Malaysia: 6/25 – 7/1

(Malaysia) Kuala Lumpur >>> Kota Kinabalu >>> Manana Beach

6/25- 6/26- Planning, Posting Pictures and Skype Sessions!
6/27- Flying to Borneo!
6/28- Exploring around Kota Kinabalu
6/29- Hiking around Mount Kinabalu National Park
6/30- Journey to Manana Beach “Resort” 
7/1- Relaxing and Enjoying Beach Life!

6/25 – 6/26
Planning, Posting Pictures and Skype Sessions!
+ Due to Ramadan ending, Kuala Lumpur was busier than ever with a great number of people travelling to/from the city. Since we had not planned far enough ahead for our travels, when we did go to book flights from KL to Borneo we found that all the prices had skyrocketed.
+ We had originally planned to leave on the 25th but with prices so high, we decided to stay 2 extra nights in KL and then fly on the 27th.
+ Unfortunately we weren’t able to stay in the really nice room we’d been upgraded to at Pacific Express so we again had to move hotels. This time it was just the other side of the block to Avenue J Hotel. Here, we didn’t get an upgrade and instead had a much smaller room with no windows. We were initially upset but in reality we’d stayed in much worse on this trip and we had just been spoiled recently.
+ So for the next 2 days, we mostly hung out in our room with Corey doing research and planning while Liz worked on posting pictures and videos. We also managed to Skype with a few different friends and family members which was nice. We always loved to catch up with people back home it was just so hard to find a time that works for everyone.
+ It worked out spending a majority of our time indoors since each day had lots of rain and severe thunderstorms in the afternoon. Just like summer in Florida!
+ We did venture out for lunch and dinner each day and made sure to get our fill of the Western food we knew would disappear soon. This included another trip back to Chili’s and one more stop at the Tealive place to get some more delicious drinks!
+ One day when we’d finished lunch, we were walking through the massive crowds outside (celebrating the end of Ramadan) and stopped into a place to get Corey’s haircut. The barber ushered us in saying he had space right now and he cut the hair with no problems but when it came time for the shave part of the package, the guy became really agitated like he didn’t have time (even though we’d already told him). We offered to skip it but he was already starting so instead Corey had the most rushed, sloppy shave of his life with lots of little cuts and missed places. Ugh. Oh well, the whole thing only cost about $4.

Flying to Borneo!
+ Today we packed up and headed to the airport. We chose to take the cheaper options of train and then bus as opposed to a taxi or express train, which saved us a good bit of money.
+ At the airport we were disappointed to find out there was no priority pass lounge in our section so we instead had to pay for crappy food from a restaurant. Oh the miseries! Woe is us.
+ The flight on Malaysian Airlines was fine (despite Liz’s worries) and we even got some radang food on the way! Once we arrived in Kota Kinabalu (in the Sabah section of Borneo), we got another passport stamp for some reason (same country but different state) and then we caught an Uber to our hostel for less than $1!
+ At the Akinabalu Hostel , we initially checked into the dorm but then found out it was only another $3/night to have a private room with A/C 24/7 (and wifi) so we upgraded to that and were happier.
+ That night we found most restaurants closed already (some still due to celebrating the end of Ramadan) and had no choice but to get a pizza from the pizza Hut across the street. We felt silly eating more Western food yet again but oh well, no complaints from Corey!
+ At night we skyped with Corey’s mom and brother before laying down in our weirdly comfortable, but not uncomfortable bed.

Exploring around Kota Kinabalu
+ Originally we were going to go to some islands today but we weren’t feeling up to it in the morning (plus it looked overcast) so we chose to have a day around the city instead.
+ First we walked around town a bit and stopped in an Italian restaurant offering an AYCE buffet, which turned out to be hugely disappointing. Then we headed down towards the waterfront and explored some more.
+ Eventually we ended up at an 8 story mall where we decided to go see a movie on that 8th floor cinema. The only one that was starting soon was The Mummy so we decided to watch that. It ended up being pretty mediocre but only cost us $2/person so we weren’t upset. Plus we got to enjoy the A/C the whole time.
+ From there, Liz relaxed at a coffee shop while Corey climbed up to the Signal Hill Observatory Tower to watch sunset over the city.
+ Back at the hostel, the rest of the night involved lots of planning and talking with friends. We did venture out for dinner around 9 and split a spicy chicken wrap at a nearby restaurant that was pretty decent.
+ We wanted to get to Brunei to add another country to our list but the extra money didn’t justify it and there really wasn’t anything to see there anyway so in the end we chose to skip it. Instead we would fly directly to Bangkok and have a few extra days there.
+ Before bed we watched some YouTube videos of John Oliver, another episode of Kimmy Schmidt (just awful), and a couple episodes of Brooklyn 99.

Hiking around Mount Kinabalu National Park
+ Today we were heading to Mount Kinabalu National Park to do some hiking. So after a quick breakfast at the hostel, we walked 5 minutes over to the bus area to catch a ride on the mini buses that went past. These were just like the collectivos in Central America that only left when they were full.
+ To absolutely no one’s surprise, we narrowly missed the one that was filling up and leaving right as we got there. If we had been 1 minute earlier we would’ve gotten on instead of the other people. Gahhhh, so frustrating!
+ So instead of immediately leaving like we’d hoped, we had to wait an entire extra hour. Just sitting there in the heat until enough other people filled up the bus and the lazy driver decided to stop talking with all his buddies. If we’d had known it would take that long, we would have just ordered an Uber and paid less than $10 extra.
+ Our 2 hour journey to the park wasn’t awful except for Corey’s knees getting smashed against the other seats. But that always happened in these type of vans. At the park, the driver stopped and we hopped out and climbed the remaining steps up to the entrance.
+ In the park, we somehow didn’t think to pop into the visitors entrance and instead just took pictures of the giant map and relied on the piece of paper we had describing each trail. We picked out a route that would fit within our alloted time and set off to explore the base of Mount Kinabalu.
+ After hiking up a steep and muddy section for a long time, we finally got to the (relatively) flat part of the trail where we could just look around and enjoy.
+ Around half way down the trail, it started pouring rain and we realized we’d forgotten to bring our rain jackets! So we trudged along getting soaking wet, but still enjoying the experience.
+ The rain turned out to be a blessing because about 20 minutes later, with the rain still drowning out the sound of our movements, we stumbled upon a Malayan Sun Bear!!! These creatures were super rare and almost impossible to see in the wild. If it hadn’t been for the rain, it surely would’ve run away long before we could see it. We tried to get the camera out and snap a picture, but it was already long gone. Still, so cool!
+ That brightened our spirits and we finished the rest of that trail and then the whole next trail headed back South towards the entrance. We kept our eyes peeled the whole time but only saw a squirrel, some birds, and a crazy red and black rhinoceros -horned centipede! Such exotic critters!
+ Once we’d made it all the way back, we talked with the visitors center (they confirmed we went the best route) who were surprised we’d seen the Sun Bear. Then we got some celebratory ice cream as a substitute for lunch and walked back down to the highway to wait for our ride.
+ Unlike when we’d left KK, there was no set bus station so in order to hail a bus/minibus you had to stand on the side of the highway (picking a good spot for maximum viewing distance of course) and try to hail any minibuses or big buses that were driving past and said KK on the front. The first 10 or so were full and didn’t stop, but eventually a big bus pulled over and we climbed in.
+ The bus seats were completely full so we sat up front on the entrance steps with the driver and money collector guy. They were funny, offered us cookies, and we had a good time with them for the 2 hour journey back. We even took a selfie with them!
+ Back in town, we headed to our hostel and enjoyed a warm shower (the bus had been absolutely freezing, especially since we were soaking wet!) and then went out for dinner.
+ There was a super cheap pasta place nearby where you could order a bowl of pasta and choose your noodle, sauce, and meat. All for only US $1.50! So we ate our fill there and then relaxed back at the hostel.
+ Before going to sleep, we re-organized our bags for our trip tomorrow and then watched some 30 Rock before bed.

Journey to Manana Beach “Resort”
+ Today we were headed to the Manana Beach Resort which was about 2 hours North of KK. First we had a nice leisurely morning and breakfast and then checkout out of our room and put our big bags into their storage closet at Akinabalu. We didn’t want to haul them to the resort since the journey would include a small boat ride and we didn’t want them to get wet or sandy. Plus the fact that we were coming back here to the hostel after the beach.
+ We ordered an Uber to get up there but the driver told us it was too far to go there (same problem as our Uber from Kuta to Ubud in Indonesia) but luckily he had a friend that could take us so we waited at the hostel until his friend arrived. His friend happened to live in Kota Belud, near where we needed to go and so taking us along for the journey was no problem and we just paid him the same amount we would’ve paid the Uber guy.
+ Along the way we talked a lot about Malaysia and the U.S. since he was friendly and spoke English pretty well. Then he dropped us at the beach where a few minutes later a small boat arrived and carted us across the water to the resort. We were pretty worried about sinking since we had a lot of electronics with us and the water kept splashing over the side (slowly filling the boat). Thankfully we arrived safely.
+ Almost immediately, we could tell the resort was very poorly run and didn’t have the man power or organization to operate like any sort of “resort”. Our room wasn’t ready so we hung out for the next few hours content with reading and gazing at the horizon.
+ The sunset was beautiful and then we sat around talking with the 12 other guests that were staying here. That’s when we learned of a lot of the misadventures and mishaps that had occurred during the past day or two. Apparently the boat had sunk (our worries had been correct!) and there had been only 1 guy running the whole resort for a day or two, which caused some of the guests to have to cook dinner for themselves. There also wasn’t enough drinks, food, or running water for everyone.
+ Due to that shortage, the “manager” disappeared for a few hours to go across the water into town and bring back more supplies. He was gone much longer than anticipated and when he came back it was evident something else had gone wrong. Apparently the boat had sunk again and many of the drinks, food, and supplies were lost overboard. Plus the poor guy had stepped on a sea urchin so his foot was badly injured. Then, upset by his string of luck, the guy went off to the side and cried for a while. Corey tried to comfort him (followed by a few other guests) and eventually he had another staff guy (who had just shown up) help one of the guests cooking dinner for everyone.
+ Although everyone was upset with the situation, we all felt bad for the guy and so we just made the best of it. The only real part that bothered us honestly were the extremely high prices they were charging for dinner (about US $5) which was wayyyy more than it was worth. It was that much despite the fact that another guest had to do the cooking!
+ That night everyone sat around drinking and talking until it was somehow already after midnight. We mostly talked with a nice Danish couple and a really friendly couple from Hobart, Tasmania! Then we all retired to our little beach shacks and as quickly as we could jumped inside our mosquito nets and into bed.

Relaxing and Enjoying Beach Life!
+ We were awoken in the morning by what sounded like someone hammering a piece of metal very loudly. After sleepily rolling out of bed to check it out, we discovered it was part of the metal roof flapping in the wind since it was so windy this morning.
+ Knowing we wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep (maybe Liz could with her super-sleeping powers) we headed to the main area for some breakfast. Liz enjoyed her cheese omelet and Corey got some sort of really tasty pancake made with onions and other things called a Roti Canai.
+ For the next few hours, we alternated between mingling with our new friends and relaxing in hammocks and bean bag chairs reading our books.
+ After some decent lunch (again wayyy overpriced) we went back to relaxing and enjoying beach life. We also took a break to throw around the frisbee and go swimming in the ocean for a bit.
+ We didn’t have any problems until we were getting out of the water. That’s when Liz ran into (literally) some sort of very large jellyfish. She didn’t see it, but it was large enough to wrap its tentacles around the first leg and across her second leg, leaving very painful stings on both legs! IMG-20170702-WA0005
+ We tried to get some vinegar from the kitchen, but they only had artificial vinegar which wad only sugar and citric acid so it really didn’t help to relieve the sting. Over the next hour or two, the red sting marks became more like raised welts but eventually the pain subsided enough that she was able to relax again.
+ Before sunset Corey took one of the kayaks out and explored around the coast, finding a few hidden beach coves that were very pretty.
+ Luckily for everyone a the resort, the guy had brought some help back with him to the resort and so there were staff to make everyone dinner tonight!
+ One of the most annoying things about the resort was that there was no menu to order from as advertised. We joked with the other guests about how we had all been looking forward to the smoothies and juices listed on the menu and how that was definitely not the case in real life. The website online had listed a menu that had all sorts of different options and we had looked forward to trying a few Malaysian dishes and even sipping smoothies throughout the day. Instead the staff would simply tell you the only option they had for dinner, and then you ordered that and paid the unknown price. Not the end of the world, but disappointing nonetheless.
+ After dinner we played some cards with the nice Danish couple first and then a nice group of friends from the UK. They each taught us a new card game that we could play later on in our travels. We hung out chatting with them for a while until almost midnight again and then retired back to our room and watched a couple episodes of Brooklyn 99 before bed.

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