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The Island of Borneo: Kota Kinabalu

Written on: Friday October 24th, 2008

The arrival: 

Leaving Brunei, I was ready to start experiencing some of the more adventurous aspects of this exotic isle.  But the first adventure was the transfer from my hotel in BSB to Kota Kinabalu (KK) in the Malaysian provence of Sabah.  Leaving the room, I hiked to the river, took water transport to town where I caught a bus to the ocean transports.  From there I took another water transport to Sundar, Malaysia in the provence of Sarawack.  The next stage was a bus ride across to Sabah and eventually to KK.  Whew.  And after all that, I had no idea where I was going to stay.  Hoofing it through the steamy streets of KK, I looked at four different hostels before deciding to return to the Summer Lodge and reluctantly check in to a sixteen person shared dorm.  What a pleasant surprise it turned out to be, as I met three British guys traveling together: John and Rich (traveling together so far for thirteen months out of a probable eighteen) and Brad (traveling six months to date and having met the others a couple weeks prior).   

We hit it off immediately and decided to climb Mt. Kilabalu together in a couple days.  Until then we had a couple free evenings, which were happily filled with conversation, cocktails and cards.  They taught me Hoi Tak Noi, a Russian/Estonian game that is quite fun.  In return, I shared my new-found knowledge of Scopa!  There was even an Italian guy staying there the first night who was delighted that somebody else knew this game, and joined in the fun. 

Conversely, the daytimes were spent solo exploring the rainy town.  During this time one wonderful discovery was made amongst the grimy streets and not-so-pleasant smelling alleys: the best seafood market known to Shawn.  Yes, this building had it all, literally tons of shrimp, squid, clams, rays and fish of every imaginable species.  There were shark fins and shark heads, grouper and parrot fish, snappers and barracuda.  The tables were full, the buyers plentiful and the people friendly: I felt a bit like a celebrity, as everybody wanted to stop me and ask where I was from...and could they maybe take a photo with me. 

Leaving the "wet" market, I instantly learned why it was so full.  Just beyond this building is an open-air complex that excels in the preparation and serving of all this delicious seafood.  Rows and rows of shared tables are laid parallel to each other, with each row being about 50' long.  On one end of the seating is cooked seafood that is ready to eat.  On the other is fresh seafood for the more persnickety pallete, just waiting to be chosen and thrown on the barbie.  That evening John, Rich and I hand selected some squid, tiger prawns, and insanely large tiger prawns for our dinner.  They were cooked masterfully and served with a sauce consisting of chilis, lime and soy, which proved to be a magnificent accompaniment to the finished product.  After dinner we headed home for more cards and an early night in preparation for tomorrow's assault on the mountain!