Malaysian Borneo: Diving Mabul and Sipadan

From River Kinabatangan we had a pretty easy journey down to Semporna (where we were heading to Scubadive).

The driver who had collected us from Sepilok, took us from the river to a lay by on one of the main roads where ‘his friend’ one of the local coach drivers picked us up on the local bus which was going to Semporna. This took about 4-5 hours.

When we arrived in Semporna, our main mission was to go and try to find Sipadan diving passes. If you have researched anything about Sipadan you’ll probably know these are pretty difficult to find, and there are loads of rumours about certain dive shops and whether the passes are legitimate or not. Also most of the diving passes come with accommodation packages as well, so anyway it was all a bit of a nightmare trying to arrange.

So we set off from the bus, sticky, sweaty, tired….the usual! and now semporna is not exactly the most glamorous of places which surprised us considering its the gateway to one of the most highly regarded dive spots in the world. There is a lot of poverty and as soon as we started walking through the town young children were clawing at us for anything, even the water I was drinking.

We traipsed around a load of the dive shops and eventually decided what to do….I won’t go into every boring detail but in the couple hours of walking back and forth we had to go through a fish market and by the harbor, anyway I started to feel really rough and starting throwing up on the side of the street. Danielle was really good, and checked me into the closest hotel which had a private bathroom sent me upstairs and carried on sorting out booking the diving trip! I was pretty useless in all of this.

But the next day we headed off to the island of Mabul where we were staying in the ScubaJunkie resort for three nights. Luckily I was feeling a bit better, and it was my 26th Birthday woop! I was too ill to dive that day but we just chilled out which was nice.

55925B55-79A6-4A4F-BB13-DC09AC8F73AF

40A8E2DC-EC6F-4D60-8B4D-99DFC2C62FDF

IMG_4978

original_url: 94B8E89C-7D78-4EE8-A7F9-88FFFDAF18BE

IMG_4987

So the next day we started our PADI Advanced open water course. We wern’t really planning on doing this but as we really wanted to enjoy Sipadan it was recommended as its quite a deep dive (with the open water you can only go to 18m but with the advanced you can go to 40m).

Our instructor Phil was really great, and again we were lucky as it was just the two of us in the group. In this course you learn a lot more about buoyancy, getting your weight right, navigation and you get to pick a couple of specific dives. We picked the night dive and drift dive. The night dive was terrifying and I almost had a panic when we first went into the water, but I clung to Danielle the whole time and survived!

WBAW2236

After three nights, when the course was finished we went back to Semporna and stayed in a hostel for a couple of nights.

We had managed to find a Sipadan pass but not with accommodation which meant we had to stay in Semporna and get the boat from there. The company we used were a ‘local’ company, so run by Malaysians. A lot of the dive shops are run by Chinese, Brits, Americans. It was really good, a tad dis-organised but all the equipment was decent! and we had a great guide who spoke really good English.

HHCK1387

MEZU8004

GXBW1675

DHWX4270

SGKB2270

BVWO6286

OVEP8091

From one of the most beautiful (underwater) places in the world to Kuala Lumpur. Follow us on the last part of our amazing journey. 

Advertisements

Top 10 Things To Do in New Zealand

Ok, we tried to give these some kind of order, however it was just impossible.  We tried nearly all of these things, however couldn’t go to Kaikoura due to there being an earthquake a week before we arrived.

New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places on earth and we felt well and truly spoilt   when going to see some less spectacular sights around Austral Asia and South East Asia.

We recommend to do New Zealand and Fiji LAST.  New Zealand is best to visit around February/ March if you want warmer weather, otherwise be prepared for the rain.

Don’t forget to check bookme.co.nz as you may find trips cheaper, especially if you book in advance.

 

1. Bay of Islands (North Island)

2. Cape Reinga (North Island)

3. Abel Tasman (South Island)

4. Milford Sound (South Island)

5. Hobbiton (South Island)

6. The Coromandel (North Island)

7. Queenstown (South Island)

8. Tongariro Alpine Crossing (South Island)

9. Rangitata (South Island)

10. Kaikoura

  • Dolphin swimming
  • Whale watching

Vietnam: Dalat – Mui Ne

Next bus journey took us to a little place called Dalat, we stayed in a hostel called ‘Dalat Green’, the owners were lovely; we had nice breakfasts and a free dinner one night. However, it was very small so quite difficult to meet people and was far away from the town (we would advise to stay near the lake). The main thing we did here was rent a scooter and enjoy a proper tourist day going to; Pongour waterfall, Elephant falls, a silk factory, a temple with a huge laughing Buddha and a coffee plantation (worst coffee we’d had in a while!). It was a beautiful day and quite easy to fit it all in as all fairly near each other…Pongour is just a bit further away and be prepared for about 500m of a bumpy scooter ride down a dirt track.

2EFBE35A-757E-4E7C-A81E-8D8AAC09747B

94

121

8969099D-8931-456C-B095-D083DBB6F8C9

26DBB57F-E095-4A41-9EC7-B7F69849030A

134

FDEE0BBA-D96B-4431-A775-B8E96BAA1D4F

So after our busy day we had a good nights sleep and in the morning got the bus to Mui Ne. To be honest the only thing we would recommend here is the sand dune sun rise tour which was pretty stunning even though our driver got us there late and we missed the first part of the sunrise….also our jeep didn’t actually drive on the sand which we thought it was going to so check that out when you book, we paid 70,000 dong so maybe you have to pay a bit more to get a better service. After the sunrise we also got driven to the red sand dunes where you can surf, to the fairy stream which is a stunning little walk, then finally to the fishing village which is quite sad as they don’t know anything about conservation and throw away scraps they don’t want and leave the poor little fish to die on the sand instead of putting them back in the water. We are not sure what/if anything we can do about this so if anyone knows or works in this area please tell us!

68

20

27

CDECE5CE-CB45-41C6-B9A7-FA66E560C288

D96C948C-6566-45B0-BDFC-44EE69DEB83C

80420AF2-AE4A-4AAC-9BBD-6F07578557C4

From Mui Ne we took the us to our final destination in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh (or Saigon, we found they were both used interchangeably).

Malaysia – Langkawi

First stop; Langkawi.

For the first two nights we stayed at Melatis VIP female dorm, which was basic but fine. We moved on for the next two nights as we found somewhere a bit cheaper round the corner. It was v basic the guys who ran it were really nice hippies, played their guitars and drank beer with us in the evening (owner in the picture). They also have cheap mopeds to rent here. Tip for Malaysia…unless your arriving late at night and just need somewhere to head straight to, hold off booking anywhere and just head to the backpackers area. You will more often than not find something cheaper than online.

IMG_1778.JPG

So what did we do for a few days on our first Malay island. We were staying in Pentai Cenang which has a huge beach with loads of water sports. The first evening we arrived we went exploring, unfortunately the nicest bit of the beach is round a corner and privately owned by expensive resorts, but we were allowed to have a walk.

18118651_10154498120135980_8189373623173602291_n

In the morning we went to the Langkawi cable car which takes you right up into the clouds. The weather wasn’t great the whole time in Langkawi with big rainstorms but the views were still amazing, and it was great to get of and walk to the bridge where we were literally waking through cloud. Sadly all our photos from this day were lost on Danielle’s camera ­čśŽ but just google Langkawi cable car and you will see the epic views from the top!

That evening we walked to a local night market, there wasnt really anything good to buy but the food was great and it was here we first had these epic pancakes with sweetcorn and penuts, sounds awful but was so gooD!

IMG_1769

IMG_1770

In the morning we had a slow day and went to a slightly different beach south of Pentai cenang. This was much nicer and quieter. However we soon got washed out by another tropical storm! It was quite beautiful though sat in our little sun shelter watching, and getting soaked by, the hot rain.

DCA6BD2E-5745-462D-82B5-35EB8CF033E9

That night we went out to ‘one love’ bar with some people we met in our hostel. Make sure you drink before or take some with you as the alcohol is not great for a travellers budget!

For our last day we explored the north of the island, going to pensat tongkorak beach and tanjung rhu beach. The first one is a tiny little piece of paradise, if you manage to catch it on a quiet day you’ll feel like your in heaven! When we went it wasn’t too busy but there was one couple enjoying themselves a little too much and it was putting everyone right off!! We were very relieved when they disappeared. The next beach is much bigger and half of it is private, but the views of big ocean space and white sand were lovely to end our little trip to langkawi!

IMG_1780.JPG

IMG_1791

IMG_1797

IMG_1798

Before leaving we also went to see the famous eagle at the port, really beautiful at night ­čÖé

IMG_1822

IMG_1815

Next stop… Penang!

Cambodia 

After our nice stressful bus journey from Vietnam we arrived pretty late to Phnom phen so went straight to sleep at the hostel. When you arrive in Cambodia make sure you have dollars, as unlike Vietnam, you have to pay for the hostel upfront. We stayed at Billabong hostel which had a great pool, and location was fine. Dorm was nice and big with a huge en suite and big singles. Great nights sleep!

85

Next day we went to the killing fields about half an hour away, it was $6 entry and audio tour. I would definitely say to get the audio tour, it was so informative. We didn’t know much about the genocide so was good way to learn. So, so sad but worth the visit.

101

104

In the afternoon we went to the Palace but didn’t actually go in as it was $10 but it’s a really nice area to walk around the outside and you still get some good views.

115

95

That was about it for us in the capital city.  So the next day we booked the bus to go to Siem Reap; $10. We stayed in Siem Reap Pub Hostel which was a nice little hostel with a decent pool, really good location right next to pub street and the night markets. Also right next door was a good place for food, it was cheap and the owner was lovely.  The shop after was the cheapest in the area for laundry at $1 per kilo.

3

The main thing to do in Siem Reap is obviously Angkor Wat temples. There are 1000 altogether! There’s a couple different options for tickets, we just got the day one which was $37 (they have recently just doubled the ticket price and no one could answer why…one lady told us it’s owned by the Vietnamese Government (not sure how true this is or how that works). Anyway it’s still worth this crazy western price, you’re probably only there once in your life! The day was absolutely plenty for us, but if you’re a temple fanatic look into the 3 day or 1 week tickets as they become a lot cheaper per day if you do this.

So we woke up at 4am to catch the sun rise over the main temple; Angkor wat. This was really stunning, just try and ignore the thousands of other people! Also when you are walking in, looking directly at the temple we went to the left as that’s what someone advised, however, we would recommend going to the right, we feel you get a slightly better view. We then spent the day exploring the hundreds of other temples and came back to the moat around Angkor wat to watch the sun set.

000B2C0E-0A7B-4B20-BEFF-940C6FC6DAB5

4D9BEBA4-CCDC-47D9-8A04-BD42C93C8954

Getting blessed by the monks ­čÖé

88A2E6FB-1594-4F48-BDC3-ED79E70D78DD

044DDE43-2A9E-4318-A2B7-56D24C28B385

Wondering around the temples…make sure your feeling fit!

8D15C68B-0B63-4FAA-B097-8D19232225EE

9DDDC9B1-3D06-4672-B4A2-F6C5174270F7

D633A44A-E4C2-4861-B7C8-79E4EF76D1E7

1E34167D-6D47-4F7B-A7AF-D5628CFEE59A

5EA6F851-77F2-4E67-93F7-CC6979A4805F

17DF82FF-49F3-48B4-A438-1B58384B4339

021AB88B-2CFC-47BF-AC00-3190099259EC

OPDP2223

20

24

7B7AD64D-C5ED-4BB0-ABE7-51D2BF7DF854

6ACDAB9D-72AF-40FF-B76F-E6C218359455
In the evening we had a walk around the night markets. ┬áThey are great and a fantastic place to buy cultural gifts. ┬áBartering is a challenge to get on with at times and being very British it makes you squirm a bit. ┬áWe’d recommend to start at just less than 1/2 of what they ask. ┬áThe ones that thrive off ripping off their customers will wave you off, however the realistic ones will slowly come down. It’s probably best to aim for just over 1/2 to 3/5 of their original price.

03A92E7D-4E6C-403F-9ECB-5E876F93A3B8

AC4F179F-AB0E-418D-BFB8-4F419A358B2A
The next day we flew to Bangkok ­čÖé

Indonesia – Lombok

At Lombok airport we went through the usual stress with the taxi drivers and managed to get one for 150,000 IDR. We then headed for Mataram, the capital city where we were staying for one night. The hotel was really nice (favhotel) but I’m aftraid to say that’s all that was. There isn’t anything to do in Mataram, if there is please let us know! So late morning we got in a cab to our next destination- Senggigi. We just used a local cab and asked them to put it on the meter, it ended up costing 60,000 IDR. Which is reasonable.

141.jpg

Senggigi is much nicer and had a bit more to do. We wondered down to the beach and had a little walk and Danielle finally purchased some elephant trousers she had been wanting since we arrived in Bali! She paid 50,000IDR which seemed to be the lowest any stall would go.

124

146

120

We also treated ourselves to a massage from what seemed to be a chain spa as they were everywhere, called ‘Orchid’. We both had back and shoulders, 30 mins, which was 45,000 IDR pp.

That evening we walked to a local bar which was pretty much empty but had live music and a pool table so we were happy!

3F3553C4-3899-4804-9FA0-25EA33CB2AA2

75B76862-9D24-4B2B-9564-6655654B69CB

9F095FB3-F9E9-4A69-9733-1778538163F5

In the morning we had an early start as we were commencing the journey to Gili Trawangan. We paid 65,000 IDR pp which included the shuttle from our Hostel and the local boat over to the island. They picked us up from the hostel at 0830 (Lombok time meant this was really 0900) and our ferry was at 1030. We arrived on Gili T (feeling pretty queasy from the boat journey) about 1115.

Indonesia: Bali – Uluwatu – Seminyak

Hello Asia!

Uluwatu 

We arrived into Bali’s capital from Cairns (check out our last posts for Australia East-Coast) pretty late so were keen to get on with our hours journey to Uluwatu.  And evidently half of the Balinese taxi drivers were keen to take us…For a small fortune of course. At first we tried to get an uber but later realised they cannot get into the airport so had to go with one of the guys waiting outside. *

*Note uber is only effective in certain areas of Bali, it’s pretty taboo in general and the local taxi drivers will tell you it’s illegal. We will try and highlight where it’s good to use.

So back to the airport taxi drivers; after being hassled and heckled we finally managed to  barter one of the drivers down to 150,000 IDR (approx ┬ú9). This is about reasonable, they’re starting prices are crazy! Don’t accept straight away.

When we got to our hotel there was no one at reception…as it was about midnight we started invisigioning a night on the benches. Luckily about 20mins later a man showed up on his moped and we sucsessfully checked in after a few communication issues. Sleep time!

Next day we wondered around and had our first Indonesian coffee…interesting experience. Try it once, then look out for the machines!  We hired a moped in the afternoon and drove to the Uluwatu temple. Definitely go do this if your in Uluwatu it’s a good cultural visit, and you can experience the local monkeys. We had the moped the next day too so drove to the beach (1000 IDR entry fee) and had a little swim. Unfortunately we wernt in the right season for surfing but normally it’s a good surf spot.

189

183

194

2F774631-A557-4723-8DA2-B8070CA57F85

3B543018-7E95-438F-AFAE-FCFCA2F9765D

00972DDD-81FC-4781-A18F-B22D86B88CA9

 

2B0D5C10-DA3A-40C3-8FC7-FCEFAE209BEE

21AD0D59-B11C-4074-A4AC-067B51460754

213DFE55-E3D7-4EB7-86B3-3F648BA4B7BC

ADA4708A-D4C7-4789-BB7C-A22AA0FA5F95

59858BC0-9A69-4C5F-817D-CA5F0662DD68

1F90757B-53CE-45B8-B724-3572803C8AF8

 

In the afternoon we ordered an uber*successful*to get to our hotel in Seminyak, this cost 120,000 IDR and we had a really nice taxi driver from Java so he gave us some tips for what to do there.

Seminyak

Our hotel in Seminyak was nice and we went to a local restaurant for dinner that night, good food but tiny portions. *

In the morning we hired a moped and took the obligatory trip to Potato Head Beach Club. This took us a lot longer than anticipated as the location on Google maps is incorrect, look out for the Alia hotel and you will find it more easily!  When we eventually arrived we ordered a cocktail (mocktail for Danielle) which was beaut, just watch out for the price tag, London not Indonesian.

 

3B8B3030-F1FC-4E5B-8FD3-E35DD742917B

2FCDEE3A-F35C-46F0-9CC2-CE8A7FAD530A

4E6B807D-DBF5-435A-A7F0-0832211E067E

 

99938297-DE58-4E1D-A8AD-BAAEA4686C21

6F37E7FE-096F-45BE-AE3E-2E61908DF8BD

7AA27810-685A-4DA6-9125-844D8914A037

191

187

181

Check out our next trip where we explore Ubud and the Monkey forest.