In what can only be described as a whirlwind of a month, I have finally found some time to sit down in relative peace and calm to write this post. The last four weeks have involved, in no particular order: (low cost) international travel, white water rafting, mountain climbing, jungles, bat shit, caves, Nasi Lemak, 3am wake-up calls, lots of driving, a wedding, lots of walking, and a high school graduation. And a substantial reduction in my savings.
Where do I even begin! Well, at the beginning, no doubt.
On June 26th, one of my high school friends (S) and I took off from Colombo to Kuala Lampur. We were on route to Kota Kinabalu, which is part of Malaysian Borneo, where we were planning on meeting another of our high school friends (R) who was at that time busy backpacking his way through most of South East Asia (much to our envy). The plan had been thrown together all very suddenly, with a little over 4 weeks of preparation for this week long adventure holiday. Either way, it was a much needed break for me, and I eagerly devoured all the material R had sent me regarding the itinerary for our stay.
Our first day was mainly spent travelling, from Colombo to KL, and then KL to KK. We landed sometime in the night, and took a cab to the lodge R was staying in. As our cab sped along on its way to the small side street off the main road that was our destination, I took in my first view of Malaysia. While most people are enamoured with the glitz and glamour of the capital, I knew that we were literally not going to set foot in Kuala Lampur, save for the transit in the airport. Kota Kinabalu would have to welcome me to Malaysia all on her own, and it did so with a brave attempt of emulating her capital, though without nearly half the grandeur. The streets were well lit, full of colour but the city seemed simple and unassuming to my eye.
As we carried our bags to the lodge, I was surprised at the place we were staying at. The word 'lodge' was a slight exaggeration; it had one medium sized central living room, and a few dormitories with bunk beds. The entire place was air conditioned, and very clean, the beds looked very clean and comfortable as well. We were bunking with 5-6 other people though, all travellers by the looks of them, yet no one seemed at all bothered that three loud Asians had just infiltrated their sleeping quarters with loud enthusiastic conversation.
Our first night we walked to the pier where R was already having dinner with a few travelling friends he had met that day. This concept of meeting random people while travelling and then joining them for meals and lodging was new to me; perhaps it is my Sri Lankan nature to expect the worst while travelling with strangers. However, we all had a great time as we got to know each other. And what a group we were! One Japanese nurse on holiday, one Texan oil rigger on leave (he was working on a rig off the coast of Malaysia if I'm not mistaken), one 19 year old Swiss girl who had just completed high school and was on a break. And of course, three Sri Lankans; one living in Singapore, one living in Switzerland, and yours truly. The night was long, yet enjoyable and full of fun, especially when R was offered free sexual favours from some transsexual prostitutes on the way back to the lodge. We literally fled the scene laughing, it was so awkward.
Day 1 began early, because we had used some of S's contacts to get us on a white water rafting tour. We had heard the river we were going to was pretty rough, providing at least level 3-4 rapids (level 5 is the highest you can do without a license, if I'm not mistaken), so we were pretty excited about it. We got picked up by van, and a couple other vans joined us as we made our way to the river. As it turned out, the river was a good 3-4 hours drive away; that is, the train station was 3-4 hours away. From there we go by train to the river, because apparently it's not accessible any other way. No complaints, since the journey there was beautiful! We were climbing up to some serious altitude; at one point, the road climbed at such a steep angle that the van had to switch off the a/c and crawl up it.
After a light lunch on the way, we got in the train and headed to the river, where we loaded up the boats, got our life jackets, helmets, and got broken into squads. We three were in one boat, along with a Scottish/Irish single mom and her adorable 8 year old daughter. Now, you may think 'what is a single mom and her 8 year old doing white-water rafting?', and let me just inform you that she happened to be a former competitive Thai boxer. Yep, she hardcore. As for the kid, well, they said it was safe, so I was not too worried.
We got in the boats along with our guide whose name was King Kong. I can't remember the last time I've seen a man so chiselled. Needless to say, we felt pretty safe with him at the 'helm'.
The rapids were amazing! I doubt I can do justice to the whole experience, but me and R were in the front paddling our arms off and it was no easy task, especially when your boat is climbing up a crest and you can see the bottom of the wave a good 10 feet below you! Fantastic fun, especially when after hitting a particularly large wave head on, me and R turned around for a split second to see King Kong pulling S back in to the boat after a short 'out-of-boat' experience in a rapid. No time to burst into laughter though, another rapid was approaching! Between the rapids though we managed to coast and even get in the river ourselves to cool off a bit, while R bravely (or foolishly) took out his camera from his water-proof bag to take a few pictures on the way.
After a little over an hour, we reached the end point. It was quite a tiring ride but the fatigue was negated by the adrenaline rush. Truly a fun experience, and we made our way back to the train and back to our vans. After a short tea, we made the long journey back to KK, but not before taking in the amazing sunset from the mountains.
After reaching our rooms we decided to try out some of the famed sea food in the area, and after asking a few people for their recommendations we ended up at the largest sea food food-court I had ever seen. Only, it wasn't what you would expect.
Yes, there we were, surrounded by more aquariums than Sea World, filled with every variety of sea creature that is edible by man. I'm sure if we looked hard enough we'd find an aquarium labelled "Aquaman's Mom". All one had to do was pick one, tell them how you wanted them
to die prepared, and Bam! there's your dinner. Now, I love my seafood, but this was a bit much. I had never craved chicked so badly; we decided to head back to the pier for some Singaporean cuisine instead.
So that was the end of Day 1; the next day we'd be travelling to the Mulu National Park in Sarawak, where we'd be staying for the remainder of our trip. I think this is enough of an update for now, will post the rest later!