Tagged: monkey

Kinabatangan River, Sabah, Borneo

 

 At 12:30pm four of us from Borneo Sandakan Backpackers were picked-up by a minivan to take us to Kinabatangan River. The drive was 2.5 hours. There was me, an Aussie girl, and two German guys.

The 2 night package with Asia Green Travel cost 371 rm ($100) and included meals, lodging (basic lodge dorm,) 2 jungle walks, 2 night jungle walks, and 4 river cruises. Our guide was named Aloy and came from the town across the river bank.
We arrived at the lodge and and were shown our room, a 6 bed dorm with about 6 inches of space in between each, and a bathroom. Luckily there were only four of us because the space was incredibly tight, although it was the nicest basic outdoor lodge I’ve stayed in. It even had AC and hot water. 

 It’s green beetle season right now and there are literally thousands of lime green beetles all over the place- the floors, walls, air, etc. There were also massive lime green grasshoppers and cicada’s.  Our schedule for the first day was snack, afternoon cruise, dinner, night jungle walk. For our snack we had roti’s and curry sauce which was delicious. It heavily down poured before our cruise which I think scared a lot of the animals away. On the night walk to saw a Blue-eared Kingfisher, a bright blue/pink/yellow bird.


Aussie and I stayed up late hanging out with our guide. The lodge is going to be town down soon because the owner is building a resort in its place. We were given a tour of the new lodges and at midnight Aloy and Elvis, the lodge host, took us into the massive restaurant under construction on the waterfront. The design is wooden and upscale.
The next day we left at 5:45am for the morning river cruise. Then had breakfast and left for our daytime jungle walk. We used the boat to cross the water bank then trekked for an hour to Lake Oxb Lake. Here we threw bread into the water and immediately tons of tilapia babies starting fighting over it. On the walk we saw tiger leeches, millipedes, a black squirrel, pigmy squirrels, and a big daddy long legs. There was a bunch of pigmy elephant poop with mushrooms growing out of it, but we didn’t see any elephants. 

           We walked back to the boat and went back to the lodge. We had lunch then played cards with our guide. It started to downpour again but at 2pm it had stopped and we left for our village walk. The village nearby, Bilit Village, ended up being a few houses and a school with a convenience store. We bought drinks, visited our guides family’s house, and played with newborn puppies.  After the village walk more people arrived at the lodge. Two older British couples, a young couple from Vancouver, and a young Swedish guy. We all snacked on fried shrimp bread balls then headed out for our cruise, which was by far the best one yet.


On this cruise we saw a big older orangutan making a nest high up in a tree. We also saw 5 elephants feeing along the water. On the way back we stopped and watched two Proboscis monkey families fighting over tree space. In total their were eight groups of monkeys in that tree, and the surrounding ones. The monkeys were jumping around and actually hitting each other; I thought I was watching National Geographic. 

     After dinner someone spotted a 2.5 meter long Yellow-ringed cat snake on the exterior wall of the outdoor bathroom. It was black with yellow stripes. Me and Aussie ran when a guide attempted to pick it up by it’s tail, and Aussie actually broke the floorboards when she sprinted off.


The next morning we woke up early again for another sunrise river cruise. This trip I noticed all the old used orangutan nests throughout the trees. Apparently they only use a nest for one night then move on.

On the four river cruises we saw Proboscis monkeys, long tail macaques, pig tail macaques, silvered langur monkeys, black hornbill birds, Oriental Pied hornbill, black hornbills, Wrinkled hornbills, a red hornbill, purple herons, great egrets, osprey, white-bellied sea-eagles, crested serpent-eagle, stork-billed Kingfisher, a 4m crocodile, a foot long baby crocodile, 2 orangutans, and 5 elephants.


After breakfast I was dropped off at a junction 35 minutes away to grab a bus driving from Sandakan to Semporna. I paid 40 rm and the bus took 5 hours. All the land we drove through was Palm oil plantations. Imagine a corn farm but Palm trees instead.

Cat Ba Island, Vietnam – Halong Bay

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To see Halong Bay we decided to stay on Cat Ba Island, which is directly next to the bay and not too touristy. We stayed at Cat Ba Hostel. Originally we booked a dorm but the hostel was almost empty so we convinced them to give us double rooms for the same price as the dorm, $3 each. I roomed with Scotland.

The town is very small. One strip of restaurants and guesthouses/hotels along the bay with vertical streets going inward towards land. Our hostel was at the top of one of the vertical streets. In the summer the town is supposedly packed with tourists and backpackers. There’s an island feel mixed into this fishing village. But now it’s deserted. We did get very lucky with weather but it’s still winter here.

We picked up two Brits on the ferry to Cat Ba. Now we just need an Irish and I’ll officially be with the whole UK crew.

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Our first day after checking in we walked to the beach, which is about a 10 minute walk from town. It was our first official view of the bay. We stayed long enough to drink one large beer but left because it really wasn’t warm enough to be there- the wind was too cold. On our walk back to town we stopped at an outdoor cafe/bar that was in the sun and out of the wind. We had a free cocktail then a few rounds of beer while sunbathing and playing pool.

That night we went to Good Bar, then Rose Bar, the two backpacker bars in town. Good Bar is on the third floor of a waterfront restaurant. The interior is stone and felt like the perfect atmosphere for a winter bar. The cocktails are legit made with fresh fruit juice, and they’re two for one. Rose Bar is the late night dingy spot.

Our second day we rented scooters- I rode on Scotland’s since I can’t bike. We drove through a small local town behind the touristy waterfront section. Up through the mountains on newly paved roads. We stopped at Hospital Cave, a small cave developed with during the war for Vietnamese to hide from bombers. The cave was 3 floors. The bottom floor is cement rooms- the meeting room, the cinema room, the washing room, the dining room, the hospital, etc. The second floor is a huge open cave, and the third floor (which we couldn’t go to) is a small room that generals used for their meetings. The floors are set-up like a labyrinth, so when you’re on the first floor you can actually be right below the third floor. Incredibly smart and spacious.

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After the cave we drove to the National Park. We did the short hike up to Nam Lam Peak- one hour total. The hike wasn’t too bad and the view was incredible. Lush green mountains surrounded us.

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We hopped back onto our bikes and tried to get to the Cannon before sunset. We made it but after learning it was $3 we decided against it. Not worth it after just being at a better view. So we decided to grab dinner at a local place in town. I had been excited to try the seafood which is supposed to be great on the bay but I was disappointed. I had Pho Tom, Pho with shrimp, but the shrimp were tiny and flavorless. Afterward we cleaned up and went back to Good Bar. I called it an early-ish night since we had to get up early the next day.

Up at 7:30am for breakfast and picked up at 8am for our day on Halong Bay. We drove to the port, which took less than 5 minutes. We boarded a boat and headed out to sea. The boat had an enclosed downstairs, and an open upstairs, half of which was a tarp we could lay on. We became friends with an Aussie and New Zealand girl on the tour, and the group of us spent most of the boat ride hanging out on the tarp. We drove for about 30 minutes past fishing villages (farms on the water) and landed on Monkey Island. We got off the boat directly on the beach and climbed up rocks to reach the top of the mountain on the beach. I wore flip flops which were awful to climb in (no warning there would be rock climbing or a hike.) At the top of the mountain there were two monkeys that joined us. One of them opened up a guys bag and grabbed an apple and piece of bread to snack on- the guy wasn’t quick enough to get them away.

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We hung out on the beach for about 30 minutes after the climb. I found 6 pieces of beach glass including an aqua piece. Most of the pieces are green; I’m assuming they’re from Saigon bottles.

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About an hour later we reached Halong Bay from Cat Ba Bay, although we couldn’t tell the difference. We canoed through Halong Bay for a while going through caves. After canoeing we had a seafood spread lunch on the boat. Steamed shrimp, fish, tofu, sautéed cabbage, spring rolls and rice. We then laid out on the tarp sunbathing for half an hour before the boat took off again. However, the boat only drive for about 20 minutes and then it stopped again for another 30 minutes. We parked next to another boat like ours and the workers all played cards and drank together. We just relaxed and played cards in the sun. The UK boy jumped in the water but it was too cold for swimming.

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On the way home (about a 2 hour journey) we stopped at one of the fish farms and were able to walk around. Imagine a very narrow (less than two feet wide) boardwalk grid above the water, and in each of the squares is a massive net keeping the fish in. The fish are raised here. We saw all types of fish, some tiny and some that looked like mini-sharks. The boardwalk pathway was staying afloat by sitting on top of plastic canisters. Needless to say it was a wobbly walk, and my fears were heightened when I tripped over my own flip flops.

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We went out hard that night since we didn’t have to wake up for anything the next day. First Oasis for half price daiquiris, then Good Bar where I drank 2-for-1 fresh passion fruit mojitos and the bartender split a cantaloupe shisha with me. I met a few Americans who are in Vietnam for a week on business- they’re in the shit business, engineers making toilets. We all went to Marigold Club, which was empty except with a few local men who insisted on taking photos and videos with me/us non-stop. Danced on stage for a bit then headed back to Good Bar until we finally got kicked out because it closed. A great night.

I woke up the next afternoon and headed down to the waterfront for lunch. I walked around the lake on the far side of town then settled into an outdoor table in the sun at My Way Cafe for some fresh seafood. I ordered grilled squid and a tomato salad. The squid was amazing- grilled with chopped garlic, ginger and chili peppers.

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After lunch I walked through the local market looking for my typical fruit snack and a big a sweatshirt for Sapa. The market was typical for a town, a small section for fruit and vegetables, and another small section for clothes and accessories. Most of the fruit didn’t appeal to me; there are no papayas in the cold and the dragon fruit wasn’t ripe. However, I couldn’t stand to casually walk through the market like I usually do. I was the only person shopping at that time of day and every single stand owner was screaming at my to buy bananas while throwing green unripened bananas in my face. It became too much to stand so I quickly left.

Across the street I ran into Scotland and we decided to go for massages. We went to Foot Therapy above Kiwi Bar and both got an hour back, neck and head massage. They took us to the top floor of the bar and we each laid down on an actual bed and got massaged.

That night all of us went for a big seafood dinner at Phong Phong Restaurant, which I found on trip advisor. I ordered boiled green vegetables and grilled scallops. The waiter first brought me out a plate of white cabbage dripping with oil. I sent it back saying that this vegetable is not green and can I please have the boiled spinach instead. Next the waiter brought me out a plate of steamed clams with sweet and sour sauce, yet another translation mistake. I sent back the clams for grilled squid, which was difficult since the waiter was convinced he brought me scallops. More than halfway through my squid the waiter brought me a plate of broccoli in oyster sauce. Not what I ordered either but I didn’t complain; the broccoli was delicious. The squid on the other hand was not. It was supposed to be grilled with a lemon garlic sauce and instead was grilled then doused with a sweet jam like sauce. The restaurant forgot to charge me for the broccoli but I didn’t tell them. The entire meal was slow and stressed me out, so I felt better knowing something was free.

After dinner we went back to Oasis Bar where I got a peppermint tea and a coconut- I took the day off from drinking. There was a “Marnie the dog” look-a-like there who was in a serious need of a haircut. I called it an early night and went home a little after midnight to read. Yes, that’s an early night.

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Dalat, Vietnam

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In Dalat I stayed at Gold Night Hostel. It was originally a hotel but recently they converted the top floor into dorms. The dorms are really nice and modern. Each bed has it’s own ledge and curtain, and each room has it’s own bathroom with a bathtub (not that I would use it.) The entire floor is carpeted and there are only a few bedrooms so the entire place feels quaint.

Dalat reminds me of a small European village. The first hostel was built two years ago and although there were hotels before, the city is not very touristy. The buildings are all small and there’s a church and synagogue downtown. The locally grown produce is strawberries and artichokes which are sold all along the streets. If the locals weren’t Asian I would honestly assume I was in Europe.

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The weather here is also cooler than the south. It’s in the 70s daytime and 50s at night. Certainly not freezing for us; however, for the locals it’s a true winter. They all walk around in winter coats with gloves, scarves and hats, both during the day and at night. Because of the setting I feel like I’m in a European ski village.

I arrived in Dalat around 9pm. I met a Scottish friend at the hostel that i’m now going to travel around with for a while. We met on the bus to Vang Vieng and I have run into him almost every place I’ve been since. That night we went for street food and got a large mixed meat hot pot- beef, pork, fish, squid, etc. I’ve had a hot pot before but turns out I was doing it wrong. First you add all the meat to the broth and let it cook for about 7 minutes, then add the vegetables and let it cook for another 3 minutes. Add the noodles to your little bowl then add the soup concoction. I thought I was supposed to cook it until the meat was done (a few minutes) then add the noodles to the pot too.

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Afterwards he showed me around the night market. It’s not touristy at all which is great. The foods here are somewhat different than elsewhere. There are wrapped pizza flatbreads, hot soya milk, grilled corn/potatoes, street meat, and strawberries everywhere. I woke up the next morning to see flower markets lining the streets. I felt like I was in Paris.

Scotland met a guy from Wales his first night who started hanging out with us too. He’s also going to travel Vietnam with us for a bit.

My first day in Dalat we went canyoning which is the thing to do there. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect- rock climbing and cliff jumping? It turns out canyoning is scaling down rocks into waterfalls with ropes aka serious rock climbing. I was absolutely terrified- tall heights and the fear of falling. I was too scared to lean back to be 90 degrees with the wall, and I was even more scared to release the rope and jump down on the rock. I did the first two cliffs but that was enough. I did the 7 meter cliff jump (also tall enough for me) but skipped the waterfall scaling and the 11 meter jump. Unfortunately, since it’s winter here, the water and air outside was cold. It felt awful going in and out of the water all day especially because we were wearing clothes and sneakers the whole time. But although I didn’t love canyoning it it was worth trying.

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After canyoning Scotland took me through the daytime Central Market. I bought a pair of Converse since I really needed closed toe shoes for the cold. The clothes market is all locals which was great, but it was the food market that I really liked. Fruit from all over the world (including apples from the U.S.), dried fruits and vegetables by the pounds, and fresh meats (including live chickens.) I love the dried mixed vegetable bag (like chips.)

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We went to check out the famous bakery, Lien Hoa. The cakes in the shop were elaborately decorated with neon jelly frosting and only cost $1.25 each. They had every type of pastry each costing less than $1. I walked out with nothing but Scotland walked out with 9 pastries, most of which were delicious. We went back to that bakery twice more in the next day.

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That night we went to a bar in town to play pool. It was me and about ten guys.. Sausagefest. The bar was really cute. It was small and dark with a real European feel but their were weird ornaments around which made it feel like an old timer stoner bar. The owner was an old man who was very social without speaking much. He challenged all of us in connect four, and then became heavily involved with who plays pool and teaching me how to play, assuming I had no clue.

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My second day in Dalat we went to Prenn Falls. We went to ride ostrich’s but it turned out to be an activities park. Elephant rides, camel rides, ostrich rides, a cable car, a bow an arrow contest, a pool contest, row boats, a zoo, and a waterfall. First we headed straight for the ostrich’s. Riding an ostrich was hilarious. I got on and about 5 seconds later he started running. It was scary but fun at the same time. The ostrich was huge, about twice my size.

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Next we went to the zoo, which was awful. Someone call PETA. There are monkeys chained by their necks throughout the area. Bears and porcupines in tiny cages. Other small animals in even tinier cages. A loose snake on the ground in the middle of everything. A crocodile pond and right next to it a gift shop selling crocodile handbags. And then there were 4 deer chained down with their antlers cut off. I played with one of the monkeys a bit and he tried to open my backpack but we couldn’t stay long as it was too much to handle.

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One of my friends tried the pool contest and lost, and another tried the bow and arrow contest and lost. We then walked under Prenn Falls before leaving.

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Next we took our cab to Linh Phuoc Pagoda aka Dragon Pagoda. The pagoda was stunning. Modern, decorated with colorful tiles of animals (mostly dragons) and Buddhist symbols. There are two temples within the complex. There was also a shop selling massive wooden furniture including a 15 foot carved tree.

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That night I didn’t do much. I wandered alone through a part of town I hadn’t see before. It ended up being a touristy area with all the restaurants I had read about on Lonely Planet. I ate at Chocolate Restaurant. I had Chicken corn soup with shrimp wontons. After that I walked home through the night market and picked up a grilled corn and a hot green tea soya milk.

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