Sunday, June 07, 2009

Metro Manila to the Jungles of Borneo

After such beautiful weather in Manila during my previous time there, the heavens opened and dumped on us. It rained continuously all day on the 5th and all day on the 6th of June. Ray saw nothing but rain and road congestion during her stay in Manila, and wasn't a big fan of the city because of it. I was still having issues with a pinched nerve in my shoulder, so we packed up our bags and took a Jeepney to Quezon City to the accupressure/holistic medicine clinic there. They were very nice and put us right in steamy roaster bags where we were cooked like Thanksgiving Turkeys! Steam therapy was the first part, then an accupressure massage. After the experience, I'm a believer in accupressure! I felt a little bit better that day, and within 2 days all pain in my shoulder was gone. I had been taking Tylenol with Codine and muscle relaxer for the past 3 weeks to try to lessen the excruciating pain, with no relief. After a 1 hour accupressure session, I was on my way to feeling better. I was so relieved that I wouldn't have to go through this 10 week trip with sharp pain from my shoulder down my left arm as had been the case for the prior 3 weeks! After the Roaster Bag/Accupressure experience, we took a taxi to the Megamall (holy cow, these Southeast Asians LOVE to shop!!) to get our bus up to Clark Airport (1.5 hours north of Manila). The Air Asia jet that we caught there was really cool. It's a new low-cost airline with glowing neon lights, highly made-up flight attendants, and fog blowing out of the airconditioners. It resembles a dance club in the main cabin. After seeing how conservative and understated Malaysia is (a strict muslim country), its a little weird to consider that Air Asia is a Malaysian-owned airline! Anyway, it was a good flight, right on time, efficient with good service, and a good price-tag, too! Two hours later we touched down in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo.

Kota Kinabalu (or KK at it's frequently shortened) is a nice medium-size city, a lot less chaotic and loud than Manila. We met a friend at our hostel and went out to dinner with her. I had firey, delicious Tom Yam soup, which I could not finish. When I asked the waiter if I could take it home, he said sure and proceeded to put it in a plastic bag for me! This seems to be the Southeast Asian wayDrinks, foods, sauces, all are sold in plastic baggies! The night market and the fruit markets in KK were outstanding! I ate so many Guavas, Mangos, and Pomelos that I made myself sick! For dinner at the night market you just browse the buffet selection at various stalls and then pick 3 items that look tasty to add to your rice for 4 Ringit (about $1.25). It's delicious, and less meaty (well, at least less weird looking/tasting meat) than the Philippines. Yahoo!

Our first excoursion in Borneo was a day trip to Gaya Island, which was fabulous. It's just off the coast of KK and the water was sparkling. We swam, hiked, made friends with some 4-foot long monitor lizards, and came back all in one day. The next day we traveled by bus across Borneo to a place called Sepilok, where there is an Oran-Utan rehabilitation center and also a rainforest discovery center. We stayed at a quiet Bed and Breakfast with a super friendlylocal host named Justin and a very nice staff. Justin grew up in the Jungle and has been involved in conservation efforts his whole life. He took us for a night hike to try to find some flying foxes (a type of squirrel), but the animals never came out. It was a really cool experience to stand on the 17 meter tall viewing platform at the top of the forest canopy as dusk settled over the forest. The cicadas and birds made a wonderful symphony for us, and across the top of the forest we could hear the last prayer-call of the day from the local mosque. On our way back from Sipelok, we stopped by Mt. Kinbalu national park. Mt. Kinabalu is the highest peak in South East Asia, and is supposed to have amazing views all the way to Palawan Philippines from the top. We didn't hike the mountain (a 2-day, vigorous trek that our sea-level lungs and muscles weren't really ready for!), but we did hike around some trails in the park through beautiful jungles, which was very nice. That night we got back to KK and boarded our flight to Singapore.

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