Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Monkeying Around in Borneo

“Singapore or KL?” I asked Kurt as we sat down at a local coffee shop one evening. We were due for a visa run by October 11th and hadn’t even thought about buying tickets. What is a visa run? This is a common term for foreigners that have to leave a country in order to renew their ‘tourist visa’. In our case, we have to leave Indonesia every 30 days, unless we go ahead and renew our visa for an extra month (which gives you a total of 60 days per visa). This is what we have been doing and man is it a pain in the ass!
                Popular visa-run destinations are Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. They are both close and relatively cheap to get to. Airasia is definitely our “go to” airline, as it can be cheap as peanuts. Think Southwest but ten times cheaper. We actually have a flight from Bali to Perth in February that we paid $30. Yes, you read that right.
                Before I could click on Singapore, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek at flights to neighboring countries. Why not, right? We looked at East Timor, but I dare you to Google that country. More guns and dead bodies show up than photos of the country itself. Next!
                We had spoken about visiting Borneo at one point but hadn’t revisited the thought in a few months. It just happened that flights to Kota Kinabalu were cheaper than flights to Singapore or KL – so that was that!
                Everyone seems to be confused about Borneo. Is it a country? Area? City? The island of Borneo hosts three countries: Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. We visited Kota Kinabalu, a city in the Malaysian state of Sabah. This island boasts the most diverse eco-system in the world. Excited to visit a new place, we left Bali with absolutely no idea what we were going to do or see!
                On a “backpackers” budget – I decided it would be a good idea to book us into a hostel. This in itself was an adventure. Kurt hadn’t stayed in a hostel since he was studying abroad – over a decade ago. Let’s just say that he had to sleep diagonally in his single bed and still couldn’t fit!
                Unwilling to dive too far into the backpacker world, I booked us a private room. This allowed us to meet other travelers and socialize without having to sleep next to them J Masada Hostel was small but close to the heart of the city which meant that we were able to conveniently feed our tummies whenever need be. Soon after we checked in, we set off to see what this “night market” was all about. This place had everything. Hairy fruits, smelly fruits, bright colored fruits of every shape and size. Long vegetables, little stubby ones and huge bushels of dark greens! Fish heads, crawling lobsters, naked chickens and squid galore. Fried bananas, fried donuts, fried bread, fried veggies, fried soy and eventually your own heart attack! Chicken wings on skewers, grilled fish, baked crab, fresh jelly juice, fried rice and roasted corn. A party for your senses. Our taste buds danced with delight as we continued to shovel sweet, sour, salty, spicy and more into our mouths. It was like thanksgiving, without the holiday or any reasonable tradition to blame.


                If you have read our blog before, you will have learned that Kurt is a monkey lover. Since we were on the island of Borneo (home of the largest Orangutan conservatory in the world) we couldn’t  not visit one. We chose the Rasa Ria rehabilitation center that sat around 45 minutes away from the city. This center works with the national park to rescue orphan baby Orangutans. These Orangutans will spend 4 years at this center before they are moved to the East Coast of Borneo where they finish their last 4 years at the next level of rehabilitation.

                It was incredible to be able to watch two baby Orangutans interact with each other in their natural element.  It wasn’t seeing them individually that was fascinating but watching them socialize that captured our attention.  They are such playful and cheeky little creatures who love to tease each other. One Orangutan refused to eat anything that he didn’t steal out of the hands/mouth of his fellow friend. I know many people who could attest to similar relationships with siblings at the same age!


                The center was strangely very close to a beach so we checked that out before heading back to the city. Kurt and I cant possibly live without a massage – so we had to stop for a quick foot reflexology. Hard life, we know.


                Our first stop was the City Mosque, that sits on a large bed of water. Spectacular. Due to poor planning and quite form fitting sports gear – we were not permitted to enter the mosque. However, we learned that it holds 9,000-12,000 people at one time to give you an idea of how huge this place was.

               One of the things that I love to do while we travel is visit other CrossFit gyms. I know that this must seem ridiculous to some, but as a coach and athlete myself, it is so much fun to see how other boxes run their gyms. Soon after we watched our cab drive away, we noticed that the gym was a little too dark for our liking. We soon learned from the shop next door that it was a public holiday :( Bummed and starving – we walked all the way back to the city as no cabs were anywhere to be found! Kurt and I seem to have our most meaningful conversations in these unexpected inconveniences – so i am thankful for the universe and its strange ways.


                We will be back to Borneo again some day as there is SO much to see but this was a great appetizer to start.



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