Saturday 1 March 2014

Borneo...part 1 Malaysia

When Cleggy was offered some work in a Forces school I just knew it was adventure waiting to happen. When I looked at the map and found out where Brunei was I realised I was right!
 (my geography is appalling!)
 Borneo you say? 
How exciting.
We traveled with Royal Brunei Airlines - which meant flying on the new Dreamliner. 
This meant nothing to me but was, apparently, also exciting.
These are the arms of my hyper mobile Geordie Boy - who was sitting in front of me and asleep. freaky!
Despite some brilliant films, which kept the rest of my family occupied, I spent most of the 17 hour flight glued to the ever changing map - particularly interested in the change in time zones. That combined with taking rubbish photos of sunset, then sunrise then sunset again!
 The light over the South China Sea was so beautiful. It bounced off the seemingly flat surface making rainbows
We had a short stop at Dubai then Brunei Airport (more on that later!) before a last short flight to Kota Kinabalu - we had decided on a week in Malaysia before the work bit of the trip.
As we boarded the last plane we had our first feel of the 33° heat and the warm pink light just before sunset
We had booked our own transport from the airport to the hotel - so were picked up in a strange mini bus carpeted with astroturf and driven by a man who snorted like a pig for the long hour journey!

Then, 30 hours after leaving home, we arrived at our home for the next 7 days - The Shangri-La Rasa Ria
I have never received a welcome like it - we genuinely thought they must have confused us with someone else! 
They celebrate your safe arrival with a bang of the gong then whisk you over to some comfortable sofas, and provide cold flannels and fresh lime juice while you sign in. 
At this point you know you are going to have a good week...
and that all future holidays may well pale in comparison!
First night at the cocktail bar (not the fair at Blackpool - which is what this photo reminds me of!)

It had been Chinese New Year a few days earlier so the hotel was still decorated
We've never stayed anywhere like this as a family - and only even looked at it on recommendation of a friend. 
When I read the TripAdvisor reviews I was sold.
 It's a good hour from the nearest big town (Kota Kinabalu)
and right on the edge of the rain forest 
  It was a huge resort - but with extra personal service and very family orientated, so no loud music or dancing girls!
The grounds were spacious and beautifully planted - lots of lush colour and exotic flowers
 There was a little massage hut near the beach - Cleggy succumbed!
All around the grounds were other games - 
chess, back gammon, jenga...
 Our room was at the back of the hotel with a rain forest view. To be honest there wasn't much to actually look at but the bird song was captivating.
We had arrived after dark, so had that exciting
 'waking up in the morning to look at the balcony thing'!
The food was great - of course the boys were in breakfast heaven with waffles and pancakes...
Although The Teen did venture out and did add some dim sum and sushi to his weird breakfast meat platter...
 Meanwhile Cleggy went the whole hog and partook in the morning curry or miso soup and noodle offer!
As we were so far from town we paid for half board (another first) and were really glad we did. The two restaurants we could eat in were both buffet style - our favourite (Makan Street) was a collection of food stalls cooking all sorts of Malaysian treats, many to order.
The atmosphere was great and we were able to try loads of variety.

Of course I turned into my Mum and took millions of photos of the food - finding the fruit art particularly appealing!
who doesn't appreciate an apple swan??!!
The boys
spent much of their time here :
choosing elaborate combinations of fish and meat to mix with egg fried noodles 
(made to order in seconds over the hottest cooker ever!)

 Every evening there was some sort of entertainment - usually my worst nightmare but not this time. The music (played on traditional Gamelan - a set of Malaysian instruments involving gongs and xylophones) was addictive. Our favourite was a dance with large bamboo sticks that banged together created the rhythm. 
The dances got faster and faster and more complicated.
 I seriously would not have wanted to get my ankle caught between those poles!!

One of the things that most appealed about this particular hotel is that it is is the home of a nature reserve - and home to orphaned Orangutans. It started out as a small Orangutan Care project aimed at rehabilitating the most iconic species in Sabah. Today, a Nature Reserve has been established in collaboration with the State Wildlife Department with the aim of protecting a 64 acre ecological space - helping to protect both animals and flora and fauna.

One of the activities is the chance to be a 'Ranger' for the morning - an opportunity Kenzie and GB jumped at.
The boys had to be checked over by the resident Doctor (in case they transferred any bugs to the baby Orangutans!) then got kited out in their uniform!
 They LOVED it, and it meant that when we all visited the following day they were able to give us lots of facts about the animals!
We booked a slot on the twice daily feeding time, combined with a canopy walk in the forest. The sanctuary is working to prepare the Orangutans for release so it's a huge area, and it's luck whether they show their faces. After waiting half an hour we were lucky enough to see 2 of the current group of 4....I have to confess to feeling a bit teary when we caught sight of them making their way towards the feeding platform - it felt like such a privilege to see them in their natural habitat.
I can't quite get my head around the fact they have 4 hands.
Look at the size of them!!
They didn't hang around for long - and were quickly replaced by a troop of cheeky monkeys who were sitting waiting for the stars of the show to move on!
The canopy walk was great - not too arduous and with a funny guide
and great views back towards the hotel
I wasn't a fan of the sight of this viper though - snakes are my worst nightmare (Cleggy took this photo - I was some distance away)
The weather was typical of Malaysia - beautiful one minute and heavy rain the next (it is the rain forest after all)
We were often the last people out - must be the Manchester in us!!
(hard to believe looking that these photos that 
it was still over 30°)
Our only trip away from the resort was the boys main Christmas present - a day snorkeling.
It was an (relatively) early start which posed some 
problems for The Teen
We had booked a private trip with Jonathan from 'Borneo Boats and Beaches' again based largely on his brilliant TripAdvisor reviews.
 It didn't disappoint. Jonathan and his boat boys looked after us splendidly - giving us lots of info about the area, brilliant snorkeling guidance AND feeding us a delicious lunch, with fresh coffee and hot chocolate in between.
There's The Teen - taking a(nother) nap....
When the boys found Barbie in a compromising position they knew this trip was for them!!
We could decide how the day went - but left it to Jonathan to plan the best way to spend our precious 6 hours.
Now, I've never really seen the appeal of any kind of under water stuff. Diving seemed like a massive hassle and snorkeling always sounded like divings poor relation. Further more it involved being in a swimsuit (WITHOUT a sarong) amoung other people, which is far from my comfort zone. I considered not taking part -preferring to take the photos - a common plan!

But I knew the boys would prefer me to get in the water - and also am very aware that finding an activity that we ALL enjoy is proving more and more difficult as they get older. So I did it. And I am SO glad I did.
The area around KK is a protected Marine Park - and the coral is just amazing. And very sharp!
 It was one of those rare 'take your breath away' moments - I couldn't believe what I was seeing. With my own eyes! (I even found Nemo!) Of course I now want to learn to dive!!
We were able to borrow Jonathan's underwater camera and simply buy the memory card to take home. You couldn't really see what you were taking photos of - and of course they don't do the place justice - but you get the idea.

I also managed to get a more original selfie for that day!
 after looking at a couple of islands we stopped for lunch 
 and the boys decided to spend Granny's holiday money on some sea kayaking
 then The Teen had a little snooze

visited a deserted island - the only one of the five tropical islands within the Marine Park
Then sailed by another of the islands popular with monkeys and wild boar. Despite the crews best efforts (holding Bananas up? really?) the monkeys didn't appear. 
But a big monitor lizard did (rubbish photo)
and a huge Hornbill (no photo)
The last part of the day was wonderfully lazy. I fell in love with the combination of pale blue towels and yellow piped leather
Then with my pink nails against the blue
I know I know...I have the feet of a fat child!!
while the Teen resumed the 'towel on head' pose 
We had time for one last hot chocolate
before a trip past the colourful stilted village  
and time for a nap on the way back to the port!!
It was definitely a highlight of our holiday - and we will be out on that boat with Jonathan again if we are ever in that part of the world.
Because Borneo is so close to the equator it literally has 12 hours of daylight and 12 of darkness - with little difference the whole year round. The sun sets at about 6.30pm and on a bright day the air seems to be literally pink, then almost suddenly pitch black.

At the hotel it's marked every evening with a ceremony, with music and lighting of all the lamps in the resort.
Each night a young guest can volunteer to be the prince or princess of the ceremony
  You can sit in the Sampan bar and watch (or be a little bit mortified like my big boys) drinking a cocktail or mocktail. 
(I stupidly let The Teen try my rum based cocktail..never again. He pretty much drank half of it)
Good on the left, evil on the right..HA!

It was such a wonderful place - but the thing that made it extra special were the staff. They were so genuine and friendly. Literally every single person you met (and there were hundreds!) were kind and helpful. I've never known service quite like it.
There are three resident birds in the hotel gardens - all rescued from captivity, where they had had their wings clipped. 
One Hornbill and two Macaws
On the beach we found these intriguing patterns made from tiny spheres of sand.
When we got back I discovered they are made by this little guy
a sand Bubbler crab. They tunnel into the sand, throwing balls of sand behind them - often making intricate patterns. Fascinating and beautiful
The boys and I took a long walk to the end of the beach - we found some great driftwood, and also, randomly, a small suit case...just sitting on a rock.
Obviously, I was hoping for a million pounds. 
The boys were hoping for a severed head.  
I stood back in case they were right.
We were all wrong - it was empty.

Other than that we simply enjoyed the relaxing...
playing with frozen melon
Wonderful people watching
and wedding watching...
a little crochet...
and some partaking of Malibu in a coconut...
Oh, and the odd bottle of wine....
that's water BTW....
Obviously the best bit of all was time with all my boys. Even The Teen - who was mostly on good form and even put his screen down now and again. And I know just how lucky we are to have this precious time. I had a small (cocktail fuelled) weep on our last night.
Not least because I had also read the review of 
the place were were going next..........
Fee x


  1. Wow, what an amazing trip, with so many lovely forever memories being made. Beautiful pictures .
    Looking forward to part 2,
    Kate x

  2. Oh Fee, what a fantastic post!! I felt as though I was right there with you!! Also feeling a wee bit said as our boys (both teens 15 and 13) have announced they don't want to come on holiday with us this year :0( Not quite sure whether to force them or let Grandma have them!!

    Really looking forward to more wonderful photos in part two....

  3. What a fabulous place and such an interesting post. I think in fact I'm going to go back and read it again and drool some more with envy over those impressive photos. What a wonderful trip too considering you are spending it with all the family. What memories you will have!!

    keep well

    Amanda x

  4. I look forward to reading your wonderful posts, even though you don't post that often, they are always magical. Fantastic memories for all of you - and a wonderful read xxx

  5. Beautiful photos and sounds like the BEST PLACE EVER. The light and colours are amazing. I was told this week that 'when I'm 16 I won't have to listen this crap!' Of course I couldn't just walk away..
    Teeth on their way to yours with a squeezy get well hug x

  6. Just amazing Fee...just amazing! :)
    V x

  7. I'm reading this on our drive home from Southampton Fee. What a magical trip with all your boys. What memories times like that give us.. enjoy xx

  8. Fee, you are so generous to let the rest of us see so much of this amazing journey. As always, your photographs are fantastic and your commenting really adds a lot to the overall picture.

    I have a dear NYC friend who grew up in Malaysia and still calls herself an island girl. I've been hearing stories and seeing her family pix for years, but your photographs have also given me a grand idea of that lovely place.

    I do look forward to the next installment. xo

  9. I have enjoyed every minute of that photo wonderland. My son is now teaching in Dubai and experiencing so many things x

  10. Oh Fee, I LOVE this post! I had the privilege of going to Malaysian Borneo a few years ago on business and stayed at the Shangri-La too! It was soooo lovely and the little Orangutans were the highlight of my trip. It's on our list of places to go back to one day - thanks for evoking such fond memories for me. Looking forward to your next instalment :-)
    Love Gilly xx

  11. Oh my goodness, what a wonderful place and amazing pictures! xx

  12. Rub it in Fee, rub it in. Did you really need to post ALL YOUR AMAZING HOLIDAY PICS? :-D
    So glad you could enjoy this unforgettable time together!!!

  13. Wow, Fee, what a wonderful trip. I'm so glad you got to spend this time with your family. There will be memories on top of memories of this.


  14. What an amazing trip and wonderful photo's. Sarah xo

  15. Wow! Trip of a lifetime! It all looks and sounds amazing. *bit jealous!* xx

  16. Sounds like an awesome trip! I must go there to some day!

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I LOVE reading your comments!
fee x