Instead of walking up the volcano all night and then down in the morning, we get to sleep in. Our flight is at noon, but is delayed a fair bit, so the plan to meet up with Jourdan and Alex for dinner in Jakarta ends up falling through. In no small part due to the fact that Jakarta is huge and getting around, even by taxi, takes forever. It’s cheap enough though, which is nice.Decorative car The Jakartan girls we met at Jomblang had given us a few suggestion of things to do, but we didn’t write them down so they’re pretty much forgotten. There’s this market street that the guide books recommend though, so we head over there to have a look.

The market sucks soo bad though, I wouldn’t even call it a market. It’s more like a shopping street filled with regular stores. So we don’t linger long, but instead start walking to the nearby art museum. All the museum-looking buildings in that direction appear closed though, so we keep walking, aiming for a cool looking statue, standing high atop a pillar in the middle of a park.

ParkThere isn’t much more to the park than the statue though so we wander off in search of the cathedral tower we saw earlier. It proves somewhat problematic though, mainly because Jakarta seems to hate pedestrians, so we finally get a tuk-tuk to take us there. The cathedral has a wedding going on so we just sneak around on the outside and briefly peek inside. (too bad we didn’t know what we learned later when talking to Rara and Vera (the Jakartan girls), that Indonesian weddings are very public affairs and that generally anyone is welcome to just walk in and join the festivities!)

The fact that most things are closed, that you can’t really walk anywhere and that it’s raining finally add up and we decide to head to another part of town. Something had caught my eye earlier when researching things to do; there is a JKT48 show in town! Now, the JKT48 phenomenon requires a bit of explanation: It all started in Japan as the all girl group AKB48, short for Akihabara 48 (which is a district in Tokyo). It is an all-girl constructed pop group where most of the girls are teenagers or early twenties. They usually perform in groups of 12, called teams, and do two or three shows a day.Cathedral I was fascinated by this concept back when I worked in Japan, but trying to get tickets for a show is very hard if you don’t know any Japanese so I never managed to go. I did manage to go to their gift store though, which is pretty fascinating all by itself. There are all manners of collectibles, including albums you put stickers in with the different members, much like the sticker albums I had as a kid with the Transformers.

So the place we go to is the mall where the JKT48 are performing, but since the show isn’t yet for a few hours we roam around the pretty cool mall. In the middle of if there is an open space that runs all the way up to the ceiling on level 5 and in it is a long tube spiraling down. As we trace it up with our eyes we suddenly hear a trundling noise and inside the tube there is a person zipping past! Obviously this is something we need to investigate, so we head up to the top floor and find the entrance to it. The guy shakes his head though and says we need to buy tickets down at the slide exit. We’re pretty much used to this kind of nonsense at this point though so we head back down again (in the end it did make a certain amount of sense though since you have to leave your bag and such in storage since you can’t take it on the slide). When we finally get to ride it’s pretty cool, you get a little rug to sit on and off you go at breakneck speed. When you exit the chute at the bottom you slide and tumble for several meters before coming to a halt on the padded mats. I guess there is a good reason they make you wear a helmet…

ArtistWe roam around some more before the show until it’s time for the lottery. We weren’t really sure what the lottery was but it turned out to be that you don’t buy a specific seat, rather they call out a random number, and everyone with that number on their ticket get to go in and choose a seat. A pretty good system when you’re dealing with fans who otherwise would be willing to wait for hours to get in. We get seats in the back but the hall is pretty small and there are no really bad seats in there. We notice that the fans are almost entirely teenage boys, with the occasional sprinkle of girls (and one or two men in their fifties, as you might expect…).

We’re seated next to a university student who speaks great English and can explain a lot of what is going on. The show is mostly prerecorded singing and a lot of (rather good) dancing. Every now and then though, four of them will be alone on stage and do some sort of dialogue with each other. The student explains that they talk about their plans for the future, favorite foods and so on. One of the girls repeatedly talks about how she’s going into politics and becoming the president of Indonesia. All in all the show is a rather fun spectacle and something you really only see in this part of the world (but give it a few years and I’m sure it’ll come to Europe as well).

When the show is done you get to shake hands with all the performers and I even get a present from one of them; a cute little origami box. You can also take a picture with one of them, but only if you buy a single as well. They’re a moneymaking machine after all… Afterwards, all we really have time for is to get our luggage and go to the airport. Jen hops on the plane to Hong Kong while I board for Beijing, feeling like my adventure is just about to start.

Yogyakarta Caving

From Bali we fly into Yogyakarta on Java, where we’ve booked two adventures; the Jomblang cave and a trek up the volcano Mount Merapi. The hostel we’re at is cozy little place with a quirky atmosphere.Psychedelic bathroom But not until I open the door to the bathroom am I able to fully appreciate the how truly bonkers this place is! The bathroom looks like it was built by a hippie on an acid trip, it feels like stepping into the bathroom at Willy Wonka’s factory. Colors everywhere and a sort of lovingly hand crafted bath tub and a mirror masoned into the wall! It would have been really funny to see the other bathrooms at this place! The owner is probably an amateur artist, because the entire hostel is filled with awesomely bad paintings and questionable taste.

The cave tour is early next morning, so we make sure to set our clocks for 7 am. Too bad we forgot that there is a time zone change between Bali and Java… So of course we’re up one hour early, which is too early to get any breakfast even. Back when I was booking this tour I spoke to the owner of the hostel and I got the feeling that he wasn’t really booking us. Miscommunications like that aren’t uncommon when the staff doesn’t speak great English though so I reconfirmed several times, using different wordings to try to convey that we wanted it fully booked. He repeatedly said that it wouldn’t be a problem though, but never explained why, so I’m still a bit skittish when we get into the car with our driver.

He’s a really nice guy, but doesn’t speak a lot of English. He probably is the world’s biggest Aerosmith fan though, and we lose count of how many times we’re forced to listen to Cryin’, Pink and “I don’t Want to Miss a Thing”. The few songs that aren’t Aerosmith range from Dido and Roxette to Europe – a rather unexpected mix I’d say. After about an hour of driving, we start to realize that the driver is lost. This doesn’t help the already uneasy feeling we have. Luckily he’s not too proud to stop and ask, so we’re soon back on the right track.Going down! The road leading up to the cave is a rather small dirt road, and just as you think it can’t get any smaller, it does. Towards the end it’s scarcely more than a foot path, but we do manage to get there.

Going up to the house, it seems like my fears were justified. There is hardly anyone around and our driver speaks to a few workmen who are busy making some sort of huge drums. It looks to us that no one here was even notified that we were coming… The driver seems calm enough though and tells us to sit down. The thing with this tour is that you go down into this cave and you make your way over to a natural shaft where the light shines down in a very special way, but only at a very narrow window of time. So the fact that no one seems to be aware of that we were coming is rather worrying. Well, not much to do but to wait though.

After a good 45 minutes or so a guy comes and tells us to try on rubber boots. He actually seems like a guide, so we start getting our hopes up that this is happening after all. We get geared up in safety harnesses and everything and we walk down a few steps. What we didn’t realize was that the cave was actually right there in the back yard all along! The entrance to the cave is basically a big hole in the ground, some 60 meters in diameter and about as deep.Looking up You enter by being hoisted straight down into the hole. When I read about it, I got the impression that we would be rappelling down, but no, you’re pretty much dangling like an earth worm on a fishing hook the entire way. This is of course rather scary if you’re afraid of heights like I am, but it went surprisingly well.

Down in the pit it is very hot and humid. For some reason we are told to wait around and finally our guide is able to explain why. Apparently while we were going down, two more tourists arrived. So we have to wait for them to get down as well. Fortunately it goes rather quickly, and since it is two rather petite girls they just took both of them at the same time. The girls are two architecture students from Jakarta; Rara and Vera. They speak excellent English which is really nice, since the guide hardly does at all. They are also cool as cucumbers and doesn’t even blink when Jen does what she usually does; i.e. finds a millipede and picks it up.

Pillar of lightThe way down into the cave is super slippery. It’s basically a mudslide with tiny steps. When you get to the bottom, there is nothing but ankle deep mud, except for a line of stepping stones laid out for us to walk on. It is a rather precarious walk and we try our best to light the way for each other. It’s not that far, maybe 300 meters, and we do manage without embarrassing slips to finally find ourselves in the shaft. Here we have to take our boots off in order to protect the sensitive calcium deposits, accumulated over god only know how many years.

It’s a really neat feeling walking around barefoot on the calcium and we just go around exploring a bit, waiting for the time when the sun is supposed to start shining down the shaft. When it finally does you instantly understand what all the fuss was about, it’s a truly awesome sight and we hurry up to pose for photos. The phenomenon only lasts for about 30 minutes, so you want to be there in time for sure. We linger about for the full half hour, just enjoying the special atmosphere of it. The entire time water is dripping down from the surface and you have to take care not to get the camera wet. There are little pools forming on the ground and Jen even spots a little crab in one of them! There is also an underground river down below that you can swim in if you come at the right time of year. But right now is rainy season and the river is quite unruly.
Going back out is a fair bit quicker now that we’ve gotten a hang of mudwalking and once back at where we landed our guide shouts something to the guys up top and down comes the rope again. Going up is surprisingly fast, about two thirds up the ascent comes to a sudden halt that sends me spinning round. (not at all helpful if you’re already scared) Once back up top I see why; there is a team of maybe ten guys that just grab the rope and start walking down a path, away from the hole. After 40 m or so the path stops and they put the rope down and walk back to take it the rest of the way. (the rope goes through a thingamabob that prevents it from going the wrong direction of course)

Civet catOn the way back the driver has promised to take us to a small family run coffee roastery where they make some of the famed Kopi Luwak coffee. Kopi Luwak is not like other coffees in that the production of it involves the civet cat. This creature feeds on coffee berries, and it is very picky, only taking the very ripest berries. The kernel (which is the actual coffee bean) then passes through its digestive tract, which supposedly make the beans lose some of their acidity. The turds are then harvested (we got to see them, they are actually neither smelly nor sticky), the beans peeled (by hand!) and then roasted. This roastery had the cats in cages though so I doubt they’re fed only the ripest of berries… I bought two bags, which were certainly cheaper than in Sweden but still rather expensive. But hey, it’s java from Java, bought fresh right from the producer.

Our driver also had a suggestion for lunch that was a bit too cool to turn down: bat skewers! He pulls up next to a shed and shows us inside. There are a few benches and a makeshift stove with an open fire and we get to choose between soup and skewers. Jen gets the soup and I get the skewers and we sit down to eat. It’s actually rather good, but the meat isn’t exactly tender and there are lots of sinews. Still, it’s pretty cool to have tried bat. Our driver drops us off back at the hostel after that and we get some sleep before the tonight’s trek. But Jen once again comes down with the mysterious nausea she got back on Kinabalu (no, she’s not pregnant =P) and we decide it’s best to cancel it. I can’t say I’m all that torn up about it though, climbing one mountain was enough for this vacation.

Monkey Wrestling

Back in Bali we have booked transfer along to the inland town of Ubud.Hostel backyard! When we finally get there it’s after four in the afternoon instead of noon like we planned and the tour we booked has to be cancelled. The hostel Jourdan found for us is super nice though, I’d call it a hotel actually, and has a very cool temple-like backyard with an infinity pool and everything. Ubud itself also seems like a rather nice town, certainly bigger than I’d imagined when looking at the map. The sidewalks are terrible though, meandering up and down in sometimes inexplicable level changes.

It seems like every other citizen of Ubud is either running a taxi service or a massage parlor, according to our rather unscientific sampling. They generally only ask once though and can take no for an answer, so they aren’t that annoying. We end up eating at a rather upscale-looking place that has about twice the price level of Gili Air, but also twice the food (and drink-) quality.

Monkey feedingJourdan and Alex have a cooking class the next morning, so Jen and I are off by ourselves. We start by going to the nearby Monkey Forest. It’s a very pretty area in the middle of town with lots of vegetation, and of course, monkeys. There are tourists everywhere, feeding the monkeys bananas that you can buy at the entrance. Finally I too cave and get some, and sure enough, along come the monkeys. But there is one big, surly one that gets most of them on account of being rather scary looking and insistent. We do eventually find a smaller one and as instructed by the lady selling the bananas we hold them up high to get the monkey to climb up. Jen has one sitting on her shoulder happily eating as we snap a few pictures, I also get one and even if it’s very touristy, it’s quite fun.

We walk back and find ourselves in a rather deserted end of the park. There are plenty of monkeys here as well and we get some nice pictures, they’re even more climber happy than the others and several of them try to munch at the Docomodake mushroom plush toy I have on my bag. They are sorely disappointed though and another climbs on top of my head and start gnawing on my hat.Monkey king? Fortunately their teeth are much like human teeth and not sharp at all, it wouldn’t do to have them breaking skin and having to get rabies shots.

At this point we feel rather done with the monkeys and head back to city center. After wandering a good while we stop in at a Italian restaurant called Blackbeach, boasting to have an Italian owner. The pizza is actually decent, but their bruschetta with black olive tapenade is to die for! We end up staying there for most of the afternoon before we have to head back in order to catch our taxi to the airport. The cabbie has a terrible taste in music and it seems that if I put my mind to it I could make a breakthrough recording artist around here; the music is filled with cheesy synthesizers, uninspiring vocals and awesomely bad drum fills.

Gili Air

Since we arrive in the evening we have one night at a hostel in Bali before heading out Gili Air the following morning. It’s a good thing too, since the hostel is pretty skeezy – lots of older men with younger, local, women. The food is really great though and in the morning we’re picked up by a van that will take us to the speedboat.Mellow cuttlefish We’re not very impressed by the fact that the speedboat leaves dock at 1.5 h after designated time. Equally unimpressive is the freezing temperature they’ve set the AC and the hysterical techno beats pouring out of the speakers just overhead.

It gets us to Gili Air though and as we find our way to the dive shop and everything looks very good; super nice rooms, a big reception area, their own beachside restaurant with cozy cabanas to have your breakfast in. The diving part of their operation is less impressive though; they only have two full time dive masters and we find out that we can’t even do a dive the same day since they’re short-staffed – even though we booked over a month in advance…Harlequin shrimp They also don’t do more than two dives a day, which isn’t very much (we were planning to do at least three a day). It all works out really well though and there is never a problem doing a dive, they are also very nice about us being late a couple of times when lunch service had been terribly slow. (whatever you do, don’t eat at Zipp’s, even though their wood fire oven looks promising)

In terms of diving, Gili Air has some really nice features, chief among them the abundance of turtles. I saw two within ten minutes of my first dive, so you’d have to be very unlucky to not see turtles here. Our most memorable dives were probably our muck dives – dives where you go fairly shallow and look at small stuff and get rather long dive times. Outside Lombok we saw spiky sea horse, ghost pipefish and ribbon eels; on our night dives out in the house reef we saw decorator crabs, juvenile sweetlips, spanish dancers and even a mandarin fish! We also witnessed a tussle between two squid, ink in the water and everything.Bike inspector Additionally, the probably most unlikely thing to happen to me on any dive so far was when we found a green turtle at the end of our night dive. We followed along with it when it swam, when it suddenly veers sharply towards me and then takes off like a rocket. I suspect the turtle was as surprised as I was when it hits me square in the chest! It was never aggressive though and went on its confused way after that.

There was also the fabulous Secret Garden, or Turtle City as I’d call it. Immediately upon descent we meet two turtles and a trigger fish, munching away at some coral. We pose for some pictures while our dive master goes off and finds us some more, even bigger, turtles.Hermit crab They are all very friendly and don’t mind the attention. In the area Jen finds a mantis shrimp (head on over to The Oatmeal and read about these awesome critters right now!), this one is rather shy though and doesn’t really show itself. Just a few meters off though, I find another one. This one is out in the open and is even stalking a fish. I get some great video of it all, or so I thought. Turns out that I’d double-tapped the button and immediately ended the recording… Mantis shrimps are super cool, and I’d never seen any before this trip, but around the Gilis they seem to be relatively common. Just be on the lookout for those big freaky eyes poking out from under a coral rock, after a while you’ll get pretty adept at spotting them.

Another memorable dive was the second one I did, at the so-called Bounty Wreck. It’s actually a jetty that sunk during a storm back in 2005 and it has become the home to a lot of fish and corals over the years. This day however, it was super strong current, so strong that you had no option but to just go with the flow at most times. It was both scary and fun, even though we didn’t see much on that dive. At the very end we did find two turtles taking shelter from the current behind a rock.Duuuh

In the end we were pretty satisfied with both the diving and the dive center. 11 dives, of which two were night dives cost me roughly 1600 sek, but then I also lugged my new BCD along and only rented fins, tank, weights and wetsuit which earned me an additional 5% rebate.

Getting back to Bali turned out to be harder than we thought. We’d already booked speedboat tickets through the dive center but over the days we’re there we hear that the speedboats aren’t running due to bad weather.What are you looking at?! That sounded rather strange to us since the weather seemed just fine. Little did we know… On the departure day we get word that there will be one speedboat leaving, but that it will be leaving at 10 instead of 8 as we booked. Not much to do about that, but when we get there they say it’s 11 instead. When we finally leave, it’s more like 12 o’clock and as we get out on the open sea we find out why. The waves are something like three meters high and we’re bobbing along at what seems like far too high-speed. The captain seems to really know his/her stuff though and even though we’re blazing along at full speed, it never felt unsafe. It’s a good thing I don’t have any motion sickness, poor Alex wasn’t as lucky and ended up spray painting all four 150 hp engines in one glorious stream of puke! Rather impressive if you ask me.

Mount Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu is a very small town on the northern, Malaysian, point of Borneo. Our hostel is really dingy, fortunately we’re only staying the night before heading up the nearby Mount Kinabalu (4096.2 m high). Our guide is a cheerful little guy called Fazely and it actually seems like we’ll have fantastic weather, just like we did in Brunei.Beautiful, isn't it? The trail up to the hostel where we’ll spend the night before going up to the top to see the sunrise is 6 km long and it’s up, up, up all the way. The lower parts are very lush and there’s lots to look at, not at all like mount Fuji which only has volcanic sand wherever you look. Keep a lookout for pitcher plants which are numerous along the path, an especially big one is at around the 4.5 km marker.

The path is very well maintained with lots of stairs and good railings. Looking at the trail map I figured that we probably needn’t stop at all the rest stops on the way up. Boy was I wrong…Still smiling You are more or less exhausted every time you reach a stop and grateful for the pause. We stop for our pack lunch at two thirds up and the squirrels have a field day with our fruit peels. Reaching the hostel takes us about 6.5 h (normal time is apparently 5-6 hours…) and we’re greeted with an awesome dinner; tons to choose from and very prepared! There’s a balcony to sit at that has a stupendous view, but it’s already packed of course. The rooms are okay as well, but the bathroom only has cold water (not that surprising, considering we’re more than 3200 m over sea level). We turn in early since we’re due to start climbing the remaining 2.7 km again at 2:30 am.

It’s a bit nippy now, but since my ascent of mount Fuji I’ve learned my lesson and am appropriately dressed. Since it’s pitch dark we all have headlamps now and you have to watch your step as it’s pretty slippery at places.Reflection It starts out as yesterday with more stairs, but after a while we go above the treeline and it gets a bit steep. There are ropes to hold on to though, but since you can’t see much it’s a bit scary since you can’t see how steep it is. The final one and a half kilometer levels out a bit but since you are pretty tired it’s still tough going, Jen also feels rather queasy since she had too much breakfast and we have to stop a lot for her to almost throw up. As you approach the peak it’s pretty steep again, but since you’re pretty psyched for it to be over at this point it’s not very bad. We find a nice spot and sit down and wait for the sunrise. We’ve timed it pretty well and don’t have to wait long. After the obligatory top photo with the sign we begin our descent.

MountaineersGoing down from the top you realize just how gorgeous a mountain this is! It actually has a whole bunch of pinnacles, all at around 4000 meters and walking over the top plateau you see most of them in all their glory. I’m sorry Fuji-san, but mount Kinabalu has you beat on every count. The walk down is very pleasant and certainly worth all that effort going up. Back down at the hostel we get a second, equally good, breakfast before grabbing our stuff to go down the remaining 6 kilometers. Back in Kota Kinabalu we’re recommended to go down to the fish market for dinner, it’s very authentic and we get some very nice, fresh, squid and some grilled fish.

We wake up with predictably terrible DOMS and hobble around for some final sight-seeing of the town (there really isn’t much to see here). I do get my hands on a jersey for the local football team Sabah FC, which is pretty neat. That’s about all we have time for though, before having to catch the flight down to Bali, Indonesia.

Brunei bug hunting

It’s time to go back to Kuala Lumpur and even though I’ve only given Singapore a couple of days, it feels like enough. While I wouldn’t mind going for one of the other walking tours about the second world war, I won’t miss it terribly either.Petronas Towers Being a bit stupid in not understanding that there are a whole bunch of bus companies in the same building I end up booking at the first one I walk by and getting a luxury ticket as well. It turns out that my luxury ride is this tired old Scania bus, that while probably state of the art back when it was built (approximately some time in the 80ies), is now only worn down and dingy. It also comes with a hostess that serves the most vile microwaved meal and brings us watered down coffee.

The lady who sold me the ticket told me that I would be dropped off at the bus firm’s office in downtown Kuala Lumpur and that I would be able to store my luggage there. Though when the time comes I’m shoved off next to a parking lot, with not an office in sight. Fuckers… That means that I have to first lug all my stuff, first to a metro station, then go back to the main bus station (where I would’ve been dropped off if I’d gone with a different bus company), stash my luggage in a locker and go back to downtown, a process that takes me almost two hours. Oh well, no use moping about that. I go to the most natural tourist spot in Kuala Lumpur – Petronas Towers, only to find out that today’s tickets to the bridge between the towers are sold out. Apparently they have 900-something tickets a day, divided into a few slots. And since the last slots are probably the most popular as that’s when it gets dark and you get to see the city lights, they are probably the first to go. The moral of all this is to get there early and be prepared to take an early slot if you want any tickets at all.

Burrowing spiderI take to wandering the area in hopes of finding anything interesting and am annoyed to find that not only is it thoroughly boring, but also appallingly pedestrian-hostile. I try going a few stations down the metro to see if it’s any better, but alas, it seems like Kuala Lumpur is even worse than Singapore. There really isn’t much to like, at least not on first impressions. I guess I’ll have to do some reasearch if I’m going back some day. The day is turning into evening though and it’s time to go to the airport and meet the girls. The weird thing is that when I finally make it there I can’t find the flight listed on the monitors. I double-check the flight and it’s the correct one so I figure it’s some sort of mistake. But doubt gnaws away at me and finally find an information booth where the lady tells me that yes, that is the correct flight, but it doesn’t land at this terminal, it lands at this entirely separate terminal, where all the low-cost carriers land.Creepy crawly Fortunately I have just enough time to catch a cab to go over there – which turns out to be over twenty minutes away at break-neck speed.

I meet up with the girls, only to find out that Jourdan’s (Jen’s roommate) boyfriend has arrived on the other terminal and that none of their mobile phones work outside China (seriously, China Mobile has no roaming agreements?). Fortunately my phone still works and I’m able to send Alex an SMS so that he can take a cab in the same manner as I did. Finally the gang is assembled and we can sit down and await the morning flight to Brunei (actually pronounced Brunai, look it up!)

The tour company isn’t picking us up until 13:30, so we have some time to kill at the airport. Problem is that there is exactly nothing to do at Brunei airport. There is one store where we can buy a snack and suddenly it’s closed for no apparent reason. The actual pickup spot doesn’t exist either, so for a while we’re both annoyed and confused. To make matters worse, there is absolutely no one around to actually ask. We later learn that since we have arrived on a Friday, and Brunei is a Muslim country, everything closes from 12-14 to allow people to go to the mosque.

Canopy walkWe do eventually get picked up and driven 10 minutes into town and a little dock. There we hop on a speedboat, and like the boat sequences in Spy Hunter (the C64 game) we proceed at dizzying speed upriver. There we meet Tom, our guide for this part of the trip and board a minivan, taking us to the next river, the ride is uneventful but there is one funny detail when Tom complains about the ridiculously high gas prices they’ve had lately; 54 Brunei cents per liter (which is 2.77 sek, whereas in Sweden it’s more than five times that; currently 14.53 sek per liter…). Arriving at the river, we pack our stuff into a longboat and begin the last leg. With great skill our driver/captain navigates the shallow river in the unwieldy longboat until we finally arrive at our destination: the Ulu Ulu resort!

RainforestThe resort is a former research facility and is actually huge, it feels even moreso seeing as we are the only guests today. The rooms are great and we’re given an hour or so to settle in before dinner and the following night walk. The night walk is really fun, we walk along a little stream and Tom points out critters as he sees them. The coolest thing we see is a burrowing spider, not that large but with appropriately hairy legs. We also see frogs, a couple of stick insects and a lizard. We trace the stream all the way up to a waterfall where we turn off our lights to see a patch of flourescent mushrooms growing on a branch.

We get an early night as we’re due for a canopy walk at sunrise. So at 4:30 Tom wakes us up and we go a bit upstream, walk uphill for a bit before reaching a large scaffolding structure they’ve built. Up top we’re 40 m above ground and basically level with the tree tops. The morning mist forms big clouds which are neat to look down upon, but there isn’t many animals moving about as we’d hoped. We do end up seeing a very pretty hornbill perched on a branch though, so we’re happy. On the way down the hill we also see some really huge ants, like an inch long! I really need to get a proper camera and a macro lens…

Going backIn the afternoon we get to do some kayakaing, although it is those tragic tourist kayaks where you sit up top. Afterwards we get to do some tubing, that’s when you sit in a tractor tyre inner tube and just get washed downstream. It’s a bit fun, but the best part is afterwards when we go back up to the same waterfall from the previous night and swim around for a bit, letting the fish who live there nibble at us. We head back for some lunch before it’s time to go back to town again. Tom tells us that the level of the river has dropped about 30 cm since yesterday, which is kind of mind-boggling. Usually in the dry season (which is now) they have to get out and push the boat at times.

The Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah MosqueTom tags along back to the city and we ask him how to get to the various sights in town since we have a couple of hours to spare. He promptly offers to give us a tour of the two main mosques, which is awfully nice and not at all part of what we paid for! They are closed for prayer time though so we only get to see the outside of them, which is still pretty grand. Back at the airport we try to stash our luggage so that we can go eat downtown before our flight (airport is right in the middle of town), but just like last time, it seems like no one is actually working at this airport… So we resign and try to check our luggage instead, but there is no one working at the check in counters either! Only when we walk out to the gates we finally find the check in area (no signs anywhere). Sheesh, get your shit together Brunei!


Arriving at Kuala Lumpur airport is really pleasant, and after chuckling at the awesomely named Nööödles restaurant I find out that all the budget taxis are booked, so I decide to try my luck at the bus instead. It costs only 10 ringgit (around 20 sek) but first of all takes like 40 minutes before it even leaves, presumably because the want to fill it up.image Delirious with sleep deprivation I desperately try to stay awake on the way into town. They drop us off God knows where and I start for a taxi, but the guy tells me it’s just a ten minute walk down the road. Always a good sign when the first person you meet is not trying to scam you! =)

It turns out that we have wildly different opinions on how far you get in ten minutes of walking though; when I, five or six blocks down the road start looking for the road, I can’t really find it. There are lots of helpful people with decent English to ask though, and after about 40 minutes of running around in circles with my ˜30 kg pack I finally find the place. Turns out that the road I was looking for was like two blocks from the bus, or about three minutes of walking…

Well, at least the hostel is excellent! Very nice beds with a little privacy booth up by your pillow and excellent WiFi. They also have a nice common room where you can sit down, have a beer and swap stories with all the other backpackers. The place is called the Back Home Hostel, and I can heartily recommend it!image I pop out to the nearby Chinatown for a bite to eat before bed and find a very nice Indian restaurant where you can watch the guy making the Naan bread in the kiln right outside. Two mango lassis and some lamb stew later I look around Chinatown for a bit, but since it’s around ten in the evening now, most places are closing up. It’s mostly counterfeit sneakers, bags and shirts though. Not particularly interesting stuff. I like the mood of the place though, the salesmen aren’t very pushy and you can actually browse without getting jumped immediately. There are also a bunch of really fun street food places which always makes for good pictures.

I have three days alone before Jen, her roommate Jourdan and Jourdan’s boyfriend Alex joins me and since Jen hasn’t been to Kuala Lumpur I opt for heading down to Singapore, which is only a 5 h bus ride away and which Jen has already been to. The plan is to spend two days there and then head back up to Kuala Lumpur for the last day and then meet up with the others at the airport in the evening. The ride costs like 80 sek and the seats are luxurious, albeit old. Immigration and customs are not very onerous but a funny detail is the x-ray guy who asks if I’m a diver based only off of what he sees on the x-ray (probably my BCD, dive light and camera housing). He even recommends some dive spots in the area.

Having forgotten to cache the google map for Singapore I have to ask my way around, but no one seems to know where the hostel is. After a good while I find a cab though, and it turns out to be pretty far actually. The hostel I booked here isn’t nearly as nice as the one in Kuala Lumpur but not bad either. On Jen’s recommendation I get tickets for the Night Safari at Singapore Zoo. The shuttle ride over there is positively frigid since they’re blasting the AC at top capacity, as per usual in southeast Asia… My right arm is entirely numb and I’m shivering as we are finally let off at our destination.

The safari consists of you riding a train of electric carts and a guide narrating what animals you’re passing. She has to spend most of her time telling people to shut off their flashes though. It’s pretty cool though because the animals are all calmly grazing right next to the train and not at all bothered by our presence. We get to see flamingoes, various antelopes and even lions, all surprisingly active, much moreso than any animals I’ve seen in a daytime zoo actually.

About halfway you can hop off and walk a few trails. Here you can see the fishing sibet cats, flying squirrels, slow loris (always adorable) to name a few. My favourites though are the otters and the porcupines. Both running around, chasing each other, playing and in the case of the porcupines, showing off their awesome spikes. Another favorite is the fruit bats, now if you haven’t seen fruit bats before, imagine something like a house cat with bat wings and you’re pretty close. They’re even called “flying dogs” in Swedish. So you enter this cage and the bats are pretty much just hanging out, eating fruit. I stand there and watch one munching away at arms length when it suddenly decides fly over to the other end and I can even feel the flapping of its wings as it passes over me!

Hopping back onto the train we see giraffes, hyenas, tapirs and other African savannah-dwelling critters before coming full circle. Since I lingered on the walking paths a bit I’ve missed the show where they play around with some of the animals. And since those are the only other things you can do I decide to head back to the shuttle bus. image I only have a vague idea of which of the stops are close to my hostel so I just decide to get off at one that sounds nice; Little India. It actually is nice, and I manage to get some dinner, even though it’s almost eleven o’clock at night. The temperature is a nice 25 degrees and I decide to walk all the way back, having cached the map this time and using the GPS on the tablet it’s impossible to get lost. It’s not a very pedestrian friendly city though with super wide streets and barely enough time to get across the road in the allotted time at the crosswalks. It never feels unsafe as there are plenty of other people my age out walking as well. All in all it takes about an hour to get back and by now I’ve gotten some feel for the layout of central Singapore.

The following morning the plan is to join a walking tour, but since I have to get some additional money first I plan a screwup margin. It’s lucky I did since all the ATMs are telling me I can’t have any money. Finally I figure out the cause: My ICA Mastercard has this feature where you have to explicitly have to unlock certain parts of the world before being able to get money at an ATM. The trick is to remember doing this in advance since the ATM will only tell you that something went wrong. In the end I did have enough time to sort out the money and still get to the tour in time, so hooray for planning!

The tour takes place in Little India and we get to learn about the flower garlands, pan and other typical Indian customs. We stop at a temple, a spice shop, a sari shop, a sweet shop, the market and a small museum. It’s a pretty good tour, even though I didn’t learn much new on account of already having been to India. Final stop is a henna painter place and I get to be the model, getting a nice dragon painted on the back of my hand.image I continue my Indian streak by having lunch at a vegetarian place together with  a nice girl from the tour. The rest of the afternoon is spent walking around, just looking at things. I pass through Chinatown, littered with old men and women who wants to do your horoscope or tell you what kind of person you are based on your feet. Not really my cup of tea I move on to the more modern parts of the city. I’m not really sold on Singapore as a city, it’s too sterile and car centered. If you want to walk around without constantly having to watch out for cars you have to go into a mall, and then you instead run the risk of hypothermia since they’re always running the AC at full blast.

Towards the evening I try to find a good spot for getting a picture of the skyline and I eventually find one down by the marina square. I’m kind of disappointed at Singapore as a whole at this point and decide to head back to the hostel for an early night. Turns out I picked the best route possible! As I go down to the underpass at Esplanade drive I hear music playing, it’s a bunch of teenagers practising their breakdance moves. Many of them are pretty good and I stay and watch for a good while. There’s also an adorable kid at about four years old mimicking their moves while the amused and proud father is watching. Resurfacing at Connaught Drive I see more kids, these guys are practising Cricket, with two batters at the end of a cage and two teams of bowlers throwing balls at them. This too is a lot of fun to watch and I stay a while here as well. This entire area is covered with different sports fields and I also pass football players and two female teams facing off in what can be described as a mix between Ultimate Frisbee and Basketball, haven’t seen that before. The last stretch I walk down along the southern bank of the Singapore river which is teeming with life; joggers, strollers and even a couple of parkour guys. It’s a really nice way to wrap up my day.