Friday, June 18, 2010

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia: Week 1 of 2

After an amazing 3 weeks in the Philippines I found myself on a plane heading to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia located on the island of Borneo, an island shared by 3 countries: Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. If I had been traveling to the island of Borneo at any other time during my travels I'd be ecstatic. But my heart was in the Philippines as I had unexpectedly fallen for Sheila, and was feeling as if I was simply floating around, with no sense of purpose. Thoughts of flying straight back to the Philippines crossed my mind. But I had planned to meet my cousin, Jessica, in Hong Kong in about 6 weeks, and felt that since I was already here in this region of the world that I might as well see it before I leave.

Once I arrived in Kota Kinabalu, I took a taxi into town and began searching for cheap accommodation. I eventually settled for a hostel called Travelers Light, a rocks throw from Borneo Backpackers, a popular hostel in the area. Instantly upon arriving the hostel I connected with one of my roommates, Remi, a Frenchman from Paris. And like every other backpacker that I meet, he'd quit his job and went on holiday. Remi had traveled many times before to Borneo, a place known for its jungle treks, wildlife, caves, mountains, and diving; however, Remi wasn't drawn back to Borneo for its beautiful wilderness or wildlife, he'd been drawn back because of a beautiful woman. Yes, he'd fallen in love for a local - an intelligent woman for that matter - who's in the process of getting not 1, but 2 PhDs.

"Beautiful and intelligent?" I said. "Ah, man, sounds familiar."

It was nice speaking to someone who could relate and understand how I was feeling.

"It stinks doesn't it?" Remi said, "to meet a beautiful, amazing woman and for her to live on the other side of the planet."

"Exactly," I said. "Ugh!"

"I know, man. Trust me, I know how you're feeling."

That night I went through my options for things to do in and around Kota Kinabalu:
  1. To see orangutans: Nah, I had already seen them in Sumatra, Indonesia.
  2. To go scuba diving: Nah, I can't dive because of my ears.
  3. To see nearby islands with beaches: Nah, not something I wanted to do alone.
  4. To climb Mt. Kinabalu: Nah, too expensive for my liking.
Seeing that there wasn't many options left for me to do, I decided to stay low and write. I wanted to write about my travels from the Philippines while it was fresh in my head.

My first full day in Kota Kinabalu, however, I familiarized myself with the city by roaming its streets. It's a fairly small city that's scenically located between the mountains and ocean, which you can smell as you stroll past the markets near the waterfront. The city also offers a plethora of cheap, delicious eateries. My restaurant of choice was an Indian restaurant located near my hostel. You could find me there everyday consuming the same meal: nasi garang, roti and 2 cups of tea, costing a mere $2.50. Being a regular, I didn't even have to order as they knew already what I wanted. I never ate alone either as the employees, both men and women, would accompany at my table. I don't understand why they would always linger around my table, as other westerners ate there as well. The restaurant was also an excellent place to watch the World Cup. It was nice there. I recommend it.

Unfortunately, I was still having problems withdrawing money with my debit ATM card. I attempted to withdraw money from numerous ATMs but to no avail. Yes, the saga continued . . .


One night as I was walking back to my hostel, I attempted to withdraw some money one last time. The end result? Yeah, the ATM ate my card.

"Seriously?" I said, in disbelief. "SERIOUSLY?"

I waved the security guard over and explained to him the situation. In broken English he told me that I would have to come back to the bank the following morning to retrieve it.

Oy vey.

Because I was worried that the ATM might spit the card out in the middle of the night, I didn't know if I should cancel it or not. This sounded like a question for my secretary. Oops! I mean, my administrative assistant. That's right, this was definitely a question for . . . my mother, the GREATEST woman on the planet. Anyways, long story short: I got my debit card back, but it still didn't work. Ugh! Thanks again, mother, for coming through. You always do. I love you.

"Hey Mama,
Here's a song for you,
And even though these lyrics may not all pertain to you,
It's safe to assume,
That in one way or another,
It's about you being THE greatest mother"--Adam



Next: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia: Week 2 of 2

-Adam

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