Tuesday, 12 June 2012

From Orchard Road to the Borneo Rainforest

I missed this face
It is a 29-hour flight from Canada to Singapore and while I waited for my son and his girlfriend to arrive I was watching those dreadful hours tick nonchalantly by in anticipation. The day I had waited months to arrive was finally here.
Sam & Luc at Buddha Tooth Temple
R2 and I wanted to take the kids somewhere unique and unusual.  Of course, they did the commonplace tourist rounds to Universal Studios, Sentosa beach, the water park, Orchard Road shopping extravaganza, movies, and Chinatown, we wanted them to remember this trip for more than the typical day in the life of a tourist.
I did arrange some more interesting events for the kids to partake. Lucas, an accomplished guitar/bass artist jammed with some excellent blues players at the Singapore Blues Club. He even took his talent down to the Crazy Elephant one night to jam with funky musicians.  He isn't old enough to play in the bars in Canada so this was a great opportunity to jam with all styles of musicians. We also rented a karaoke room, where you buy the room and sing your heart out for an hour; luckily no one hears you or I might have been arrested for noise pollution. A little archery was thrown in for good measure so we could all pretend to be Xena and Robin Hood for an hour.
A Gibbons hanging around
To give our guests more of the Asian experience we left the safety of Singy and flew to Kota Kinabalu in the Borneo Rainforest of Malaysia. The Borneo is the oldest rainforest in the world; a mere 130 million years old. There are so many species of wildlife you will only find in this part of the world and we wanted to experience a small part of it before more of the jungle and magnificent animals are destroyed by the Palm Oil that is taking its toll on the region.
Kota Kinabalu or KK as it is known by the locals, was a mixture of old and new Malaysia. You could be walking amongst provision shophouses and street merchants, only to come across a six-story fashion mall with arcades, theaters and shops galore.
Our hotel was an adventure in itself. We never did figure out the rancid smell and the holes in the ceiling that had a faint resemblance to bullet holes.
I am not Richard Nixon
We were there for the monkeys and the snorkeling, not the hotel so we hired a van and made the 2.5 hour trip to see the Proboscis monkeys. If you don't know what these leaf-eating monkeys look like, think of your pot-bellied old uncle with the whisky nose and that will give you an idea of how strange these primates are. Scientists are not sure why their noses are so large, but think it is to attract the smaller-nosed female. Like many oddly paired couples in Asia, I guess there is no accounting for taste.
Sunset at KK
After the sun went down, we were also treated to an amazing show put on by thousands of fireflies that light up the Mangroves better than the Christmas Tree in Times Square, New York.The "flies" are actually beetles that the locals call Kelip-Kelip which is Malay for "twinkle." And kelip, they do. The sight of these insects is outstanding. Imagine gliding on a boat through the black night when you round the bend to a Mangrove swamp lit up as far as the eye can see. I think this is a memory that will stay with Sam and Luc for a long time.
From primates to clown fish, we decided to snorkel in the crystal-clear, warm waters of the South China Sea the following day. I am not much of a snorkeler but I thought I better give it a go with Luc here. The last time I snorkeled with him was in Punta Cana, DR. I was so worried about the drunken jet-skiing tourists cruising too close to the coral and not seeing us, that I didn't enjoy that experience. This time was much better. We were able to snorkel off the beach and it was closed to any type of boats or motorized sports.  The only casualties we had were the bites from the Jelly Bugs. We think this is the local term for minute Jelly Fish stings. I offered to pee on Luc and Sam but they thought they would go to the lifeguard station and get vinegar to ease the itchiness.
On the boat ride back to KK, heavy rains blew in making the ride a mixture of a bucking bronco and a car wash. There were a couple of times, we thought the small boat was going to capsize; drenched doesn't describe how wet we were when the ride was over.
KK was a learning experience for the kids. We took in many local eateries, decided to let them try reflexology on their feet for the first time, had their ears candled and found Sam her first massage.  They went to a movie where the entire flick had Malay subtitles.
We saw Orang utans (which are also only from the Borneo), adored Pygmy Elephants and showed them Civets that produce "Poop Coffee" which is the most expensive coffee in the world. The coffee beans are processed from the digestive tract of the Civet earning it the title of "Poop Coffee Beans." Once again, no accounting for taste.
His poop worth his weight in Gold
We experienced many strange things in the Borneo that will be a once in a lifetime event for my son and I. Luc has promised to come to Asia once he is done his second year at UBC to find more adventures in Cambodia, Korea, Thailand and Malaysia. He adapted, as most teenagers do, quite well to the Singapore heat, the strange food and enjoyed chatting with the locals who frequently told me, "Your boy, so handsome."  Who knows, maybe he will make Asia his home once his University career is over. I hope, if nothing else, all the places I have taken my children, they learn to love travel as much as I do.

Jackfruit - King of the fruits

A Macqua  stealing the bike

Baby Wild Boars - little watermelons

The blessing of the Coconut

Xena has nothing on me

Pygmy Elephant

Orang Utans are becoming extinct too

First time for ear candling

Learning about the Borneo Rainforest


  1. I'm truly thankful for the experience Layna, and it is one I wont forget. We had so much fun and saw so many different things, some I enjoyed more than others. :) thanks again


    1. Things Sam liked....Swimming, coconuts, monkeys, wild boars, Andaman Sea, Karaoke, movies, satay cooker, watching soccer at 3:00 a.m.
      Things Sam did not like....jelly bugs, Mossies, head cold, migraine, sunburn, pig organs, long flight and walking sooooo far. I concur with this list as well.

      Glad you enjoyed the experience of our crazy lives.

  2. All looks like fabulous fun to me, but those monkeys better stay away from my bike if I go there - no sharing with the monkeys! I'm not sure if I dig the candles in the ear thing though! I'm sure you will organize much fantastic fun for me when I'm there -only 43 more days - can't wait to see you! Hugs, sista!

    1. Remember all you do is recorded for a future blog!

  3. hey! i posted a comment and its gone.. weird.. well ill say it again, im so thankful that you welcomed me into your home for this amazing experience. Thanks soo much :)


    1. Sam Posteth it, Monkey Tooketh it

    2. Nope, it stayed Sam...maybe you looked while I was making a comment to you. Must NEVER, EVER trust technology. Like the monkeys, it is very sneaky!

  4. You are an AMAZING WRITER !! We can almost see the things you see because of your choice of words and descriptive language. They would be idiots if they don't give you all the awards.
    Good to have a bit of an update on Luc - what a bright and talented guy!

  5. Merci Beaucoup. Thank you for reading and enjoying...my stats are going through the roof...a lot of people reading and liking our funny, little life!

  6. You're such a coooooooooool mum!!!!

  7. And she is a former cool neighbor too. Miss ya Red!! Knowing you so well makes me feel like I am on these adventures with you and Luc...I can almost hear your voice complaining about the frizzy hair!! LOL Hi to R2 as well.

    1. I am still a cool neighbour, except the locals are too busy working to stop and pay attention to the neighbours here....mansions galore but no one comes out to play because they work, work, work and make more and more and more money!

  8. Great write up Layna. I am really enjoying your blog and making notes on where to go and what to see. I am looking forward to hearing about your visit to Kl; I bet it was more interesting than mine.

    See you soon. Jean

  9. Thank you Jean for reading...any info you need - you know where to find me. Just one MRT stop away!

  10. 29 hour flight!! I am dreading the 15 hour one from UK to KL. Any advice for the holiday? Going to KL, Cameron Highlands, Sandakan, Lankayan Island and KK. Anything we definitely cannot miss whilst there? I am so excited! Been waiting for this trip for so long!

  11. This made me wish i was back there!!!! so much fun best vacation yet! looks like slim chances i can return after this year but as soon as i can it must be done!!!!11


    1. Slim chance any of us will return, well, you will, but it will be a while for me - Japan, Korea, and Indonesia...