Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Adventure Borneo

After a scenic two-hour bus ride to the south of KK, we are brought to the quiet town of rural Beaufort for the....

Proboscis Monkey River Cruise and Fireflies Tour


Prior to departure, we were able to grab a booking through Nasalis Larvatus Sdn Bhd, Riverbug and Traverse Tours via their Philippine contact Ms. Mhay Rondael (Mobile: +639172085317). I hate travel agencies simply because they have nothing better to do than capitalize on the dumb tourists. I am very satisfied to know that there are tour operators that can still be highly trusted. Mhay was a great contact, her replied email took less than a day and service was absolutely excellent. She even gave us some tips on our Kota Kinabalu trip.

The "Proboscis Monkey River Cruise and Fireflies Tour Itinerary"

1330 hrs: Depart From Kota Kinabalu for Beaufort, two hours overland to the Southern part of Sabah. (It was a scenic route of mountains, towns and rice fields.)

garama base camp, beaufort peaceful paces

Garama Camp

preserve the preserve

1530 hrs: Arrive at Garama Base Camp some few kilometers away from the busy highway and are being transferred to the mangrove swamps forest filled with their own distinctive busyness and beauty. (There was some time to have some tea or coffee with a few Malaysian rice cakes and sweets.)

sets boat swerve

Boat ride

amber afternoon

1600 hrs: On board a fiberglass boat for 1 hour river cruise in this red river (effect of tree’s tanine) surrounded by mangrove trees. Proboscis monkey can be spotted most of the time in the trees feeding on young leaves, shoots, sour fruits and seeds. Among others, you will have the opportunity to observe Macaque, the rare Silver Languor, Water buffalo crossing the river and variety of birds. You may also witness sunset while cruising back to the river lodge. (Consider yourself lucky if you see the rest of the animals BUT spotting the Proboscis is more than enough).

nasalis larvatus

Only in Borneo

proboscis nose

Proboscis Monkey

smore smonkeys

Alpha-male & Harem

fluffed proboscis

monkey troupe
Monkeys at play

water buffalos and white friends
Water buffaloes and friends

1800 hrs: Upon arriving at the lodge, a sumptuous BBQ dinner served in buffet line to satisfy your hunger after the river cruising. (Actually it was a Malaysian buffet, which must have been better than a Western meal).

1830 hrs: After dinner, a short walk to the viewing deck to catch the glimpse of fireflies decorating the mangrove trees like a Christmas tree. After 10-15 minutes of firefly watching, it’s time to head back to Kota Kinabalu.

2100 hrs: Estimated time of arrival in Kota Kinabalu.

welcome to KK @ jeTTleson point

Jesselton Point is the main port to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TAR). Expect to pay for additional fees. Speed boat operators show 16 Ringgit for a ride to the island and back, but are kind enough to let you know that you must add 6 Ringgit for tax and another 10 Ringgit for admission fee before entering each island.

cloudy, but we'll get through it =)

Pulau Sapi: is said to be the best island for snorkeling when in TAR. Although it does have a coral garden of some sort, the claim is only being said probably because it needs its marketing banner for tourists.

Welcome to Sapi Island

so long, sapi rocky flavours

Pulau Manukan

Manukan island: is one of the most developed islands around TAR with overnight lodging available. Dubbed as a 'must-see' in the tourist itinerary. We must always be reminded to keep our expectations low as snorkeling in this island is horrible with what dead sea corals and colorless marine life it offers. The island is over populated with day-trippers, to say the least, so choose another pulau if you prefer some solitude.

Pulau Sapi Dock

Four out of the five islands in TAR have piers and each one boasts its unique set of resident fishes who have developed communities and have found a sanctuary close to the wooden stilts. These spoiled cold-blooded animals gather in schools waiting for their next meal and scramble for tossed bread.

more fishes!
Fish Feeding

To make up for the lousy snorkeling sites and overabundance of other tourists, have yourself a good meal by the beach. Pulau Manukan has sumptuous offerings in two buffets and an a la carte menu you, your palate and your wallet can choose from. The Grill & BBQ buffet at the far end of the island puts up an intimidating if not exciting array of fresh seafoods, meats and vegetables all for grilling and BBQ-ing at a hefty, touristy price of 60RM for the hefty touristy diner.

Prawn & Squid Fritters, Veggie Samosas Divine Chicken Satay

The 28RM (+/-) buffet by the restaurant offers a more humble but competitively appealing layout of food playing on Malaysian-Southeast Asian-Indian cuisines while the a la carte menu, from which we chose from, allows you to customize your own meal with the variety of offerings while allowing you to still keep in mind your budget and appetite. Lunch had us some divine chicken satay served with savory rice cakes and refreshing zucchinis bites, a few tasty vegetable samosas and some squid and prawn fritters. A satisfying and filling lunch, which could only lead to the inevitable -- a nice short nap on the next island on our itinerary.

yes, beach

Pulau Mamutik:
is probably the best island in TAR. Snorkeling is great even with exciting currents to make skin diving a great exercise. It is the least populated yet is developed enough, accommodating a food stall and scuba center. In addition camping is allowed in this Pulau. Trees along the stretch of fine sand provide shade for an intoxicating afternoon nap. After lunch, there is nothing but whispers from the wind, hypnotic buzzes from insects and a calm crash of waves on the distance. Spending an entire day is highly recommended.

There are many other eco-adventure activities to do in Borneo, Mt. Kinabalu alone takes 3-days off the itinerary. Other attractions include Orangutans over at Sepilok, dips in the Poring Hot Springs, a scenic old-school train ride, white water rafting, diving in Sipadan, and the list goes on.

Borneo surely is a haven for nature-lovers and nature freaks -- from newbies to hobbyists to extreme seasoned challengers. With all that Borneo offers, almost everyone can find any eco-activity suited to one's liking and fancies, and KK is definitely the city you'd want to jump off from and end with your Borneo Adventure.

triptayo Sabah-Borneo was done last April 27 - May 1, 2007
more photos here and here


Lowcost airlines open gates to find new treasures.

Kota Kinabalu (KK) in Sabah, Malaysia is a short two-hour flight via budget airline Air Asia from the Diosdado Macapagal Airport in Clark Airbase, Pampanga. Short flight, but not quite easy. Air Asia only flies out from Clark, so that in itself is kinda out of the way if you're from Manila. Second, the taxes from that airport amount to something around Php 2,500 per person. Ghastly. Third, the airline only allows for free-seating, which can only translate to a messy elbow-bumping, face-smacking scenario for us harried Filipinos. Also, meals or snacks don't come complimentary so either you stuff yourself silly prior the flight, or shell out bucks to buy what food is offered in the airline carts. Fifth, you can't really expect much from a budget airline's fly-in fly-out route, so there's hardly enough time to clean up the garbage and tidy up the seats from the previous flight, and this is evident in the not-so clean leather seats with remnants of candy wrappers tucked in the creases. So if you're that particular, bring out the wet wipes and smother on some much-needed cleanliness in that leather seat you elbow-bumped for.

Upon arrival, a nice, clean and modern airport welcomes travelers and tourists. A delightful change from that of Clark's. Cabs are easy to come by once you step out of the terminal, that's if you don't already have your hotel's pick-up service waiting on you, signboard in hand. KK Airport isn't too far away from the city center, give it 15 minutes and you're bound to be in your hotel already, given of course that your hotel of choice is just in the main city.

KK is an all too-familiar city for Southeast Asian dwellers, or at least for us Filipinos. The city is reminiscent of Malate, Manila, or even Davao (or so we've heard) with its old town charm and busy streets. The city center is small, so everything is in walking distance which makes the city even more lovable.

KK locals start their weekend habits with a morning visit to one or two (or three!) of the city’s string of street markets. Check-in in any hotel or tourist lodge and you’re bound to be just a stone’s throw away from any lively street market.

asia city morning market


Asia City’s small open market starts your morning off with warm Malaysian smiles inviting curious on-lookers to try their local rice cakes and colorful pastries. Some stalls seem to be family-run as mother-daughter, father-son teams operate their small weekend morning businesses. Food is mostly offered in Asia City’s Market as the stalls are vibrantly alive with rainbow colored pastries, delicious smelling buns and tempting breads, fresh vegetables and fruits, and fresh fruit shake stands. A few booths sparkle with locally produced trinkets, accessories and straw hats.

Asia City delights

Gaya Street right near Jessleton Hotel holds the Gaya Sunday Street Market where the street is closed off to vehicular traffic and opens its welcoming arms to enthusiastic and raring pedestrian shoppers. Gaya is a loooooooong street where it holds all sorts of scents, sights and stimulants. From domestic pets like cats, gerbils and turtles to vibrant artworks of batik fabrics and hand painted masks, more trinkets and accessories, potted flora and fauna, more food and even more food, to the usual designer rip-offs like watches, wallets and sunglasses.

KK is a great place to go food tripping that it deserves a whole other blog post (naturally!). Although the city is not the type one would get lost in with the hopes of a great find, it still plays host to an array of dining choices. Easy to fall in love with, this bay city is a great place to relax over some tea or coffee in quaint little corners. Places and establishments like Warisam Square across the Waterfront Esplanade area is best for this afternoon or evening delight. However be warned that commercial capitalists like Starbucks and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf have already taken over KK. Nonetheless an easy walk around the area will bring you to find those charming local cafes.

The City Mosque, which was built to give the impression that it was floating above the waters of Likas Bay, is a splendid sight to see in the evening. We hear that it's much more gorgeous during sunset as the vibrant shades of the sun reflect on the calm and sprawling man-made lagoon, giving the viewers a majestic and commanding display of colors which only glorifies the grandeur of the Mosque itself.


Hamin Lodge is the perfect place to stay for the budget traveler who seeks sanctuary in accommodations. Newly opened, this boutique lodge offers room options, like queen-size beds for couples, to bunk beds for friends to dormitory type rooms for backpackers. Some rooms have their own toilet and bath while a common T&B is located in each floor.

coconuts see no speak no lamps

With a wonderful sense of style and close attention to detail, Hamin has turned itself into a welcoming oasis from the busy local life surrounding it. And just like its character, the people from Hamin Lodge are simply the best. They will accommodate questions, requests and even give favor to their guests. Prior to departure, exchange of emails and initial deposits went by like a breeze. One rule of thumb we have come to understand based from past travels is that, speedy and accommodating responses are a great sign of service. Hamin easily passed with flying colors.

seated chimes
Hamin's balcony

triptayo KK was done last April 27 - May 1, 2007
more photos here and here

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Seeking Buddah in Ayutthaya

- -
First, visit the King's Grand Summer Palace.

cross the bridge (back in the day, men had to walk on the other side of the bridge, slipping letters and notes to women through the jalousy slits.)


Check out his gifts from other nations


Now relax, recline and head on to Buddah's enlightenment stages



Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol




Make sure to visit Wat Phra Si Sanphet


Two Buddahs + 3 spires

- best site


Visit Mr. Wat Phra Mahathat and marvel at the vast well preserved architecture around Him.


Finally, seek blessings over at Wat Panan Choeng

Ayutthaya Buddha sends down

and allow Buddah to descend enlightenment.

*Ayutthaya is the best place to visit near Bangkok and only an hour's ride outside the city. We opted to rent a van for 3,000 Baht and pay an addition 1,000 Baht for a tour guide. Budget in numbers makes this the sweetest deal amongst all the options I had in my previous post. More information on the city can be found here and here.

*more photos here and here.