I can’t quite believe that after two days in Singapore, I was actually thinking this. What was the problem? It was incredibly clean, ordered, fantastically easy to get around and a shopping paradise….. a huge contrast to India. It suddenly felt less of an adventure and more of a huge jump into consumerism and excess. (I am turning into a backpacking snob!) India was a big step out of my comfort zone but there was always something amazing around every corner, a wealth of colour and culture. The people were incredibly friendly and happy, with an enduring faith in the way they live their lives (mind you the bathrooms were pretty dire!!)
Singapore is also very expensive – especially compared to India! – and money seemed to be slipping away rather too quickly. After looking through a few leaflets in our apartment, the kids had already formed an itinerary that included a trip to; the aquarium, Universal Studios, the zoo, Bird World, cable car ride etc etc. After we had told them we could only do a couple of these things, they were not best pleased!
Interestingly, the kids had been practically perfect in India, no nagging, no complaining and trying all the local food. Now, as they were faced with a wealth of choice and temptation, their more unpleasant childlike qualities were emerging; nagging, moaning, whining…….. you get the picture!! The heat didn’t really help either; a hot, sweaty, sticky heat which you can’t escape.
On the plus side, everywhere indoors is air-conditioned and we had a lovely clean apartment to stay in with a pool, which the kids loved. They were also delighted to get their fix of fish and chips (Josie) and spaghetti bolognese (Morgan). The Night Zoo was also a great hit (thanks for the top tip Claire).
So as we left Singapore and headed for Borneo I imagined a return to a more adventurous and cultural location. Wrong! Kota Kinabalu was a heaving, built up city with traffic jams, shopping malls and a KFC on every corner!! The heat was even more overwhelming. Luckily, after two nights in a slightly dodgy hotel with cockroaches, we headed off to a tropical island: Pulau Mantanani, which was breath-taking and sooooo relaxing! (Big high five to Mr B). I also discover that there is a reef just off the island named after me!! After one blissful night, which included a moonlit walk along the beach and swimming under the stars, we headed back to the metropolis of KK.
We stayed for another three nights in a large apartment with use of a pool. During the rest of our time in KK, we try to explore less commercial, more authentic areas of the city as well as visiting the vibrant night markets and Sunday market.
We also take a trip up to Mount Kinabalu National Park. The highlight of our stay here is when we visit Rasa Ria Resort where they have a small nature centre to rehabilitate baby orangutans (another top tip, this time from Sue and Darren). We get to watch two infants swinging through the trees to the feeding platform followed by a baby orangutan (TenTen) learning how to climb and swing. Once these infants have mastered all they need to survive on their own, they are returned to the jungle at Sepilok.
The next part of the story turns slightly sour (you will have already read Mr B’s very entertaining Top Gear post I’m sure). Yes, we make our first big mistake of the trip (I wont blame my dear husband entirely as I could have refused), to drive across Sabah from KK to Sandakan. This seemed like a feasible journey to make initially, but due to our late departure, we drIve most of the way in the dark (not good with rain, fog, large pot holes and a crappy little car). Needless to say, I was not a happy bunny!!! In fact, after SIX AND A HALF HOURS in said ‘crappy little car’, I am a weary, aching, hot, cross Mrs Bunny with evil thoughts about Mr Bunny in a pie, hopping through my mind……. Amazingly, the kids, bless their cotton socks, are totally oblivious to the slightly volatile situation and do not even ask AWNTY (are we nearly there yet). When we finally arrive at our hotel in Sandakan I am hoping that it will be skanky so that I can rip Mr Bunny’s ears off. However the room is huge and the beds very inviting, so I collapse into an exhausted, stress induced sleep.
Luckily, I am not one to bear grudges and the next morning I am laughing with Mr Bunny, I mean Mr B, about the road trip from hell.
Next stop, Australia. Thank goodness I persuaded him to fly from Brisbane to Sydney……..