North of Malaysia & Borneo – street art, Mount Kinabalu and first time diving with sharks

A ferry, three buses and a nigh train to Sutan (Still being in Thailand) where I crosses the border to Langawi on one last ferry.

Langkawi 

To start off with, I didn’t like Langkawi that much. There are things to do, but it didn’t catch my attention. A good thing about going to Langkawi was – I met Ode again, girl from Belgium I met in Hoi An, Vietnam. Besides that, I really liked the view from top of the famous Sky Bridge. If you love sunset like I do, grab a drink at Kalut Cafe & Bar and enjoy the sunset right on the beach.

 

Georgetown 

It’s pretty simple to get to Georgetown from Langkawi. One ferry ride and it doesn’t take to long. Met two girls and they recommended to stay at Tipsy Tiger Party Hostel. Oh well what should I say? Name of the hostel says it all, it’s the hostel’s philosophy. Met three Germans on the first night while playing pool and spend rest of the days together exploring Georgetown.
Main reason why I wanted to go to Georgetown is The STREET ART. All those different kinds of art – not just paintings, its a combination of arts, crafts and many other things to make it look so real. Hell yeah, love it!
Other than the street art, it was so worth to grab some food at the Night food court Red Garden and try a falafel pita right in front of the Reggae Mansion.
Finally, I wanna say thanks to Annalisa, Verena and Flo for these two days. Hope I’ll see you somewhere again (Flo maybe in Aussie).

 

Borneo – Mount Kinabalu 

I flew from Penang to Kota Kinabalu. One of the main reasons why I wanted to go to Borneo is the Mount Kinabalu. I quickly catch a grab from airport to the city center in order to arrange a last minute permit (only 100 climbers per day is allowed) from one of the many climbing outdoor agencies. On the go I realised that most of these agencies were closed on Sunday at 2pm. However there was one chance to get a last minute permit for the next day. I’ve contacted someone called Jack. He is the owner Jungle Jack hostel – located closer to the park main entrance. Luckily I got a last minute permit for the next day climbing.

At the bus station, the next bus leaving to Jungle Jack hostel is in an hour time so perfect. I found a hostel nearby the bus station where I could leave my backpack and went to get some cash. Out of nowhere my bank card got stuck in the ATM and the branch was closed because of the weekend and bus to Jungle Jack hostel was about to leave in 15 minutes. To be honest at that moment I had a little panic attack! With a calm head I decided to find a reasonable solution. I’ve gone back to the hostel where I left my luggage and fortuitously there was a Malaysian local who lives in New Zealand now visiting his family in KK. I believed in the good and gave him the required information to go to the bank on Monday and try to get my card from the ATM. Fortunately I travel with two bank cards, so getting cash wasn’t the problem and also I was planning to fly out from KK. So I decided to collect my card on my way back. In the end everything worked out perfectly. Finally I got onto the bus to Jungle Jack hostel. As mentioned earlier, Jack organized a last minute permit and he also offered me a package with 2 nights at the hostel (night before and after the trek). On top of it, all meals were included throughout. It was a done deal even though it was a little expensive one (but compared to the prices from other agencies it was a very good deal). At night there was a huge backpackers and family dinner. Jack’s wife’s cooking was so delicious! The avocado cucumber smoothie with no added sugar or ice was definitely my highlight.

Itinerary:

Day 1: Park Gate to Panalaban (10623ft). 6km and around 1500 meter elevation. It took us around 4 hours to get there with two stops. I got there with my guide around 2pm. At the Laban Ratan Lodge (the only place to eat) I met the 4 Swiss girls from the hostel again. I tried to go to bed pretty early, because of the early wake up call. But before that it was time to witness one of my best sunsets ever!

Day 2: My wake up call was at 2:15am. I started my ascent to the peak at 3am with the guide. I was the second one to reach the peak after 2.5 km hike within an hour and 45 minutes . First one was Christian a dutch guy, he overtook me in about 10 minutes ahead to the peak. We enjoyed the quietness up there for almost 30 minutes before the crowd appeared. What an experience!
Half an hour later the Swiss girls got to the peak and we stayed there until 6:45am. On the way back I was impressed by the unique shape of the mountain. I have never seen something like this and it was worth every penny and pain! I got lucky with the weather too which was even better! Around 8am we got back to the lodge and had breakfast buffet. Around an hour and half later we started our descent. On the way back I was already been thinking about the dinner at Jungle Jacks (I would call it an addiction). As expected the food was soooo tasty!

After a good night sleep I took a bus to Semporna the next morning.

 

Borneo – Si Padan 

Again and again and again – I guess I can call Borneo the island of last minute bookings. Reason why I drove all the way down to Semporna was to go diving in Si Padan. However only 120 divers per day allowed in Si Padan and due to high season everything was booked out (I have contacted several agencies in advance, but no luck). I still went there to try my own luck. Once I got to Semporna it was 6:30pm and a lot of dive centers were closed so I had no choice but to wait until next morning. I woke up pretty early to obtain a last minute permit. Within an hour time I found a dive centre where I got my last minute permit for the next day – how lucky am I?
Three dives were stunningly beautiful! Hard and soft coral reefs, underwater formations, schools of variety fishes. My very first time diving with sharks. What an incredible experience!!!
There was an unfortunate incident happened, I don’t wish to dig too deep into it. A big fire happened in one of the villages and looked like the fire force were unable to cope with it. As a result, almost the entire village burned down. I’ve witnessed children crying, families trying to protect their belongings and watching their life burning down. We helped them as much as we could. To be honest you don’t want to have an experience as such, it was heart breaking! That made me realize what’s really important in life – being safe, healthy, having a family and friends and most certainly is to enjoy and appreciate each moment and every little things you’ve in life!

 
After almost a week it was time to make my way back to KK and from there to Kuala Lumpur. Arrived in KK at 4.30am after a 10 hours bus journey. I woke up just in time to get out of the bus. After hiring a taxi to city center, I realised that someone stole my wallet (driver license, bank card and money). Which means I have no money to pay for the taxi and the back up card was stuck in an ATM at KK. I found the nearby police station and they weren’t very happy to help but they paid for my taxi to the hostel. After a few hours of sleep, I’ve been to the bank to collect my other card. Fortunately I got my second card back even though I lost the first one.

After almost 2 weeks in Malaysia it was time for me to take a break for an Indian wedding then back to Malaysia with my sister for another 2 1/2 weeks.

 

Conclusion 

I would describe the first two weeks in Malaysia as a rollercoaster. Street Art in Georgetown – bank card stuck in atm – last Minute permit for Mount Kinabalu – fire in Semporna – last minute permit for Si Padan – stolen wallet – getting back the stuck bank card. But of course with more ups than downs.

1 comment on “North of Malaysia & Borneo – street art, Mount Kinabalu and first time diving with sharks

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