A Kinabatangan river cruise is one of the most typical activities in a Borneo trip, one of the few remaining real opportunities to experience the jungle and its wildlife. The most common way to do it, and at first glance the only one, is to join an organized tour from Kota Kinabalu or Sandakan. But we were coming from Semporna (from our diving and island hoping adventure), and we prefer to travel independently… and as cheap as possible. The basic 2 day / 1 night tour to Kinabatangan goes for over MYR 1,000 (over $300) per person! There had to be a better way.
Back from our unforgettable liveaboard in Sipadan, we found ourselves in the harbor town of Semporna, Borneo, with no specific plans. The area is known for its paradise islands, with white sand beaches and turquoise waters, but unfortunately, most of these have been taken over by all-inclusive luxury hotels, like the spectacular Kapalai. The weather was also not looking particularly good, but we were resolved to explore at least a bit of this rather unknown area.
Wow, just wow. I had heard of Sipadan as a world-class diving destination, but our 4 days there surpassed all my expectations. The amount of underwater life we were able to see was unbelievable, and the absolute highlight of our time in Malaysia.
Ok, let’s be honest: Kuala Lumpur is not all that interesting. Despite being one of the hubs of Southeast Asia, the capital of Malaysia doesn’t have the buzz of Bangkok or Singapore, nor the charm of Yangon or Phnom Penn. It might be a good place for an expat to live in, but in terms of places to visit, I would put it near the bottom of my list, probably below Manila, tied with Saigon and only above Vientiane. Having said that, there are a few sites to keep a traveler occupied for a day or two…
Penang was he first stop in my trip around Malaysia, where I landed from a Taipei layover / quick visit. Despite the long trip, I still had the energy to get on a public bus (401) toward the central street Lebuh Chulia. The bus took ~45 min, the same a taxi would, and cost RM2.7 ($0.6) vs. the RM38 ($9) of a taxi. Once in the central area, it was easy to find a decent hostel for RM40. I took a quick walk and swallowed some delicious char kway teow (fried noodles) from a stall, before heading to bed – the next day would be a long one.
I’m a huge fan of travel rankings, for they inspire me to dream of new places… hope to do the same for fellow globetrotters 🙂
My ten favorite nature sites are, in some sort of preference order:
1- Mount Everest and the Himalayas (Nepal and China). I hiked in this region with Elena in the Spring of 2015, right during the massive earthquakes, and was equally fascinated by the magnificence of the mountains and the warm soul of the Nepalese people. The Everest Base Camp trek remains my favorite multi-day hike in the world… and I’m toying with the idea of returning to attempt the summit one day.
Similarly to Dubai or Singapore, Taipei is a fantastic city to visit on a short layover. I was on my way to Malaysia for a 2 week diving vacation, and had booked a cheap flight through this airport, without giving it much thought. Once we touched ground, I realized that I had nearly 6 hours until my departure to Kuala Lumpur. I immediately checked on my phone whether I needed a visa (short answer: no for most nationalities, but check the latest info), and if I could see the highlights of the city in just a few hours (short answer: yes). This was my step by step itinerary, which I would call very successful 🙂
- Sydney and its beaches
- Diving in the Great Barrier Reef
- Whitsunday Islands
- Uluru and the Red Center
For diving lovers like us, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef had always been at the top of our bucket list. We are usually economic travelers, staying in backpacker hostels, taking public buses, and eating street food as much as possible. But when it came to the GBR, we knew it was time to splurge. We booked ourselves on a 4 nights / 14 dives liveaboard with Mike Ball Expeditions, one of the most prominent scuba operators in the world. And the trip was nothing short of perfect.
Our last days in Australia had been sour-sweet… the terrible weather we experienced in Fraser Island and the fact that we had to cancel our attempt to dive the Yongala shipwreck, had been partially compensated by some epic New Year’s Eve fireworks. We were flying back home to LA on the morning of January 2nd and hadn’t planned anything for the 1st, thinking we would wake up late and maybe make one last trip to our beloved Bondi Beach. But as we walked back to our hotel from the NYE party, we wondered… what if we could have one last adventure? The idea of going to Jervis Bay came up immediately. We had looked into this perfect white sand beaches before, but hadn’t been able to make the trip for one reason or another. Being about 3 hours south of Sydney, we thought that you needed multiple days to visit Jervis properly… but why not try to do it as a day trip, and end our time in Australia with a bang?