing more travelling around than I was. The flight was smooth, we seemed to do little but eat one meal after another. The announcement that we would be landing in Dubai took me by surprise but it gave me a great opportunity to look down on a huge city, which appeared suddenly from desert with, at first, just endless roads in a grid system and then the bright lights of the famous buildings which attract so many people. On landing, the only thing we got to see was immigration, the arrivals hall, where we had to collect our luggage and then the desks where we got to check it back in. What was all that about? We even got back on exactly the same aircraft so I guess it was simply re-fuelling. We took of at 8:00pm (5:00pm at home). The pilot announced that it was now 2:00am in Brunei (our next stop), so I moved my watch and found myself on Saturday…..
4th June 2005 Brunei – Kota Kinabalu and the Nexus Resort
Having filled the hours with films good and bad and yet more to eat, we arrived in Brunei at 9:30am, where we had over three hours to wait for our connecting flight to Sabah and Kota Kinabalu, which is on the northern coast. I should explain that Borneo is an enormous island (the third largest in the world) and comprises Sabah (which is still generally known as Borneo) and Sarawak, which are both part of Malaysia, North, East, Central, South and West Kalimantan, which are part of Indonesia and Brunei, which is a separate state.
We were met at the airport by a representative of Saga. It was the start of their sympathetic wrap-around service, which I learned about on this holiday and experienced on just about every Saga holiday I have experienced (and I’ve had a few!). I have always felt safe travelling with them and that’s important when you are travelling alone (even if you are going to be part of a group).
I was surprised that only four of us were collected by minibus and driven off to the Nexus Resort, half an hour away. This, I was to discover, is quite a feature of Saga holidays – and a good one, I would say. They tend not to have huge groups of people arriving at once and staying for two weeks but small groups of people who seemed to appear and leave again throughout my stay.
This was my first resort holiday and I was quite taken aback by the Nexus Resort. It had a large reception area, which was open to the elements at the sides, with a high floating roof. My room was in small block of eight, each looking out onto part of the garden. It was so very luxurious! What a relief it was to take a shower and lie down. I had been travelling for over 24 hours. All of a sudden, I began to feel very hungry and realised that I had not eaten since breakfast, so I made my way to the Penyu restaurant and then afterward to the bar for gin and tonic somehow I managed to stay awake until 10:00pm and then I slept like a log until next morning.
5th June 2005 – Afternoon drive around Kota Kinabalu
After breakfast, we met Hazel, our guide, who showed us round and gave us a timetable of all our visits and activities for the next ten days. Then there was time to swim in the pool, dip my toes in the South China Sea (both warm) and have a lunch of satay and fruit punch.
The afternoon’s activity was a coach tour of Kota Kinabalu, visiting the main mosque (although we weren’t invited inside), a Chinese temple, where we lit incense sticks, and the city museum.
After dinner – at the Penyu again as that was our included restaurant – I managed to stay up long enough for a Happy Hour pina colada!