After breakfast, I walked around Sandakan just to check out the town. It’s pretty old and has a “heritage trail” that you can walk through to see all the historic sights.
I saw a lot of WWII memorials. I didn’t know Borneo had so much history with the war.
Around 10:30, Johanna and I walked to the pick-up location a few minutes away from the hostel to meet for our river cruise tour (we booked with River Junkie. It cost about $125 for a 3-day, 2-night tour).
Our driver was there waiting for us, so we hopped in the van and got going. About 30 minutes later we stopped at the Nature Lodge Sepilok for lunch. The only option was a buffet that cost 26 ringgit (about $7), so we left to find food elsewhere. We weren’t hungry enough for a buffet, and that’s a lot of money for a meal in Asia.
We walked down the road to Sepilok B&B. The chef wasn’t in yet, so they told us to wait. He should arrive shortly.
Around 11:30, we checked with the receptionist to see if the chef was coming soon. She called him, and after she got off the phone told us that the chef wouldn’t be coming in because he had a toothache.
A toothache??! You can call in sick for that?? I found it hilarious but also very annoying because now our lunch options were depleted.
We walked back to the Nature Lodge, which had a minimart. They had an assortment of instant ramen— I chose the veggie laksa ramen. I usually hate instant noodles, but it was either this or chips. Or I guess a $7 buffet.
At 12:30, we were on the road again. Next stop was the river, where we would be spending the next 2 nights.
We got to the lodge, Nature Lodge Kinabangtan, at 3.
We sat down at reception with the other two people who had rode in the van with us. Their names were Nelly and Martin, and they were from Chile.
The staff was exceptionally nice. They greeted us with juice, explained the itinerary to us, made sure they were aware of our dietary restrictions, and showed us to our room.
This was my first time telling people I’m vegan in a long time. I’m not sure why.
At restaurants, I usually just ask if there are any vegetarian options or if they can make something vegetarian. I guess I don’t say “vegan” because I’m not sure if they’ll understand what that means. Vegetarian is way more universally known than vegan.
With people I’m traveling with, they’ll usually ask me if I’m vegetarian after noticing that I’m not eating meat or constantly asking for no meat at restaurants. After I tell them that I am, they’ll usually ask how many years I’ve been doing it and why, and then we’ll move on. I don’t say I’m vegan because I don’t really feel it’s necessary to. If I spend enough time with them, they’ll eventually realize that I’m also not eating eggs or dairy and they’ll then realize that I am vegan.
I think it’s also that I’m having a hard time labeling myself as fully vegan anymore. In the beginning of my travels, I was definitely a strict vegan. But as time went on and I began having an increasingly harder time sticking to veganism 100%, I became less strict with it. I’ve had many pancakes, cookies, dishes that probably had fish sauce or fish paste, and soups that probably had chicken broth. It’s not because I don’t want to be vegan or that I want to eat meat or something. It’s just that it gets really exhausting to be strictly vegan when you’re eating out for 100% of your meals in countries where veganism is not a thing.
So yeah. I guess calling myself “vegan” feels weird, because I haven’t been that strict with it for a couple months now.
At 3:30 Johanna and I walked over to the lodge’s cafe for “tea time.” So fancy!! Am I in the right place??!
They had tea, coffee, some pineapple cookies, and a traditional coconut milk & tapioca dessert. I knew it was vegan because I’d had it before. It was super sweet… but it’s vegan so whatever!! I’ll take what I can get.
There were some others sitting in the cafe for tea time as well. They all seemed to either be from the UK or Australia. Didn’t know there was such a strong UK presence in Borneo.
At 4 pm we got on the boat for our first river cruise. It was just the four us of— Johanna, Martin, Nelly, and I— on the boat.
We saw another group with about 20 people on their boat, and I was really happy I wasn’t part of that posse…
Some of what we saw:
- Silvered leaf monkey
- They are orange as babies and then get darker as adults
- Mohawk hair!
- Longtailed macaque
- Proboscis monkey:
- Our guide joked that they are called the Dutch monkey in Malaysian because of their big nose.
- Apparently it’s really called that because the Dutch discovered the species.
- They are only found in Borneo.
- The bigger the nose, the more attractive they are
- If a male wants to join another group, they have to go into a slapping battle in order to be let in.
- They have 2 stomachs: one for digesting normal food and the other for killing bacteria. They eat a lot of poisonous food.
- Apparently people tried to put them in a zoo in the past, but the monkeys couldn’t survive more than a month.
- I found them so odd because they sit like humans with their hands on knees. It was rather unsettling.
- Oriental hornbill
- Travel in pairs. Only have one partner their whole life.
- There are 8 species of hornbills that live along this river.
- White egret
- Buffy fish owl
We learned that the monkeys come close to the river in the evening to find a tree to sleep in since it’s cooler by the river. Then they go deep in the jungle during day because there’s more oxygen there. The silvered leaf monkeys can cohabit with macaques.
Some of the fish that can be found in the river are catfish, prawns, groupers, and tilapia.
There were lots of plastic bottles and styrofoam in the water. It made me really sad. However, the jungle itself was beautiful. There were so many shades of green and so many types of trees. I was mesmerized by it all. Even if I hadn’t seen any animals, the jungle itself would have been enough.
Video of proboscis monkeys making the strangest noises…
We got back at 6 and had an hour before dinner. I continued to read my book, The Psychopath Test.
I sat down for dinner at a long table. The UK/Aussies were sitting there as well. A couple of them were talking about Serial, so I asked them which season they were listening to. Season 1, they told me. One of them had finished, the other was in the midst of listening.
“It’s really good, but you never find out the outcome. Like you never find out the truth.”
I told the one who wasn’t finished yet.
Her friend mumbled,
“Yeah she just ruined it for you.”
I felt so bad. The rest of the dinner I felt like they hated me and I felt so uncomfortable.
Anyway, now to the important details: The food. It was buffet style, and pretty good!!
I got curry pumpkin, rice, potatoes, bok choy, and side salad. They also gave me a special side of tempeh and fries because I’m vegan! So nice of them.
We had a night jungle walk scheduled for 8:30.
Before the walk, our guide told us several things.
“There will be many leeches. They will get in your armpits, bellybutton, thighs.”
“If you have a headlamp, I suggest you hold it in your hand. If you have it on your head, the insects and bats will attack your face.”
“We may end the the walk early if the wind is too strong. The branches might fall on our heads.”
“If you touch the trees, make sure there are no spiders, centipedes, or snakes.”
“The fire ants bite you.”
I was excited for walk, but after that briefing, not so much. I was super nervous about what might happen to me in the jungle.
The only wildlife we saw was a sleeping rufous-backed kingfisher bird. They cover their heads with wings to protect themselves from mosquitos.
The walk was super muddy and wet, but I somehow didn’t get a single leech on me. We’ll see about tomorrow, though…
I read more of my book before bed. As I was reading, it slowly dawned on me that Trump fits all of the psychopathic characteristics… is Trump a psychopath? He might be one of those leaders Ronson talks about in the book who make it to the top with their superficial charm and charisma and then destroy society with their psychopathic behavior… Oh god.