Day 16- Ranau to KK

I set the alarm to see the sunrise again, but when I looked out the window there were 2 big pine trees in the way! It was pretty, but we were still tired so I looked quickly and “enjoyed” for about 2 seconds, then went back to bed.

When we got up, we noticed they’d actually cut the tops of the trees in front of our last room- including the ground floor, which had not been the case when we were there. They’d started working their way across the tree line but had not yet gotten to topping the trees in front of our current building…so the view was obscured. It was fine as we’d seen it before- and it was prettier then with some bits of clouds and fog in the valley. This was still a gorgeous view, but we felt we’d gotten the best of it before.

The other weird thing is that there were not really any beetles- not even on the porch of the previous room! It was too early for anyone to have swept, so we are unsure where it was a battlefield of beetle death when we’d stayed, but now seemed totally normal? We could still see some pretty moths flying around from the night’s activities and we got a few more pics but were overall just ready to get brekky and go.

As there were so many guests, brekky was buffet and the only thing we really felt like we could eat was toast and hard-boiled eggs. Both our stomachs were still a tiny bit wonky so we didn’t want to push it. We ate pretty quickly and then just got on the road.

We had to backtrack about 30-40 minutes through Ranau. As we were slowly headed down the dirt rod, I started crawling up the back of my seat and pointing and whimpering- because a giant spider crawled out of the hood and up the windshield in front of me! Bryan could not figure out what I was doing and then I was finally able to say, “spider”. We decided it was best to get out and get it off- him, not me! Better that than to have it crawl through the vent or something. I have goosebumps just thinking of that! I quickly rolled up my window and decided I would cook for a bit rather than risk it until we got going fast!

When we got on the road I said maybe because it was a Saturday morning there’d not be a lot of traffic. Indeed, pulling out there were very few cars on the road. Bryan was just marveling at this too- as we came to a dead stop traffic jam!

There was clearly some kind of celebration- we gathered a political thing with all the flags- happening in Ranau this morning. While our traffic was bad, traffic going the opposite way (which we’d need to do soon) was worse. Everyone was heading into Ranau and there was no way to get to KK without driving right through it. We just hoped that whatever was going on, died down by the time we were done with our flower and hot springs viewing!

We followed the signs for Pouring Hot Springs (which the flowers were on the route to). Bryan had checked this out online when planning the trip. He’d noted as we passed it the first time that it was too bad it wasn’t really worth it. It is a spring, but the baths you sit in are man made and it’s just basically that the hot spring water comes out the taps into a bunch of bathtubs people can go in. While sure it didn’t sound like a naturally cool thing, it seemed like if we were going to be right there, we may as well stop.

We followed the signs noting rafflesia blooming and ended up at a little farm. It was just someone’s house and they had rafflesia flowers on their property- and were lucky to be able to make money to show them off when they bloomed. They also had a rabbit enclosure with about 50 rabbits, which was super fun (especially as I don’t think they were for food, rather, pets). This reminded me of my mother who used to raise and show rabbits when I was younger. At one point we had more than 100 rabbits! She had to give up the hobby when she was diagnosed with cancer (for concern of lymphedema) which was devastating to her…but this is when she instead turned to flowers- day lilies- which is what everyone knew her for later in life.

We paid the entrance fee (just a few bucks) and were lead down a little bamboo walkway to a platform where indeed, a rafflesia was blooming! It’s about a foot wide and red with some darker blood red bumps. We could not touch it but appeared to be kind of leathery looking and somewhat rigid. The inside appeared as though spongy, like a mushroom, if you’d touch it (we couldn’t reach).

It was really interesting, although it didn’t seem to smell much- as it’s known to smell like rotting bodies! Thankfully though that also meant we were not inundated with flies or something either- making the viewing far more pleasant than we’d pictured. The guy showed us the tiny nubbins as they grow on the vine/ tuber and then ones that were getting ready to open. They grow very slowly and can take a whole year to bloom. This guy was lucky because he had them in all stages and would be able to make some income off these flowers for a long time to come.

I wanted to go in with the bunnies who were so friendly, they came running over like dogs would. Turns out they are pretty used to people feeding them, but even without food, they huddled around me and let me pet them- which for rabbits, is really pretty friendly. Most are kind of skittish- at least unless you really do a lot of one on one work with them…which I don’t think they did there…I really enjoyed it as you can see by the big smile on my face. It’s been a long time since I have seen so many bunnies! I spent some time in there playing with them, but didn’t buy the food…however a family with a little girl did and the entire lot of them were crowding around her to get their little bit! It actually scared her a little, though was pretty cute to watch.

Well, we’d seen the rafflesia, so I suggested we go to the hot springs as it was all of .3km down the road. Bryan started to say that it wasn’t that interesting, but I said, “well people come from all over to see it- we’re here, we may as well too”. As we pulled into the parking lot, Bryan started to argue again about it not being worth it. I didn’t say anything and started to walk up to the counter to check out the price. It was all of $4USD per person so I figured even if it wasn’t that exciting, it was hardly breaking the bank, or anything we really needed to “think” about. I got in line and he continued to argue and say he didn’t think it was worth it. I turned to him and said, “It’s $4. We’re here, what’s the problem”? He started hemming and hawing which at that point, annoyed me. I could not understand what the big deal was- but I was done discussing it- so I said nothing, turned on my heel and started walking back to the car.

This is when he dared say, “Don’t be like that….Fine, we can do it” as though I had been the one throwing the tantrum?! Nothing irks me more than someone commenting on how I respond to their being a bonehead! My response to bad behavior is not the issue…Bryan knows better too so I don’t know why he insisted on this little scene, but at that point, I was going in- by myself if need be…and he could do whatever he wanted in the meanwhile. Thankfully though, he decided he had done enough talking for the moment and instead quietly paid our entrance fee and went in.

Almost the first thing we saw was a very cool canopy walk of suspension bridges that you could climb up and look down over the park. Bryan seemed pretty excited about this, so I just bit my tongue. Of course they trick you a bit and we had to pay another fee to do it- another few bucks- but we knew that would be worth it!

We followed a trail that went up and up (my fav!) and I was instantly drenched and panting. I was of course questioning this choice but thankfully we made it to the first bridge. They only let a few people go across at a time- which is good because the bridge shakes and wobbles more when other people are on it. It doesn’t scare us per se but we of course don’t want to test its limits either!

We took some pictures of each of us walking across- and I saw markers that noted the platforms were between 25 and 34m high. There were 5 or 6 of them, some longer than others; some with higher drops than others. We did some “no hands” pics and someone took our pic together too, which was nice. We spent about 20 minutes or so doing this, thankfully getting just ahead of a huge tour group- so we were coming down the steps as they were all going in. Now we had to keep it up and stay ahead of that hoard the whole time!

There was a butterfly garden- also another payment required- but this we didn’t care about. We’d seen more butterflies just on the patio at Myne than seemed to be flitting about in this garden. We continued on and came to the hot springs and the baths- which are kind of terraced/ tiered and cascade down the hill. I see what Bryan meant about how it wasn’t what we would want to see, but it was actually still really interesting- and is indeed quite the destination for both locals and visitors.

We went over to the left and felt the water- it was cold?! We looked at each other and then realized this literally was just a swimming pool! That wasn’t the springs!

We walked further up and saw some big rocks with a pool and a rope around it with signs not to put your feet in. This was the spring- and in touching the water, it was indeed, quite hot! So then we turned around and gathered that this spring feeds the many bathtubs that cascade down the hill. The visitors pick a tub (which also has a cold water spigot) so they can get the temperature right and actually enjoy it! Some people had their feet in it, others were people soaking and kids playing. We saw a British couple at the pool looking quite confused as we had, so we set them straight- and in no time flat they were enjoying their own little tub too!

It turned out as well there were some hiking trails (which naturally intrigued Bryan) so we looked at the map to see what we might do. Unfortunately, the one waterfall was 3,000m away- way too far in this heat and for the time we had, but there was another waterfall 350m away and a bat cave less than 700m away. We decided we’d try to get to the bat cave- but I did warn him the one waterfall was much too far for me…Bryan seemed happy in his element and said, “I didn’t know there were other things to do here”. This was his way of apologizing for being a brat earlier. I said, “Yeah it’s a good thing we came in” and just smiled to myself as I tried not to pass out as we hiked!

The hike was of course up and up and up, and I was huffing and puffing- drenched in sweat instantly too…but I wanted to see the bat cave as well! We passed a botanical garden- shockingly free with no other entry fee- that we’d stop at on the way back. We continued on to a pretty little waterfall and some stepping stones where we needed to cross the creek to continue on.

We tried to get some long exposure photos, to make the water look velvety and soft, but it was a little bit overexposed and didn’t turn out quite as we hoped, but it was still nice. We enjoyed the beauty for a few minutes and then continued on- where the trail really went up and up, even switchbacks- where I started questioning whether or not I’d make it! There was a funny sign that said “Emergency No”- which made us laugh. Don’t have an emergency here! But really no meant number- it just looked weird.

Just as I was thinking I wasn’t going to be able to go further we came to some big boulders. I told him I was reaching my limit but Bryan climbed up a bit higher to see what was coming. He said that wasn’t it here, but he saw the cave up ahead. So I mustered up the strength and continued up a bit more to find a cave- indeed, with bats flying in and out of it!

It looked a lot like an Indiana Jones set (good job, guys), with mossy colored rocks and some vines; it was really pretty. The bats flitted about, in and out of the cave and we took some pics. We tried setting up a long exposure of the bats too to see what they’d look like, though naturally, no bats flew in or out any of the times the shutter was open!

We stayed for a few to cool down and then headed back down the hill. We really needed to get moving soon as the 2 hours back to KK were still going to be kind of long- although we also didn’t want to get there too soon and have nothing to do either. It’s funny we’d say that about being in the middle of a big city, but that’s how we feel: we spend endless hours entertained in nature, but in a city we feel like there’s just nothing to do! We don’t really want to spend money to do anything- and in a city, everything costs money…but nature is cheap or free!

When we got back to the little waterfall a few people had gathered and were playing around. We went to the water’s edge to test it; it was cold but not icy, like we’re used to at home. There were some tadpoles swimming around in the water which scared the crap out of me at first because I thought they were leeches! But upon closer inspection I could see they weren’t and was glad…but I was still a bit cautious and didn’t put my hands in anymore, haha.

There had been a small convenience shop in the park where we stopped for an ice cream bar- which we both finished before we even got to the front gate of the park. I commented how that was lunch and probably dinner- when Bryan pointed out they had a restaurant there too and we could check it out. Imagine that, him deciding about a meal!? I was so proud of him!

We walked back and checked the menu. They had yummy roti so we knew we’d get that- and spring rolls, so that would be a pretty good meal, especially if that’s all we had for the night. The sauce had chicken or something so we didn’t use that, but all of it was good. Someone at another table ordered an orange juice and it looked so good, I also needed that- though I really thought it was a mixed drink or smoothie, so when it was just orange juice I was a tad surprised…but it was fresh squeezed and cold- and there’s nothing as good as that in the Borneo heat!

The restaurant overlooked a different set of pools. I am not sure what the difference between the first pool we saw and this one was, but a bunch of kids were in it. The girls all had everything covered- full leggings and long sleeves but were still swimming. I thought it was good they were allowed to swim- but I really couldn’t imagine being so covered up as the Muslim women are. I was dying in shorts and a tank top and while they may be used to it to some extent, it’s still 90+ and 100% humidity. There’s no justifying they are not hot in any way…everyone is.

We were ready to get going but they seemed to be lingering bringing the check so I told Bryan to catch the waiter’s eye. Bryan watched the waiter who was walking toward him- but made no attempt to ask him for the check. I said, “why didn’t you ask”, (as the guy was walking away from me= not as appropriate for me to) and he said, “well, he didn’t look at me”. I kind of just looked at him because sometimes even when he needs to, he really won’t ask for something. We could have been late for something and I doubt he’d have asked.

When the guy walked by next, although he didn’t look at me either, I just said “excuse me”, and asked for the check. I noted to Bryan with a laugh like “what’s the deal, why won’t you just ask, especially when we need something”? He didn’t say anything and seemed a tad overly offended- but it is a “thing” of his. I really did want to know why he doesn’t want to ask…

We were full, paid and ready to leave, so we strolled back to the gate and got in the extremely hot car. The parking lot had gotten quite busy and there was even a market of sorts across the street, which was also busy. I guess that’s a Saturday afternoon at what seems to be their local water park!

We got back on the road and hoped that all the hoopla in Ranau had died down by now. Thankfully it was as uneventful as we’d hoped- all the people had gone home, and traffic was pretty normal at the teapot roundabout (teapot because Ranau is home to Sabah Tea- a famous major export of theirs). We had passed the plantation (near the fish massage place), but while we enjoy tea, didn’t really think much of it otherwise.

Now we were really on the way to KK and to our last night in Borneo. We had a relatively nice, somewhat fancy hotel near the waterfront so we were looking forward to having some modern amenities and hopefully a bar and restaurant to go to! Maybe even a pool!?

We had to put the pedal to the metal and make some time back to KK so we were not trying to find our hotel after dark and extra super-duper tired. We passed Mt. Kinabalu Park where we’d played with the squirrels and stopped at the same pretty mountain overlook/ toilet stop we’d done before, stretching our legs and taking a few more pictures. They had a nice little garden and it was interesting we could see pineapples were growing on the hillside. We also saw some pretty amaryllis which grow well here- whereas we must force them at Christmas and they’d never be able to be outside!

Some crazy clouds pulled in and it started raining and thundering, but in all it wasn’t a bad drive. As we got closer and closer to “civilization” again we were sad that our jungle adventure was over- and we’d just be in the city until we left. There were more roundabouts with statues, including some clay pots- representative of a pottery factory nearby; also some flowers, including a rafflesia.

Getting to our hotel was a bit insane as the highway is divided and the exits are on the left- plus you must get off about 2 miles before your turn as they create a bi-way of sorts, so we passed our exit before we realized this. It didn’t matter much where we turned though as we were far enough away to have plenty of options in our route.

It was hard for me to even direct Bryan with all that was going on, kudos to him for some good driving! People were driving crazy so I was pretty relieved when we saw our hotel. It was really big and looked pretty nice; right across the street was an open-air market of food and vendors which we figured we’d check out later.

Our hotel had a parking garage underneath so we pulled in and grabbed all our stuff so we could do the big repacking that night. When we got to the lobby, it seemed really swanky, kind of like the W, only not nearly the price. I think it was about $150 US or so for what would have easily been $4-500 at home! We got checked in and went back to the elevator to head to our room- but it took me a minute to realize you had to use the key card to make the elevator go, haha.

The room was really cool looking and overlooked the city on the opposite side of the market/ water side. It was too bad we didn’t have a water view, but we decided to go down to the pool and sit there to see the water- and have some cocktails!

The pool was covered by some sail shade and had a nice patio that was half covered and half open. A crazy storm was brewing so it looked like it might get interesting! Man, I really wanted a mojito so I was thrilled to see there was one on the menu! It wasn’t as good as one I’d have here but it was very good. Bryan got a margarita but changed next drink to a mojito because he’d tasted mine. They were not terribly strong, and we were so excited I think we each had 2 each- they were also buy one get one free, so we decided especially as we had nothing else to do, why not!

By then we’d had enough to drink but it wasn’t yet dinner time, so we went to wander the market. It was cool but a bit overwhelming as I suppose markets can be. So many kinds of different, strange and unidentifiable things, especially cookies and crackers. We’d have liked to have tried some but not knowing what they were, we weren’t that keen either way- and we really didn’t have any money left either as we’d tipped Patrick and that was just about it. So we just wandered a bit. A few people tried to sell us things, but as usual, most of them just looked at us- though smiled and were friendly.

There was really nothing there we’d buy either way- mostly fruit and veggies. Of the vendors that weren’t, they all had the same things and many of them were total trinkets, junky things we’d not want. It was too bad as we were really surprised we couldn’t find anything to go home with?! It didn’t even seem I’d find a scarf, since everything of that nature was a burka, and not a decorative beach thing, so the fabrics were wrong and the colors bland/ plain, which I didn’t want. After about 15 minutes we just headed back to the hotel…especially as a huge storm was coming in and if we didn’t leave right then, we’d be caught in it.

The storm came in quickly and just after we got back to the pool bar to watch it- and have another drink while we did! It was really cool because there was a point where it was in front of us and literally half the sky was storm, the other half not. We’d been hoping to see a really pretty sunset, but when the storm was passing we couldn’t even see the horizon anymore- just a wall of gray. It was cool to watch and just about everyone was mesmerized by how hard it was raining- it was really impressive!

We went downstairs to the lobby to explore and dawdle a bit before dinner. There was a really cool bar (but we didn’t need anything more) and then a pastry case which we picked out some desserts we’d get after dinner. The place we wanted to eat was the Italian restaurant, and it wasn’t open yet, so we just sat down to watch the people and just enjoy the ambiance.

It wasn’t much longer till the restaurant opened and it was really cool. The walls were cut stone from a quarry on the other side of the island and was representative of the typical rock here (I think it was granite). They had lights coming up from a chair rail along the wall and the way it light the rock was really pretty. The ceiling was black and shiny, and it just had a really cool effect. We were the only people there too for a few minutes until another family with their kid came in. I was a bit surprised they let the kid do whatever and be loud, because it was a pretty fancy restaurant, but whatever. I always seem to be surprised at what kids do and parents allow!

The waiter was very diligent and attentive and very sweet. He asked where we were from and he was so excited to hear we’d come all the way to Borneo and how much of the island we’d seen. He was from Sandakan and he was so thrilled we’d gone there and hoped we’d liked it. He was very proud and proud to be good at his job as well.

I had a mushroom ravioli which was good, and I wasn’t sure I’d finish it but it was a small serving (like fancy places have), so I did. Bryan had some kind of vegetable pasta dish. The bread they gave us was really good and one of the rolls ws black- which I really wanted to try but found out they were made with olives which I despise. Bryan said they tasted very olivey too so I didn’t dare try. I am probably the only vegetarian especially that hates olives, but I just think they are horrible. They taste like dirt. I am not big on condiments either way- I hate pickles, mustard though I can stand but rarely use mayo and ketchup. Bryan has a glass of wine, but I was done on the drinking so I just had water.

The restaurant overlooked the city street and had the same view as our room, but more street level. We watched the bustling on the street as people went home after work and it got dark- but it was still pretty busy nonetheless. We talked about how much fun we’d had and how sad we were to go back…and what a long trip it was going to be to get home! We had a 12 hour layover in China- when the 9 hour one was bad enough on the way here!?

We didn’t have much cash left but Bryan used it to pay the bill however this didn’t leave much tip. As we were leaving I remembered I had a bill left and we went back to give it to the waiter. We felt better because the other hadn’t been enough in our minds but as they don’t really seem to tip, it was probably altogether unexpected either way…but we hoped he was happy. We stopped at the pastry counter to get some of the little desserts. We had thought about getting a few of them as they were small, but by then we were pretty full, so only got one that was a chocolate mousse cake log thing…and it was good! But really I was so full I could only eat a few bites.

Back at our room we got our stuff together, but we’d have more time to pack tomorrow as we didn’t need to be to the airport till after 1 for a 4pm flight. We took showers in the very large fancy bathroom- and they had some great shampoo, lotion and such called Malin + Goetz which I will check out and see if we can get back at home.

Bryan read a bit and I wrote, but we were still tired from a long day, so we went to bed still pretty early- and didn’t even have to get up early either. It was nice to think we could really take our time in the morning and still have plenty of time to spare.

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