From Taiwan I went back to Singapore and on the same day I took another plane to Kota Kinabalu, Borneo. The next three blog posts will talk about my time in the Malaysian Borneo, I spent 11 days there and unexpectedly it turned out to be my favorite part of the whole trip. So, let’s start with a geographical description of what I am talking about: The island of Borneo is divided into 2 countries, the north is Malaysia and the south Indonesia. I was in the Malaysian part and that side of the island is divided into two main states: Sarawak and Sabah. The first one is backpacker friendly since it is cheaper and more touristy the second one is more expensive, quite isolated but incredible from a biodiversity and activities point of view. Since I wanted this whole vacation to be as wild as possible I obviously went to the state of Sabah.
As soon as I landed in Kota Kinabalu, capital of Sabah, I met Loris, the one that eventually became my adventure companion and a really nice friend for the whole 10 days I spent in Borneo. I love planning and when I visit a new place I always know what I want to see or experience, Borneo was no exception. In my mind I had already planned all the activities I wanted to do, I just needed to understand if they were doable from both an economic and time consuming point of view. For example I wanted to climb mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Malaysia, but I asked around and the cheapest option, due to some government restrictions, cost 450 euros per day… definitely out of my budget!
Anyway, Loris had absolutely no idea of what he wanted to do so I told him about my itinerary he liked it and that’s how we started traveling together. It was a completely new experience to me, I had never traveled with my friends for more than 3/4 days let alone with I guy I just met! But I have to say traveling with Loris was really nice and extremely funny, I was the responsible one and he was the one with good internet connection on the phone, a mosquito net and a sick GoPro ahahahaha
In Sabah it is really hard to book things in advance because it is either too expensive online or there are no information. Luckily the lady at the hostel where I was staying offered us a quite convenient 3 days cruise on the Kinabatangan River and since it was one of the things I wanted to do I just went for it. Best decision ever!!!
Early morning the following day Loris and I took a 6 hours bus to a lodge in the hearth of the rainforest place we were going to stay for the next few days. I genuinely enjoyed my time there! Besides the fact it was a really fancy place that looked like a resort, we met so many amazing people from all over the world and some of them were coincidentally following our same itinerary so we met again along the way! We spent those 3 days hiking (I was bitten by the fattest leach I’ve ever seen!!) and cruising along the river in a small boat (I’m a pro with boats now) trying to spot alligators, orang-utans and as much wildlife as possible! We were extremely lucky and on our first day we got to see a lot of different mammals, some amphibious, thousands of scarily huge insects, amazing sunsets and we also danced traditional Sabah songs in a really embarrassing way!
The food was amazing, we would have breakfast lunch and dinner in a beautiful outdoor living room surrounded by colourful plants and sneaky monkeys that were trying to steal your food… one of them peed on the breakfast table where we were eating actually! I got slightly splashed but since the day a seagull pooped on my head in Bangkok and since I stepped on a huge open air latrine in India and somehow managed not to lose my foot I feel like I’m excreta-proof now ahahahah (stepping on human poop and god knows what else in India was quite an extreme experience you’ll for sure tell you… enough to say for now that I had to throw the shoes away ahahahah)
I always feel particularly connected to nature and animals, the Kinabatangang river is an explosion of vivid colours and blooming life, it is impossible I think not to feel somehow overwhelmed by all these different stimulus. There were shades of green and animals I had never seen in my entire life, smells and texture I had never felt and sunsets reflecting on the water that can’t be described with words; it was a full 360° experience. I think the entire state of Sabah was the closest place, in terms of feelings, to what I felt in Bagan in Myanmar (even though Bagan was so powerful I still wake up some mornings and I can’t believe it happened..).
“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.'”