Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Malaysia - Borneo

We went to Borneo kind of randomly (it happened to be the cheapest place for us to fly to), but I'm really glad we made the detour and stopped in for a few days. The big attraction in the northern state of Sabah, where we were, is Mt. Kinabalu, which is one of the tallest mountains in SE Asia and also one of the easiest to climb. It was also a little out of our price range, so we admired it as we drove by in the bus that took us to the Kinabatangan River valley. In truth, we weren't that interested in mountain climbing because we had a sweet homestay set up, and some jungle adventures planned. The homestay is a WWF project to provide livelihood for people in the area, so besides having families host tourists, they also train people to be guides, boatmen, back office people and anything else that might go into running such an operation. The family we stayed with was big and shy, but we got to chat with them a fair amount, watch some Malaysian soccer, eat some good food and have a cooking lesson that consisted of Abby dumping some chopped veggies into a pot and the mom declaring "done!" The boat tours were nice, it was just us and our guide Joel, so we got to putter around on the river for hours, looking for wildlife and dodging the occasional power boat of a bigger, much more expensive jungle operation down river. The wildlife was amazing: wild elephants, monitor lizards, a variety of macaques, proboscis monkeys, crocodiles, orangutans (which we didn't see), kingfishers, hornbills and egrets, wild boar and a few other things I'm probably forgetting. We tried to set up a jungle hike to maybe see some animals up close, but the hike was more like a 15 minute walk into the jungle to the eco-camp they're building, and not much else. Oh well...

There was another group there so we got to sit in on their cultural show. The cultural dances were almost exactly the same as Filipino dances, minus the weird Spanish colonial dances. I half expected them to come out and do tinikiling, and when I asked they said they have the same dance, it just goes by another name there.

They asked for volunteers to come up, so I got to bang on some drums in a Borneo version of the hippie drum circle.


Monitor lizard - about 5 to 6 feet long

We happened to be there during the annual elephant migration, so we were extremely lucky to see a herd of elephants. In fact, we were so lucky our guide literally jumped up and down in the boat saying "we're so lucky!"

We came across them a second time, and this time they were out in plain view. Unfortunately it was getting dark, so most of our pictures were a little blurry, since we couldn't use a flash, obviously.

This is the best picture of a mom and baby. We watched them eat for about 10 minutes.

Proboscis monkeys, hanging out in the trees.


The river at sunset. It was pretty muddy from the erosion caused by all the recent flooding.

A lake we hiked to.

This photo is actually the reflection off the incredibly still lake.

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