…and back into Malaysia again

I stopped out to watch us batter Manchester United and really scupper the start of their season. And then updated the Ubuntu installation on my laptop. And talked to one of the café staff for half an hour. As a result, I got to bed around 2:30am with a 6:00 rise. Whoops.

As ever, though, I did wake before my alarm went off and gathered my things. All I had to pack was my toothbrush and toothpaste. I’d done everythign else the night before to ensure I didn’t wake my roomies. I’m nice like that.

It was only a quick walk to the bus stop where Mel and John were already waiting. Our bus was delayed slightly, but took off like a rally car once we were on board. The “you are going too fast” beeper in the driver’s cabin must have needed new batteries by the time we got to the ferry terminal.

The ticket was $15 and there’s also a $1 departure tax you pay a few metres further on so do be prepared with that extra buck for when you’re leaving the country!

The boat we got onto, the Seri Anna, was nice enough and spacious with TV screens – like a more comfortable ocean-going version of the river boats. With only 45 minutes or so of travel, it’s surprising they bothered putting a film on but they did anyway. Not that it mattered. I conke dout and awoke as we were approaching the ferry terminal at Pulau Labuan.

Our ferry back to the mainland and Kota Kinabalu wasn’t until 13:00 so we had some time to kill. My travel buddies headed for the war cemetery – from the photos, very similar to the one in Kanchanaburi – and I walked to the museum. Quite small and quite nice. They’ve even changed some of the signs, correcting inaccuracies. It’s predominantly about the history, geology and geography of the island. It’s had quite a history, being owned and run by various different parties before becoming the second Federal State of Malaysia – the status it currently holds.

I still had a little time, so walked out to the Marine Sports complex. This isn’t too hard to find – continue past the museum till you reach a sports field. Cross or walk round this and you’ll join another road with a huge bright red “fire water tank”. Go down this road about 100m and it’s on the right.

My reason for walking here was predominantly to see the marine museum it holds. Again, quite a small one but very nice with plenty of tanks with some interesting sea creatures inside. There’s a ton of information and more details on the four wrecks off the coasts, all of which are diveable. However, I don’t believe anyone runs trips to them at present, though this might have changed.

As the sun beat down, I walked back towards the ferry terminal only pausing for a large Pepsi at KFC (new landmass, new KFC…) where I couldn’t get the free wifi to work. If I had, you’d be reading this minutes after I typed it! Instead, I’m just about to pack up and walk over the road to the ferry terminal and collect my rucksack from left luggage.

More later…

OK, now it’s later (that was quick, wasn’t it?). The ferry journey from the island to the mainland was almost three hours, but fairly smooth. We were inflicted with the first Fantastic Four film and the second recent Zorro one. I’m rather glad I was tired as I just slept with the sounds of Disturbed and Dragonforce ringing in my ears.

Arriving in Kota Kinabalu meant that I was in another state of Malaysia – Sabah. This is the touristy one, and by all reports is busy at the moment. We did see a fair few tourists (obvious Europeans) kicking about, but it didn’t seem that hectic, in all honesty.

A short walk brought us to the Tropicana Lodge where I’d made a booking. Vincent, the owner/landlord/whatever was in a bit of a state as he’d been out on a night boat and had barely slept since returning. Regardless, he answered all my questions and started on sorting me out a dive class while I ditched my kit and met J & M for a beer downstairs.

From there we made our way over to Little Italy for a pizza/pasta fest. Expensive, but great food. A point to note in KK (and possibly all of Sabah) is the incredibly irritating “all prices subject to 10% service charge and 5% government tax” notice, usually dropped on a sign somewhere, or the bottom of one page of a menu. If all prices are subject to it, then why not just list it as part of the published price the way we do VAT in the UK? America, also take note with your flipping sales tax. If I see a price sticker saying “Snickers 40c” I expect to pay 40c at the check-out. Not 40c plus whatever your state’s sales tax is. Get it together, people.

Anyhoo, the meal was good if expensive. Melissa was tired, so John and I had one more beer before heading back (they’re travelling elsewhere in the morning) and I latched onto a German couple who were walking to the night market. We prowled the identikit stalls (wallets, sunglasses, cheap jewellery… repeat ad infinitum) then gave up and walked to an open air bar for a beer. Two large bottles of Tiger for MR21… plus the aforementioned tax and service. Good grief.

It seems I’ll be doing all my diving from Semporna. Apparently it’s cheaper and I can get a Rescue Diver package any time I want. So that means cutting my stay here short and doing the climb of Kinabalu in a couple of weeks, perhaps after I’ve achieved Dive Master. Plans are fluid as always, but I’ll keep you up to date!

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