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Evenings in Sabah’s Capital

by becca on April 10, 2010

The night market in Kota Kinabalu was the highlight for me. A leisurely walk along the bay past the central market and through the handicraft market leads to tantalizing smells and variety of eating options. I felt like I was swimming through a sea of bright colors and rich aromas as we made our way past the Filipino seafood barbeque stalls, then through rows of fresh pans full of various curries and veggies, to the hot woks stirring up rice and noodle dishes, just before reaching the area full of sweets, fruits and veggies. Needless to say, where we ate dinner each night was not in question — the only question was what?

Kota Kinabalu, or KK, is the capital and largest city in Sabah’s Malaysian Borneo. It’s a hub of tourist information, a base for climbing the nearby mountain (which we were not prepared to do), and to our pleasant surprise, quite a charming city. One evening we tried to reach Signal Hill — a tourist attraction sitting on a cliff overlooking the city and a great place to watch the sunset — but we made a wrong turn some where and never found it. Instead we found a local neighborhood where children sat on the curb listening to Greenday on a small stereo and played badminton in the street. Workers from a nearby housing development climbed through a tall fence surrounding the new neighborhood, crossed the street, and carefully navigated a steep descent down to what appeared to be a makeshift community for the workers — two long rows of houses with aluminum roofs far enough from the street to remain completely out of view. Some how I failed to get a single decent picture from this experience, a bit timid to pull out my fancy camera around a group of people living so humbly.

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Orangutans and Orchids

by becca on April 7, 2010

We arrived at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center around 9:30am and waited as the wooden observation deck filled up with tourists. Later that morning, the orphaned orangutans who currently call the center home as they are reintroduced to the wild and weened off human contact, would be served a modest meal of milk and bananas. The young apes seemed shy, but used the wires connecting trees with a series of platforms to swing their small muscular bodies over for breakfast and chow down with the numerous pig-tailed macaques around.

But the center’s main priority is certainly not tourism. The orangutans that used to roam freely around Borneo are now endangered, and many youngsters are found around palm oil plantations where the trees end — many times being orphaned by the murder of their mothers. The center cares for the scared babies and goes through a delicate process of rehabilitating them so that one day they may live on their own in the wild — a process that takes up to seven years. And they’ve had great success. While some orangutans never stray far from the center throughout their adult lives, many others go on to mate and raise their own babies.

Just down the road from the orangutan center is the Sepilok Rainforest Discovery Center, which is sort of like a park with a variety of hiking trails, viewing towers, canopy walks, and a small information center. The beautiful and well-marked Plant Discovery Garden was especially impressive — Nate and I couldn’t stop photographing the lush orchids. And in the slideshow you’ll also come across some obligatory photos with “The Sepilok Giant.”

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Borneo: Welcome to the Jungle

April 3, 2010

Whether you’re looking for a trek into steamy rainforests to see orang utans or a relaxing boat ride to spot the beautiful hornbill or oriental darter, you’ll find it in Borneo’s interior around the Kinabatangan River. But, if you hope for a “rocking” experience led by a group of local Malays, consider Uncle Tan’s Jungle [...]

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Party at Uncle Chang’s

April 2, 2010

We spent a Saturday night at Uncle Chang’s, when the quiet little wooden resort hosts a full blown party with a live band, a local kid dancing for endless entertainment, and Uncle Chang himself handing out pints of whiskey and cans of coke like candy. And though I was a little hard on Uncle Chang’s [...]

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Diving. Sipadan.

March 30, 2010

There were five sea turtles in view when Nate grabbed my fin frantically to show me that there was another just grazing my head, its belly skimming over my floating wisps of hair. The fish were so colorful and plentiful we didn’t know where to look as we descended to 35 meters down a 600-meter [...]

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