26 December 2016
So, here I am at the airport. Finally the time has arrived. I feel hungry, tired, nervous and excited all at the same time. I’m not sure which one I should attend to first.
I’ll be fed on the plane and then can sleep. The nerves and excitement will just have to stay with me a little while longer.
My bag checked in at 9kg. Somehow I was able to take out a kilogram by repacking and reshuffling. The one set of spare clothes I put in my hand luggage in case of lost bags did the trick.
Boarding is in 20 minutes. Not too long to wait. I’m sure I look calm from the outside. A fantastic facade of what’s really going on internally. I keep telling myself that no-one ever expanded their horizons by doing the same things over and over.
This is definitely the bravest adventure I’ve ever embarked on. I’m excited to see what tomorrow brings. For now I’m going to set my phone to flight mode, board the plane, get comfy in my window seat and say goodbye to Brisbane for 3 weeks.
By the time you wake, I’ll be in Singapore for sure, or almost touching down in Kuching.
Let the travels begin..
27 January 2016
Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
It’s a relatively short flight from Australia to Borneo so when I see the shoreline flanked by the green forest or jungle all my nervousness disappears. Excitement kicks in. Off into the distance the mountains are being kissed by puffy white clouds.
Touchdown. Taxiing down the runway my eyes are overjoyed by the greenest of grass and the lines of palm trees. I am officially in the tropics. I brace myself exiting the airport for that whack of humidity. I smile. I even do a little dance on the inside.
Checking into my hotel, the LimeTree, and entering my room I immediately rip open the curtains. Brightly coloured roofs fills my view. I look to see that the windows actually open so I hang my torso outside to get a better scope. I’m on level 4 of 5 levels. Stoked. I could even check in at 10am.
Well, it’s time to start exploring. Off on the hunt for an ATM and to appreciate the local way of life in Kuching. The pavement is uneven and my wandering eyes trips me up. I chuckle. Idiot! Pay attention to what’s ahead. There’s just too much to look at!!
At an intersection I run into a fountain of cat statues. After reading the plaque I quickly learn there’s a cat museum. That’s what I’m going to do tomorrow.
I make it to the waterfront. It’s seriously at least 5 degrees cooler. Time to sit, cool down and relax. A favourite spot for locals and tourists alike.
Walking some more through food stalls, street BBQs, clothes market and into the plaza. The aircon provides some relief. I find the ATM and the restroom. Pay RM2 for super clean facilities.
I head back via Chinatown with just enough time to spare before the afternoon storm hits. Upon hearing the rain I make my way to level 5 to the rooftop bar. I’m enjoying the 180 degree view of the river and listening to the rain falling on the tin roof. Once it clears I’m going to be brave and find some local cuisine for dinner.
28 January 2017
The Cat Museum, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
I wake and open the curtains to remind myself that I’m really in Kuching. It’s drizzling. Proceeding to open the window to confirm it’s still warm outside. Yep!
While eating breakfast in the hotel lobby I research whether or not to walk to the cat museum. Google suggested an Über. Sweet! No need for a money exchange or to watch my maps. A 15 minute ride for RM19.
It’s a quiet ride as I’m lost in my own thoughts and taking in all the sights. As we arrive at North City Hall the road starts ascending rapidly. The view from the top overlooking Kuching is glorious and is surrounded by magnificent gardens.
I enter the museum free of charge although you pay RM3 to take photos with your phone. More for a camera or video – go figure. The only way I can describe the museum is a kitsch shrine dedicated to all the cats in the world. A collection of paintings, porcelain figurines, cats in history, movies, books, proverbs, advertising, jewellery and much more. I was amused by the poster of Burt Reynolds in a movie called, “The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing”.
On my way out I head down towards the beautiful garden area. I see a group of Muslim people, four women and two men. One of the ladies started saying something while pointing at my sunglasses on my head and then to the camera. I mistook that she wanted my sunglasses or for me to take a photo. In actual fact, she was pointing at my face and wanted a photo of me, the white female.
Of course I oblige to the group shot and then singular shots of each and every one of them with their arms around my shoulders. They were so amused and excited by the opportunity.
The lady asks, which I decipher, who was I travelling with? When I said on my own she really looked surprised. As I begin to walk away towards the gardens I can hear her say a few words/sentences to the group. The only word I pick up is “cantik”, which means pretty in Indonesian (and Malaysian). I know this from previous trips to Bali. I reply with “sama”, which means same. She smiles and giggles.
I meander around the garden for a while, take photos, then head back to the museum entrance to order an Uber using the free Wifi. Jenny arrives. This is her real name given to her by her grandmother. She explains that we are in the Malay area of Kuching. She’s lived here all her life and hopes to visit her school friends in Perth and Melbourne next year, in October. We chat about lots of things. Jenny realises I will be here for New Year’s Eve and says there will be fireworks at the waterfront which I might see from the rooftop bar at the hotel. She’s a lovely young lady. Very pretty too.
I’ve decided to do a river cruise tomorrow. See the city from a different perspective. Tonight however, I’m going to meet an older couple from Melbourne at the rooftop bar by 6pm. They are also on the tour which starts tomorrow evening. I think I have just enough time to fit in a quick nap.
29 January 2016
Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
This morning, I headed out onto the Sarawak River for a cruise in a longboat. Turned out that the rest of the day was quite a lazy one and that’s exactly what holidays are for!!
30 January 2016
Bako National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia
Today, our group of 12, were transported by minibus to the ferry. When I say ferry, I mean a tinnie that will take us to Bako National Park which is not accessible by road.
Hiking boots off to wade into the shore. A minute on the beach and our guide pointed out a wild boar. I freaked out at first expecting some sort of attack or to at least be a little more aware of my surroundings in case of the need to defend. Turns out that these little fellows are Bearded Pigs and in some sense protected due to the Muslim culture of refraining from eating pig meat. A sanctuary or safe haven for pigs. Bless
We dump our overnight bags and head off towards a jungle trail. Within 30 steps, up in the trees, are proboscis monkeys. They are right there!!! I’m feeling that my day is fulfilled already and it’s only 10am.
The trek continues into the jungle, past the Pitcher Plant (carnivorous) and to the lookout at the beach. Here, we are greeted by a very cheeky and mischievous Macaque Monkey. I’m fairly certain he could smell us coming due to the humidity and the odour from sweat pouring out of our bodies. It feels like 38 degrees today.
This monkey was after plastic bags in our backpacks. To him, backpacks + plastic bags = delicious foodie treats
On our return to HQ we relax and enjoy the cool breeze while our guide, Air, plays the ukulele. He even sang a few songs for us. Life is really tough.
The evening presented the most wonderful sunset from the beach. Such a nice way to end the day.
Feeling blessed and grateful for everyone and everything. I’m in paradise.
31 January 2016
NYE & Orangutans, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
It’s an early ferry from Bako National Park to catch the tide. Otherwise it could have been a very rough trip back to the ferry terminal. The morning’s cool sea breeze on my face is a nice way to wake up.
Before I forget, it’s important to note that the accommodation at Bako is very simple. Dorm rooms with limited creature comforts. Be prepared for showering in water that is a browny colour, plastic mattresses, ceiling fans and lights that may or may not work, no hooks to hang your clothes in the shower or the dorm room, no bench to sit down on or to lay your luggage on. It’s like camping but without the tent.
Our minivans arrive at the ferry terminal and we are now on the way to the Semenggoh Orangutan sanctuary. I’m desperately trying to contain my excitement.
First though we stop at an outside local eatery which is stalls of pop up kitchens. For breakfast I had Wonton Soup. It was so good and so cheap. I’m finding that food is generally cheaper than buying drinks – so bizarre. Apparently across the road a man was preparing live chickens to make into meals later on. My heart wouldn’t let me look to verify if that was true.
I’m so excited and hopeful to see the Orangutans. We’ve been advised that one of the mother’s has a 3 month old baby. Geez I hope they are around today and want to put on a display. Everything about this trip, and the past 12 months to get here, is about these next few hours. Fingers crossed. Staying positive. Now begging. Please. Please. Please.
We walk along a trail through the jungle at the sanctuary. I’m at the middle to back end of the group. The track winds around as we step over tree roots and muddy patches. I can see the clearing up ahead. There’s lots of people pushing forward with oooh’s and aaaah’s. I’m not there yet and can’t see a thing. Let me see, let me see! As I approach and my eyes focus, I too, can see what everyone else was seeing. My smile is so wide. The glow from inside my soul has just brightened.
There they are!! Mother and baby. Feeding on fruit. They can see us too. AMAZING!!
I take a stack load of photos and a few videos before I realise that I’m not actually taking in the experience. I put the phone down and begin to really watch and stare. These creatures are magnificent. Always having one point of contact on the rope at all times. They are amusing, interesting, playful, wonderful. They are truly wonderful.
The baby has eaten and when he’s full he does a little dance and somersault swing on the rope. So funny to watch. It’s almost like he’s showing everyone he’s full and happy. So cute.
I don’t want to leave, ever. Eventually mumma Orangutan decides for me by taking her baby into the tree and onto the rope that takes them back into the dense jungle of the sanctuary. I’m still glowing inside. Nobody can take this smile off my face. Not today. This will now be my “happy place” whenever things in life are getting me down.
Back to Lime Tree Hotel in Kuching to get ready for the New Year’s Eve festivities. Looking back over at the videos and photos, it was a very random night. Sitting on the roof of a bar drinking Tiger watching the sun go down. Creating hashtags. Pizza at a karaoke bar. Watching Air play guitar and sing at a venue. Ending with the fireworks display from Lime Tree’s rooftop bar.
We have to pack for 4 days tomorrow and be ready at 5.30am. I may not be great after only 2 hours sleep.
01 January 2017
Iban Longhouse & Niah Caves, Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia
It’s a super early start at 5.30am as we have a flight booked to go to Miri with Air Asia.
Tonight we will be billeted out and staying on the living room floor of the families that live in the Iban Longhouse. But first, we fly 2 hours to Miri, then drive 2 hours to Niah National Park (stopping in a village for lunch), walk 3.5kms along the boardwalk and then we will arrive.
A little hungover and tired, I wasn’t looking forward to the walk. It’s hot and humid and the boardwalk is slippery in some spots so it pays to be quite alert. Which I am not today.
At the end of the boardwalk two ladies are selling fruit and handicrafts. I bought three beaded bracelets for RM10.
We enter the Longhouse community. Wow. Just wow. It’s not like anything I’ve seen before. There are cats lounging around, dogs larking in the street, children laughing and playing soccer with a half deflated plastic ball, men and women welcoming us from their balcony.
We meet the mum’s of our families who have cold drinks and homemade cakes ready for us. The ladies have limited English but try their best to communicate. It’s nice that they have us in their home. This is quite the experience.
Feeling cooled down and a little refreshed we trek up into Niah Caves. These caves are special because in 1958, an anatomically modern human skull, dated to be 40,000 years old, was found. This is the oldest remains of a Homo Sapien discovered in all of Southeast Asia and in the time when the island of Borneo was still connected to the mainland.
Bats and swiftlets live in the cave now. The swiftlets nests are the special ingredient to the Chinese bird’s-nest soup. The local Iban still collect them to sell. We were shown one of the nests that had just been collected from the ceiling of the cave and it was infested with mites. My skin was crawling and I legged it out of there. Gross.
The evening with the Iban Tribe was very entertaining. Dinner was delicious and the traditional dance show afterwards was the highlight. Everyone was smiling, tapping their toes to the rhythm of the drums, watching the male and female versions of the traditional dances and clothing. We even got up ourselves and gave it a good go.
After a round of rice wine we all hit the hay.
02 January 2017
Mulu National Park, Mulu, Sarawak, Malaysia
We casually all take our time to say goodbye, take photos and make our way back to Park HQ via the 3.5km boardwalk.
I wished I had known that the kids are up and ready for school and leave by 5.30am. I would have gotten up to wave them off. They all walk to the end of the street and take the bus together. Secondary kids go to boarding school and only return during the holidays.
The museum at park HQ is still closed today. Not open on Monday’s.
The bus is ready to return us to Miri airport for our lunchtime flight to Mulu. This 30 minute flight by MAS in a 70 seater twin prop plane over complete jungle was quite the joyride. We were told that if the weather turns bad we may have to come back to Miri. We haven’t had any bad luck on this trip so far and today is the same.
The runway is very short and I can see the ‘tin shed’ airport. It’s actually a nice building with air conditioning and clean toilets.
As I descend down the stairs at the back of the plane and onto the tarmac, I look towards the mountains which have clouds hovering across in front of them. I can feel myself smiling from the inside out. It’s beautiful here.
Welcome to Mulu National Park.
The group is transported in two trips on the back of a 4WD. Breeze in our hair and way too cool for school. It was so much fun. It’s a shame that the destination was only a three minute ride away.
I also noticed that there’s a Marriott in Mulu. I must remember to google it when I have wifi again.
We are staying at the lodge in the longhouses. Very flash. Clean, white sheets, comfy queen sized beds, big rooms. I’m glad we are here for 2 nights. I’m sharing with Camina (Spanish) and Susanna (Aussie). We all quickly spread out our belongings in our undefined areas.. it’s nice to take everything out of your bag and feel roomy.
In the afternoon we meet to walk the boardwalk to Lang and Deer caves. Deer cave is known for having the largest cave entrance in the world. It’s big!! At dusk we perch up on the cleared seated area about 400m away from the cave to wait for the bats to emerge. Seems like they are taking the night off. They didn’t come out of the cave at all. Perhaps it’s worth trying again tomorrow night?
03 January 2017
Free Day in Mulu National Park, Mulu, Sarawak, Malaysia
Free days are meant for sleeping and relaxing, right? No, not today. Air geared us up the night before that there are two free bikes to ride to the local villages. In order to be early and a) be cooler b) grab the bikes before anyone else we have a 6am start.
There’s only one bike parked up and one of the locals tells us that it has a flat tyre. Susanna and I decide to take a walk anyways. Such a nice time of day to take photos.
On our return we catch the sunrise over the mountain at 7.20am. It seemed odd, but as we are only a few metres above sea level it does make sense.
After breakfast I have a quick nap before the canopy skywalk. It’s quite a unique concept. The only wildlife I saw was a tiny squirrel. Too quick for a photo. Didn’t see any birds or monkeys unfortunately.
Off in search for the waterfall now to cool off. It’s a bit of a hump through the jungle, not along a boardwalk, like we had been doing previously. The waterfall is flowing nicely. I couldn’t get my hiking boots and clothes off quick enough. I was first in but also first out. It was so refreshing. My favourite photo of the day was from here.
It rains in the afternoon so there isn’t any point to visit the cave entrance again to see the bats emerge. Apparently they don’t like rain. I have an afternoon nap instead.
04 January 2017
Mulu National Park, Mulu, Sarawak, Malaysia
As I wake Susanna immediately exclaims, “Happy Birthday!”. For a moment there I had forgotten. Today I turn 40.
As I walk into the cafe I’m greeted by Air with a shake of the hand. He passes something into my palm and says, “Happy Birthday. You must pass this on in two years”. It’s like a moment you see in the movies. I’m surprised and honoured at the same time. He also said something else but I’ll write more about that later. I felt special. Really, really, special. Something I’ll never forget.
After breakfast, we travel by longboat to more caves. Clearwater Cave has quite the river running through it. It looks perfect for tubing or white water rafting, however it’s not allowed. This cave also has miniature pinnacles which apparently can only be found in Borneo and Cayman islands. It’s nice and cool in the cave and the clean water dripping down from the cave’s roof is refreshing.
The longboats now take us to the start of our 8.5km trek to Camp 5. Air has let us all take our own pace today as long as we have buddies. Susanna and I pace it out. She is naturally a fast walker and I want the hike to be over in order to take a swim in the river at camp. That’s motivation enough for me. Art caught up to us and ended up finishing the trail with us. After a small diversion as the sign to Camp 5 was a little unclear.
It’s awesome here. Reminds me of camping on the river with Lyndal and the horses at Doughboy when I was a teenager. This place is in the middle of nowhere and took only 2.5 hours to get to.
The river is very refreshing and I was only keen enough to go waist deep. Brrr.
Our sleeping arrangements are half partitioned walls in open air dorm style rooms. There are mats to put down on the waist height landing. Susanna was smart and kind enough to mention to me that there’s enough mattresses to double up for extra comfort. Mosquito nets are provided.
I was in bed by 7pm this evening to try and minimise the impact of this flu that’s going around.
05 January 2017
Camp 5, Sarawak, Malaysia
An early rise starting the day with a noodle breakfast. After a group photo showcasing the glorious backdrop we proceed onto the Headhunters Trail.
Today’s hike through the jungle will be 11.3kms including walking over planks, crossing rivers by rope bridges and following the jungle track. We have a local guide leading the way. He is an older man with a tattoo on this throat. I wonder whether all the men in his tribe have one or whether a special feat or test had to be passed. His English is not the best so I didn’t ask at the time. As it turns out, he had to prove himself. Our tour guide, Air, asked him later in the day for me. I wish I knew the full story.
We can hear a lot of birds but cannot see much. Hopefully we will spot a monkey or even a sun bear. Apparently the durian only provides fruit every two years. This is a very sweet fruit with an unusual smooth texture. The consistency is almost like yoghurt. A popular fruit for the locals and the sun bears.
After hearing a lot of slow swooping sounds I finally see a flock of Hornbill’s over my head above the canopy. They are big birds!! To put this into perspective it felt like I was in the movie Jurassic Park and they were teredactyls flying overhead.
I was lucky enough not be attacked by leeches on this walk. Others not so lucky.
Today is the last day of hiking for me. Most of the others still have to prepare for Mt Kota Kinabalu. My head space is not there.
At the end of the trail we were collected by long boats for a leisurely hour’s ride down the river. It rained for about 10 minutes in one part and then clear, hot and steamy for the rest. So nice to feel the cool breeze on your face. We were warned not to fall asleep and tip the boat. After being in the boats I can see how easy it would be to lose balance and fall in. I’m figuring if one goes, we all go.
The water looks so inviting. I wouldn’t mind a swim where we parked up for lunch although the rare sighting of fresh water crocodiles is slightly putting me off. Apparently two babies were caught in the trap yesterday. I made the decision to only cool off my feet instead.
A minibus arrived at our disembarkation point which will take us along a very bumpy and windy road to Limbang. We are staying at Purnama Hotel tonight. The best of three hotels in the town. It was ok, and no complaints from me after being in the jungle these past 3 nights. Very basic, no wifi, gaudy, but ok.
For dinner it was Singapore noodles, hot chips and coke for RM10. Cheap. Really cheap. And tasty. I’m getting used to only eating with a fork and spoon.
Takeaway cider to have in the room before bed. Looking forward to a good night’s sleep.
06 – 09 January 2017
Limbang, Sarawak > Labuan > Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
We take the morning ferry from Limbang to Labuan.
Labuan is a duty free island and therefore if you like shopping then you would enjoy it. Gold, alcohol, clothes, electronics and so on and so forth. For me, a few hours here was enough. I’m not excited by the shopping because that would mean I would have to carry more things in my backpack for another 10 days. No thanks.
The ferry from Labuan to Kota Kinabalu was bigger and faster. The 3 hour ride was pleasant as it allowed me to still quietly and stare out the window in the air-conditioning. I’m glad I took the advice to bring along a hoodie as it got quite chilly by the end.
Our tour ends in Kota Kinabalu after our group dinner along the waterfront. Some are continuing on with another Intrepid tour which includes climbing Mt Kota Kinabalu (I’m excited/nervous for them), others were stopping off in Singapore and a few were headed directly home. We say our goodbyes with the hope to keep in contact on email, Facebook and Instagram.
I had another 3 days in KK to relax, chill and wander about. Anything I wanted really. I ended up having sleep ins, eating breakfast late that you could call it brunch, going for walks to all the different markets and eating dinner late.
My time here was enjoyable as I could let my body rest and get well for my Singapore Stopover. There’s some awesome things ahead of me. I just know it!!
10 January 2017
Departure Day & Singapore
Feeling bummed. I’m not ready to say goodbye to Borneo. Life just keeps on going.
It’s time to check out “Singas”. I’ve never been even though I’ve transitted here many times before. After landing, collecting bags and passing through customs I meet my driver to take me to the hotel. I knew I’d feel better to just have a driver than trying to work out the MRT as soon as I touched down.
Conveniently at KK airport I exchanged my leftover Ringgit to Singapore Dollars. I think it’ll be handy to have $30 in my pocket.
I ask my Chinese looking driver how long he’s lived in Singapore. “All my life, I’m Singaporean!”. He smiles and begins to give me a history and cultural lesson. I find it quite interesting and helpful actually. He then proceeds to tell me all the things to see and what to avoid. I write them down in my phone’s notes section just in case I get stuck for things to do. Apparently I must avoid an area called Geylang. I took his advice but now doing some research it’s the red light district and quite seedy and doesn’t live up to the “clean Singapore” expectation. It’d be interesting to go check out if I was with a few friends. Next time.
I check into the hotel – G Hotel. It’s suberb!! Love. Love. Love. The room is really small but it has a queen sized bed and it’s perfect for me. Boutique and trendy. It’s definitely my kind of place. Good location too. I can walk anywhere within an hour or so.
I decide to go exploring the streets. The plan is to find an ATM first, then massage (I’ve been carrying a backpack for days now), then dinner. Within 20 metres I find the ATM, 400 metres I get a 45 minute massage and then I find Bugis Mall. Now I’ve bought a dress and had all my nails painted. I’m feeling fairly spoilt.
I decide to start heading back towards the hotel and find Bugis Street markets. They are interesting to look at and I only bought a lime drink for SGD$1. As I work out where I am on a map I head down a street where I’m approached by a lady to get a facial and all this other stuff that was going to take an hour… Ah sure, why not. I never do this kind of stuff.
Now I’m feeling relaxed and beautified. I really should find some dinner. Just outside my hotel there are street or el fresco eateries. Yep, that’s me sorted. Belly full, enjoying the evening outside as it cools down I end up having an hour’s conversation on messenger with my friend Nigel in Melbourne. He really cracks me up. People are going to think I’m crazy as I laugh and chuckle out loud at the crowded table.
11 January 2017
I figured the fastest way to learn my way around would be take a city tour. I jump onto the bus and off I go. First stop is the marina. I go for a walk and snap some photos of the city and the waterfront. I admire the city skyscraper, the boats in the bay and the magnificent three towered building with a “boat” on top, namely Marina Bay Sands. Totally looking forward to checking into that hotel in a few day’s time. I am hoping to have an amazing city view.
It’s really hot and humid today so I treat myself to a melon sorbet. So delicious!
Next stop is one of the many Chinese Temples, Thian Hock Keng, situated in Chinatown. It’s one of the oldest in Singapore built in 1842. The entire structure has been assembled without nails. I particularly admired the carved dragons and phoenixes, the tile work and the painted door gods who protected the entrance.
Off again towards the Botanical Gardens to view the National Orchid Garden. So colourful. I’m not sure I’ve seen so many varieties before. Mum would love this. Later in the day I created a collage of colour and posted on mum’s Facebook page.
I now have the option of being dropped back to the city on the bus or make my own way back via the Botanical Gardens and along Orchard Road. It’s a no brainer for me really.
After purchasing an overpriced sandwich and drink I casually stroll through the gardens. I didn’t realise how much area this place covers and I probably only saw 10% of it. I was happy to spot Perentie lizards on the path, squirrels (OMG), fish and turtles in the pond and a wide variety of birds. Loved it. I could definitely stay here longer away from the bustling city which I could hear in the distance.
I continue to follow Google maps on my phone towards Orchard Road. The street is very long and now that I’ve seen all the name brand shops, neon lights and billboards along with the masses of people, I never need to go back. Shopper’s paradise. Not a place for me at all.
It starts to rain which brings a pleasant and cool relief. People scatter for cover or reach for their umbrellas. By walking in the rain I’ve created a clear path for myself. It’s actually really nice.
I head back to my hotel room nap and then shower. When I wake I head back down to a Mexican place I spotted on the way to the hotel. I couldn’t bring myself to eating rice again. Nachos it is!
Walking home alone at 10.30pm was of no consequence. I wasn’t even awkward or uncomfortable. Nobody stares. I find Singapore to be so multi-cultured that the level of acceptance is very high. It’s such a warming feeling. I felt 100% safe the entire time I was here.
12 January 2017
I’ve been looking forward to today. Not only do I bet to check into Marina Bay Sands this afternoon, I’m also going to Gardens by the Bay in search of the driftwood horse sculptures. My mum had sent me a link a while back and I learned that they were on display in Singapore.
Turns out, the artist, James Doran-Webb, has made many sculptures of many animals. I saw about seven or eight of them in the Flower Dome. Mind blown.
The Cloud Forest is not to be missed. Nor is the OCBC Skyway. Pay the money and go up 22 metres above the gardens for a panoramic view. There’s something “freeing’ about being so high above nature. You’ll see what I mean. The Super Trees are futuristic vertical gardens. The way of the future. It made me feel like I was in the midst of a Dr Seuss book or movie. Incredible. So imaginative. I loved it even though I had no one else to share it with.
Going back to the Cloud Forest. It’s absolutely breathtaking. I felt so relaxed and overjoyed at the same time. I could feel myself smiling. Such a beautiful idea and structure.
I had no plans for the rest of the day so it made sense to walk back to the hotel to grab my gear and return to check in at Marina Bay Sands. I am so glad that I made the decision to walk back. I met the most amazing man. This is how the story goes….
I’d been walking for 40 minutes already just making my way over pedestrian bridges and through underpasses, following footpaths and sidewalks, crossing roads. I came across a lovely walkway lined with shady trees. As I was walking my mind was drifting away soaking up my surroundings, what I’ve done these past few weeks, how long it took me to get here financially and emotionally. I felt happy and proud. I figured I should cherish the moment. I spot a red frangipani on the ground. I’ve always liked these flowers as they are bright, happy and calming. I’ve never seen one like this though. So I pick it up and pop it behind my ear. I then take a selfie to capture the moment. That’s when I met Eric.
Eric Davis is an older English man who was sitting on a stone pillar at the edge of the walkway. He says to me, “Are you lost dear?”. I look up from my phone and realise that it would look that way to this elderly man who I pinned to be about 75-80 years of age. “Oh no, I’m fine. Just taking selfies”, realising that he probably has no clue of what I was talking about. I sit down beside him and show the photo. “This is a selfie”, I explain.
From that moment we talked for another 2 hours. I was completely fascinated by his stories and all that he’s seen. By the way, he’s 93 years old. He thought I was 30 and surprised I was travelling alone. His stories blew my mind.
This trip he was on his own heading to see family in Perth and then onto New Zealand to his brother. The last time he was in Singapore was after the war. At that time the highest building in Singapore stood at only 6 levels high. Eric was part of the AirForce. Actually, all his brother’s were in the service and amazingly they all survived. I let Eric talk without interrupting. He told me about the “fly-in” planes (which I researched later), his brush with fame at home in the pub with the Australian Cricket Team, the friend’s he had lost due to death or dementia, the passing of his wife and how lonely it was to live so long and to be so alert and active while you watch those you love deteriorate. He talked of a time before cars, before TV, before internet, before phones, before mobiles.. and yes, he carries a mobile phone.
I couldn’t get enough of this man with his wisdom and experience. I feel so blessed to have met him. We exchanged email addresses and yes, we have talked numerous times by email since this day.
I had no idea I had this amount of patience, empathy and fascination. There is seriously no way my day could get any better. Time was the only thing that interrupted our meeting. I value the few small hours I had with Eric and I definitely see the world as a different place because of this man. Thank you.
We depart to return to our own agendas. I can’t stop thinking about Mr Davis. I still have very fond memories. I return to the hotel to repack my backpack and check out. I ask for a cab and wait in the lobby. I am glowing on the inside for so many reason. This trip. Today. Tonight. My friends. My family. Life. Everything.
I jump into the front seat of the cab. On the way down the cab driver asks me which tower I want to go to. I had no idea. He suggested that he’ll take me to the less busy one. Wowsers! People and fast, flash cars everywhere. And this is less busy? I line up to check in. An hour later I’m in the lift going to the 37th floor. I open the door and walk in. This is it! The bathroom, off to the right, is the size of my bedroom at home. It’s ah-mazing! That bath. HUGE. I continue into the main area. I see a desk, massive bed and lounge area. The curtains are closed. I go over to open them to find they are electric. Ha! Open, close, open, close, open, close… open. Floor to ceiling windows and BOOM! The view over the bay to the city.
This excitement isn’t something I should keep to myself. I start calling my friends on skype and scan the room and the view so they can see too. I don’t really know what else to do? After a few hours of conversation with my friends I know it’s time to venture up to level 52.. the Infinity Pool. Swimmers and thongs on and off I go. Only hotel guests can access the pool area. It’s packed. I’m stunned as my eyes start registering what they are seeing. I’m just standing there staring, smiling. I couldn’t even tell you how long for.
I walk all the way to the other end and find a vacant lounge chair. I sit and I watch the people in the pool, taking photos. It’s not too much longer before I get in and start taking photos of myself and the surroundings. In the end I ask a young lady to take my photo. She’s very careful to the the right shot. She gets it. She understands. She told me that she is happy to take more but I’m overjoyed at her efforts already. “Are you sure?”, she asks. I smile, “yes, thank you”. She insists that if I want more to just ask.
Again in the same day I’m blown away. I send my love to all those at home who contributed to all of this. There are many people who love me. I am very fortunate and very thankful. Completely blessed.
I spend a few hours beside the pool. The sunset changes every minute and the light projects beautifully across the buildings and onto the horizon. I wait until dark for the city lights to be more prominent. Soaking it all in.
Heading back to my room I find birthday cake and candles to celebrate my 40th. I take it into the huge bath, fully clothed, to capture an amusing photo for all my friends and family at home to see. I order room service for dinner and I stay awake until after midnight watching the city lights. I don’t want to miss a thing.
13 January 2017
Singapore, departure day
Waking up I get dressed for the day and repack my backpack. I head back up to the top level for breakfast. The view is still amazing. “Breakfast for one?”, asks the waitress. “Yes”, I reply after feeling awkward for a split second as I’d love to be able to share this experience with someone. I fill my belly with the array of food from the buffet. I try to completely soak in everything. I don’t want to forget a single detail, as impossible as that may be.
I reluctantly check out of the hotel with all of my belongings. I remind myself there are more things to come as I am off to the Singapore Zoo. For those who know me will understand how much fun I can have on my own when I’m surrounded by animals and nature. A great last day of my holidays.
One thing though, the cabbie that drove me to the airport didn’t take card for payment. I had to run into the airport foyer and withdraw cash to give to him. I’m all checked in now for my flight home. I wander through the butterfly garden and make my way into the lounge. Shower first, food, wait and reflect.
Love to you all xx