01.06.2009 0 °F
Happy New Year!! We hope that everyone celebrated in style, and that 2009 is a prosperous year!
After leaving our tropical paradise, we headed to the island of Penang to explore for a couple of days. We wandered through the spice markets of little India, the golden streets of Chinatown, and tasted the street food it's famous for.
Yes, this is a bag of fresh juice! Cheers!
We spent our last days in Kuala Lumpur, catching up on rest and getting ready for Borneo, round two! This time we headed to Sabah, a state famous for its lowland rainforests, Mt. Kinabalu (the highest peak in SE Asia), and it's wildlife.
We rang in the New Year in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah's capital. There was a huge city-wide celebration that included a lot of Karaoke (particularly to Prince and Celine Dion), street markets, a fun fair with cotton candy and oversized stuffed animals, mullets galore, and very few tourists. It was fun to see how the locals celebrated, and the night even ended with fireworks, though there was no grand finale like back home.
The next day we took a cramped minibus to Kinabalu National Park, to do some hiking around the headquarters. The lodge we stayed at was surrounded by lush cloud forest, and at night we were bombarded by gigantic insects of all kinds...it was unlike anything we've ever seen!
Hiking in to the guest house
Largest Butterfly EVER...do you see the snake face?
Gigantor beetle- not to be messed with
Our next stop was the lowland rainforest surrounded the Kinabatangan River in eastern Sabah. Much of the rainforest has been cut down for palm oil plantations (try not to use palm oil!), but there is still a tiny fraction of the rainforest left surrounding the river. It's a very sad situation, as is so much wildlife that is endemic to the area. Since ecotourism has ballooned here, they are starting to realize the value of the remaining forests, and are working to conserve what is left.
We stayed in a little chalet in the forest for two nights doing hikes (day and night), and floating on the river. We were able to see a crocodile, 4 species of monkeys (including a wild Orang-utan!), a river snake, and many tropical birds. The only thing we didn't see were Pygmy elephants...but we did hike through a lot of their dung. We also had the opportunity to experience leeches in all their glory...they are nasty creatures! Our group developed such a fear of them that we almost missed the wildlife! Matt was the only guy, so he was deemed leech-master, responsible for leech removal. We made some great friends and overall had an amazing time...we feel lucky to see it all before it's too late!
Cruising the Kinabatangan
Frog on night hike
Hiking with our guide Kai
Floating down the Kinabatangan
Blood sucking leeches!
We've made it out of the jungle, and flew today from Borneo to Phuket, Thailand. What a change! It's absolute insanity here, but we've already had some incredible food and are hoping to escape the crowds and explore more of southern Thailand's beaches. Malaysia will be missed, but there is so much more to do and see. Wish us luck!