A mum, dad and their three kids from Tasmania, go on an epic adventure in Borneo for 3 weeks in December
After holing up perched high on the side of the Mt Kinabatangan foothills where ears pop, chip bags swell, ancient mists swirl, cats howl and the cool air is a relief our kids have excreted every imaginable nastiness throughout the Bayu Homestay I think we’d overstayed our welcome. We hadn’t even left and Rumia was in our room stripping the mattresses desperate to decontaminate her lodgings and drag it back out of the third world into which we had sunk it.
I transported our gear to the bus shelter just down the end of the muddy gravel carpark past the rickety lean-to’s selling fruit and veg. Everyone is pretty vague about what times the bus comes but maybe the bus is pretty ad hoc about its own timetable. I leave Nani a two way and as I see the bus I radio her to bring out the dead and we climb aboard, each one sitting by ourselves. It’s not long and Oscar is spewing again and I’m starting to get real concerns about dehydration. He’s not even keeping water down now it seems because he has a constant gutfull of slimy boogers. I have some immodium but I checked back home and it’s not prescribed for kids. I pull out the map of Kota Kinabalu to see where the hospital is because if we can’t get him to drink and keep it down, he’ll be on a drip within 24hrs. The joys of travel with kids.
I have ended up sitting next to toilet. This seat is free because it’s evidently the worst place to sit because of the fumes that emanate every time it opens. I direct my air vent between me and the door settling back to watch The Last Air Bender for the short, uneventful 1.5 hr trip down to the hot lowlands of the coast.
Having tried the top five rated hostels according to Hostel Booker and Hostel World, and not finding anything available (most people seem to book the day before but because no deposits are taken, people over book and don’t turn up) we ended up finding a room of 4 bunk beds at Travelers Light located at (appropriately named) Australia Place. Our first overwhelming impressions are “hot” and “feet”. The first is the oppressive heat in the corridor upstairs due to the complete absence of any ventilation and the latter a result of three things; the enforced “shoes off” policy, a herd of teenage boys on a school trip from Brisbane and finally the stifling, immovable wall of hot humid air that allowed the tangy, musky toe jam smell to ferment mid-air.
Aside from that, the room and the showers are kept clean, the AC is effective (although they turn it off during the day) the staff are helpful and nice, and the location is good too. There are four or five backpackers just a few doors away from this one (some we jealously notice have Christmas decorations and air conditioned lounges).
The kids are still zombified and in desperate need of forced bed rest so Nani and I leave them in the room after twisting the staffers arm to turn our AC on (she says she might have to flick it off if her boss arrives and i think to myself, your tightarse boss will get a piece of my mind of it gets turned off) and we head out to the shopping complex Suria Sabah for some food and a look see.
Suria Sabah looks like a new complex with the kinds of shops you would find at Chadstone Shopping Centre in Melbourne. It has four stories of shopping, three for parking and the top floor has eight cinemas and a huge entertainment area and proudly announces that it won the 1Malaysia National Clean Toilet Award Competition 2011 which is a big deal. Nani looks visibly relieved – she has reached civilization. She just doesn’t feel comfortable in remote places – there’s too much to stress about and there isn’t anywhere on planet earth that makes her feel more alive and safe than neon lights, crowds of Asian people, traffic, shops and restaurants and it is in massive complexes like Suria where her two greatest loves come together – shopping and eating.
I, on the other hand feel like I’ve sold out. Borneo is a place of adventure, jungles, rivers, mountains, rare wildlife, heat, rain, mist, trekking, climbing, rafting, night walks and sunsets and here I am in a glass, chrome, halogen, tiled jungle packed with shoppers on safari hunting down a bargain and bagging a plate of food hall chow. I hate consumerism and the way it creeps into ones soul and the little lie that it sells me that just buying that one more thing will make me happy. I must be looking whiney and muttering something about what happened to adventure and that shopping isn’t an adventure she says why don’t I just look at shopping as an experience? I say going to a brothel is an experience but not one I really want to have (what’s more it’s one that can keep on giving). My whine continues; this mall looks almost identical to Melbourne’s with maybe three or four less white people, so I could have this experience for the cost of a one hour flight from Tassie. Luckily we have promised the kids we’ll be back soon so we have a quick bite, see what’s on at the movies for them and head back.