Travels with myself – 2 Borneo

11th June 2005
Today we were taken to visit a local village, stopping on the way to buy gifts of tea and coffee and pencils and books for the children. One of the houses we saw had been originally built on stilts but walls had been built around the basement to form a ground floor resulting in a two storey house. We were taken to visit the lady of the house who had a new baby only 18 days old. The next house was still on stilts so we had to go upstairs to visit. There was a new baby here too, just 4 months old, plus a tiny girl of about 3 and a little boy of around 5. A small chicken was sitting on a shelf in the corner. We exchanged pleasantries with the people in each house, cooed over the babies and handed over our gifts. I also feel rather uncomfortable on these visits. They seem rather intrusive and I wonder if they are of benefit either the residents or the visitors.

It was extremely hot as we walked back to the bus. The same children that we had met when we arrived found us as we left so they came in for all the rest of our pencils and notebooks. How canny were they!

12th June 2005
Today was mostly noteworthy for the arrival of my pottery saucer which turned out fairly well and still sits on my window sill supporting a plant pot. Plus a major eating faux pas, during dinner when I was sampling the sushi and took a large dollop of what I took to be mashed avocado plus a small helping of pickle. I was wary of the pickle which turned out to be alright, but of course the “avocado” was actually wassabi and when I took a mouthful, it burned its way right down to my stomach. Phew! I could have breathed fire !!

13th June 2005
Today I ventured out on my own by bus to Kota Kinabalu Centre Point, a large shopping mall. It was just beginning to spot with rain as we arrived which was a sign of things to come! I did some shopping – you can never have too many handbags. I think I’d been around every shop at least twice when I found the basement and a store selling CDs where I bought a CD of Chinese orchestral music. Back on the bus at 4pm, we travelled back through a huge downpour which followed us all the way back to the Nexus.

After I made it back to my room there were some huge claps of thunder right overhead and lightning lit up the sky. I decided to film the downpour and, just as I opened my window, a huge lizard ran across the path into the pond opposite. Luckily it came out again and sat on the grass as I was filming. I had to stay inside the room to prevent the camera from stopping due to the condensation. The downpour went on for well over an hour and a half before it started to ease.

When the rain finally stopped, I went to the Penyu restaurant for a last dinner. It was Arabian night. I went to pay my bill,which was very much as I had calculated. I paid $18 in travellers cheques. The local currency, which is the Ringgit, is worth only about 14 p.

14th June 2005
I had my last breakfast at the Penyu and then a last bask by the pool before going to pack and trying to cram everything into my case, carry on and the new handbag. After lunch by the pool my bags were collected and then it was time to hand my key back. What a wonderful 10 days it had been! What a very special day I had visiting the beautiful orang-outans.

As I mentioned at the start of this holiday I then flew to Brunei. I don’t intend to say anything about that leg of my holiday as I don’t want to do anything to promote that country. Except I should say that the people who looked after me there were incredibly kind.

Travels with myself – 2 Borneo

The other day I saw an item on the TV which said that being creative was good for the mood. People were out on the cliff tops somewhere sketcing and painting but, as I’m nowhere near any clifftops and am just about able to hold a pencil in my hand again, that won’t be an option for me for a while. However, I think I can be creative by picking up my story again. I’m dictating rather than typing which throws up some weird interpretations of my voice and causes me to have to go back and correct lots of mistakes but I can’t leave my holiday halfway through so here goes :–

10th June 2005 – This was the day I came for!
My alarms worked (I’d set more than one to be on the safe side) and I was up at 4:00am. I arrived at reception to find that there were only three of us on this trip. We were handed a breakfast box each and off we went. Our flight from Kota Kinabalu took off at 7:00am and we arrived at Sandakan less than an hour later. Then the Sepilok Centre was another half an hour’s drive.

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My ticket to enter Sepilok!


We watched a film about the rescue and rehabilitation work of the Sepilok Centre which was very moving and frankly distressing, as it is human greed and demand for products like palm oil which is exploiting both the local people and the wildlife which lives in the dwindling forests.

The orangutans we were hoping to see have graduated out of the nursery (where they cared for all the time) into the nearby forest but they aren’t yet quite independent and so food is provided twice a day at the feeding platform.

It was just a short walk along a wooden walkway to the feeding platform. When we arrived there were already two orangutans waiting and playing together, rolling about in a ball. More and more arrived before the rangers came out with bananas and sugar cane (sometimes they bring milk). You could see the trees moving in the distance and the ropes which hung between them would begin to vibrate and then you’d see the orangs swinging along hand over hand. For an hour or more they came and went and fed, played, rested. I counted 10 individuals altogether. Some were youngsters obviously staying close to the feeding platform for most of the day but others looked much more adult; some of them even beginning to get the flanges which grow on the side of the faces of adult males. Some of them carried off their sugarcane and the bunches of bananas into the forest, dangling upside down or holding the food by their feet. It was wonderful to watch and I used my time videoing the activity, which accounts for my lack of still photos, most of which are not so good anyway.

After an hour or so most of the food was eaten and we were feeling very hot and sweaty so our group decided to leave and walked back for a final look at the exhibition centre. This is what I’d come to Borneo to see. I’ve been longing to see these relatives of ours since I was a small child and so it was just one of the most magical days not just of the holiday but of my life.

Then, in a complete change of scenery and ambience we were taken to lunch at the “English Tea House and Restaurant”. The menu included fish and chips, roast fillet of beef and bread and butter pudding. Tea followed in fine china cups. Apparently this was a government building in pre independence days. There was a magnificent view of Sandakan Bay and its offshore islands.

After lunch we were taken on a tour of the city; first to a village built on stilts in the sea, then in another twist an Anglican church, which has a new set of stained glass windows, then a Buddhist temple and finally we ended the day in a more sombre mood, visiting the Australian memorial park. This park commemorates the Australian POWs who were held in a camp here before being marched across Borneo. Of over 1000 who passed through here, there were only 6 who survived the war. The flight back over miles and miles of wasteland where there should have been forest was also food for thought.

Nevertheless the day was absolutely worthwhile.

Stuff that life throws at you

My trip to Borneo must have seemed to have come to an abrupt halt. However it’s my life at the moment which has come to an unexpected pause.

A nasty fall means that I was incarcerated in hospital for the whole of the week before Easter. I am ever grateful to National Health Service as I have had a complex operation on a broken elbow and arm followed by care in the hospital for a week. I am now being looked after temporarily in a care home while a “package of care” is put in place in order that I can return home.

I am going home tomorrow and will be visited 4 times a day by carers who will help me dress and shower, prepare meals and help me to get ready for bed in the evening for a period of about 6 weeks.

This is free, despite the fact that I have not paid anything more into my National Insurance since I was 60. God bless our NHS and Kirklees Council!!

Travels with myself – 2 Borneo

9th June 2005 – Into the mangroves
The morning trip was to a mangrove river where we saw a village built on stilts, in the water.  Some homes were so old that more and more extra stilts had been added.  Even with these repairs, some of them were sloping into the water at one side.  People were travelling about in boats.  It was customary, in the past, to live entirely on boats rather than in houses.  People who live on one particular side of the river have to travel to the other side to buy clean water.  We saw men fishing from the small boats and Gilbert told us that they also farm fish.

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We went away from the village, into the narrower stretches of the river, where the mangrove trees were growing further and further out into the water.  We saw herons and kingfishers flash by – much too fast for my camera!

It was an interesting trip and it was pleasant to speed along and feel the breeze as it was a hot and sticky day.  The rest of the day was spent relaxing and chatting (84-year old Margaret is looking forward to going to Chile next year!).

It was going to be an early start the next morning and the day around which this entire holiday centred!





Travels with myself – 2 Borneo

8th June 2005 – Visiting temples and preparing for the afterlife
It was one of those days when it was tough getting out of bed but you know you ought to because you’ll enjoy it if you do! I managed to make it to the bus for our 8:30am start; even remembered my bottle of water. We stopped first at a rice paddy farm, where a new crop was just beginning to grow, but we retreated to the bus very quickly when our feet and legs were attacked by red ants!

We then visited a Buddhist temple, where Gilbert explained a little about the religion. We stayed to say our own prayers, lit candles and joss sticks and we burnt small items which would travel on ahead to heaven to await us. At the same place was a Chinese pagoda, where you could climb up 9 storeys to look at the view. I made it up to the 4th storey.

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At the Buddhist Temple
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Near the Chinese Pagoda

Mount Kinabalu was hidden in clouds – we had been so lucky the previous day.

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Still, having missed the water buffalo the previous day through sleeping on the bus, I did see quite a lot of them on our way back.

We arrived back just in time for lunch and I had a trip to the Noble House Chinese Restaurant on the resort for a lunch of scallop dumplings, prawns in spinach parcels, deep fried turnip and mango pudding. Not surprisingly, I fell asleep back at my room before ending the afternoon beach and the pool.

Holidays do seem to involve an inordinate amount of eating, so it was no time at all before I was heading back to the Penyu Restaurant. It was Italian night. They liked to ring the changes! And the food was delicious.

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In the bar afterwards I had a Singapore Sling and a non-alcoholic Honey Swing

…..Another day, another dinner!!

Travels with myself – 2 Borneo

7th June 2005 – Climb every mountain!
I said in Monday’s diary entry that the good thing about not touring is having a quiet day. But the good thing about most Saga holidays is that there aren’t too many quiet days and sure enough, today was a hectic combination of tramping, tripping and climbing up the lower slopes of Mount Kinabalu.

Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia.  It is protected as part of the Kinabalu National Park, a World Heritage Centre.  At its peak, (known as Low’s Peak after Hugh Low who made the first recorded ascent), the mountain is 13,435 feet above sea level.  As we set off, our guide, Gilbert, pointed out that the peak was visible from the resort, which he said was very unusual, as it is usually shrouded in cloud.

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Again, we were a small group; just Gilbert the guide, a driver, two other guests and me.  On the way, we stopped at a small village with craft, fruit and vegetable stalls.  I bought two handbags (cannot resist a nice bag, only one for me).  I didn’t barter – I’m not very good at that.  But the stall holder dropped the prices, without asking, from 48RM + 18Rm to 45RM (around £8.50) for both.

We arrived in the national park after about a two-hour journey.  Last night’s downpour had brought down trees (one was in the process of being moved out of the road) and there were torrents and mudslides running off the mountain.  Despite this and remaining clouds, it was very mild and much better for walking than the heat we had been experiencing.

We walked through the jungle at the foot of the mountain.  There were paths but they were rocky, uneven and muddy. Gilbert pointed out some of the many species of orchids which grow there, some so tiny that you could hardly see them.  If only I’d had my notebook to write down some of the names; if only I’d taken more stills with my camera and not tried to film it all on video!  We did, however, see the world’s most expensive orchid which, we were told, was worth $10,000!  It was behind bars as, apparently (an unsurprisingly), many attempts had been made to steal it!

Worn out from the foray into the forest, I fell asleep on the bus back to the resort and missed seeing buffalo in the fields.  I spent the rest of the day relaxing and then, when I went back to my room to change, I found the mother and father of all cockroaches on my bathroom floor.  I sprayed it with everything I could find.  I think the hairspray finally finished it and I squished it with my waste bin.  Ugh!  I couldn’t bear to pick it up and left it there and went off to the cyber cafe and then for dinner.  I spent a jolly evening in the upstairs bar, chatting Jenny whom I had met the previous day by the pool.  Fortifide by three “Golden Kisses”, I returned to my room and found the monster gone!!  “My god”, I thought, “something even bigger has come along and eaten it”!!!!  Then I noticed that my bed had been turned down and realised that the person who did that must have been brave enough to remove it.  In the days before Wi-Fi and WhatsApp, I made one of my rationed calls back home to my daughter. (She was the one who always kept me talking and contributed to a big phone bill on my return home).  She was going off to hear her brother’s band play at the Virgin record store in Leeds.

Later on in the holiday I met some other Saga guests who actually climbed to the summit of Mount Kinabalu.  They climbed almost to the summit on the first day (far higher than I had), camped overnight and summited at dawn in time to see the sunrise.  An great thing to do and another example of choices to be made on (almost) the same holiday.  Good old Saga!





Travels with myself – 2 Borneo

6th June 2005 – A day of doing very little!
The good thing about choosing a non-touring holiday, is that you occasional get a quiet day. I was grateful for that as I struggled to get out of bed in time for breakfast and I spent the morning in the resort shop and by the pool.

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I had chosen to go on the afternoon’s trip.  To be exact, I usually choose to go on just about every trip, both included and extra because I don’t want to spend too many days “just by the pool”.  I always used to take several books and magazines (these days I top up my Kindle as it’s less heavy on the luggage) and, while I certainly welcome the opportunity to read in peace, I also enjoy the opportunity to meet new people.

My only companion on this afternoon’s trip was Marjorie, a very independent lady aged 83.  Marjorie told me that she had travelled all over the world with her husband and continued to do so now that she was a widow.  As she had no family, she was happy to spend as much as she could afford taking several holidays a year.  She had not long returned from a holiday in South America.  Anyway, this afternoon we visited a batik factory.  We didn’t get a tour as most people were away on holiday but I did buy a sarong. (Did I mention that I had bought a pair of trousers and a top this morning?).  We then went on to a pottery where I “threw” a saucer-shaped item, which I left behind to be fired.  As trips go, this was a very short one and we were back before the end of the afternoon.  I had plenty of time to get ready for two amazing hours at the Resort Spa.

I have always said (and I continue to do so) that this was the best two hours of my life! Forget walking down the aisle, forget holding my first child for the first time, these were the two hours to end all two hours!  I arrived a little early and used the jacuzzi, then I had a body scrub, after which I was sent to shower for fifteen minutes and was given some ginger and honey tea.  Then there followed an hour’s massage with lavendar, bergamot, juniper and grape seed.  My skin was so smooth, my hair so soft and I was so relaxed, I could have fallen over.

Sadly, it was by now bucketing down and I had to hurry back to my room to try and make my oh so soft hair look halfway presentable, before running to the Penyu for dinner and paddling back to my room afterwards.

No rest tomorrow – Mount Kinabalu awaits!