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. 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.
I 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. 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.
We 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!
The 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…
In 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.
Tom 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!