We were still on Xiamen Airlines and thankfully our flight from Fouzhou to Borneo had food- at first it was “snow plum” and nuts,
which we mowed down and started into the chips, worried that’d all we’d get- but then they brought us a meal- rice with mushrooms and lima beans (?)- and some grape tomatoes, a pickled cucumber relish (which I wouldn’t even try and Bryan did not like), a roll and black cherry jam- plus a gelatinous peach and pear type deal…not jello but not jam either…it was thoroughly filling and I was thrilled to have a full belly. That’s all I wanted.
The flight was about 3 hours and despite it being pretty full, no one was sitting next to me- so I got to lay down a bit which was great. I slept most of the 3 hour flight. When we landed in Borneo, the first thing we saw was a Starbucks, and having had no coffee during the entire trip, we were overdue. But it was HOT and muggy, we could already tell- so we ordered a venti mocha Frappuccino, which was SO good and totally hit the spot!
We went through customs pretty quickly and our bag was not the lonely one anymore since everyone was behind us this time- so we exited into the main terminal and had to exchange some currency and get the rental car. There was a live band playing somewhere, but I couldn’t figure out where- and they were playing classic rock: Queen, We Will Rock You, which was kind of funny.
The currency exchange line seems to take forever- there weren’t that many people…although nothing is like the line we waited in in Madagascar in the tiny, no ventilation room. When we got up to the desk, the guy started sorting our 20’s into two piles. I was wondering what the piles were- and I thought, they can’t be condition? But as he smoothed a corner of one I though that had to be something about it…and he said, “I can take this pile, but not that one. “I can’t sell that to customers”. Our jaws dropped. What do you mean you can’t take our money because people will think it’s not NEW enough when they get it back? Who thinks that? It’s MONEY and US dollars to boot- who doesn’t want it so much they are worried about the condition!? I have never heard such a thing in my life and though I expressed this, dumbfounded, we did not argue because what good would it do? Not even half the money we brought was able to be exchanged which meant now we had to find a bank too…
Then we went to Hertz to get the car. We were “upgraded” for free to a Ford Fiesta (which made me wonder how tiny the car we ordered was?!)- and I think really, they probably only had one car to rent and that was it, so Ford Fiesta it is! The girl’s computer was playing music and it was some kind of metal- and then Nirvana came on. I told her we were from the city where they came from and she seemed happy to hear that…with everything done, we went to wait outside for the car to come around…which took a while.
But up pulls a charcoal gray Fiesta- and suddenly I realize the passenger side is the driver’s side- and they drive on the opposite side of the road here! I am sure Bryan knew this, but as I said I didn’t get a copy of the itinerary furnished to me, so I must have missed that 😉 I am glad at this point, he’s the one driving because as much as I can help him stay on the right side as a reminder, I know it would be hard for me and I’d forget. Thankfully Bryan only messed up twice when we were in New Zealand, but I am glad it was him, not me. I am the navigator, so happy to do that job well instead!
We head out of the airport and to the main road- which didn’t really have a number (as our printed, paper instructions noted)- but it was quickly I thought we were going the wrong way and decided instead to try GPS- since here in Malaysia, Tmobile has free data and text (though calls are 20 cents a minute). What a score, because it definitely makes life easier.
Sure enough we were going the wrong way, but when I told Bryan this, he was worried because their u- turns were scary as this was a divided highway and people were going pretty darn fast. He did a great job though and finally we were headed in the right direction towards our beach resort- which was almost an hour away!
The city of Kota Kinabalu is pretty primitive, seemed very cold war in it’s architecture- lots of concrete and everything rusting. There were some buildings I would think were bombed out Russia, but for the most part it’s modern enough- just not super modern. The highway is 2 lanes going in either direction and there are A LOT of roundabouts. Our first was a near crash because the middle lane can’t go out and we didn’t realize that- so Bryan had to quickly cut someone off…and next time we learned!
The Borneo Beach Resort is a series of villas and then a few larger hotel buildings with multiple units inside. There is a closed gate so you have to check in, and they let us through and sent us to reception. Adrien was our greeter and got everything going- and then a girl came out and said they (including Adrian) would escort us on bike to our room. A guy came out and got on a yellow bicycle and we followed to a room- but not ours! The guy looked confused when we seemed to be waiting for him to take us to our room- and he just looked at us like we were nuts…because we were 😉
Turns out this was not Adrian (we were only looking at his back) and he and the girl came around the corner on a red electric trike waving to us- we’d totally followed the wrong person!? I mean how often do they say they will escort you by bike and then TWO different bikes go two different ways? We all laughed about it and then for real, they escorted us to our room.
They showed us some of the features of the room- including a little handheld device which generates an ever changing password for the wifi- but she was telling Bryan as Adrian was telling me about some other things- including the “service” button. Here, instead of having a little door tag that says “do not disturb” or “please clean”, they actually have a button you push that lights up just outside the room, kind of like a doorbell. Very fancy- and a little odd really when even 5 star hotels in the US use door tags? Well, at least the one 5 star hotel I have stayed in. You’d think this would be something they’d have in Vegas actually…maybe they do- I would not know except for the few times I usually try to avoid going there!
It was on the second floor of one of the multi unit buildings, overlooking the pool. We could see the ocean, but it was off to the side and mostly obscured by trees- though looked inviting. However, we had to get the rest of our money exchanged and we were going to be leaving kind of early for Mt. Kinabalu the next day- so we wanted to get it done then..however this cost us the ability to see the sunset, which was a tough one and we struggled with deciding.
Adrian told us we could got to 1 Borneo, a “hypermall” and they’d have an exchange place, open till 10pm- and we could get groceries…which we figured we should do in case Borneo was more like China in its options! It was of course half way back the way we came, but it was good to explore a little anyway.
We found it relatively easily and had to pay to park- but the parking attendant was really friendly and knew where we needed to go to get money exchanged and then to get groceries. Bryan immediately started going upstairs- which was not the instructions we were given and he just looked and me and we both laughed. Neither of us are sure what he hears, but it’s very seldom what was said when someone gives instructions!
The currency exchange place had no problem taking our money- as it should be!? I am still shocked at that really…and then we hit the grocery store. It’s called Giant and it’s pretty big- with home goods and such, like a super Walmart but like 1/10th the size.
We found chips and cookies- our main staples of course…nuts and some fruit drinks. Bryan dared try some barbecue curry chips and we got donuts (foreign donuts, you see)- and we hit the very small selection of alcohol (this is a mainly Muslim country) and got some wine from California and some whiskey.
By that time I was starving and my stomach was starting to hurt actually- and we were not so sure what awaited us back at the hotel, so we decided to get pizza at Pizza Hut.
Not super original, but considering I needed to eat right away it seemed a safe bet. We picked the veggie, which oddly enough also came with pineapple, which is Bryan’s fav. He puts pineapple on everything- so it was funny they offered this as it’s such an unusual choice for most.
It was pretty good- the sauce tasted kind of ketchupy vs tomato sauce but we’d also have some for our drive the next day without worrying about where we’d find lunch.
It was a little odd as they bring the check before the food and then periodically come back to check things off the list- like to ensure you got your order…but at first we thought she kept peering to see if we’d paid, but we had not yet. We also realized we forgot to check out the tipping situation- which we should really plan into our pre-trip planning checklist! We did leave a tip and she chased us down to try to give us the change…so guess they don’t tip?!
My phone was going through battery fast being our GPS, which frankly is really cool and very useful. Tmobile has free text and data in Malaysia, which is awesome. It was especially critical for the directions because the map we got from the Tourism Board was crap- it had no road names/ numbers on it…and while it did have restaurants and points of interest, without the actual streets listed, they would be hard to find.
There was an electronics and trinkets shop (as most shops really seem to be the really junky stuff you’d find at the dollar store), but I found a cigarette charger adapter (because the direct USB one for the car wasn’t working, which was annoying!). The girl plugged it in to show me it worked which was nice, because I was half wondering- and whether or not it worked, did not determine whether the car’s outlet did! I said “sama-sama” to the girl and she giggled. I thought it was because I was trying to speak in her language, but turns out not quite😉
We saw a stray dog hanging out in front of one of the shops and she looked in rough shape. She was standing there panting pretty hard and just seeming dejected- not laying but just standing, staring blankly. Her nose was dry and crusty, she had saggy teats and was pretty thin.
It made me sad but I didn’t dare touch or even try to as it’s just not like at home. Not that I am scared, but I just don’t want to bother them- at least unless I had food to give…and for an unsocialized dog like that who probably risks getting kicked and hit for a few scraps, interactions with people are not usually very comforting like the petting our own animals enjoy…and beg for. It is hard to be in a place where the thing I do for a job is the one thing I can’t do when in foreign countries…it’s hard to know I can’t do anything- but I know there will be a lot more of it.
It was totally dark when we left the mall, but this time, Bryan was a pro at the roundabouts! It was about 15 minutes’ drive- and by the time we got back, I was really tired. We tried doing FB live but couldn’t make it work. Bryan tried his whiskey which was no good he said and we basically just got ready for bed.
I went into the bathroom and something skittered across the edge of the tub- a 4 inch long cockroach! I have seen very few- and even less this large…but this is the jungle. Even a pristine hotel would have them sometimes- and this hotel is nice, like nearly 4 stars…it’s just all relative when you’re in the jungle.
Bryan came in and scooped it up with the coffee cups to take it outside, because as horrible as they are, we couldn’t kill it. I tried to hang out with him for a few minutes watching the bats- and we think, hearing the geckos (maybe even a barking one?)…but I was just too beat. Bryan said he was too tired too so we brushed our teeth and crawled into bed. It was barely 8- but we’d been travelling for so long!