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Archive for the ‘Malaysia’ Category

We rose at 7.30 and were soon packed ready for our flight. Taxi to Terminal 2, check in straightaway and then time for a snack breakfast at an airport cafe. We sat and read for the remainder of the wait; the girls are so good at coping with the boring bits compared to the early days of the trip, happily devouring a book or two in the spare hours at our disposal.

We were called for boarding at the scheduled time and joined the queue snaking towards the gate. Except that one local man chose to bypass the line and barge in just ahead of us, dragging his family reluctantly along behind him. Well, don’t mess with Global Prices. We expanded to fill the width of the roped-out channel, thus preventing any further overtaking, and Mr Barger was compelled to wait for the rest of his gang to catch up with him at the point where they checked boarding passes – while we sailed through ahead of him…

We took our traditional seats (pre-booked to be identical on all five of our AirAsia flights) and found we were sharing a plane with the entire Sandakan Rugby Team; flying with the Eagles. Our take-off presumably took us right over our hotel, but our view was of the various islands we had visited for snorkelling.

They usually get the food served early on, and we had our pre-ordered sandwiches along with water purchased at the airport; ‘Eau Claire’ was the refreshingly grammatical Malaysian brand name (as opposed to ‘Eau de l’Mineral’ or some such), though I’m sure ‘Eau Claire’ is a Gilbert O’Sullivan song… It’s ‘underground natural mineral water’ filtered for thousands of years, and then they warn you ‘best before Nov 2012′.

We landed 10 minutes early in KLLCCT (snappy, eh? Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Carrier Terminal) and endured a longer connecting wait. Time for a Dunkin’ Donut each, and the girls got new books based on The Wizards of Waverly Place, a programme they enjoyed in North America (Ellen finished her 120 pages during our second flight). A major thunderstorm came and went as we sat in transit.

Our Bali plane was also on time, taking off around 6pm, and the journey passed uneventfully. Just another round of stepping into a metal canister and stepping out again somewhere completely different, with little sense of how you got there – especially when the flight is mostly in darkness.

We stepped off the plane into 29’C heat and joined the first of several queues. For your Visa On Arrival you first line up to pay US$25 per person (children included) in return for a receipt. At the next desk you then hand over your receipt, passport and completed immigration form in return for a 30-day visa stamp. Except that we chose the queue that wasn’t going anywhere; a whole group of flights had just arrived and we were at the back, but the fingerprinting and photographing of each and every passenger was taking an age (they’ve just introduced this US-style system).

After perhaps half an hour of wondering whether to risk swapping queues, an official came to whisk certain groups – including us – over to a secret channel on the far right-hand side. It soon became apparent that all young families were being fast-tracked, and as a bonus they didn’t want any of our fingerprints. If you have children then you can’t possibly be a terrorist?

Anyway, we emerged ahead of the bulk of waiting passengers (a shock to be among so many Westerners again), collected our hold luggage, cleared customs, withdrew some cash (I’m a Rupiah millionaire!) and were relieved to spot a man holding a name placard waiting to take us to our hotel. He warned us that the journey might take 40 minutes but we were happy to sit back in the large, air-conditioned vehicle while we caught our first glimpses of Bali By Night.

So much traffic, endless built-up areas, youths on motorbikes hogging the fast lanes but getting in our way, overblown statuary at roundabouts. A sign advertising ‘Chocolate Therapy and Red Wine Spa’ and lots of ‘Circle K’ shops.

After half an hour we turned into the Graha Cakra Hotel (which I’ll always think of as the Graham Chapman Hotel – ‘c’ is pronounced as ‘ch’ here as in Malaysia). We collected the key, paid in full – they added a supplement of one-third of the room rate for the girls – and were shown to our room.

Er, is this it? I was expecting something nearly twice the size, going by the website description, and they had brought in just one extra floor mattress and pillow to accommodate both girls. Disappointed, we returned to Reception. Had we been given the larger Deluxe room rather than the Superior (i.e. standard)? And please could we have another mattress and pillow; we have two children.

Okay, but there would be an additional charge for this mattress, too. What?? That meant our £45/night had now shot up to £75/night. Can they be serious? I had specifically asked in my emails whether there would be any extra charge for the girls (it’s always been minimal everywhere else) and they had never responded on this point.

We said that this was now way over our budget, so please could we see a Superior room instead. Once there, we realised it was scarcely any smaller than the supposed Deluxe, and we also spotted a connecting door – perfect! And the maths told me that it would be a lot cheaper to get two Superior rooms than one Deluxe with two extra mattresses. More space, proper beds, more privacy, an extra bathroom, and all for less money; a bizarre situation arising from their scandalous overpricing of the extra mattresses.

Oh, and although they initially quoted a price of RP450,000 for the Superior room, they then bumped this *up* to the internet rate of RM465,000. Firstly, why is the online rate higher? And secondly, why are we paying this online rate when we’re standing there at Reception?

So we ended up paying more than the full rate for two standard rooms, with no hint of a discount for children (although they eat less breakfast and they didn’t get their own welcome fruit bowl, pathetic though it was; one apple, one orange and three mini bananas). Not an encouraging start to our time in Bali – it’s back to being a cash cow there for the milking, an I.O.ewe ready to be fleeced. Bali after Malaysia seems like the difference between Peru and Bolivia: in one country you’re treated as a tourist sucker, in the other you’re treated as a human being.

Some time after 11pm we got the girls into bed and we followed not long after. The BBC World Service reported forthcoming talks between the Tories and the Lib Dems, and then we zonked out.

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Our final full day in Malaysia, and Kirsten seems to be going down with the same bug that I had; hope it passes quickly before tomorrow’s flights. Meanwhile, Ellen suffered from a general fed-upness with being confined to quarters all day – but there’s simply nowhere around here to go out and let off steam. This should all change in Bali, where every property has its own pool and garden.

So plenty of time to sit around and ponder questions such as whether the (remaining) Beatles mind the fact that the incidental plunky music in Shaun the Sheep is virtually identical to the opening phrase of Yellow Submarine, why Rachael Ray’s studio audience (US talk show) are required to cheer and applaud every single mundane banality, and whether you request the Set Asian Menu if you want to order whalemeat in a Japanese restaurant…

This morning the girls wrote their accounts of yesterday’s island trip, and Ellen started her fifth(!) exercise book, graduating this time to narrow lines and no space for a picture – very grown up…

We splashed out on a packet of instant noodles and a box of Jacob’s crackers with tuna mayonnaise spread for lunch. In the afternoon there was time for some more numeracy with the girls. Hannah managed to remember all her multiplication tables up to 10 within a three-second time limit per question, and then tackled 256×128 on paper (good old grid method). Ellen did some simpler tables using games from the BBC website and scored full marks.

Later the girls were somewhat bemused because every time an aeroplane rumbled and lumbered overhead, Kirsten or I would dash to the window in a frenzied attempt to photograph what has become a regular feature of our life in KK. (That and the afternoon thunderstorms.) My timing was atrocious; planes appeared the moment I sat down to peel a pomelo or have a cup of tea, but Kirsten was more successful.
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For our last supper here, we returned to my birthday bistro, Rumours. This time we secured one of the three prized window tables which come complete with free internet access (a keyboard and wide screen at one end of the table). So much for not eating or drinking in the computer room… The girls browsed videos of Mr Bean and pictures of Phineas and Ferb while our orders were being prepared; mostly the same choices as before because they went down so well last time (the grilled salmon and the tuna sandwiches).
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The bartender generously stood the girls an ice cream dessert each, on the house, and our chocolate pudding came with extra scoops of the cold stuff. Perhaps most visitors don’t stay here as long as we have done…

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I had a rough night with a queasy stomach – must have been something on our big day out to Mount Kinabalu; now was it down to too many chilli peppers, those bananas that the vendor sneezed over or simply overdoing things when helping to finish the girls’ food and drinks in the evening? I don’t know, but by the morning I felt well enough to contemplate a day out rather than face 72 hours confined to our hotel room.

We packed our coolbag with towels and snacks and set off to the nearby shopping centre to get a taxi there, working on the assumption that they would charge about half the hotel call-out rate. Sure enough, we were quoted a mere RM10 to take us to the far end of town, to Jesselton Point Jetty. Once there, we braved the melee in the booking hall where there were about ten counters with queues of assorted lengths. Is it one for each destination? Counter 7 was free and a man beckoned us over; yes, he could sell us tickets for Manukan Island (RM17 per adult and RM12 per child). We filled in our desired time of return (2pm) and we were then offered the chance to hire some snorkelling equipment; “On the island you have to pay a deposit, but here you don’t.” So we signed up for three masks (RM10 each) and two life-jackets (RM5 each) for the girls before being sent off to pay the jetty fee at Counter 2 (RM6/RM3).

On the way to the ferry we impulse-bought a ready-peeled pomelo, collected our snorkel stuff and then joined the waiting throng. Other groups went straight through to board a boat but we (and some other tourists) were kept back. At last we were allowed through and squeezed on to a large speedboat bound for Manukan; we sat as near to the back as we could, ending up around the middle. Fortunately the journey was smooth on a surprisingly calm sea, with just the odd jolt as the hull smacked down into the water.

A mere ten minutes later we arrived at our chosen island. Yet another fee to pay – the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park fee (RM10/6, but Ellen was free). As we walked along the jetty we could see hundreds of large tropical fish in the clear water – this was a good start.

There is a long stretch of beach on both sides of the jetty, and we found half a wooden picnic table free under the shade of some trees to base ourselves and leave our things. The water was wonderfully warm and we were soon sticking our faces in to see what we could see, see, see. Shoals of little shimmering fish which do that clever trick of all changing direction simultaneously so as to move as one cohesive body. The occasional larger fish: our usual stripy friends and some paler, sandy-coloured ones.
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This is obviously a popular day trip for the locals at the weekend; there are no beaches along Kota Kinabalu’ waterfront, so this is where they come to snorkel, swim and relax. And it’s certainly one of the most pleasant seaside spots we’ve encountered in Malaysia so far. One curious activity offered along the beach is ‘Scuba-doo’; a sea-bed mobility scooter with an attached air-filled helmet and oxygen tank. You sit on it, stick your head up into the helmet and then pootle off into the sea following a well-marked course, gazing in wonderment at the marine life around you. A bright orange buoy marks your position on the surface, but what you do if you run into difficulties (e.g. spring a leak) I don’t know.

There was lots of coral washed up on the shore, but we couldn’t spot any live coral gardens within the confines of the swimming area marked by buoys. Even so, the girls had an enjoyable time playing in the near-waveless water and Ellen kept her snorkel mask more or less permanently on – though we found it hard to understand her when she insisted on speaking through the breathing tube…

We emerged for lunch – filling rice dishes from a beachside fast food stall – and then had another hour in the sea before it was time to dry off and get changed ready for the return trip. Back at the jetty there was a mass of people waiting and no guidance as to which boat went where. We flashed our tickets a few times but were sent away, even when the boat was leaving for KK as opposed to another island. Eventually we were informed that we had to travel with the company from whom we had bought our tickets. The company name was displayed on the side of the boats, but even then it was not clear where the boat was headed.

At last we were invited to board a boat, although it seemed to be going to Sapi Island (where Kirsten and Ellen went snorkelling the other day). Sure enough, that’s where we went; but we collected more passengers there before heading to Jesselton Jetty, our desired destination. Once there we took a slightly more expensive taxi back to the hotel.

We rested awhile in our room and the usual afternoon thunderstorm soon began (good thing we hadn’t opted for a later boat back). For supper we tried a new local place, the Firefly Bar & Grill; very popular with the locals, and our three dishes (a hefty burger, a big chunk of chicken in a bun and a bacon – yes, bacon – club sandwich, all with curly fries – how do they make those?) were such big portions that they defeated us.

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Yet another slow day today. We all slept pretty solidly after our long and tiring day on the coach yesterday and we weren’t too disturbed by the mystery ‘ding-dongs’ that regularly emanate from the lift in the small hours of the night.

For breakfast we had cereal and some leftover bananas and apples and then most of us settled down in front of diaries or computer. Tim spent several hours trying to catch up with yesterday’s blog entry and Hannah wrote wonderful descriptions about our walk around the botanical garden at Mt Kinabalu.

Meanwhile I handwashed another load of clothes and hung them in the bathroom to dry. Tim and I then chose photos for our respective entries and added them onto the blog.

By now it was lunch time so I popped down to the local “Orange” mini-supermarket and bought some crackers, a tuna spread, jam, instant noodles and water. Tim only managed a couple of crackers as he is slightly suffering from an upset stomach – either a bug, or some food that didn’t agree with him.

The girls practised a new magic show and played a card game and the Lonpos game. Ellen managed to do several 2D puzzles off by heart.

Yet another afternoon thunderstorm, after which we all walked down to the supermarket at the nearby shopping centre. The sky was still overcast and the air felt so much cooler, which made our walk quite pleasant.

At the “Giant” supermarket we bought some more fruit, yoghurts, cereal and “reward” sweets for the girls.

We popped into our local cafe/restaurant for a plate of fried rice with pineapple and seafood and three spring rolls. It wasn’t much but it was enough for all four of us, especially with Tim only managing a small amount.

Not sure what our plans are for tomorrow. We had hoped to catch a ferry back to Sapi island to do some more snorkelling, but it depends on Tim’s tummy as a choppy speedboat crossing won’t do him any good…

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So it seems that both Belgium and the UK are having problems deciding who should run the country; is this what happens when we go away and leave it to the rest of you? We’ll give you four weeks to sort things out before we get back…

Meanwhile, we went on our Kinabalu Park tour today (incidentally, it’s ‘Kinabalu’ stressed as in Kajagoogoo, not as in Kalamazoo). We were collected at five past eight by a chatty driver who transferred us to a more central hotel where we would board the tour bus; there would be 23 of us on the trip.

The bus duly arrived and we then picked up the remaining passengers from a mixture of backpackers’ hostels and plush resorts, finally leaving KK at 8.50. We had chosen a beautiful day for it; the sky was clear almost as far as we could see, auguring well for good views of Mount Kinabalu – indeed, we could see it looming in the distance from the outskirts of KK, over 50 miles away.

Ben was our tour guide with Paul in the driver’s seat. As we left the city, Ben pointed out the Floating Mosque (which doesn’t float – it is simply surrounded by a moat) and a round tower which is apparently one of four hanging buildings in the world (built from the top down). It has a revolving restaurant at the top, but we were reassured that it rotates extremely slowly; “you won’t vomit.”

After our final pickup from the extensive 1Borneo shopping and accommodation complex we started the slow journey up steep and tortuous roads into the mountains. We kept catching tantalising glimpses of Mount Kinabalu through trees or spoiled by roadside electricity cables and we were aware that it generally clouds up early in the day – that’s the reason that climbers set off at 2am to make the summit for sunrise. Fortunately, it was still clear at 10am when the bus pulled over to let us get out for a couple of minutes and snap away; such fine conditions are unusual, we are told.
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We then stopped for half an hour at a touristy market in Nabalu just short of the National Park. Another viewpoint here up an observation tower and a chance to buy a bunch of mini-bananas for RM1. We browsed the souvenir T-shirts, with Ellen unsure whether to get a Rafflesia top (she didn’t, in the end).
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By the time we got to the Park entrance the sky was grey with the occasional spits of drizzle, and the temperature was comfortably cool. We were herded round the Botanical Garden, Ben constantly urging “come closer, come closer” when he wished to show us a plant of interest, but with 23 of us on a narrow path everyone missed out half of the time. He seemed to know his stuff, anyway; highlights included the pinhead orchid (the smallest such flower in the world), the flammable fruit of the Kerosene plant, a certain leaf used for birth control (“If you use it for more than five years you are permanently disabled; not from making out, but from producing” was Ben’s idiosyncratic way of putting it.) We also saw a bunch of miniature but inedible bananas (little-finger-sized), giant pitcher plants, a dancing lady orchid and pink/purple berries that may taste sweet to one person but sour to another.
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Sweet and sour berries.
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Pinhead Orchid.
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Mini-bananas.
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Laughing Orchid.
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Kerosene plant.
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Pitcher plants.
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The National Park is a ‘beacon of biodiversity’, with over 1,500 varieties of orchid alone. There are colour-coded labels to help classify specimens in the botanical gardens: black for common plants, blue for those with medicinal uses, green for orchids and red for endemic species. Sadly we had insufficient time to explore at leisure (there is an extensive network of hiking trails) and no chance to escape the crowds to get a shot at solitude…

At 12.30pm we piled back onto the bus and drove for a further hour towards Poring Hot Springs. First stop there was for lunch; a slight step up from the usual tour buffet, with dishes brought to our tables. We began with chicken and sweetcorn soup, followed by rice with beef, prawn and fish accompaniments, and then one small chunk of watermelon, melon and starfruit each.

Next we were instructed to take everything we’d need for the Hot Springs with us off the bus. Problem; we had a bulky cool bag with towels and swimwear, and we didn’t fancy lugging this along a wobbly canopy walk. So we compromised by leaving most of our stuff and restricting ourselves to dipping just our feet at the end.

The canopy walk is another of those disappointing missed opportunities; why do they not give you any information or guidance on what you’re doing up there, what you should be looking at? It reduces the whole thing to a production-line tame adventure activity of crossing swaying rope bridges at an unnerving height above the ground. (They have staff along the way – but purely to restrict the numbers passing through, not to educate or explain.) Kew Gardens do this so much better…
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Er, isn’t the canopy up there?
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By the end of the canopy procession we had an hour to ourselves, so we found a cool pool and dangled our legs over the edge.
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The site is known for its hot springs (the complex was constructed for the Japanese by prisoners of war) but we didn’t feel in need of any extra heat. Another member of our group walked to the base of a waterfall where the resident Doctor fish nibble the dead skin from your feet. I quite wish I’d tried this; I could have cooled off and had a free exfoliation at the same time…

There was time for an ice cream before we departed at 4pm. This coach journey would be longer, especially when Ben mentioned that we could do a detour to see a Rafflesia flower that had just started blooming. So we ended up doing this ‘once in a lifetime’ experience for the second time, with Ellen especially keen as we could get that elusive photo of her with the flower.

The bus drove us up a gravel track to a country shack with suspiciously extensive parking for large tour vehicles. A short walk (half a minute) behind the house took us to wooden viewing platforms erected to support entire coachloads; what a contrast to our tough 3-hour trek in the Cameron Highlands…

Yes, there was a Rafflesia, a bit smaller than last time (maybe 50cm across), as well as one recent bloomer which was now black and rotting. More buds were on the way, promising further lucrative income for the community (they charge RM30 a head to see the flower and share the money among the locals, we are told). A cynical corner of my brain wondered if they might invest in a lifelike waxwork to bring in the crowds and the cash, but I suspect it’s genuine; we still couldn’t catch any whiff of rotting meat, but there was the odd fly crawling over the centre of the flower.

Ellen with Rafflesia – at last!
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It was drizzling again but we got our photos (on three different cameras, just to make sure!) and then took our seats on the bus for the long drive back to Kota Kinabalu. A combination of cloud mist, slow traffic and winding roads delayed our return until just after 8pm, giving us a tiring 12-hour trip with the majority of that time spent sitting on the bus.

We dumped our stuff and immediately headed out for a late supper at ‘Rumours’; plates of tuna sandwiches and some ice-blended drinks. Then we all collapsed for a good night’s sleep.

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Our last malaria tablets of the trip were swallowed down with our cereal or coffee. After our extremely lazy time yesterday, we decided to be slightly more active today.

First we visited a nearby tour operator to look into a day-trip for tomorrow to Mount Kinabalu National Park and Poring Hot Springs. Tim had already done some research and we knew what we wanted. We counted out our money and had just enough to pay for it in cash; by credit card we would have had to pay an extra 3%.

Every time we asked the girl a question she seemed to have to double check with her colleagues. This did not involve her getting up from her desk and discreetly asking someone for advice; no, instead she would shout from her desk and hope someone would answer!

We were a little worried when she couldn’t produce a receipt, though. We had just handed over our last RM600 and had nothing to show for it. She would drop the receipt off later at our hotel, and if there were any problems she would phone us, not that she was expecting any…

We returned to our hotel to pick up some water bottles for the girls and our camera. We needed to buy some sturdier shoes for Hannah who only has one pair of flip-flops left, and replace Ellen’s battered trainers.

This is the third pair of shoes on the trip we had to buy for Hannah. Her first pair, Peter Storm trainers, lasted a very long time, but recently it has been really difficult to find shoes her size that either don’t look too grown up or are strong enough. The last two pairs of trainers only lasted a few weeks.

So off we walked to the nearby shopping centre. It wasn’t even 10 o’clock but the sun was already extremely hot and we were very glad when, ten minutes later, we arrived at the slightly cooler building.

After raiding the ATM we went in search of shoe shops. Some shops were particularly slow in opening up. All in all it took us about 1.5 hours to find two pairs of shoes, lovely multi-coloured crocs for Ellen and slightly upgraded flip-flop type sandals for Hannah with a strap around the back of her heel.

We rewarded ourselves with some fresh fruit juices (orange, pineapple and honeydew) and biscuits in the food court.

On the way out we stopped at one of the many stalls to replace the girls’ old hats (freebies from our flight from Tahiti to Auckland). Ellen chose a beautiful plain pink hat with a velcro bit around the back so she would be able to put her ponytail through. The front and sides of the hat are slightly wider which provides enough shade for her face. Hannah eventually settled for a brighter pink cap, which won’t cover the back of her neck, but it is stylish!

At last – Bah Pigi Muzium! (Let’s go to the museum!) We grabbed a taxi to the State Museum, which was lovely and cool inside. Our tickets only cost RM15 each and the children were free – great. We left our shopping bags near the entrance and walked straight up to the biggest Bryde’s Whale skeleton which measured 18.6m long.

Other exhibits included musical instruments (violin, different sized drums, xylophones), farm tools and woven baskets that were used to collect agricultural produce. One of the rooms showed lots of different tribal wedding costumes, blue and yellow bead jewellery, long necklaces worn over shoulders and across the chest, silver coin necklaces to be worn around the waist and wide brass bracelets.

Another part of the museum showed wall after wall of black and white photos of different tribes people performing dances or participating in an assortment of sports (swimming, rowing and horse races).

At one point we reached a replica of the Tapadong Cave. Ellen and Tim walked through, but Hannah and I chose to sit this one out. The other two joined us shortly after and by now everyone was starving. I couldn’t take in any more exhibits without food!

The security guard pointed out a cafe in the car park, so that was where we were headed. We ordered one fried rice & chicken dish and two fried noodle dishes (one with chicken, the other with beef). The food was absolutely delicious, especially the very tender beef. But again the portions were far too big for us.

Just as we were about to leave the cafe and visit the Heritage Village it started to rain. Initially we sheltered outside, but then the rain turned quite heavy so we escaped back inside the cafe and had a chat with a Scottish woman and her mother.

After a couple of minutes the rain had almost completely stopped and we were on our way to the village. There was a handful of old wooden huts and a longhouse. Our visit coincided with the handicraft demonstrations and we bought a couple of bracelets and keyrings. We also witnessed a couple of tribal dances, and guess who was invited by the Murut Banai to join in! Both girls declined so I felt I had to step in so as not to let the side down. It was great fun, though.
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We were all getting quite hot by now, and Ellen insisted on returning to the main museum so that she could walk through the cave again (this time *with* Hannah and me) and see the natural history exhibition. We saw stuffed bats and birds and the skeletons of a muntjak and rhinoceros.

I was ready to return to our hotel by now, I was feeling a little run down and I am now sporting an unsightly coldsore.

Back in our room, I rested while the girls put together a fashion show (with their new shoes and hats) and Tim booked accommodation for the very last night of our trip (in Singapore).

For supper we nipped next door again, the waitress waving at us even before we had entered. Every time she tries to take our order but gets confused by our questions and then she has to call a different waiter. Tonight was no different and we all had a good laugh about it.

The girls chose chicken sandwiches, mainly because they came with french fries, and the grown ups settled for spring rolls – we knew we would have to help the girls out so we didn’t order too much.

We finished the day by writing diaries and getting our bag ready for tomorrow – again an early start and a long day.

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Quiet day

Not a lot happened today, so unfortunately this blog entry will be of the shorter variety.

Our snorkelling adventure yesterday seemed to have taken a lot out of us and we all had a pretty solid sleep, waking up very slowly this morning.

Nothing was planned for today and after our cereal breakfast we settled down to write yesterday’s diaries and blog entry. Tim took several hours to finish writing about his experience before I added a few paragraphs about the third session that Ellen and I participated in.

After we finished writing our respective pieces we chose a huge selection of photos, which Tim then uploaded.

I only briefly popped out to buy some more milk, crisps and chocolate filled finger rolls for lunch. The finger rolls weren’t very fresh and didn’t taste at all nice, so we complemented lunch with juicy apples and digestive biscuits.

Most of the afternoon was spent reading, dressing up, trying out different hairstyles and playing the Lonpos game the girls found in their Christmas stockings back in New Zealand. We also managed to do some numeracy with both Hannah and Ellen becoming more fluent and confident with their times tables. As a treat, Hannah & Tim dashed to the shop to buy some chocolate bars – we hadn’t had any chocolate for quite a while and after eating half a bar I started to feel pretty queasy.

Whilst the grown-ups watched a film called “New in Town” with Renee Zellweger, the girls played some games on the computer and explored the Disney Channel website.

By now there was a massive thunderstorm raging outside, so we just nipped next door to the Nisha cafe for supper. There we ordered two different fried rice dishes as they had already run out of roti canai (some type of fluffy bread) and two portions of vegetable spring rolls. The waiter then recommended a dish of fried sweet potato with a cinnamon dip for dessert. The rice was delicious and the spring rolls were just as tasty as last time, but dessert was simply too filling.

Back in our room the girls carried on playing the Lonpos game, and Tim read up on other activities or day trips in and around Kinabalu.

Not often on our trip have we had such a lazy day, and certainly not a whole day inside our hotel room. But this was all we could manage today. I, in particular, seemed to have spent a whole day moving around between chair, comfy armchair and bed – but sometimes that is just what we need!

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