Day 10- Mabul to Semporna

Again, I was up at 530am- this time sleeping through the prayer call (for the first time). I went back to sleep for a bit but we were up by 630 again- so we just finished packing and organizing and went to have some coffee.

I had seen people wearing a really cool turtle shirt so we went to the dive shop to see what they had. This might be the only souvenir we got because mostly we’d just seen fruit for sale. We saw one booth on the drive here that has baskets, but they were really big and we’d not have been able to bring any home- neither had I seen a post office from which to send anything. I was instructed to get a shot glass for a friend who collects them from everywhere- but I realized being a “dry”, Muslim country this was definitely not happening.

I got the turtle shirt although it was a bit bigger than I’d like, even as an XS (I think unisex) and Bryan picked out a tank top. They were on sale as the ink was slightly discolored, but we didn’t care because it was cheap enough and again, likely the only thing we’d go home with- other than perhaps sunglasses to replace the ones Bryan lost!

He’s not normally one to totally lose things, but between this and the key, he was face-palming himself! Of course, in true “no good deed goes unpunished” form, just before he’d lost his, I’d found a really nice pair I had turned in to lost and found- and the next day we saw them on one of the (“shanty town”) locals who keeps order at the gate to the resort! So, when we asked if Bryan’s were at lost and found they just shook their heads and seemed to act as though there might not be such a thing. While they were not expensive and wasn’t a huge deal it was disappointing we’d turned some in and no one did for his. We figured some other local was already sporting them too- but of course, there could be worse things. We hope they are enjoyed at least.

We did 3 dives today, at Stingray city, Artificial Reef and right in front of the jetty again, called Awas, which is Malay for caution, due to all the boats coming in and out. Our guide for these dives was nice, but a little bit careless, not really paying a ton of attention to our group- and there was some other guide who was either shadowing or had not been needed from the rest of the group who kept getting in the way and drove Bryan nuts.

There was a family with kids- 2 tween boys and a 9 yr old girl. The eldest kid started out diving until his ear hurt- while the other two kids and mom snorkeled above. They’d gotten a dive guide that now wasn’t needed…but this guy didn’t have enough to do!? Bryan was so annoyed because he kept swimming wherever and getting in the way of him and his view- and I agree, although it wasn’t as bad since I stayed ahead near our official guide more. Even our guide though was often not really paying attention and I noticed more fish than he did.

Somehow as well, he almost ran into a GIANT turtle, like 6 feet long- as he was looking sideways and swimming and it was coming toward him. Everyone (including another group was just watching this strange near collision course with something near the size of a car, without him noticing at all…he flipped when he saw it and backpedaled as quickly as possible- but it was hard to miss in the first place!? It was also a bit of a cop-out to do Awas (like he didn’t want to bother to take the boat) when there were other options, however, it was probably for the best, as being our last dive, we were cutting it close to making the 4pm boat back to Semporna…

We almost didn’t take the 3rd dive however, as during our surface interval Bryan’s ear was starting to bother him a bit. Mine were tired- as was my mouth from holding the regulator (I’d adjusted to using my hand at times because my jaw was tired of clenching)- and my face tired of the mask. We were going to do it…and then not. Then yes…I didn’t mind either way and Bryan called it no- but then at the last minute, he changed his mind. We’d paid for it and it was the last, so I was happy to go even despite some discomfort. Why not?

During the interval we were talking to the people in our group. The family was from Saskatchewan and had been traveling for 9 months- and had 3 more to go before going home! I guess in Canada, they have a program you can do where for 3 years you collect 66% of your salary, then the 4th you collect the rest and can take a sabbatical like that- and they have to hold your job for you!? This sounds fabulous- to which the American guy (on vacation from his temporary home in Singapore, though was actually from Portland!) said, “darn socialists think of everything”. We all laughed.

That guy was really surprised we’d come so far for just 2 weeks- actually, everyone we talked to was- because 2 weeks is apparently not a true vacation for most of the people we met…especially not for such a distance. There are not many US tourists there either- much like we experienced in Madagascar. We used to agree that Asia or Africa seemed “SO FAR”, but after going to Africa, we realized that while a long trip, it’s closer than you think. And two weeks is a significant amount of time to spend anywhere- so why let distance stop you? If Africa wasn’t really THAT far, then neither was Borneo!

Anyway, the family talked to us about their journeys and asked us about Madagascar and our African experience which was cool. They’d done a lot recently in Southeastern Asia, including Laos, where they described a really cool waterfall. This was also covered in Tony’s book- however, he never got to see it due to a crazy situation (I won’t ruin for you if you read). But we all felt our experiences were really amazing- and the kids were very excited to tell us stuff too. They were being home-schooled while on the road and now learning real-life cultural experiences, which is certainly far more impacting than anything you can get in a book.

One thing the woman said though, was the guides on the Mekong River just tossed their spoons and litter from lunch in the river like it was a garbage can!? She said she was appalled- and clearly, education is lacking regarding this factor…but really, I don’t understand how it can be so bad as that. I mean most people don’t want to s%$# where they eat so to speak- and most animals know better too…so how can such behavior and piles of trash be so commonplace and acceptable? It’s bizarre…but besides that, we clearly got a new picture of some pretty cool places to see and things to do- and they from us. Now we both have new destinations in our mind for the next trips we will take!

In all, I didn’t mind, but it wasn’t the best day of diving- though we enjoyed it either way…however, now it was time to go back to Semporna and start the rest of our adventure- this time in the jungle! When we finished diving we quickly dried off and threw on some clothes- our luggage was already at the dock- but as quick as we were, it turned out the boat with the Brit couple (we were supposed to take) had already left…so we’d not be seeing them after all. When they brought our luggage out as well, they’d not realized our towel was hanging on the railing next to the bags- but Bryan went back to go to the bathroom and thankfully he’d seen it. It would have been a shame to lose as it’s a Jolly Rodger (yes, we even have skulls on our beach towels). As more people were still filtering onto the island to begin their dive adventures, we were able to catch another boat, which had just one other couple.

This boat ride was much calmer and more relaxing than the one to Mabul – although getting back to the city was overwhelming. The festival was in full swing (though actually the last day)- so we got to see it all set up. There was literally a mountain of garbage in a small open area on the water’s edge (which is about 8 feet off the water)- and we had to step over a ton of trash on the docks- as in we could barely walk. These little boys were also standing there and not giving us room to get off, so I was trying to gently maneuver them a bit- as they brushed over my tattoos and giggled to each other. Oddly enough I said, “hi guys” which we discovered tended to be the catch phrase for people who don’t know English, but this way it makes it seem as though they do. They parroted it back to me and said it a few times- and later a few people on the street, even driving by yelling out of their cars, said the same.

As I was trying to make room for us and our luggage, the boys made a little bit more room, but really wanted to be right next to us. When Bryan got off they were grabbing his arms and saying “Hi guys” giggling over his tattoos, also making cat and dog noises for mine. I would have loved a picture, but quite literally we were just trying to get off the boat with all our luggage and just get to the sidewalk, so this was not an option…

We were astounded that the trash situation had gotten worse- and we didn’t even see the park yet (which we did the next day) which totally blew us away. We have really never seen a thing like it. It is literally as though people walk and just drop everything they had when done eating and drinking- there were even a purse and shoes and such in the giant pile too. The puddles were terrible and we did our best to avoid them but again lugging everything through this was a bit ridiculous- although at least this time, it was not raining.

We had to stop at the dive shop on the corner to settle up our refund for the nitrox mix up. They’d basically kept the money and credited our account while we were on Mabul, so that when we got drinks or bought anything at the dive shop, it’d come out of the refund we were entitled. This also only worked so well as when I had tried buying the dry bag they told me I couldn’t use credit and had to pay outright- whereas they’d told Chelsa, she absolutely couldn’t use cash…at least we got about $150 USD back, which it’s always nice to “make” money when you’re on vacation spending a ton of it.

I announced to Bryan we’d be stopping at the restaurant he’d turned down “that time” we didn’t get to eat dinner- and although he didn’t argue, he seemed a tad surprised and maybe even a little unsure, STILL…I just looked at him for a minute and shook my head because it was after 5 and everything closed at 6, just like before…however this time I was not going to go to bed without a real meal if I could help it.

Bryan wouldn’t participate in ordering (I guess he had his doubts about it coming out vegetarian, but what can you do but try?) so I ordered egg fried rice and a veggie dish- both of which were very good and had no meat! I imagined the egg would be stirred into the rice, but it’s literally a pile of rice with a fried egg on it, which just seemed funny. The total was apparently 15RM but my half-deaf ears heard 50RM, so when we handed the server the money, she was shocked and shook her head and said no no no too much. She went to get change- and as well, seemed unwilling to take any tip. This is really hard for us to accept, as we fell it’s unfair, but tipping is a strange thing in different cultures and you have to roll with the customs- so we obliged her giving the excess back and walked around the corner to the hotel with dinner. Yay, we’d be eating dinner!

We’d held our breath over the car situation, but when we rounded the corner, everything was as it should be, so we were quite relieved. Initially, the morning we’d left, there had been some buses parked in the very front, visible spaces (that could be seen from the lobby) and Bryan had parked a bit further down. This worried me though and the bus driver came out, so I gestured to him where he was going to move the bus and we could then move the car. He nodded and got in to move the bus, giving Bryan the opportunity for the most secure spot. We’d probably have worried more about it if we hadn’t had that little stroke of luck with the bus, but overall, we’d have figured that was the best we could do either way!

We checked back into the TD Mutiara- and although Bryan had made a reservation they seemed a bit confused. The agents (different than the ones we’d met before) were going back and forth; pulled someone out of an office- I think it was over what rate to charge us? Perhaps the rate we were being quoted did not match the actual day’s rate otherwise? After a couple minutes and some nodding, they agreed and gave us our key.

We had a room on the end, and although the room actually had a utility closet next to it (so no windows on that side), the hallway showed a view of the waterfront in the distance. Thankfully too, this time the AC worked so we could keep the humidity down a bit. We felt pretty itchy from the salt water and not having had more than a quick rinse in the dockside spigot, so we decided to take shower. At this point, the pink/ purple from my hair had been completely stripped and was bleach blonde, which was weird to see…as well, I’ been wearing it curly for a while, so having it straight all the time was weird too. When we looked in the mirror, we still both had pretty noticeable mask lines on our face from the 230 dive?! It felt like they’d be there permanently! My face was pretty red too, more than I’d like, but otherwise, we hadn’t gotten a ton of sun- at least intentionally.

Dinner was good; we had full bellies, which considering, I was pretty happy about- but I was too tired to do much, including write, even though I’d fallen behind in the adventure. But it would have to wait- and even though it was only 730p, I was beat. Bryan felt the same so we just rolled over and went to sleep. Thankfully we didn’t have to get up early the next day- and were not in a huge hurry, though we had an approximate 4-hour drive to Sakau to go. We hoped to stop at Sepilok, the orangutan rehab center too- so we couldn’t be lazy- but for the first time in a bit, we didn’t have a definitive schedule.


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