Saturday, February 26, 2005

and yet more about Borneo...

the trip home turned into a bit of a saga - getting out of Borneo didn't go quite to plan!

spent 8 hours sitting in a hot, crowded airport (although 'airport' is a bit of an overstatement, think Weston Aerodrome with 35c temperatures) with no information and no food, until Malaysian Airlines finally admitted that our flight was cancelled - after all other flights out of Sandakan had left.

So they sent me to a hotel that you read about in guide books (under places-to-avoid) - dirty room, peeling paint, no window, no air conditioning, still no food - so sitting there feeling very sorry for myself, texted home and received Michelle's response (cheers Michelle!) which snapped me out of it - rang the hotel where I had been staying, oh too bad, they only had an executive suite left, could they send a taxi for me? of course Miss Helen, welcome back! So spent an extra morning by the pool and am now back in KL airport, only a day late!

Apparently it's freezing in Dublin, but that's where I'm going now...

Borneo part 2

My visit to the orang utan sanctuary was great, just what I'd hoped for. There weren't too many people there - I had been worried that there would be busloads, but there was only about 50 or so. We saw 6 orang utans, including one very small baby, which is quite rare apparently, the mother normally keeps out of sight. The others using the feeding platform are gradually being weaned off human contact and you never know how many will show up on any given day - we were lucky.

Then in the afternoon I went on a boat trip upriver from Sandakan, through the mangrove forest to try and catch a glimpse of the supposedly rare proboscis monkey - that's big nose to you and me! Anyway, either we were very lucky or they're not that rare - we saw loads of them! It was great. Also pretty fascinating to see the water villages all along the river, corrugated iron houses on stilts, complete with the village mosque, also on stilts. Amazing stuff.

ook! Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 24, 2005


Borneo is a huge improvement on KL. My transfer from the airport didn’t show and while I was standing there obviously looking a bit lost a woman approached me and insisted I let her and her husband drive me to my hotel – they turn out to be Malay Catholics who were best friends with a priest from Galway – bloody Irish missionaries got everywhere!

The hotel is great and my room is next to the presidential suite looking out over the rainforest – I guess it’ll do ;-) The pool is exactly what I needed, although the snakes are a bit disconcerting ;-) A lot of middle-aged French couples here, for some reason. Again, I’m the object of fascination but writing in my notebook seems to help – the waiters are treating me like I’m a travel journalist – happy enough with that!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

So Dad’s book caught up with me this morning at 6.30am as I was checking out of my hotel. Lovely surprise, thank Mum! It looks great Declan, well done! And Terry too! Read it on the bus to the airport with tears streaming down my face at the tributes from David, Fritz, John & Murray – Dad can make a holy show of me even by long distance ;-)) Anyway, I’m currently en route to Borneo, with that strange apathy that always hits me at the end of a long trip – so long as I get to see the orang utans I could happily spend the rest of the time by the pool ;-)


Chinese New Year, KL Posted by Hello

Melaka, or Malacca even, was great – well worth the long bus journey and crap tour guide. Really interesting history and lots of side streets and alleys to explore. Interesting to compare all the different Chinatowns I’ve seen recently – this one was pretty tame really! But the temple there was incredible – the oldest Chinese temple outside of China – very busy too, with the end of New Year approaching. We got a breather there only because our guide wanted to make an offering herself but then she led us on a merry chase through the town only pausing at certain shops – with no obligation to buy, of course ;-) Me and a Chinese-Canadian couple finally staged a mutiny at A’Famosa and insisted on climbing up the fort, reckoning she wouldn’t actually leave without us – even if she did sulk all the way back to KL! So after a long hot climb, looking at remnants of Portuguese, Dutch and British occupations, who do I find at the top but St Francis Xavier – just like being in Gardiner St really ;-))

Finished off my KL trip with the KL tower by night to see the lights…

SFX Posted by Hello

Monday, February 21, 2005


I've decided I prefer night flights, even if I don't sleep on them either, but a 10 hour daytime flight is so bloody boring! I even got bored with the zen!

Haven't had much fun today, it must be said! My body clock is all over the kip and some dozy bint ran over my foot with her luggage trolley in the airport last night so my ankle is all swollen & bruised - typical! So I limped off into KL this morning, temp 38C & humidity in the mid 60s and spent a few hours getting lost way outside my comfort zone ;-) I was, to put it mildly, a bit hot and bothered by the time I got back to the hotel (thank the gods for air conditioning and a pool!) which probably, but not quite, explains how I got talked into a night tour of chinatown by the hotel concierge. All very well in itself and quite enjoyable, even if all the others on the tour - mainly Indian with a few Chinese - saw me as a completely freakish European woman travelling on my own and almost as fascinating as the tour ;-)

However what I didn't realise was that the tour included dinner and a 'cultural performance' which is how I found myself in the Malay version of Jurys, or possibly that medieval banquet thing in Clare or Cork whose name escapes me now. I know we are pretty cynical about tourism in Ireland and pull the piss out of the yanks who end up there but I will have more sympathy in future and give them the benefit of the doubt - it might be jet lag! I ended up getting fits of giggles at the most innappropriate moments - I've seen Ger, Bill & John do better attempts at folk dancing ;-)) Ah well, it ended my evening with a smile anyway!

Off to Melaka tomorrow... will report anon. Internet is bloody expensive here too, and it's dial-up, so if I haven't answered an email from you, that's why ;-)


Friday, February 18, 2005

last few days...

... in New Zealand :-((

14 hour train journey between Wellington & Auckland on Tuesday accompanied by a slightly surreal running commentary from a crew that Basil Fawlty would have been proud of - it certainly aided passenger-bonding ;-)

Visited Waiheke island in Auckland harbour on Wednesday, really chilled day that got progressively drunker and badly behaved as the evening wore on - lots of fun ;-)) So yesterday was a bit of write-off... worth it though! Still, I managed to meet up with Pauline from Bloomsday in Auckland and went to see the Ray Charles movie in a lovely art-deco cinema on the north shore.

And then today, to round it all off, I went caving & blackwater rafting in Waitomo (about 2 hours south of Auckland), very wet & muddy & happy :-))

Tumutumu Caves, Waitomo Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

dragonboat racing in te papa Posted by Hello


really enjoying the city, just hanging out in civic square or on the waterfront, it's a very liveable place...

Te Papa is an interesting museum - great building but strange use of space - for such a large building they don't seem to have a lot on display. Visited on Sunday with some fellow flying kiwis and saw the highlights - including some very bizarre highland dancing to mark the museum's 7th birthday - we tried out the dragonboat racing and the questionnaires to see if we'd be allowed emigrate to New Zealand (generally, no, except when we lied so that probably doesn't count ;-)), experienced the earthquake house and felt we were cultured up enough!

I went back on Monday for a look at the art exhibitions on the upper floors. Some interesting work in the contemporary section, especially the NZ representatives for the Venice Biennale but otherwise a bit so-so...

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Candy, Anna, Lorna & Simon on the day we didn't do the Tongariro Crossing! Posted by Hello

hot pools Posted by Hello

flying kiwis Posted by Hello

New Zealand adventures...

Just back from the most amazing week on the north island. Travelled on the Flying Kiwi bus with a lovely bunch of people – only 14 of us so it was very friendly and comfortable enough on the bus, even if it was a heaper – we needed the John Norton school of mechanics and turn up the sounds full volume ;-) The damp tents and cheap food (and even cheaper wine) brought strong flashbacks of the scouts but the locations more than made up for it. Camped by the beach, by hot thermal pools, beside a lake in a forest – even out under the stars one night, without a tent, and watched the sun come up over the Pacific Ocean.

I've been hiking, cycling, swimming, boogie-boarding, sand-boarding and surfing! ...ok, so I took surfing lessons and spent a day falling off a surf board – but it was great fun and I’m only sorry that I’ve discovered it so late in my trip. The sand boarding was great too – down the side of a sand dune (almost vertical, half-a-mountain sand dune!) straight into the sea, along the top of the water like skimming stones, sand in every orifice ;-))

However, all of this, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge too, was shoved into the ha’penny place by what I did on Friday last… I was strapped into a harness and attached to a lovely guy called Liam and we jumped out of a perfectly good aeroplane 12,000 feet above Lake Taupo!

Yes Mum, I went skydiving, and I know I didn’t tell you on the phone last night, but honestly, after the news of Judy’s car crash I didn’t have the heart to mention it! But I am safely back on the ground now and I promise I won’t jump out of any other planes before you see me again ;-))

Anyway, all of the over-the-top superlatives apply, an unforgettable experience! Liam (the tandem-master) said he had never jumped with anyone as petrified as I was – apparently everyone on the plane was watching me and didn’t believe I would go through with it – and by the time the door opened at 12,000 feet I couldn’t stop my legs from shaking, I had tears in my eyes and felt sick with terror.

However once we jumped it was incredible. The freefall was simultaneously endless and over in a flash – I have no clue how long we were falling but when the parachute opened we were about 7,000 feet below the plane with the whole of Lake Taupo spread out beneath us and I got my breath back enough to scream – I loved every second of it! And when we landed it was like getting off a rollercoaster – I wanted to go back up again!

So now I am back to city life, sitting at an outdoor cafe on Cuba Street, drinking a long black and watching the world go by. On the outside I look the same but inside I am changed forever ;-)

surfer babes! Posted by Hello