Asia Day 6
Driving with a Maniac to KL Airport
With our AirAsia flight to Sandakan, Borneo departing at 9.40 we thought it would be best to hail down a cab to drive us the one hour distance to KL airport.
It took us a good 5 minutes to negotiate the price from a ridiculous tourist fee to a more appropriate fee of 90RM- with a game of play my bluff, the only effective way to haggle. Little did we know however that we were now passengers to one of the craziest drivers ever!
The guy was nuts- picture a skinny 50-60 year old, lifetime chain-smoker, wrinkled little Asian man- who had no premise of the English language apart from the words ‘yes’ ‘I love you’ and ‘England’. When he spoke he had the body motions of the most expressive Italian and persisted to screamed, shout and make an eerie laugh to echo his excitement at trying to speak English. He drove at 90mph weaving in-between all 3 lanes of traffic and was by the fastest, most manic vehicle on the road- that says a lot for the amount of lunatic driving in Kuala Lumpur!
Trying to impress us with his English memorabilia, he took out his knock off I-pad with one hand, while continuing to meander through the motorway with the other- his eyes were focused neither the road or the videos of cars that he persisted to show us, instead, they were focused towards his collection of Westlife C-Ds. All his responses were the same- ‘are we going to the domestic airport?’- Yes, yes England i love England i love you England’….So is this for Air Asia flight to Borneo? ‘i love Malaysia, Malaysia yes, England.’ – ‘We don’t want England we want Borneo!’ ‘England, yes, yes…Oh for fuck sake!
Anyhow, we made it to the right airport in one piece, getting out of the car as quickly as possible and headed to board our £35, 3 hour flight to the heart of Sabah, Borneo. Selamat tinggal KL!
Borneo is the first real place where all my planning and efforts have finally manifested themselves- yes Australia had some emphasis on planning and New Zealand was researched as to where we wanted to go and activities we wanted to do- but generally it was easy for us to get around those places and we relied on family and friends and the KiwiExperience to help guide us through.
Borneo however, was something all-together different- we were in the wild on our own- and, having spent the last year planning this trip, this was incredibly exciting for me.
The main reason to visit Borneo is for the Orangutan and Probiscus Monkeys which can be found in no other natural environment. But there is much more to do; The third largest island in the world and home to the oldest rain-forest, Borneo houses nearly 300,000 species of wild animal- making it one of the most bio-diverse regions on the planet. It also lies habitat to one of the top 5 dive sites in the world- Semporna- another thing on our list to cover within our 10 day visit to the Sabah region of Borneo.
We arrived at Sandakan airport and eventually found the bus stop/ tin shelter for the 2RM Bus to the centre of Sandakan.
Sandakan is the gateway to Sabah- offering up Kota Kinabalu, 5 hours to the West and Lahad Datu/ Semporna 3 hours to the East. It is also the home of Sepilok Orangutan sanctuary- perhaps the most famous place to see Orangutans in the world.
The town itself is a dump- for lack of a stronger word. We got the bus right to the heart of town, which was not too far dissimilar to the suburb regions and slums of Accra, Ghana; hundreds of people walking footless around the streets, market stalls and kids trying to barter a wage, skinny dogs and fat rats a regular occurrences- it all smelt a bit rank around the main streets.
The Harbour Square however, maybe 5 minutes from the central point of town is a lot cleaner and less busy- I say a lot cleaner, it would still be considered an absolute dump in any Westernized place- but it wasn’t too bad- It had a KFC and MCDonalds!!
The hostel itself, Harbourside Hostel was pretty clean and cosy- a nice little place for us to fully plan and prepare our next few days which is what the rest of the day entailed. The staff were also extremely helpful in helping us sort out timings and tours etc.
At sunset some of the guys from our dorm were heading to a Rooftop Bar- BALIN Bar- perhaps the only bar in Sandakan and without local knowledge would never have been found. Located at the top of one of the hotels the bar was pretty cool, serving up some decent cocktails and beer, albeit at an astonishingly slow rate. At least he view wasn’t half bad and a great retreat from the chaotic city below.
We spent the rest of the evening and early night up here, before retreating in preparation for our visit to Sepilok Oranutan Sanctuary tomorrow.