I was sitting on the plane, fairly nervous about my next destination. A lot of people had scared me saying this part of Borneo was quite dangerous with pirates and thieves etc. Yikes! I had actually only decided to come here as my friend in Australia told me I had to climb Mount kinabalu, SE Asias tallest mountain sitting at just over 4000m.
I got a taxi at the airport and he took me to my hostel. This is one thing I really don't like about travelling alone is getting taxis on my own. When you don't know the area or where you are going and they obviously don't have official taxis so some are just people who need a bit of extra cash. I just find it a bit scary. All the busses had stopped at 8pm though so I didn't have a choice. It was fine though, nothing to worry about and I doubt there ever is really!
My hostel was great! So social and lots of friendly people. The next day I searched high and low for somehwere I could buy a climbing permit for Mount Kinabalu but they were all fully booked for the days I could go. I was devastated as that was the only reason I was really in KK. Oh well, onwards and upwards! I booked my PADI Open Water course instead as diving was meant to be good here and also its something I have wanted to do for a while. It started the next day with a day of theory. Watching videos and taking tests! It was only me and one friendly Chinese guy, Hugh. At lunch time me and him headed to a food market for lunch and I had udon noodles which is something I fell in love with in Japan and had struggled to find in Australia. I found the theory a bit boring actually and couldn't wait to actually be diving! We finished at about 4 and I headed back to the hostel. A few of us went out to the night market for tea. It really is something crazy! Fresh fish everywhere! Everything you can imagine, prawns, squid, parrot fish, snapper, mackerel, octopus, crab! Everything! You jut point at what you want and they grill it and give it back to you with sauce (always spicy) veg and rice. By the time I go home I'm going to be a Spice Queen! Really beginning to manage to tolerate and enjoy spicy food!
The next day was my first ever dive! Eeek! It felt so surreal being able to breathe under water and so amazing! We got to roll off the back of the boat whih was kinda scary. We only started at like 5 to 8m and had to practice some skills. Things like taking off our masks underwater, taking off our equipment, rescue dives and pivoting at the bottom of the ocean. Actually quite difficult controlling your buoyancy. Every time you breathe in you float a little up and when you breathe out you start to sink. Pretty crazy everything that affets it. It's also funny liatening to yourself breathing all the time and thinking do I usually breath this fast? I really really enjoyed it though and will definitely be doing it again soon. Poor Hugh stressed out a couple of times and swam to the surface really quickly twice when he stressed out. He got into a lot of trouble for that a apparently its super dangerous and nearly didnt get his certificate. In the end though the instructor gave it to him. Thank God for Hugh as he has a diving trip already booked for the Great Barrier Reef in a couple of months. We saw some beautiful colourful fish called parrot fish which I will be avoiding at the night markets now! We also saw puffer fish, clown fish, bluespotted sting ray and some other funky looking things.
Right so my dive course had finished and I wasn't quite sure what to do next. I knew a couple of girls from USA were at Kinabalu National Park and I figured if I headed there at least I woukd be able to see Mt Kinabalu and do some hiking around the mountain. So the next morning I got up at 5am, grabbed some breakfast and headed to the bus bay. People had told me you have to get there super early as the bus just leaves when it is full. It doesn't follow a schedule. So that's what I did. I was there for 6am and the man said just wait and we will leave soon. 45 minutes later I was still there and no one else had come ao igot the feeling I would be there for a while. I asked how long it usually took and he said sometimes they don't leave until 8am! I did not want to wait that long but dodnt wamt to have to spend 200 ringgit on a taxi and was a bot nervous about the shared taxis but in the end that was my only option. Basically there were cars with 7 seats saying they leave when they get full and it's pretty cheap. A Malaysian guy walked me to one that already had 5 people in it so we were just waiting for one more and that took less than 5 mins. Phewf I was on my way finally! The road was long and windy. It took about 2 hours to get there and pretty much everyone slept for the whole journey. I hadn't booked anything for when I arrived ao had a wander around to see what I could find. A couple of places were fully booked and I got a bit worried but then I found a super cheap hostel that seemed really nice. It was kind of in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by the Borneo Jungle. Super beautiful! It was pretty cloudy though ao I couldn't see the mountain. This hostel was very simple and reminded me of my South America travels. The toilets were outside and were built on a slope so i nearly fell over everytime I wenr to sit on the loo. I met up with the 2 American women. They are so cool it's crazy. I thought they were in there late 20s but actually they were 36 and 46! They started travelling 10 years ago and make sure that eery year they go somewhere that they think will change quite soon and spend 5 or 6 weeks travelling wherever they have picked. One of them has just started running marathons and is a black belt in karate and the other is studying nursing and rescues dogs that get killed if no one wants them. They are both crazy and funny and an inspiration really. Show that you're never too old for anything. We went on a couple hikes around the jungle and had lunch in a nice restaurant. Luckily it was cloudy and the walk was all in shade so it wasn't too hot. Afterwards I realised I didn't have any cash to pay for my hostel and the next cash machine is a 7km walk away. We all walked there and it wasn't very nice at akk, it was along a busy, dirty road that cars sped down. All down hilk on the way there and all up hill on the way back. Bot of a bummer really but I needed cash! After that I said good bye to Suzie and Lailae and headed to my own hostel. There were 2 Australains and an American there. We opted for dinner at the hostel, rice, chicken, veg and an egg. A boiled or fried egg usually comes with every meal. I love it! We shared travel stories over a beer and then headed to bed. Not a lot to do in the evenings there so it was an early night.
It was time for me to head back to KK as I was flying to Bali the next day ao I headed up to the bus stop. Once again no schedule so you've just got to be lucky. I thought I would be waiting at least half an hour so got my camera out and started taking photos of the view a few metres away from the stop when suddenly I saw the bus rolling up. I ran for it with my big rucksack, small rucksack, hamdbag and camera in hand. I must have looked a right state! So lucky to get a bus so fast though! It was more of a coach though and when I got on I realised all the seats had been taken so what the driver tid was pull out a 4 legged stool and sat it in the middle of the aisle for me to sit on. Talk about safety regulations haha! It was the same windy road and eery time we went around a corner my stool woukd go up o 2legs and I would have to hold on to the chairls that the people were sitting on so that I didn't fall on top of them. Everyone already stares at me as I'm the only white person on the bus and obviously a traveller and now I was even more of an interest for them. I felt quite uncomfotable and it was a proper good 1 and a half hour core workout. The other problem was that they didnt actually drop me off in KK but somewhere else beginning with S. They told me I needed to get another bus or a taxi. So I opted for bus and walked to a different bus station. This station was doqn a couple of streets andacross a 3 lane motorway. When I was in the middle of the motorway a man started shouting at me from a bus. I still hadn't worked out which side I needed to be standing on and I wasn't quite sure what he wanted. He said "this is your bus! Quock cross! Come over! Quick!" First of all I thought "how do you know this is my bus?" and then "how the heck can I cross quickly when cars are speeding on all 3 lanes" talk about pressure! It did work though within a couple of minutes I had dodged past cars and was safe and sound on my bus. Nice of him to wait for me really. The next problem was that I got dropped off in a place in KK that I had never been to before and did not recpgnise it at all. I had to ask a few people for directions and eeryone told me to get a taxi. I had decided that I had come this far without one I was not going to get one now. It was the hottest part of the day though and I was sweating like a pig! Someone told me it was another 1hr walk and I nearly cried. Finally though I stared recognising streets and buildings and I made it to my new hostel.it was brobably about 45 minutes and must have been one of the worat journeys in my life. All a great experience though, you learn from these experiences.