2/25/12

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

"Today you are you!
That is truer than true!
There is no one alive...
...who is you-er than you!
Shout loud, “I am lucky to be what I am!
Thank goodness I’m not just a clam or a ham
Or a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam!
I am what I am! That’s a great thing to be!
If I say so myself, 
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!”

***

Feb 5, 2012

No better place to turn 26 than the beach! The Tunku Abdul Rahman Park of Kota Kinabalu is a marine park that is made up of a cluster of five idyllic islands namely: Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Gaya and Pulau Sulug. If you are on a budget (like us), there's no need to fret. All these islands are only about 20-30 minutes speedboat ride. We rode a taxi from Lavender Lodge and proceeded to Jesselton Point where we purchased speedboat tickets from Aparu Holiday Tours. Their speedboats are like jeepneys in the Philippines with different routes. You just have to ride the speedboat going to your island of choice!
Notes: Smile and ask for a discount! :)
-Island Hopping Manukan and Sapi = RM 23 (we got less RM 10)
-Tax = RM 3
-Conservation Fee = RM 3 (Malaysian rate)


The first stop was Mamutik Island where we dropped off some passengers. It's the smallest island but we saw some big sea urchins.
Then off to Manukan Island for snorkeling. The beach reminds me of Honda Bay in Palawan with its crystal clear water, white sands and abundant marine life. I worship the sun!
They also offer Sea walking. Literally, walking under the sea while interacting with different species of fish, corals and colorful marine plants. The rate ranges from RM 120-RM 250. Too pricey for us, so no thanks! Haha. 
No need to worry about food in this island. There are a lot to choose from. From small food stalls to long buffet tables. We spent only RM 5.50 for breakfast.

For lunch, we transferred to the wonderful Sapi Island. To me, it was better than Manukan. Last round of snorkeling. Schools of fish were following us. This is where I'm happiest :)


A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY INDEED!!!
But that's not all..
At night, we went to Mari Mari Village to experience ancient Borneo. It is just 30 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu City. I was so amazed to be in a living museum showcasing different ethnic communities. Felix, the cat err the friendly excursion guide gave a brief intro and led us to the different villages.
Mari Mari means "Come Come" in Malay. So we first explored the Dusun traditional home and saw their rooms with actual ethnic items. They also simulated their ritual ceremonies and how they lived.
There were little demonstration huts in the village showing how the Dusun people cooked back in the day. I tried cooking in a hollow bamboo tube. They served the food later that night. And it was uhm well I'm not exactly a kitchen whiz. Hehe. We also got a taste of their potent local drink in little bamboo cups. CHEERS!
 Next stop was the Rungus traditional house where we saw blowpipe making demonstration and fire starting from a bamboo tree without the help of a lighter. *claps*
The Bajau house sits on stilts with a wooden overall architecture. I wonder why there are still a lot of Bajau kids in the Philippines who dive for coins thrown in the water by tourists. They've got a big house in Sabah. Hehe. Look at us in mock traditional Bajau wedding. Pwede? :P
Further down, we visited the home of the Murut people who were once known as the fierce headhunters of  Sabah. In the middle of the longhouse, there was a sunken part with a platform used for a traditional game. I actually enjoyed jumping on it.

video

We also learned about tattoo-making and its symbolism. "BEAUTY". "WARRIOR".

After visiting the different villages, we found ourselves dancing with the different tribes. Their traditional dance is much like, Tinikling.

Then, they gave us a REAL PERFORMANCE. It was the best Malaysian Folk Dance I've ever seen!

video

Finally, it was time for dinner. Malaysian food is quite similar to Filipino food. It has a flavor that appeals to my palate.

The tour costs RM 130 inclusive of return transfer, english speaking guide, buffet, house tours and demo and cultural performances. A must visit when you're in Sabah. It lasted about 3 hours and I immediately felt connection. Truly, an unforgettable BIRTHDAY!

Thank you for sharing this AMAZING experience with me, Dawg! I still can't get this silly smile off my face. ♥ ♥ ♥

2/22/12

First of Many: Kota Kinabalu

We made it! Our first international trip together! Haha. Daut and I were lucky enough to get a roundtrip ticket for Clark-Kota Kinabalu for only P1,305 thru Airasia. Half the price of Cebu-Manila ticket! Mwahaha!

Weeks before our trip, we had to go thru some hassle process so that we could travel. As a government employee, I had to get authority to travel from the City Mayor. And since Daut is still rendering his service obligation to DOST (Department of Science and Technology), he needed to post a cashbond = P51,300 in order to get a clearance. Thank God for Jongy and Jay Ann for helping us out. Shoutout also to Norbs for dealing with the Bureau of Immigration. The universe has conspired and we made it to Malaysia! :)

 Feb 4, 2012
Since we arrived in NAIA airport from Cebu, we had to commute to Clark for about 2 hours. Here's the cheapest way :D
1. Taxi to Five Star Terminal (p75)
2. Bus to Dau Mabalacat Terminal (p141)
3. Jeepney to SM Clark (p8)
4. Jeepney from SM to DMIA (250/Jeep) - we were willing to wait for other passengers but a Korean was in a hurry to catch his flight. The driver made Daut and I pay P125 so that we could go.

Notes:
-Travel Tax = 1,620 PHP
-Terminal Fee = 600 PHP
-1 Ringgit (MYR) = 14 PHP *tip: selling rate in Inervest (DMIA) is P13.80*
***
5ish pm Touchdown Kota Kinabalu. From the airport, we walked about 1 km to the main road and waited for the city bus. Two European backpackers came to us and asked us for directions thinking we were professional backpackers. Naks!!! They were surprised to know that it was also our first time in KK. And that's how we made new friends in another corner of this world. We figured our way together and shared a taxi to Lavender Lodge. Seri Selara was our choice for dinner but the backpacking couple said it was complicated and expensive. And they were right! We saved a lot by eating in some small restaurant owned by a Muslim. The waitress was a very friendly Pinay who even gave me a Malay dictionary for free. Good vibes all around KK. We exchanged stories with the "Real" backpackers and they had really nice to things to say about the Philippines. Meet Hynek and Nina from Czech Republic. Oh I wish I can quit my job and travel too!
Notes:
-Dunkin Donuts = RM 4.80
-Last bus ride = 6pm
-Taxi from airport to Lavender = RM 15
-Dinner = RM 24.50

I find it really safe to walk around town at night. We had late night drinks at the waterfront. And again, the waiter is Filipino. A lot of those people working in KK are Filipinos and talk in Tagalog. It was fun chatting with them and it made me feel very much at home.

So yeah, I turned 26. It takes a long time to grow young. And my birthday deserves a separate post! :)