Back to basics in Borneo


Apologies the blog is getting a bit all over the place, I still have pictures from Melbourne to post along with my Sephora haul but the internet is far too sketchy to post any pictures. Plus with so little connectivity I’ve had time to write an up to date blog post so here you find me in Borneo..

As I write this I’m in a hammock outside our room (wooden hut/lodge) at the Billit Lodge in the rainforest in Borneo. (Update – had to go inside because there was a massive hornet flying around the hut, the noise it was making was like a drilling tattoo needle noise! Eek). I can hear monkey noises coming from the trees above us and the fruity scent of my shower gel seems to be attracting flies (but they are probably equally confused by the notes of Deet all over my skin). Not in my natural habitat you could say!

Although Phil and I are travelling, I wouldn’t call it ‘travelling’. Neither of us ended up bringing backpacks, we haven’t stayed in 10 person dorms (or any dorms for that matter) and I don’t think we could honestly say we were ‘roughing it’. I like seeing far away places but I wouldn’t call myself adventurous in the slightest, I’m far too much of a princess. For better or worse I like my creature comforts, I like nice hotels, I’ve never lived outside a big city and I get anxious when I don’t have wifi signal! I’ve never really enjoyed camping or anything that doesn’t involve a proper toilet. You get the picture. We booked Borneo without really thinking about any of these things and when we arrived in Kota Kinabalu from Melbourne I was pleasantly surprised by the nice hotels and sort of well developed city. Kk is the biggest city in Sabah, and the base for anyone seeing this part of Borneo. It isn’t really finished – it has quite a few shopping centres (with lots of famous brands eg Coach, Michael Kors etc), and they’re building lots more but the problem is there isn’t the infrastructure to get to a lot of these without a car or risking your life crossing main roads and almost ending up in building sites. In fact, we left one of them round the back and a man came chasing after us telling us if we went that way something could fall on us! I think that was what he said anyway! Anyway I digress, Kk wasn’t what I expected it to be and in a few years will be a mini Kuala Lumpur. But how would I cope once we started our tour of Borneo?

The answer is not hugely well. Our tour ended up being made up entirely of Phil and I. Some people would love having a private tour but it’s not my personality to ask lots of questions or make small talk. It’s quite intense with our guide who is lovely and is making a huge amount of effort but probably finds us hard work. I’m monosyllabic first thing in the morning, I’m worse without a cappuccino which I can’t have at the mo because then I need the toilet every twenty minutes. I know nothing about Malaysian politics or trees or birds so when we follow her around the canopy walks(me dawdling at the back because with my tiny legs I walk slower than most people) I really don’t know how to make my face convey my interest! To me this is a bit like being the only person to turn up to a gym class, you feel exposed,’like the teacher is going to find you out and realise you don’t actually do all the squats when she isn’t looking usually… Ok it’s not like that at all but I’m finding it rather awkward and I feel bad that I haven’t been asking more questions.

On top of that I’m quite a control freak with most things, eg food, toilets, the environment around me. It’s a vicious cycle – having been ill in Asia both times I’ve been here I’m nervous of the food here and in the places we’ve stayed at there’s been lukewarm buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Grisly lukewarm chicken is not appealing to me (cue awkward conversation with our guide when she saw I hadn’t eaten much).

I know in Asia that many of the toilets are ‘Japanese style’ ie holes in the ground but every time I come I live in hope that they will have changed them. I can only speak for Borneo so far but the toilets are definitely not modernised. I’m a bit of a wuss and with no one else on the tour to go to the toilet with and scope it out for me (yes what I really want is a toilet buddy) has left me in some sticky situations.

Yesterday we had a five hour drive to reach the Gomantong cave. Our guide told me there was a female toilet, marched off used it and went to sort out be tickets. I ventured in gingerly to find pretty rancid dirty holes in the ground, water everywhere, toilets doors that don’t lock and just generally a bit icky (the technical term). Whilst I was trying to decide which toilet to use a wild dog walked right in. There are loads of wild dogs in Borneo, it breaks my heart seeing them all but I don’t want to go near them because they could have rabies. So here I am in the middle of nowhere ( a long way from a hospital) with a stray dog in front of me, panicking! I sort of shooed the dog out and it came out with me but that was the end of my toilet trip, I was just too freaked out!

Then we walked to these caves (it’s the main producer of edible birds nests in Sabah in case that’s your thing) where I thought we would see swiftlets but we didn’t see any and instead this cave was full of cockroaches. Literally thousands. So I’m in a dark cave, it all feels a bit pointless because there’s nothing to see in it, there’s cockroaches underfoot, on the sides, everywhere and it’s like my version of a Halloween nightmare! Apt timing and all.

We get out the cave, we make it in to our lodge (via another lukewarm buffet) get to our room, and there are black ants all over the bathroom. (Thankfully they weren’t too bad in the toilet bit of the bathroom, the shower area was covered in them). I’m a scaredy cat I know but I’m just awful with insects and ants are no exception. Phil tried to spray them with Deet which seemed to make them multiply (how?) and by that point I had already decided that I would be a dirty girl for the next few days. However when we went to reception later and told them they dealt with it really quickly and went in and sprayed the ants and now they all seem to be dead. You’ll be pleased to hear I just about managed a shower but I made Phil stand guard in case they came to life as Zombie Walking Dead ants.

So why am I here when I really don’t cope well with these things? Well it’s because I want to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. And in the last day I have seen proboscis monkeys, macaques playing in the trees, wild orangutans – the mum sitting in the trees whilst the baby learns how to swing from the trees and gain independence, I’ve seen (and smelt) a crocodile eating its dinner (a dead pig) and numerous birds including eagles and kingfishers perching in the trees. For the pictures alone it’s worth it (they will follow at a later date). The guides here are really knowledgeable and have eagle eyes to spot animals and birds in the trees which would look like blobs or leaves to most of us.

Tomorrow we go to an orangutan sanctuary when I want to play with and hang out with orangutans,
Phil informs me that’s such a city girl thing to say! And I am a city girl, I’m a civilisation girl, I’m very much looking forward to going to Lankgawi and sipping cocktails by the pool (and hopefully there without ants in the bathroom) but I’ll always be really glad I did this…

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