Sabah, Malaysia, Island hopping

I went to Sabah for island hopping in 2009 December, but the memory still lingers in my mind as Sabah is a unique place and some extraordinary things happened during my trip . The locations and hotel I stayed might have been altered as I didn’t go back after 2009.

Sabah is part of Borneo island and it is close to Philippine. There has been cases of abduction and kidnap to the tourists in some islands of Sabah and there was a crisis of mass kidnapping in Sipadan in 2000, April by the Filipino militants called Abu Sayyaf .Sipadan is the only oceanic island of Malaysia and  a diving paradise . There is limitation of number of visiting people there to prevent the massive disturbance of nature and you cannot enter the island without a valid permit which you have to apply one month ahead of your trip.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_Sipadan_kidnappings

It is also regarded as the area where there are a lot of illegal , stateless migrants stay. When we went there, the kidnaps were not happening, but lately, there was abduction of a Chinese millionaire and also an event of decapitation of the victim when the gang could not get the ransom they demanded. But according to my friend, you don’t need to worry about abduction unless you are filthily rich as kidnappers are only interested in wealthy foreigners and local business owners, not ordinary tourists like us.

However, it is an amazing place where you can find various tribes living in harmony. People are super friendly. Girls are pretty and very good in English and karaoke ( according to my experience ). It is the place where there were legends of head hunters. According to the history, Sabah had villages which were ruled by different tribes. When one tribe tried to dominate another tribe, there was always a war. Then they killed  the invaders,  decapitated the captured enemy and kept the head as a trophy. One of the locals told me ” may be it’s impossible to marry if you have never cut the head that time. How can the bride’s father can accept you if he thinks the proposed man has never been a warrior”   They regard the skull as their trophies to show off their bravery. These head hunters are mostly from Kadazan tribe. later, the culture resolved and they became civil to each other. ( most of them converted to Christianity  and some of them worship Islam ).They also have sea gypsies called Bajau who are nomadic and very good in swimming  ( similar to moken or salone  of Burmese people ) . I will write about Kadazan people in another blog.

To see the best part of Sabah, you have to fly to a town called Tawau. Tawau has domestic airport and you can fly there from either capital of Sabah ( Kota Kinabalu ) or capital of  main land Malaysia ( Kuala Lumpur ).Tawau is bordered by Sulu sea to the East and Celebes sea to the South. Our plan in 2009 was to see the island called Sipadan which is regarded as the only oceanic island of Malaysia. It has the most beautiful corals and the rich marine life.

 

Sabah mapSabah map 2

I went there in December and stayed at the floating hotel called Dragon Inn. Mind you,while there are lots of rain fall in Mainland Malaysia ( West Malaysia ) in December, in Borneo region, December is the nice time to visit as there is not much rain.  Dragon Inn was recommended by trip adviser as it has reasonable price and most divers book to stay there.

http://www.dragoninnfloating.com.my/

Here are some photos of Dragon Inn.

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dragon inn semporna

If you ask me what is the most unique thing about staying there, I felt like I was sleeping in the boat as the waves tenderly splash the walls of the room. All the rooms are authentically made of bamboo and wood. I paid 25 us D per night ( more or less the same now after 6 years, amazing )

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the restaurant of dragon inn overlooking the sea
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lovely hotel staff, they are Filipinos and related to each other as aunty and nephew. He knows how to do tap dancing and we were entertained by him

There is the problem with going to Sipadan island because Sipadan island entrance is limited by permit and without permit, you can not go to Sipadan island. We were told by the tour agent that we need at least ten days to arrange permit. We could not wait for it as we have already booked the hotel to go to Sandakan that time.

I was so excited to go to the islands, but we did not want to join with a lot of people. So we arranged to hire the boat only for us . We also found out a lady in late 50 from Mexico. Her name was L…. Everybody knows I am well known for making friends with strangers . I offered her free transport from airport to her inn as she was alone and she was having knee pain. ( I regard helping tourists as a random act of kindness ) So when we said we went to go for island trip, she immediately wanted to join us as it would only cost 100 RM per each for whole day tour. We paid 300 RM to the boat man for one day trip to various island.

 

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village of Bajau people
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the first beach we went

The sea is crystal clear and seriously there was no rubbish floating. I was overjoyed and jumped into the sea together with my hand phone in my pocket. The guys near by tried to resuscitate my phone  but the sea water completely destroyed my phone. ( I consoled myself that who needs phone when you have nature! )

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my sister completely enjoyed her juice

Here let me tell you funny thing about L… She is very strong and stoic and weighs around 120 kg. ( I am not telling this to ridicule her, and obviously I am in similar situation as well ). But I have to mention that because you need to know there is no way you can stop her if she wants to do something. While we sat and enjoyed our juice, she walked alone towards the private beach and she was stopped by the guard as the private area was allowed  only for  hotel guests. I don’t know what happened between the guards and  L…. Later, the guards ran towards us and shouted ” Please help, your friend is uncontrollable”. And we were like ” Errr….., she is not our friend, but we traveled together in the same boat. What’s wrong with her?” and one of the guards explained that when they tried to stop her, L… ferociously retorted that every beach should belong to the public and she could not accept that she cannot sit at the private beach. When the guards tried to block her way, she pushed them  ( you can imagine the weight of the guard is not more than 60 kg, they are small people ) and she swore that ” You are like orangutan, rude and primitive”. Nobody could stopped L… and finally they gave up on stopping her. So she could get a chance to sit at private beach while we couldn’t . When she came back, she told us back the whole story which we quietly listened. But one amusing thing what she said is ” You know, I called them primitive and they are like orangutan , but now I am feeling sorry because I like orangutans and orangutans are more intelligent and kinder than these people”. We were amused but afraid that her anger would shift on us  so that we didn’t comment anything

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water village resort at Kapalai island, you can hardly see the land as the island was totally covered by water

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Kapalai island, view from the restaurant
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buffet lunch at Kapalai restaurant, it charges 60 RM per person in 2009, very expensive, but tasty food
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hole inside the restaurant where you can view the sea creatures, excellent idea

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fishy fishy fish

After we had lunch, we went to the another island called Mantabuan island.

 

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sea weeds near Mantabuan island

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The most memorable event of the trip started when L … demanded to do snorkeling at the deep area of sea. And we did not realize that our boat man is just a fisher man and he has no idea which area is suitable for snorkelling. He also didn’t consider whether the area was safe enough to jump in. As a result, he asked us to jump in the water in the middle of the sea.  We were totally naive and trusted him. So L…. gleefully jumped in and she was followed by my sister. The problem was L… realized the current was strong and it was impossible to snorkel plus we couldn’t see any fish when the sea was very deep. L .. started to panic while my sister was quite stable. Then luckily, I was not inside the water and we decided I should stay in boat in view of 1) I can’t swim 2) I need to do something if both of them had problems in water. We were not really scared until L… started to scream at the boat man. The worst thing was she couldn’t climb back inside the boat . My sister was quite considerate and decided to stay in the water although she could climb back inside the boat easily. She thought L.. would be more panic if she was alone in the sea. Then we were sort of helpless and really didn’t know what to do. We asked L … to grip the string which was attached to the boat and followed our boat until the harbor and she refused . Then after  a few minutes, she started to have transient nervous breakdown and shouted ” ok, wait, the rescuers are coming , I can see them” while w couldn’t see any trace of human beings in the middle of the sea.  Finally she agreed to hold the end of boat and the boat man would sail the boat slowly. My sister had to follow together with L .. and we finally arrived at the nearest area where the light house was attached to the small jetty which was deserted. We had to pull L.. inside the boat while my sister had to push her up from the water.  She continuously screamed at the boat man and banged the boat until some wood came out from the boat . We were at first alarmed, but later we developed anger as L.. was not definitely making the situation better although everybody was trying to help her. In the end, my sister got pissed off and told her not to scold the boat man anymore.

We were solemn and still in shock when we left the harbor. We couldn’t talk to each other as L.. was still in bad mood. Later, her nerves became better and she talked to us nicely. Obviously, her anger never directed towards us although she got pissed off very easily with other people.Finally we arrived the most beautiful island of all time, called Sibuan island. It was a very small island and surrounded by lots of beautiful corals.

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Sibuan island, our highlight of the boat trip

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It is a beautiful island but not many tourists visit there and as soon as we arrived, a group of bajau children ran towards the boat and asked us whether we want coconuts. Most of them were half naked and their skin was dark due to continuous sun burn and exposure to sea water.

When they said one coconut cost two RM ( 0.5 US D), our boat man was angry and shushed them . Our boat man said the price is ridiculous and they should only ask us normal price which is one RM per each coconut. I told the boat man that it is ok for us to pay 2 RM because we have to pay 4 RM for one coconut at the city. Why can’t they ask the tiny benefit for the coconut which they have to get by climbing the trees? Bajau children are not that friendly, but even under the frowning eye brows, they look adorable. They usually help parents by fishing and planting ubi ( sweet potato) and corns which are their main diet.

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isn’t he adorable? asking us to buy his coconuts.

After we drank coconut water, we were about to snorkel. But I was very curious to go inside the deep water ( even after the event of near death experience ) although I didn’t know how to. I was dead sure the corals would be exotic. Then I found the brother of the above bajau child who was around 18 year old. Like other bajau, he looked very small . I asked him ” Adik, ( younger brother ), can you hold my hand and swim towards the beautiful coral?”. He looked at me and hesitantly said ” yeah… but you know I have to charge you and it would be pricey”. I was afraid he would ask me like 50 Rm, but he told me he could do the job with 10 Rm if I was willing to pay him. I excitedly said ” yes, why not?” and he walked towards his house ( a hut ) and came back with googles in his hand.  He told me to wear the googles. I asked him ” can you save me if I get drown?” and he said ” i don’t know”. ( very encouraging )

Anyway, I was already set my mind to give it a go. Then he led me in the water and we swam towards the coral. Well, I was simply floating and he was…. my God, I don’t know how to explain it. He was walking in the sea, I had never seen that kind of thing in my life before. The way he moved inside the sea with grace and smoothness completely blew my mind. He kept on pointing towards  various sea creatures and my eyes were darting here and there. I saw green, purple, pink , red color corals I had never seen before. And the fish, swarms of fish brushed various parts of my body. It was like a dream . I was so happy. Whenever I thought of that event, I want to weep with joys because I am grateful. The nature is amazing.

We were very happy at the Sibuan island and came back home with joys and peace. Later, we found out L…. wanted to stay in our hotel so that she could follow all our future trips. We hid in our room as we were so afraid she would join our trip again. We couldn’t take anymore drama although we were fond of her. Then when we went to the restaurant to have our dinner, our friends, the Filipino boy informed us that L.. came to the restaurant, but spotted  a big rat which  came out from the kitchen and it gave her a nervous break down. She got angry, scolded all the workers at the restaurant including the chef for lack of hygiene and also threatened them to sue. Finally, she refused to eat her lunch although it was already prepared by the chef. The chef apologized her and let her go out without any charges. The story gave us a crack and a bit of relief because L .. didn’t come back to find us again.( most probably fed up with rat infested restaurant )

Whenever we talk about Sabah, we can’t help talking about L…. who is sort of entertaining despite she has anger issue and mood swings. We fondly talk about her till now. May be we will meet her again in some part of the world.

Brian-Tracy-about-people

Thanks for reading.

 

Hninn

 

 

 

 

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Meeting with Ken at Jalan Alor

Ken picture.jpgLast weekend, I was supposed to attend the scientific meeting in Kuala Lumpur. Luckily, the location of the congress is near Bukit Bintang which is one of my favorite places in KL. Well, it was a red light area and you can still see the remnants of that kind of activity there although everything is under control now. I used to see lots of LGBT wearing beautiful dresses, waiting for someone under the lump posts although I do not see them anymore now because of excessive crack down. When my friend from Germany visited me , I booked the hotel near Bukit Bintang and asked her to come to the hotel with a taxi from airport. She was chatting with a taxi driver who turned out to be a very nice woman , a single mother. When my friend asked her ” how is Bukit Bintang?”, the taxi driver lady replied ” oh, that’s the place where you can see maximum number of prostitutes” and she was laughing in the taxi. I told her ” don’t worry, we don’t look like prostitutes anyway”. Seriously, a lot of Malaysians think that area is spooky.

But I have reasons to like Bukit Bintang because of Jalan Alor which is a food heaven. There are always rows of hawkers selling local delicacy and the aroma of food fills the air. There are lots of fresh fruits which you can enjoy all season including my favorite durians.  More than that, there are various kinds of street performers , mostly disabled people who really have musical talent. They never stop amaze me  as the music is usually top notch.  Sometimes you can even see the whole band displaying and singing on the pavement. I really love them. Another reason is you can have massage and pedicure there. Lately, the economy is not so good and there are less tourists, so the number of massage lounges decreased compared to last time. However, they still offer the good quality massage if you know how to choose the right place.

Jalan Alor Food Street

jalan-alor-food-street-kuala-lumpur-11

 

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street performer at Jalan Alor

 

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a westerner enjoying the food

 

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The shops are too many selling many variety ranging from local Malay, Chinese food to Middle Eastern diet until you feel dizzy to choose. The best is to come back very often rather than to pay a single visit. 🙂 and mind you, you have to go there at night and the shops open almost the whole night till 5 am in the morning including the massage parlors. For your information, please don’t think that all girls who are working in massage parlors are doing fishy business because they are not. I saw a few girls who come from Sabah to work in KL and they are pretty decent and very good with their job. I even paid them tips. And the person who is in charge of the massage parlor was very protective of the girls. So for me, even though people talk a lot of bad things about Jalan Alor, I find the place quite safe to go alone.

May be the only problem with me for going there alone at night  is mainly because I am an Asian woman. It’s no problem seeing lots of white ladies wondering alone. But because I am an Asian who really looks like a local , I might look odd, but usually I don’t give a damn. ( as usual ). So I was very happy, enjoying the music and the food. I went inside the local food stall and the place was quite congested and there was no empty table. I was forced to share the table with someone else . So I looked around and found a young Chinese man, sitting quietly alone at the table. I found him pretty decent and asked him ” can I take this chair?” and he said ” sure, if you want to ”  hesitantly. I was surprised because he sounds like British and the accent is very different. Then only, I realize he is a tourist . Then, the waiters were giving him hard time like giving him food without any spoon and fork nor the chopsticks. I couldn’t help smiling as I know the waiters are Burmese and they were too occupied to notice it. After I helped him to get his chopsticks, he warmed up and smiled at me . Then we started talking just to kill the time while waiting for my food.

I found out he is in his 20s from Hong Kong and studied business management in UK for four years. When he smiled, his eyes sparkled and I found him as a very likeable person. I always thought I am a curious person, but he is more curious than me and asked me a lot of questions and he was surprised to find out I am not a local and come from a different country like him. He said ” you look like a local” and I explained him that’s everybody says wherever I go. Even in Indonesia, locals insisted ” hey, please don’t pretend like you are a foreigner, you must be an Indonesia”, lol. It should be the other way round but mine is always a different story. I told Ken that I  am not afraid of going new places and quite confident that nothing will happen to me. So that confidence gives me impression that I am familiar with the place although I am not most of the times. I found out he was going to Taman Nagara, national forest of Malaysia and I showed him a few photos I took there in 2009.

Well, here is the interesting part. Ken is a bright and talented person although he confessed his education mainly owes to his parents who can afford expensive university in UK. Then I told him ” yeah, that’s the admirable thing about Chinese. They encourage their children to study and the parents invest in education”. He looked at me by my surprise and said this ” No, I think it’s too much”.

It’s an interesting part because he looks like a typical ambitious Chinese young man from a developed country, but he was saying something which was contrary to my expectation. I asked him ” why?” and here are his statements. According to him, most people work very hard in Hong Kong especially accountants. Business is always thriving and accountants are always in demand. Ken said most people work from 9 am to 7 pm which is pretty normal for them and they have days off . But for accountants, they work from 10 am till 3 am in the morning sometimes. And usually their exam is held on 27 December exactly a few days after Christmas. For that reason, they are continuously stressed although they earn much more than other people. One of Ken’s close friend is getting sick and his eyes are tinged with yellow color most probably due to chronic liver disease, but he refused to see a doctor as he has no time to take care of himself.

Then Ken went on, ” Do you know we have to study three languages compulsory since young , Cantonese, Mandarin and English” and we can take optional another foreign language such as Italian, or France. Children have to study and read a lot. One time, I was on the subway and a ten year old boy was talking to his mom near me. He was discussing about solar system and Einstein which was pretty impressive. And he was only ten” and then Ken said ” Do you know we send the kids to nursery as young as two year. Before they enter into primary school, they need impressive CV”. I was shocked. I said ” you mean two year old needs CV” and he said ” yes, because without a good CV, they can’t enter into a good school”. I was speechless. Ken said he realize whatever they were doing in Hong Kong is not really good only when he went to UK to study. He said ” you know, I was out of the box, so I could see the whole picture and realize people shouldn’t train their kids that way”. I totally agreed with what he said.

Then I showed him my pictures taken in Indonesia and he was awed. He didn’t think that kind of beautiful nature exist anymore.  He said ” I am happy to meet you, now at least I can talk to someone”. We strolled  along the street togehter and I helped him to buy the insect repellent at 7-11. He even bought me a drink. Then there was the time to say good bye and we parted.

On the way back, I saw a woman sitting beside the road, holding a toddler and shouting. She did not sound sane. There were lots of foreign workers repairing the road and some middle Easterners crossing the road. I headed towards the hotel with some thoughts in my mind. I am happy for meeting a new friends and look forward to see unmet friends in the near future.

Padar and Komodo island, Flores, Indonesia

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First of all, I am very grateful to my Indonesian girlfriend Dea Sihotang for inviting me to join her trip in Indonesia, East Nusa Tenggara. Dea did extensive backpacking trip for five months in East Nusa Tenggara for her new book.

At first, it was my idea to spend my birthday at  a beautiful place and my idea was confirmed by Dea as she also needed her days off writing because she became so overwhelmed by a lot of information and extensive travelling. Some of my friends discouraged me not to go there as komodos are top predators and very unpredictable. They can run at 12 km per hour, can swim and also can climb the trees especially young komodos. They can be very fierce and can even eat their own babies. Baby komodos need to climb the trees to be away from big ones as they can eaten by adult komodos.

Secondly, komodo island is very far from civilization and you need to hire a boat to go there. Usually, the boat men are very skilful and know how to sail very well. But on the other hand, boats can be poorly equipped and there has been cases of shipwrecks when the sea become turbulent.

Thirdly, everything regarding komodo island is very pricey. The price for the one day trip for boat is 100- 200 us Dollars per day and it can be more expensive if you go alone . It is better to go with a group as the price will be lower if you can share the cost with other travellers. Anyway, it’s a worthwhile trip and you would never regret it.

Indonesia has 17,000 islands and komodo is one of the island of Indonesia. Komodo national park consists of three main islands called Komodo, Rinca , Padar island and numerous other small islands ,making it as total surface area of more than 1800 km. Komodos only exist in komodo and Rinca island and already extinct in Padar most probably because of lackof food there. Komodos eat deers, wild boars and buffalos. At the time being , some people said goats were killed and given to them to keep them satiete so that they will not harm to visitors. There are around 2300 komodos in komodo island alone. Dedinitely, its expensive to maintain the park.

Komodo islandEast Nusa Tanggara

http://www.komodonationalpark.org/

To go to Komodo island, you have to reach a small town called Labuan Bajo. It was once a fishing village before komodo island became a tourist attraction. Nowadays, Labuan Bajo is a touristy place with a lot of Italian restaurants and divers who come from all over the world as Komodo island is also famous for its rich marine biodiversity. Komodo island was established in 1980 and declared as the world heritage list in 1991. As it is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites, Komodo island belongs to all the people of the world and everybody is responsible to maintain the uniqueness of the island.

I am not a travelling journalist and here, I am merely mentioning things I have seen and done in Komodo island. My aim is for the readers to have a glimpse of  komodo island and you can jot down your comments in case if you point out any mistake in this article.

First of all, I flew to Bali from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Then I took the domestic flight by using the company caled Nusatrip. http://www.nusatrip.com/id

The flight is around 1.2 hours and you can check out various airlines. ( please take note that some airline only give you 10kg luggage and some airlines gives you up to 30 kg, for example Wings Air does not give you any food in flight and only gives you 10 kg while Garuda airline can offer you up to 20 kg luggage plus meal). I found out the domestic flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo is more costly than my international flight from KL to Bali. ( it is partly because I got the discount from KL to Bali with Air Asia. If you book earlier , you might get cheaper price for domestic flight. For me, I paid over 1.6 millions Indonesian Rupees , 130 US D for return domestic flights )

Labuan Bajo is a beautiful town , but it is too touristy and some beaches are polluted. I am very sad to say that and I blame this mostly on the tourists. My friend said the local does not make it better as well.

For transport in Labuan Bajo, there are plenty of Ojeks ( motor bikes ) and public coaches which are cheap. The Ojek drivers are very skilful and can drive smoothly at uneven lanes. You can pay them 5,000 -20,000 IDR for the ojak. Taxi prices are fixed and written on the board at airport based on the distance of your hotel to airport. ( tips: you can bargain it too. it’s because it was written 90,000 IDR to Gardena hotel, but I got the taxi with 60,000 IDR, strange, right?)

I spent three nights at the hotel called Gardena hotel because the hotel is not expensive and you can have the lovely view . I paid 200,000 IDR per night for two people . If you have a friend to share, it will cost you only 30 RM ( less than 10 us D ) per night.

http://www.gardenaflores.com/

The Gardena hotel is a budget hotel and if you don’t mind spending more money, you can also rent the rooms with air con . I advise you to bring a lot of cool clothes , sunglasses and sunscreen as Labuan Bajo is famous for its heat and humidity. I went there in March which is the winter season,, however, I found the town extremely hot and I kept on sweating and it was impossible to sleep without air fans. The temperature that time was 31 C and it was quite similar to Malaysian temperature, but I found out the heat was unbearable most probably because of lack of wind.  At night, there are lots of geckos making noises and  their noises are quite fascinating.

Here are the views of Gardena hotel. The stairs are pretty tiring especially if you have to climb up with your luggage. However, the staff are  very friendly and the breakfast, pancakes are delicious. You can sit at the table with a cup of coffee, overlooking the sea.

 

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The view from Gardena hotel
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view of Gardena, constructions are irritatingly disturbing the view. Hope town councillors will project not to build tall building at the port.
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Gardena hotel

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There is a restaurant called Chit Ma Bon near the Gardena hotel . My advice : Please don’t eat there, the food is terrible. ( sorry , hope they will improve the taste of food in the future )

If you stay at Gardena, you have a wide range of food choices as it’s near to the market and a lot of restaurants. It is also near to Money changer, stores, bakery and a lot of travel agencies where you can inquire about your boat trips and trips to other parts of East Nusa Tenggara. My personal experience is I do not really like the food from Labuan Bajo. It is also because I didn’t try a lot of restaurants there. Some said sea food is very fresh and delicious. ( unfortunately, I am not a fan of sea food, so I did not try any sea food , may be you can try as there are rows of shops selling fresh fish barbecue near the market ).

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rows of shops which sell food at night near market

However, I really enjoy fruits there. They import fresh and juicy fruits from other towns  especially avocado. A lot of restaurants are modified to cater the taste of Italian people.

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a famous restaurant called  Mediteranneo at Labuan Bajo

Regarding money changer, the rate at Labuan Bajo is much lower compared to Bali. So it’s advisable to change your money at bigger cities rather than in Labuan Bajo although there are a lot of ATMs and money changers there.

Another hotel we stayed in Labuan Bajo is Sylvia hotel. It has private beach and the rooms are well maintained. The beach is beautiful and they give free kayaking boats which you can use to go to the nearby beautiful island. The hotel charges 550,000 IDR per night ( which is around 180 RM). But the good thing about hotel is they give free shuttle bus service to and fro from airport. We stayed there on our last day so that we can get free transport service to airport. In case if you want to spend time at their private beach, you have to pay hotel 100,000 IDR ( 10 us D) per head or spend the same amount per head for your meal at the hote’s restaurant. Some of my friends stayed at cheaper hotel and did that.

http://www.sylviaresortkomodo.com/

 

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the beach at Sylvia hotel. The water there has a lot of rubbish like other parts of the island although staff try to keep the beach clean. This is the photo of Dea who is trying to remove the rubbish from the sea.
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the island you can go with kayaking from Sylvia hotel. It is a very short distance.

There is also a spot near Sylvia hotel where you can take photos of amazing view.

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A spot from a walking distance from Sylvia hotel
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amazing view of Labuan Bajo with toddy plants near Sylvia Hotel

Regarding the boat trips,please do the survey properly before you commit to one travel agency. They can say different kind of price depending on the number of tourists. We were supposed to go for two days one night boat trip with 1.2 million IDR per person ( around 100 us D per head ). However, the travel agent cancelled the trip at last minute as the other tourists who were supposed to join got sick and cancelled the trip. It was quite frustrating as we had already booked our flight back to Bali and finally , we decided to go just for one day trip. If you can, please arrange the trip as soon as you arrive at Labuan Bajo and find the agent which can offer you the best price. Usually one day trip is 50 us D to 70 us D depending on how you bargain. For example, we got the one day trip with 650,000 IDR while our travel partner had to pay 900,000 IDR for the same trip. Also, please make sure you know their itinerary. Some people prefer to go to either Rinca or Komodo as it’s practically the same and komodos exist in both islands. We have not been to Rinca but we are told by other tourists that trekking in Rinca is better than in Komodo island. Most tourists don’t know how beautiful is the Padar island. For me, it is so far the most beautiful place I have ever   been . It is the farthest island and you need at least three hours to go there. Apart from that, hiking takes time to reach the summit. So it’s the best to start journey around 5 am.

Let me tell you my experience. We were told by our tour agent that we needed to wait at 5.30 am in front of our hotel. But he didn’t turn up and we needed to call him. Then after we arrived at port ( just near Gardena hotel), we were quite confused because we didn’t know which boat was ours. There was a lot of discussion ( argument ) between our agent and the boatmen and finally we could start journey only around 7 am. ( I have to say that we are lucky because our boatmen are very skilful and helpful )

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Labuan Bajo harbour port at early morning
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beautiful sunrise
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our skillful and helpful boat mean

The name of senior boat man on the left is Bapak Jailani. His phone number is +62812-3838-4079. He can only speak Bahasa Indonesia.

His partner kept on laughing at me because I was doing some funny things inside the boat to cheer myself.

Well, I know how extremely lucky I am to be on that trip. But mind you, there are following reasons I was also scared to be in boat.

  1. I do not know how to swim at all. And it is the rainy season and the boat is small. Luckily, they borrowed the life jackets for us only after I reminded them ” where are our life jackets?”, hahaha. SO please make sure you ask about life jacket and also check them whether they are ok or not before you start the trip.
  2.  I had already known women cannot go to komodo island when they have period or menstruation. Well, I know my period would coincide with the trip. So I took some pills before I flew to Bali. Unfortunately, I forgot to take the pill for 12 hours and instead of postponing my period, I induced my menstruation stupidly just the day prior to the boat trip. When you have blood, komodos can sense it and can prey you . So I was feeling very vulnerable and praying on the boat that I would not be chased by komodo. In case if they chase, I know I would not have any chance as I can run only 5 km per hour and they can run 12 km per hour although we weigh more or less the same. 😛
  3. I didn’t expect the trekking to be difficult. But when the travel agent saw my Hushpuppy heels, he gasped and said ” Hey, you can’t go to island with that kind of shoes. Either you go with better shoes or go with bare feet. It is not hot there “. And I am telling you that it was a total lie. You can hike there with bare feet only if you have experience of walking in the fire with bare feet. The padar island is extremely hot and the lane has many small stones which can make you slippery and fall down. I quickly went to local store and purchase the slippers only with 5 RM ( yes, these slippers are not good enough to hike padar as it caused me almost fell down a few times.) My advise is ” please get the good trekking shoes if you want to hike Padar island”
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me, doing stupid things on the boat, the boatman were totally entertained by me
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it is so fun to lie on the boat ( hope mom will not see this )
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me and my girl friend Dea ( my travel advisor and Guru, haha )

The view on the way to Komodo island is very beautiful. There are many islands, most of them do not have many trees, but very green because of thick grass. Dea saw a dolphin and when I tried to see it, it disappeared into the sea with a splash. According to the boatmen, it is very common to see dolphins and some islands have salt water crocodiles and nobody dares to go that island.

viewthe view 2

The trip to Padar itself took three hours and both of us fell asleep during the journey as we needed to wake up very early. Luckily, there was only a short rain and the weather was quite favorable.

We went to Padar island first and the water around the island is transparent and clean although there were lots of rubbish , brought by tides towards the island. I was very sad to see that. I hope tourists will behave in the future not to destroy the beautiful island.

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look at the amount of plastic collected near the island.

It was the narrow lane and the hike is not as difficult as the descent. The only problem is the island has not many big trees and it can be extremely hot unless you arrive there very early. The sweat oozes from every pores of my body and my lips became extremely dry. I had not been hiking for many years and if Dea was not there telling me ” you can do it , you can do it’, I might have stopped at midway. haha. Anyhow, the view is beautiful even at the bottom.

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me, stupidly walking with a pair of slippers, I came back with a blister at my sole. Ouch!
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just near the beginning of the hike
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may be I was thinking whether I should continue or not, haha
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it was like three lakes surrounding the island
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every drop of water is super delicious there

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This is the area I sat down as the heat became unbearable and I became very dizzy. It was partly because of my period and excessive sweating making me dehydrated. So I sat near the big stone and took the above photo. Later, when I closely looked at the area, I found out I was sitting near the hole which might belongs to an animal like snake. So I prayed ” please let me sit here, don’t come out from your hole”, haha.But it was a very nice rest and I could feel the breeze from there.

When I descended , it was more difficult than the climb as I could not get the grip with my slippers and I ended up stepping on small stones. Luckily, my boat man came to rescue me and helped me to go down . It was surprising that he didn’t even wear the shoes under that scorching sun.

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The lane with the slippery stones

I found a guy fell down there and some people who came after us were asking each other ” Are you sure you want to hike this?” Basically, I am proud of myself that I made it. Once I arrived back at our boat, our travel partner from France was very surprised to found out I finally made it till the top . He raised his eyebrows and said ” Did you really make it?”. His face was so funny. But even before I made the answer ” yes” , I became very sick and threw up three times. It was embarrassing to be sick and it was even more embarrassing to throw up into the beautiful flawless water. I think it was because of heat and too much water ( I should have brought some soft drink ).

My nausea disappeared and my stomach felt better. But I felt so weak that I needed to lie down on the boat, in curling position. My lips were dry and my skin was hot. I kept on thinking about cold coca cola, cold lemon juice, cold vanilla shake, cold fruits, hahaha. How strange is it! We yearn to be away from civilization to be near to nature and when we are with nature, we yearn to have things from cities. I tried to close my eyes, and imagine the touch of cold tin with sweet, delicious juice on my lips.I could even imagine the water drops forming on the tins.  I was very tired, but I was also content and happy. Yes, in fact, I was extremely happy because it was my birthday and I was at the most beautiful place of the world. Thank you, thank you and thank you.

After the Padar island, we went to the komodo island. I found out a village near the komodo island has lots of goats and they use the goats to feed komodos. There was a mosque and children were playing on the bridge. They look content and joyful. I am sure all of them can swim well.

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My wish was granted when we arrived the village because my friend Dea bought coca cola for me. It was the best coca cola I have ever had in my life . 🙂

Finally we were at komodo park. They charge 75,000 IDR for Indonesian citizen and 230,000 IDR ( 3 times of citizen ) for foreigners. Even my tour agent told me to keep my mouth shut as I just look like an Indonesian. But I had no desire to provoke komodo as I was having a period and I also don’t want other people to be chased by komodos because of me. SO my plan was just to sit in the boat. My tour agent assured me komodo cannot climb inside the boat. But it was very sunny and finally I decided to sit under the shade at the entrance.

Alas, as soon as we arrived, we spotted two komodos from far. They are young komodos and not as big as others. ( A komodo can weigh up to 300 lbs) They were lazing under the sun and my friend saw a komodo hissed fiercely once it was approached by another komodo. I found them very bossy and solidatory . It seemed like they don’t want to friend with each other. And all of them looked like they were domesticated and they are so much used to the sight of humans. There were events that komodos attacked and killed an 8 year old boy and devoured the foot of a ranger as he fell asleep with the smelly socks. But komodos are like other animals and they will not harm you unless you provoke them. So far, I just saw komodos are more disturbed by humans than they disturb humans. They have aura and it was written that they have saliva with 50 strains of virulent bacteria which can cause septic shock to the victim. Their jaws are also powerful and can crunch the bones of buffaloes into pieces. I asked the guide who was sitting at the entrance what happened when komodo died and he said ” Nobody eat them here, their friends eat them when they die”. His answer made me have goose bumps especially two komodos was just near my sight. I kept on pleading the guide “please don’t go far and stay near me” because I was very scared as my friend and boat men went inside the park to see more komodos.

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komodos are disturbed on daily basis. But they seem like they are used to cameras and humans

komodo 3

Well, I have been informed that the government tried to increase the population of deers which are the main food for komodos. But I never expected I would see a lot of deers at close range. They are big and beautiful and not even scared of humans. I found their eyes mesmerizing especially when they came near to me and looked at me. I was very happy to see the deers, ( much much more than seeing komodos) although people laughed at me when I told them I was trying to avoid komodos as most tourists are eager to see komodos. While I was sitting at the entrance, the guide near me suddenly lept up and chased out the small cobra which approached me. I was even not aware of that. ( well, if you don’t say that as adventure, what experience will you call as an adventure, wink!)

On the continuation of National park, we found a strange island with lots of deers. The boat men told us that nobody dares to go there as there are lots of salt water crocodiles there. What an interesting place !

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we saw the deer from far on that island

Finally we arrived at the pink beach. There were not many pink beach in the world and FLores is one of them. The reason for pink color is because of the pink color coral which disintegrate and blend with sand. Unfortunately, its pinkness depends on the water level and as we went there at monsoon, the pink color was not that obvious. According to our boat man, he said, he even know a beach which is almost orange in color, but we could not go there because it was already late and the orange color boat is far.

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pink beach
pink beach
me and Dea at pink beach
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dead coral at pink beach

We were promised we would be sent to Kanawan island which is a very beautiful island. But it was late and we couldn’t go there anymore. On the way back, it was dark and we could see the beautiful sunset with bright pink color sky mingled with grey and blueish clouds. I never think camera is enough to capture that.

The strange thing which happened on the way back is suddenly, the boat man hurried towards the front of the boat and said ” be careful of current” and I could see very shallow water while we were very far from shore. And he also said we should be careful of fly fish which might jump up into the boat because of light inside. He said sometimes these fly fish can hurt us.

In fact, I am very thankful to our boat men for their kind service.They really looked after us and even guided me towards the beautiful coral as I cannot swim.  Later, I will include their address here as I found out tour agent took one third of money just for connecting the tourists to boat men. I was sad to know that. Out of 2.2 million IDR, tour agent took 0.8 million IDR. Isn’t it irritating to know that? But my friend said it is already good enough for boat men because if they fish, they might only earn 0.1 million IDR per day.

To sum up, here are the tips if you want to visit Komodo island

1) It is better to take your time and visit other parts of East Nusa Tenggara rather than komodo island alone as the trip is costly. You can go to a lot of interesting places in Maumere, Bajawa Wae Rebo and Kelimutu lake. 

http://www.travelfish.org/location/indonesia/east_nusa_tenggara/flores/wae_rebo

On the website, the price are more expensive, but if you go there, you can bargain on your own and can get cheaper price. However, if you want to make sure your trip is well managed and you have time constraint, it is the best to book the trip ahead. Usually, it takes 8-10 days to visit famous attractions in East Nusa Tenggara.

2) Go with a group of 4-6 people. You can get cheaper price for boat trip.

3) bring your sunglasses, sun screen, cool clothes and hat and above all, GOOD Non Slippery Trekking shoes

4) Make sure your boat is equipped with functioning life jackets

5) Make sure your snorkelling set is good . ( I could not snorkel as my snorkelling set has holes and the water kept on coming inside my mouth)

6) Make sure your itinerary includes PADAR island. Most tourists don’t know about that. Bring dehydration juices with you.

7) DO not buy things from souvenir shop at Komodo island. Things are more expensive than in airport.

8) Give some tips to boat men . They deserve it.

9) Do not litter and bring back only memory and leave only your foot prints.

10) try not to have period during your visit for women.

For more information about East Nusa Tenggara, you can follow the travel website of my friend Dea.

https://www.facebook.com/deasihotang/

Dea is an amazing journalist and she is currently writing a book about her backpacking trip in East Nusa Tenggara. She also has a travel blog called

http://www.deasihotang.com/

http://www.deasihotang.wordpress.com

I have also given the following address by the tour guide to contact if you want to know more about the price and information about various tours from Labuan Bajo.

Travel agent: Full of Friendship Trip

Email: naniaqustinus@gmail.com

Phone : +6281236046012

( note: this is the company which can help you to go other parts of East Nusa Tenggara. I did not go with that tour. But for informarion, you can ask them)

I hope these information can be useful for someone.

Hninn

 

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