Day 247: Goodbye To All That

Wed. 17th April 2013

Seaside Travellers Inn, KinarutThe atmosphere at breakfast was a little downbeat this morning. Today, we all go our separate ways and each of us has a touch of melancholy as we contemplate saying goodbye to people who have become friends and goodbye to Borneo. It has been a great group of people with a real mix of backgrounds and personalities and we have all enjoyed the amazing wildlife, beautiful scenery and challenging activities that Borneo has had to offer.

I suppose they would have had the originals at one point. Fake red phone boxes on the pier at Jesselton PointWe have a final day in Kota Kinabalu and are grateful that we decided not to fly on this morning but to have an extra 24 hours to catch up on any remaining sights in KK. This also allows us to say goodbye properly and to share a taxi into town as we drop Cynta and Fay off at the airport and Johnny and Patricia at the ferry terminal – just not the ferry terminal (at Jesselton Point) that we were expecting. It is too early for us to check into our hotel for tonight (actually, that is the first time we have not been able to check in early in 8 months of travelling) but at least we are able to leave our backpacks there and head off into town in search of morning coffee.

The harbour always seems to be busyOur hotel is nearer the centre of KK than the Shangri-La where we have previously stayed and so we are easily able to wander down to Jesselton Point for a final look at the ferries and boats. The port is as busy and bustling as ever and there is one of the Labuan ferries docked bringing back more memories of our first arrival here a couple of weeks ago. There is some building work beside the pier as they have reclaimed some land and seem to be building a new pier or terminal building or (please not) another shopping mall. It looks like Jesselton is going to continue to get busier.

Dumplings for lunchWe need to keep moving on as we can see the clouds starting to build up and it is get darker. It is lunch time but we don’t really want to stop and so we grab a couple of stuffed dumplings from one of the stalls on the pier. We’ve been meaning to try these for a while and today is our last chance. What a shame that we waited until our last day as they are a real treat – the dumpling dough is very light and the fillings – chicken in soy-sauce (kicap) and chicken curry – were tasty. Pudding was some freshly sliced pineapple and yellow watermelon (a little sweeter than the red variety) just the job and all for at total of RM7 (about £1.50).

Observation tower on Signal HillThere is a museum in KK that is supposed to be worth visiting, but it is a little way out of the centre of town and so we decide to give it a miss and instead head for the Observation Tower on Signal Hill. Once again, the clue is in the name, and Janet counts the 244 steps up the hill – “one fewer than the number of the house where I grew up” she observes. Fortunately, our legs have now recovered from their post-Kinabalu stiffness. The view from the top would at one time have been fantastic looking out to sea and to the islands in Tanku Abdul Rahman park. Now, however, it is mostly just hotel blocks and shopping malls.

Looking out from our hotel room at the Atkinson Clock towerWe can spot both our hotel and the Atkinson Clock tower which is our next destination. The clock tower was built between 1902 & 1905 (not clear why it took so long) and named after the British first District Officer of KK (who died of what was then known as “Borneo Fever” but is now called malaria – keep taking the tablets). It seems to be like the apocryphal “grandfather’s axe” – both the facade and the tower have been rebuilt and replaced. Its also not very tall, noteworthy or particularly photogenic. But it is there and so we trot along to see it – only to find that we can get the best photo of it from our hotel room window.

Looking out at downtown KK from our hotelWe beat the rain back to the hotel but it soon starts up right on time at around 3pm. One of the reasons that we booked this hotel was that it has a swimming pool and so we’re going to use it rain or not. With the sky grey and rain coming down it is cool both in the water and out – not at all like the photo used by the hotel on (strangely enough). So we don’t feel a need to linger very long in there.

And goodbye from him too. A final, gratuitous, orang-utan photoAnd then we’re done. We’re happy that we have seen sufficient of KK and, whilst it is a shame not to have got to Sandakan or Turtle Island – or the Indonesian part of Borneo, come to that – we’re happy that we’ve seen enough of Borneo. From Cynta, we have learnt a new Dutch word – mafketel – (or muffkettle) that means ‘weirdo’ and that seems to apply to Borneo – so many strange and unusual sights and animals. The wildlife (and not just the orang-utans) has been right up with the Galapagos in terms of its visibility and variety. The people have been friendly and the food tasty (though we wish they could carve chickens properly not just hack them to pieces with cleavers bones and all). Tomorrow, we head for Taiwan to meet up with Rob and Sian and their family along with Calum, my nephew, who is also out here teaching English. More adventures and stories, no doubt, but for now – thank you, Borneo and thank you to everyone we met here who helped make it so enjoyable and memorable.

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