Saturday, July 30, 2011

Malaysia field trips: Borneo

I know the whole idea of the blog is to "travel" without really traveling, but this month we were lucky enough to actually visit the place we were focusing on. We took a family trip to Malaysian Borneo. It was amazing.

For those of you who live in the neighborhood and are looking for a great place to travel with kids, I would highly recommend it.

For those of you who can't make it this far and want a taste, there is a new IMAX movie out - Born to be Wild - about the orangutans of (Indonesian) Borneo and the elephants of Kenya. We are waiting for it to come to Singapore, but it looks like it's out in theaters across the US. It features the primatologist whose memoir I read this month. Also, we've been watching Expedition Borneo on TV here, which shows a window into the natural world in Borneo. One caveat: watching this before we went totally freaked my husband and I out. The scorpions! The snakes! Our version of Borneo was definitely jungle lite. But this show offers an appreciation of the amazing inhabitants of the island.

I had ideas about ways to supplement The Whirl Girl's travel experience, but in the end the day-to-day, hour-to-hour planning of traveling with a 3 1/2-year old took over any major plans. It was enough to keep her fed, rested, and mostly entertained for 6 days. So we tried to explain what we were seeing as we went around and let her experience Malaysia for herself.

Some highlights from the perspective of The Whirl Girl:

dance performances at the Sarawak Cultural Village, a living museum about the different ethnic groups native to Borneo

watching traditional textile weavers at the Sarawak Cultural Village

taking a boat ride to Bako National Park

climbing up and over tree roots, rocks, ladders and bridges on a jungle trail in Bako National Park

spotting wildlife in the park, including a proboscis monkey...

...wild pigs...

...crabs with one big pincher...

...and butterflies.

Discovering a beautiful beach at the end of the trail

Playing with seashells on the beach

Staying in a treehouse

seeing semi-wild orangutans at the Semenggoh Rehabilitation Centre

walking through a longhouse, the traditional form of housing for Borneo's native ethnic groups

snorkeling in the South China Sea (ie swimming in shallow water with her goggles, finding rocks, shells and hermit crabs)

finding dragon sculptures on the Chinese temples in Kuching

and even better, finding live turtles inside the temple

going to the Weekend Night Market and eating Apam Balik, a crepe-like treat stuffed with peanuts
I wish I could say that she enjoyed some of the tasty foods we found - Sarawak laksa, black pepper kway teow, and an amazing seafood dinner - but those didn't quite make her highlight list. Thankfully there's lots of ice cream to be found, even in Borneo.

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