This summer (2010) we traveled to Australia for three weeks to see family and friends, and then spent five weeks traveling in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore.
Ten days before the end of our two month trip our camera got stolen! We were (are) devestated. We didn't care about the camera but of course we can't replace the pictures.
On our way to Australia, we stopped in Kuala Lumpur for four days to break up the trip. We visited the zoo and bird park there. It was pretty sweaty, so we often found ourselves gravitating towards air conditioned malls! We tried about five times to get up the Petronas Towers (previously the tallest in the world), but were defeated each time by the crowds!
Our first stop in Australia was Sydney, were we stayed with our friends Matt and Angella. They are busy buying every available apartment in Sydney, and doing a nice job fixing them up. We enjoyed the cooler weather (it was cold!) and reaquainting oursleves with the stunning beauty of Sydney.
We rented a car and drove to Inverell to visit Robyn's mom and then onto Grafton where Robyn had fun at her 21 year high school reunion. In our travels around the country side, we stopped a coupe times at Jules and Liza's farmhouse in Kempsey. It was awesome spending time with them and fun being on a farm, especially for Zoë, who particularly loved feeding the chooks.
Next we connected with my parents in Sydney, who were visiting us from the US. They lost their passports on the way over, so they were a few days late. Once they got there, we spent a great week with them in Melbourne and another one in Sydney.
Robyn stayed in Australia a week longer than me. I headed to Malaysian Borneo with Zoë, where we flew to Kota Kinabalu. We snorkelled at Tunka Abdul Rahman park, did some walking at Kinabalu National Park, had a ball at Poring Hot Springs (canopy walk, waterfall, hot springs, swimming pool) and met Robyn in Sandakan.
We spent three days at a jungle lodge on the Kinabatangan River, which was probably the highlight of our trip. Each day we did a couple three hour boat trips, where we zipped around looking at the copious wildlife - elephants, orangatangs, gibbons, proboscis monkeys and more. Wih we had the photos!
Next we hopped down the coast of Borneo, mostly by boat. In the sketchy port island of Pulau Labuan, we stayed in a hotel that had a sign at reception that said "Your GIRLFRIEND/PRO is not the registered guest, please check out together." Next, Brunei was a change of pace - a beautiful mosque in the capital, interesting stilt villages, and unstable (in my asessment) water taxis that zipped us to every where we wanted to go at high speed - lots of fun! Less fun was our hotel, where we appeared to be the only guests. It seems the hotel owner hadn't seen a lot of things in awhile, since he opened our room door to see Robyn in her bra not once, but twice!
A couple days later, we took a 4 wheel drive to the town of Belaga in the interior of Borneo. The hotels were sketchy there! (youtube video of hotel) We visited a couple of longhouses, where the indigenious people live. These are, well, long houses (!) that house several hundred people. Each family has it's own room, but there is a long common verandah where everyone hangs out. We arranged to stay in one longhouse, where we were very much off the beaten path; the last overnight visitor had been more than a month previous. Many of the residents had insane tattoes and piercings, espeically the old people. Not a lot of English was spoken which made things awkward at times, but Zoë was a huge help as she was a natural ice breaker. She had a great time playing with the local kids on the long verandahs. At one longhose we visited, Robyn and Zoë played on the deck while I did shots of rice liqour with the village chief at 10am and listened to his description of his efforts to procure a consistent supply of viagra. Bizarre!
A couple of long days of bullet boats down the Batang Rejang river got us to Kuching, which was a pleasant touristy change of pace, but also where we got our camera stolen. :(
Next we flew to Singpore, where we stayed with our friends Nori and Scott and their darling one year old twins, Thai and Logan. We visited Singapore's famous zoo and zipped around in the ultra efficient metro system. Singapore has a reputation as a strerile place, however,we enjoyed the cleanliness, organization and efficienty - such a contrast to India! We tried to go without naps in Singapore, so we could get more done. Zoë wasn't too psyched about that plan, which concluded one day with her in meltdown screaming, "I should have taken a NAP! , Why didn't you give me a nap?!"
With one week left, we crossed back into Malaysia and headed for the quiet island of Pulau Besar off of Mersing. With only three hotels, the island was virtually empty for the five week days we were there, which was a perfect way to conclude our vacation.