Life lessons from my Borneo boondoggle

Twenty-five days ago I left Taiwan in search of adventure in Malaysian Borneo.  There would be endless possibilities for excitement – Kota Kinabalu (the highest mountain in South East Asia), Sipadan (considered the best diving in the world), Survivor Island/Pulau Tiga (where the first season of Survivor was filmed), Orangutang Sanctuaries, Jungle Treks, Caves, and a stop into Brunei to add another country to this trip.

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I missed my flight to Bali …on purpose.

It’s 9:30am and I’m in a taxi; I have a one way ticket for a flight to Bali (Indonesia) from Kuala Lumpur that left at 9:20am.  This sounds like a terrible situation but it’s not.  I’m in a taxi heading to the local bus station, and once I find the right ticket counter I’ll be heading south to Malacca – a UNESCO World Heritage city in Malaysia.  One or two days later, on July 3rd – my birthday, I’ll be in Singapore and spend a few days walking around the cleanest city in the world.   After Singapore …Australia.  What happened to Indonesia?  What happened to Asia?  What drives someone to, on a whim, not show up for a plane ticket to a tropical paradise and instead fly to one of the most expensive backpacking countries in the world?

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Plans for the next three weeks

It’s not very often that I have a clear idea of where I’m going or even how I’m going to get there.  It also seems that I have a tendency to not leave places when I think I will – that I’m currently spending four days in George Town instead of two is a great example of this.  So, the fact that I have a rough idea of where I’ll be for the next three weeks is a pretty big change of pace for me.

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Random Musings II


When I initially started planning this trip, one of the things that I was most interested and concerned about was the cost.  Anything I found online gave me the impression that S.E. Asia was “cheap”, but what exactly did that mean, and did that mean you were eating rice every day or eating like a king?  Based on what I could find online, my goal had been to spend no more than $30 a day while traveling.  I’ve been keeping track of my expenses for the last seven days, and so far, even with the $130 tour to Ha Long Bay which averages $43 a day, I can say that I am right at $30 a day so far.  It’s worth noting though that that has been WITHOUT having to pay for hotels/hostels, as I’ve been sleeping on the couch of a friend in Hanoi.  Starting tonight, that changes and I’m fully responsible for everything I need along this trip.  I’m not too worried about funds yet though, as the next few cities I’ll be in are much smaller and very walkable – no need to spend $6-$10 on taxi rides throughout the day.

I learned that I need to be careful when planning out when I take showers on days that I plan on packing everything into my bag and traveling.  The day I left for Ha Long Bay I took a shower in the morning.  My towel didn’t have enough time to completely dry, and as a result I brought a damp and rather moldy smelling towel along for the trip.  Fortunately my hotels (the boat and the actual hotel) had towels that were fresh.  Speaking of those places, the pictures below are the sort of food we got during the trip.

Dinner Prawns and Fruit Flowers

Google can be a little b**** some times.



The hotel/boat was actually pretty nice, although the bathroom in the boat was a little snuggly.

Boat Hotel Bath Room Boat Hotel Cabin Room Cat Ba Hotel Bath Room Cat Ba Hotel Room

I leave on a night train to Hue tonight.  It’s roughly a 12 hour train ride; I leave Hanoi around 11pm and get into Hue around 11am.  Given that I don’t expect the train conductor to speak English, my goal is to be attentively looking out the window for anything that resembles a sign of “Hue” around 10:30am and until I get off.  From there, I’ve got a hotel at $18 a night booked for two nights.  It’s a little more than I planned on spending for accommodation, but I met a nice couple in Ha Long that will be staying there, and it’s only a few dollars a night more than a hostel I’d have to share with 2-3 other people.  No brainer for me and my money.  From there, I think I’ll continue further south along the coast stopping at various cities on my way to Ho Chi Minh City, and hopefully the island of Phu Quoc.  Phu Quoc looks like this…so basically I’m pretty sure I’m going.