Thursday, November 17, 2011



Thursday, November 03, 2011

Hair Wash & Massage

My boss is always busy, have not been talking with him for a month. Yesterday he grabbed me to a saloon in order to have a chance to chat in the car. I needed to know the development of this project recently as well as his planning.

We came to this small saloon that he frequented. A young slim tightly dressed fairly good looking lady did my hair wash, followed with head, shoulder and back massage. Frankly I was not familiar to such service but to show respect and casual. Obviously my behavior was a little rigid and I didn’t understand their colloquial terms, they could justify I was a newbie to such venue.

While massaging my head, we chatted casually about my job, her backgrounds, travelling etc. Of course my African pictures always triggered curiosity and questions. Not to discrediting the lady, her skill was crude (she learned by experience), facial massage was unprofessional, the shampoo and facial cleanser were cheap… she pressed hard on my temple till I cried pain. My temples were still sore this morning.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Greece Financial Crisis

A clever hypocrite and great “politician”, I refer to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou. His sudden announcement yesterday of calling for a Referendum to decide accepting EU’s salvaging package slapped President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel real hard. After last Friday’s hard won agreement from the EU members, the market was expecting a short round of breathing ground while figuring the next stage. But this news devastated all efforts done and drove the world markets down to the cliff!

This idiot must have planned all this ahead. Instead of to be blamed for the crisis, he threw the hot potato back to the people and let them decide own faith. If the referendum passed, Greek has to survive under exhausting tight measures to slash the debt. Otherwise the country will have to declare bankruptcy and to be ejected from EURO zone instantly.

Obviously he is gambling the last bet to force EU loosening the credit control before the upcoming G20 meeting. He himself has nothing to lose since he is very much aware of the deep rooted problem in the country. He can’t revive it.

Lots of voices are suggesting bankruptcy to be the only solution. In this case Greece would be freed straightaway from the heavy debt burden, and concentrate to re-establish the system. Of course the economy will be in deep crevice and losing country credibility for a short period. EURO will devalue immediately. This might be a pivotal reformation moment to EU, to eliminate this pain of the ass for good.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Global Terrorism

Had an interesting short discussion about the global terrorism with someone, who is now serving the anti-terrorism organization of Indonesia. We briefly talked about the strenuous situation in Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Philippines and Indonesia.

His concerns of Afghanistan might turn out to be the 2nd Somalia, the increasing radical terrorists in Indonesia are alarming, and the chemical weapons might be on the hand of Taliban etc. Unfortunately in the name of human rights, under the pressure of US, the governments are not allowed to deploy military action to sweep clean the contagious area. If this is the so-called “democracy”, this world is going to be demolished in the name of mercy.

I still believe a strongman is very much needed in these countries to help clean up all turmoil. Marcos era indeed has won lots of supports in Philippines till these days. Of course a strongman like Ghadaffi was too selfish to himself, his defeat (killed on 20-Oct-11) eventually emancipated the suppression of the Libyans. But could the country be established and put in an organized manner? These are painful tasks… The disagreement among the tribes would fight for their own benefits. I don’t foresee the country would become another state of outlaw, since the European countries have so much interest with the huge resource of oil and gas. France and UK are laughing now.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Taxi In Jakarta

Have to praise the efficient and relatively cheap taxi service in Jakarta. Used to pick the fleets from BlueBird or Express. Rest of the taxi operators do not provide the consistent standard, judge yourself. BlueBird is slightly more expensive but the cleanliness never failed. I picked once a taxi of an unheard of company. The driver obviously didn’t change the shirt for days, and the car was smelly. It was an unpleasant journey.

The SilverBird with a fleet of Mercedes catered to the higher class customers, at least triple charge. Guarantee comfortable!

Once a while, the driver would like to strike a conversation. With my limited Indonesian I managed to reply a few sentences. Quite fun… a good way to practice my language, mostly touching the social norms, corruptions, my background…

Yesterday I boarded a BlueBird. The driver looks intelligent, not an ordinary driver face. In this 15min drive, I learned that he was an IT engineer, spent 3 yrs in IBM (Sydney), daughter is going to study in Malaysia, he was about to ask for my contact in Malaysia… but forgotten in the last minute.

BlueBird once tried to bid the license in Kuala Lumpur, but failed. Apparently this was a political issue. This company should be a role model for the taxi operators in Malaysia.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Desperate Jobs

In Jakarta, there are many seeking jobs desperately to secure daily living. Some jobs are quite unique that they would please to do for a meager earning.
Jockey – In order to reduce traffic flow and encourage car pooling, the 3-in-1 measure was introduced at several main boulevards. This means min 3 persons in a car during certain hours (except taxi). During rush hours, plenty of people stand along the road pointing out a finger or 2, ready to be picked up by the drivers. The charge is about USD2 per head.
Controller – The traffic in Jakarta is notorious, especially at T-junction or U-turn. Some young guys would volunteer to coordinate the flow to assist the drivers in exchange of appreciation.
Entertainer – Wherever the bus stop, a guy or 2 would jump up the bus with a guitar or musical instruments singing song for entertainment, expecting appreciative tokens from the passengers. Some of them may sing or dance beside the cars waiting in front of traffic light.

Palmistry / Chiromancy

Bought this book of Palmistry probably 11 yr ago. Found it in the cabinet last weeks and read through it. Acc’ to the book, every person’s character and fate are well illustrated on the shape and crisscrossing threads on palm. The author advised to understand own character and fate, and try to find remedy to overcome/ prevent the negative aspects. Does he mean we can change our fate? I don’t know.

The book was too brief to explain the details. I start paying attention on friends’ palms and try to match with the description on this guidebook. Hard to get a clue.

A few days ago, I met a real wealthy person. I noticed his palms – absolutely clear, with dominant threads well defined on palms. Today, I read another palm. Not special, but many broken threads and scattered all over the palms. What does it indicate? I couldn’t tell, but seems to be a worrisome figure.

Other than the threads, the shape of the nails, the softness of hands, thickness and shape of fingers and knuckles… up to the wrist all carry certain indications.

I never show my palms to the “professional” palm reader. I don’t want my faith to be told. I might lose my fighting spirit if I was told positive; likewise I don’t want to worry myself if bad news was anticipated. After all, this palmistry is not scientifically proven – Don’t forget I was a physics student.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Indonesia - West Timor

Went to West Timor last week for a site visit. I’m too ignorant, I thought the island is far under developing and people are still living mostly in thatched huts … Utterly wrong. The capital Kupang and other big towns were quite well established. Asphalt roads, relatively clean, all basic infrastructures are available. No shorts of hotels and restaurants. At countryside the population density is low. Majority is embracing Christianity.

The weather is dry, the land is semi arid like savannah. It is hot in the daytime but temperature drops at least 10 Celcius at night in higher altitude places like Kefamenanu. Agricultural products were scarce in the dry season.

I was told plenty of NGOs station in Kupang providing assistance such as medical and foods to the locals, but not in regular basis. The local economy is picking up since manganese mining activities kicked off 2 years ago.

Index of development in a city.

Semi arid land. Greens will sprout in the rainy season.

Traditional architecture.

Kupang town view, on the coast but very hot.

Face of local people. Our driver Yanto.

Sweet young coconut costs Rp.4000 (USD 0.45).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Scenes in Jakarta

Food pushcarts can be seen anywhere. A drastic contrast to the huge shopping malls and luxurious hotels in downtown.

Manual ferris wheel.

Street tattoo. Is it hygienic?

This Weekend in Jakarta

Too lazy to travel far from Jakarta. So I picked the National Museum which is quite close to my hotel. It comprises 2 connected buildings. The collections were quite boring… as usual and expected - textile, historical sculptures, ceramics, musical instruments etc. The tribal cultural section was quite interesting, displaying the country’s rich culture diversity. Another highlight of the collection was the skull of the Flores Man (a dwarf human) dated at around 18000 – 30000 yrs ago.

I visited the so-called China town in Jakarta, and went to the Petak Sembilan as recommended in Lonely Planet. Frankly I didn’t feel good to walk alone there. I don’t say it was disorder, but better be cautious, as per advice given by my local colleague. Though there were things/ scenes I found quite interesting for photographing, I kept my camera shielded instead.

Historical sculptures were left on the corridor and unprotected from visitors.

A tribe in Papua, strange rotan apron and the penis gourd (koteka).

Skull of Flores Man (dwarf human, about the size of 10 yr old kid nowadays).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sweet Corn vs. Cap

9pm, after having dinner at 7-11, on the way back to the hotel, I passed by this sweet corn pushcart, a young man was squatting on the roadside. Looking at the steaming corns, my stomach churned, and I bought one, for just Rp.3000 each ($0.36). Really delicious, young and sweet. Like my nephews always said, “Uncle Lee, it is sweet like you.”

The vendor still had 20+ pcs on the steaming basket, would he be able to sell them all off? Deducting the costs, for this tiny earning, how could he survive in this metropolitan? Felt a little guilty for spending USD20 to buy a cap that I don’t really need a while ago.

Jakarta – Batavia & Pelabuhan Sunda Kelapa

"Batavia", Jakarta Old Town, has a few Dutch colonial period building remains, was among the recommended sights in Jakarta, not far from Jakarta and easily reached. I didn’t have my Lonely Planet with me. Briefly searched some info online, I was there yesterday.

The small town has several museums, I had only visited the small Museum Sejarah Jakarta (Jakarta History Museum). Entrance fee was cheap Rp.2000 ($0.24). The artifacts were not really interesting. Tourists were busy taking photos among each other instead of appreciating the displays. The old Dutch buildings were looking good, but a few were left unattended.

I was recommended the Pelabuhan (harbour) Sunda Kelapa a short walking distance away. Hot like in the sauna, my sweat drained out profusely. What I saw was a fleet of pinisi (a traditional two masted wooden sailing ship) compactly lined up and berthed at the dock, loading and unloading cargoes. Not really scenic for photographing, I didn’t feel/ see the original traditional atmosphere. A few kids performing their diving skill into the water, allowing tourists to snap photos for a few tokens.

This was a nice day, met several friendly locals.
Fruit vendor.
Street artist, building on the background is Dutch colonial style.
Jakarta History Museum, was Municipal Hall formerly.
An effigy, a man was standing inside holding it and hopping around.
Pelabuhan Sunda Kelapa accomodates only Panisi.
Cleaning the Panisi.
Funfair on the street.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jakarta – 1st Impression

Out of the airport, it took me 75min to reach downtown. The traffic was horrible, cars were snailing. The city layout was similar to Bangkok. Elevated highways pierced through the city.

I stayed near to Plaza Indonesia area, a posh area for shopping and luxurious hotels. New high-rise buildings studded along Jalan Sudirman but not overly crammed, looks grand and spacious. The smart-dressing shoppers filled the shopping malls. Not far from it, the view changed drastically. The ordinary class people swarmed the roads, small hawkers/ vendors lined the roadsides.

We had a good seafood dinner at Pondok Sedap Malam at Jalan Batu Tulis. Luxurious cars lined up to load/ unload passengers. Across the corner, plenty of restaurants along the street.

To be a rich person in this country is living like a king. Lots of people are willing to kowtow for every instruction given. That’s magic and reality.

Jakarta - Hotel Cry

I booked a hotel in Jakarta yesterday morning via AGODA webpage. I received confirmation and the amount was transacted from my credit card.

When I reached this 3-star hotel, I was told that they did not receive any order from AGODA about my booking, and in fact they had no contract with AGODA! The hotel was full and no room for me. I contacted AGODA online but in vain, I called the customer support hotline but the stupid recorder brought me back to the main menu repeatedly.

So, my boss told me to shift to Gran Melia (5-star) - the security of this hotel was extremely tight. The receptionist told me that all rooms were occupied and the only available cheapest option was deluxe suite for USD560! What the heck! I dared not to take it. She helped me to call several hotels nearby, but all FULL! It must be crazy!

At last, through recommendation, I settled down at a small 1-star hotel (Smart Hotel). The location was strategic, a short distance to shopping area as well as to our partner’s office.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Just Out of The Jungle

Went in to the jungle again since last Friday. Just to follow and observe the works of geologists. Not easy, I have to admit, it requires strong physical stamina which obviously has been washed out from me. Our local guides led us penetrating the woods while clearing the obstacles without a hint of tiredness. I had already started to pant after the 1st hill climb. Daily 4-6 hrs trek was strenuous. I think it worth the effort.

Was glad to see a simple guesthouse had been prepared for us, with generator and river water supply. Colleagues prepared all the necessities, and 2 maids were cooking and doing laundry for us. Life was not so bad though we were practically isolated from modern world in these 10 days. No internet, no TV, no radio, no newspaper, mobile signal was hardly available.

Still have lots of things to learn. I have to pay more effort to improve my Indonesian language. Communication is essential.

Our newly constructed guesthouse, basic but I'm more than glad to have it sheltering us.

Giant ant, don't play with it.

Found this huge python near the waterfall, about 2.5m-3m long, but thick.

Rains... the clay stuck on the tires.

Floating toilet and bathroom.

Recycled used tires, become comfortable chairs and coffee tables.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Health Signal

Since 2 weeks, woke up and felt the pressure in my head, not headache. I could feel it almost throughout the day. Lost my concentration easily. I realized the health signal is turning red. I was right, blood pressure escalated to 140/90. This never happened on me.

Doctor diagnosed, blamed me for not continuing the cholesterol medication earlier. I was given strong advice to follow strictly the medication course, or I may have stroke anytime anywhere. From now on, I should avoid heavy cardiac exercise, no badminton, no squash… no any stressful games. I should consume less fried foods, high cholesterol meals… Oh no… what a life… always thought I’m still young and healthy, but the fact proved otherwise.


Yes, I know,  I know I have not updated this blog for long. Just couldn’t find mood and idea to write :) laziness is a part of it too.

Workload is getting heavier… too many questions but hardly found someone to give me a clear straight guide and answer. Receiving bits and pieces from here and there, subsequently filtering the info/ data which is telling the truth. Feel like being blindfolded and dumped in an unknown space. Quite helpless sometimes. Am glad the team at home office is supportive and understanding, not feeling isolated.

Soon the physical work at site will commence, my jungle life is expecting to commence soon too.

Monday, May 30, 2011

1st Site Visit

Back to Kalimantan last week for a site visit. It took 3.5hr drive from the hotel to the site 1 way, and I spent 7hr sticking my butt on the car for a few days.

There was no road in part of the area, with a local guide we trekked inside the jungle for 4.5hr. Waded through knee-height river several times, walked down and uphill, fell down twice, bushed scratched on skin, and shook off leeches occasionally. Felt like a camping trip in good old time.

Leeches sounds scary, but the feeling faded after a while. Just sprayed the mosquito repellent on it. I had 7 leeches on my 1st day trekking, and reduced to 5 the next day.


First leech. There is another type which is longer and slimmer.

Gosh... luckily the driver didn't see me.

Unknown flower in the jungle.

Poor sick little dog.

Nasi Padang. They served foods over the whole table. We paid what we consumed. Foods are not fresh I think.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Not Over Yet

President Obama verbally confirmed the death of bin Laden, why should there be any doubt on this statement? Why should we care how it was done? I agreed with him not to discl0ose the photo, to avoid provoking further hatred from the Islamic world, since it won’t peace everyone’s curiosity. Let the time bleach the unpleasant memory.

The location of bin Laden’s den was out of my unexpectation. I thought he was hiding in the middle of nowhere in the arid rocky mountainous desert. The allegation of bin Laden being harboured by local government was not groundless, I reckoned. Pakistan was condemning US unilateral execution of the assault without notifying them. Anyway, they must put up this show politically. After all they still need US in various aspects.

The war is not over yet, the ideology has sprouted and the organization has rooted. The war against terrorism can no way be relaxed.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


While waiting for the flight, a middle-aged guy was sitting in front me. I noticed he unbuttoned his clothes, slipped his left palm under his right armpit. Followed by a few quick rubbing, he withdrew his hand. Yaccchhhhkkkk…. A few long thin black threads shown on his palm, and he swept it down on the floor… what the heck! Puked!!! I covered my mouth and nose subconsciously. Oh no… he repeated one more time and sniffed it. OMG… I lost my appetite for the next hours.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Life in Balikpapan

Have been here in Balikpapan for 10 days. Met a few acquintances who had given me some precious advices in this industry. Not easy to find someone who is willing to teach. No free lunch, I was told. Any assistance and information are expected to be hooked up with monetary rewards.

Living cost is the highest in Indonesia, because of the mining, oil & gas activities on this vast land. This city is peaceful and quiet. The vehicle speed limit in town is 40km/hr. The local cuisine couldn't please my tastebuds but luckily McD, KFC and PizzaHut are available.

Found many KaraOk here - both healhty (for family) and naughty options. I ventured into one near to my hotel, I pushed the door in, the mamasan walked to me immediately. I surveyed the environment - pretty small, the local music was blaring, light scattered from the crystal ball creeping on everything, at least 10 young laides were waiting for their companion. I shook my head and walked out.

Most of the restaurants have live band performance in the weekend, quite good. I like the small "warong" beside the beach, grabing my cold "Bintang" beer and enjoying their performance.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Have arrived here at Balikpapan last week for the new project. This city gathered the experts and businessmen of mining, logging and oil & gas inductries. Alone I have to start building up relationship, network and infrastructure. Expected to be very tough.

The infrastructure here is quite complete though not at developed city standard. No short of foods, this is essential. But my job site would be 7-8 hr drive from here. I will shift myself soon to a small town, and probably stay inside the forest when the facilities are established.

City center - Plaza Balikpapan shopping mall

The beach is not clean.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Brand New Job

I have concluded a new job (contract is not signed yet) and reported to work today. Boss was not around, just talked to new colleagues and tried to understand the company structures and organization.

The new job, a complete new field, in mining business came to me via recommendation of a friend. Seems to be challenging but I have to expect no easy life. If everything goes smooth, I will be stationed in Kalimantan (Indonesia) soon.

Let’s see what will turn up next.

Bangkok Red Light District

(This photo was extracted from internet.)

I flew over to Bangkok last Friday to meet friends from Bulgaria, was glad to meet them after more than 2 years, though we only managed to meet for an evening. Apparently they were not those nightlife-adventurous tourists :) I proposed to visit the notorious red light district Patpong after dinner. 7 of us in a row – me, and 3 Bulgarian couples. I first guided them walking through the gay street. They could see the almost naked boys with tiny brief dancing on the stage in the heart-pounding pop music through the open doors. 2 ladies obviously were agitated when the pimps and the young boys tried to drag them into their bar. We all left hurriedly.

I led them to the opposite street full of lady go-go bars and sex shows. Again, through the open doors, we saw many young ladies in their sexiest appearance dancing and flirting on the stage. Pimps approached and recommended the Tiger (Thai Girl) show. I explained in advance the disgusting performance they might see. 2 couples surrendered and left to their hotel instantly. 1 couple left and we explored the show.

We walked up to a bar named “Super Pussy”… the name itself was not inviting at all but absolutely matching the performance. Once we found our seats, 6-7 ladies flocked to us and right away asked us to buy them a drink. Before we realized what was going on, 5 cups of cokes were already placed on our table. I called a “stop” immediately for the rest despite the relentless begging from them. A bill was brought to me stating a total of USD83 for 8 drinks!!! I questioned that I was told each drink costs USD3.3 as shown on the menu. The waitress flipped over the menu, it was stated that the USD10 for the first drink and USD3.3 for the subsequent order. We were cheated! Shit! Anyway, I had expected so :)

None of the performers was pretty, and too old. They performed disgusting shows and stunts that I could hardly stare at them. Meanwhile the lady sat on my left kept massaging my thigh and flashing her boobs to me, expecting a tip. I gave USD3.3 to shoo her off instead.

We left after half an hour, laughing and shaking our heads for both amazement and disappointment. What an experience to my Bulgarian friends! I wouldn’t like to visit such venue in future!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Photos - Sabah & Sarawak

The photos of the recent trip to Sabah & Sarawak (under Malaysian flag) have been uploaded to my Travelogue.

20110310 Sarawak – Kuching

Upon arrival at Kuching, I know this was far from my expectation, so quiet to be a city. I thought I would enjoy the similar lively atmosphere like KK. Wrong! I asked the opinions of tourists around, many preferred Kuching indeed for its serenity.

I stayed close to the China Town. To my disappointment the food courts here were so small and hardly provide various choices. Local foods like Kolo Noodle and Sarawak Laksa were OK, but in general not special, the prices were not cheap either.

It was quite fun to walk around the downtown. Many buildings preserved the traditional architecture and deco, beautiful for photographing. Good souvenir shops with attractive displays could be found. Liked the primitive “artistic” sculptures or carving from the local tribes, but I knew my mom would see them too evil. Let’s wait till I have my own house. There were many museums in town, not so interesting except the Arts Museum. The riverfront was the hot spot in the evening for a stroll. A few stalls selling finger foods, souvenir vendors displaying the cheaper products, street artists’ performance enliven the atmosphere.

In fact, the main selling points in Sarawak were the visit to different national parks, ranged from nature escapade to traditional culture exploration. Due to the remoteness of some places, we could hardly avoid to engage tourist agent to organize trips. Don’t expect that the aboriginal tribesmen are living still in the stone age and waiting for our visit. In fact many places have been commercialized and modern amenities are well integrated into their life. I’m not interested to see the modern tribesmen, I want the authenticity, but I have to travel deeper into the forest…

All these packages are not cheap and longer expedition needs longer time. I was in rush to return home, couldn’t arrange in this trip. I could only make up to Bako National Park for a day trip, not far from Kuching. Trek was fairly easy, but I was exhausted after 6 hr trek over 8.5km.

Sarawak Culture Village (SCV) is a living museum, with example of traditional dwellings of different tribes. It was more interesting than you might think. This was just exhibits, looked too solid and too clean to the reality. The 40min cultural performance was excellent, superb music and dancing.

20110307 Sabah – Kota Kinabalu

Better known as KK, the capital of Sabah state. Famous for the climb of South-East Asia highest peak 4095m Mt.Kinabalu – Malaysia’s first Unesco World Heritage that attracts the most tourists in Sabah. I had no plan to climb the mountain due to my knee problem.

It has strong influence of Philippines, seafood is cheap, many restaurants, several shopping malls and many many more hotels. The city is touristy. Best of all, the beer is cheap! I stayed every evening at Beach Street for some drinks while enjoying the live band performance. The Filipino market is lively at night, plenty of food stalls serving grilled seafood, mostly have the same menu and the prices are standardized… of course a little negotiation may grant you further discount.

Mamutik, Manukan and Sapi Islands, mostly within 20 min boat ride from KK, white sand beach and large number of fishes ideal for swimming and snorkeling, good places for a day trip. Facilities on the island were well established but slightly expensive. Sadly the environment was not well kept, rubbish still could be spotted here and there.
Sabah Museum was not really interesting, except some photos of the last century. A small exhibits of contemporary paintings but not my preference. The Heritage Village displayed several real size house models of different tribes. Not much excitement.
The bus system in KK was a little confusing and frustrating. Most of the places are a few km apart, sometimes walking could be faster than wasting time on waiting for bus.

Friday, March 18, 2011

20110306 Sabah – Sandakan

Sandakan had nothing really interesting or spectacular to show. Anyhow I dropped by a day since it was just an hour drive from Sepilok. This is the 2nd largest city after Kota Kinabalu. The city itself spread out wide and far .The coastal old town was busy in the day time but the crowds moved to Bandar Indah at Batu 4 in the evening for nightlife and entertainments.

The fresh cheap seafood is the main draw in Sandakan. I headed straight to the famous Sim Sim Village, looking for Sim Sim Seafood Restaurant. The shore was dirty, lots of rubbish scattering around. Obviously it was an accumulation after months, wondered why the municipal didn’t clean up the area.

The lively seafood was displayed. You picked and the restaurant cooked for you. Fresh and cheap, but the cooking was not so scrumptious.

Sandakan was occupied by Japanese army during WWII, plenty of Prisoner of War (Australians, British) were transferred from Singapore to construct airfield. The notorious Death Marches claimed lots of life. The Memorial Park in the city recorded the unpleasant history, mainly descriptions, no gory photos. The young visitors had no sympathy to the tragedy but fooling inside the exhibition building, what a shame. Apparently our education had not been teaching the students to respect the history.

The Kadazan Museum conducts exhibitions occasionally. The photo gallery of last century was interesting, leaving precious record of life not long ago.

Many new commercial lots are erected in front of the waterfront, a good place to stroll and have a beer in the evening. Plenty of restaurants and hotels catered to different budget travelers, but not enough space for the public to hang around.

I scraped the plan to visit Turtle Island, the sole agent increased the price almost 2 folds since 2 years ago. A 2D1N package for single person costs about EUR100, too expensive.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

20110304 Sabah – Sepilok

Probably the 2nd most frequented place in Sabah after Kota Kinabalu, for its ace attraction Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center (SORC). The center is harbouring mainly those orphaned or injured orang utans. The daily twice feeding sessions gathered almost all tourists to the platform, watching the superstars swinging around and eating bananas. Personally I didn’t find it exceptionally interesting.

There are several trails inside the park leading into the forest. Birder’s Trail was the only open to the public during my visit. It was easy in the beginning until I stood in front of a stretch of muddy path ahead of me. I wouldn’t want to smudge my shoes… and the leech was my concern too.

A short distance away is the Rainforest Discovery Center (RDC). It turned out to be more interesting. The displayed artifacts were informative. The staggering expensive Canopy Walk granted an excellent view 20m above the ground level.

SORC is for the orang utan, while there is a sanctuary for proboscis monkeys at Labuk Bay though it is always overshadowed by SORC and sometimes is neglected. Don’t miss it, it is better than SORC, its set up is more natural and up closer. Plenty of proboscis, a few hornbills, and the tamed silverleaf monkeys interact with the tourists. Unlike the governmental managed SORC, this sanctuary was run by private sector. The oil palm plantation owner allocated 1/3 of the land for this sanctuary, while preserving the precious wetland. Good effort!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

20110303 Sabah – Sukau & Sg.Kinabatangan

Sg.Kinabatangan, the mighty 560km longest river in Sabah fames for the wildlife spotting. Sukau had been many years the place to organize river cruising and jungle trekking. It is just a small village (population 2000) but not so backpacker friendly. It seemed to be very safe. Due to the occasion floods, many houses were built on stilts.

There is no efficient cheap public transport from Semporna or Sandakan. Buses normally stop at Sukau Junction, 42km from Sukau. Private minivans are waiting to accomplish the transport. MYR50 for a busload or MYR20 per “tourist” head (local people obviously paid less, but I was charged as tourist). Along the road, thousand acres of precious rainforest has been fell and replaced by commercial oil palm plantation, which means the original ecology has been destroyed. Is it worth in exchange for country development? I strongly disagree.

Most of the homestays or B&B are quite far apart. Transportation was not easy to be organized in this village. The popular budget B&Bs recommended by Lonely Planet were all fully booked. I ended up lodging at a local homestay. The irresponsible minivan driver didn’t help me to locate the homestay but pulled out my knapsack and dropped me at the square. Bastard!

I tried to organize river cruising but I had to rent the whole boat since I was the only guest in the homestay of the day. Eventually the owner granted me a good discount.

At 03:30pm, we set off the first river cruising. Boat navigated through small rivers slowly and quietly, observing animals along the river bank, mostly monkeys, proboscis and birds. 2 small snakes were spotted coiling on the tree branches, but no pygmy elephants and orang utan. Journey lasted for 2 hr.

After dinner, we proceeded with the night cruise, more interesting indeed. The nocturnal animals become active at night. The guides used spotlights to search around. Interestingly some animals like king fishers would be stunned and stay put when the light was shined on them. Really up close, within touching distance. Crocodiles, flying fox, monitor lizard and civet were seen.

The skillful guides were good to spot the animals that hiding in the dense bushes along the river, so do at night. The experience counts! Though the qty was not many, the feeling of observing wild animals was not the same as in the zoo.

I gave up jungle trekking because it was too expensive to be alone to hire a guide. An acquaintance said he encountered a wild orang utan during his adventure. Sounds very exciting, I should organize another trip here in future.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

20110228 Sabah – Semporna & Sipadan Island

Sipadan Island, a world renowned diving spot, attracts lots of divers throughout the years. Here, I came.

The small town Semporna has become the hub of all scuba operators for activities around the adjacent islands. The nearest Tawau Airport was 1.5 hr drive away. No shuttle bus prevailed. The tourist traffic is relatively low and majority is foreigners, probably this explains why the private transportation companies charged fairly high price.

The town was small but all basic facilities were available. Most places were within walking distance. All luxury exclusive hotels set their base on the islands (except Sipadan) while the economic options were found on the mainland.

Walking around, I was upset by the dirtiness which could hardly be linked to tourist spot. Rubbish floated on the shore - even at the resort, the pungent stinky rotten sea products smell enveloped the jetty and market. The empty broken seashells were disposed right back to the sea. I asked around, why as such? There were many floating villages along the shore, accommodated mostly the early stage immigrants from Philippines and fishermen. The sanitary system and dumping area were not well planned and enforced. Environment conscience evidently was not fostered. The rubbish and discharge were poured into the sea habitually, sadly.

I liked the small town feel, kinda fun and nostalgic to move around seeing the old-fashioned buildings. Don’t miss the visit to the floating villages. No permission was needed, people might throw curious eyes to the foreigners but a smile said it all, was a beautiful place for photographing. Be aware not to step on the missing or broken plank wood on the platform. You wouldn’t be able to recover your slippers or any.

Foods were so-so, alcoholic beverage was fairly cheap. KaraOK and bars were available, but in general the entertainment was quite dull.

02-Mar, heavy rain pour started in the midnight, luckily it turned drizzling around 8am but the thick dark clouds still hung low in the sky. Boat departed at 9am, 7 divers with 2 dive masters, 1 hr chilly journey to Sipadan island on the fairly rough sea. 3 dives to be arranged on this day.

Frankly I had forgotten a few procedures as my last dive was done exactly 2 years ago, no big deal. The first 2 dives at “White Tip Avenue” and “Barracuda Point” were not special. Water was a bit milky due to overnight rain. Not much big fishes, many turtles and white-tip sharks. Disappointed for not seeing school of barracudas (was said easy to find at this spot). The last dive, we were led to the famous “Turtle Cave”, but only allowed to stay at the entrance. Was fun, first kind of my experience. Best of all, school of jacks around us! The most amazing dive I ever had!

There are several other islands in this area (e.g. Mataking, Mabul, Pom Pom) worth exploring too.