Our first (and big chance that it will be our only) outing in 2020 is Sabah, one of the two Malaysian states that are located in North Borneo/Kalimantan, and bordering with our beloved Indonesia. We planned to do the trip from March 4th until March 12th.
It took us sometime to decide on when and where to go this time, considering that we just got back from a full-on holiday with the whole fam in Thailand last December.
After days of research, cups of coffee, bottles of lychee tea, and long sleeping hours (in our defense, lots of rest can clear your mind and help you to make a good decision 😉), we find that the lowest rank of COVID-19 affected country and the nearest to visit is (again) Malaysia!
We then impulsively bought the tickets when seeing it was a lot cheaper than usual. We always make sure to get the cheapest flight for our trips. That’s because our only income comes from a small travel agency that we both built together since 2012. And considering this COVID-19 madness, thing are not looking good for us, at least in the near future. Also, we have two daughters who still needs to go to school, and the private school in Indonesia are not cheap, let alone free. But hey, all the best for your kids, right? #momrant
This impulsive buying was done back in January, before the COVID-19 issue went globally. We fly with Scoot, a child company of Singapore Airlines, which require us to have a layover in Singapore for both leg.
We plan on doing the trip with a rented motorbike across Sabah. Initially, we wanted to visit Brunei as well, but seeing that there’s not much to do there, we skipped it and just did Sabah.
The route we finally took was Kota Kinabalu – Kota Belud – Kudat – Sandakan – Kundasang – Kota Belud – Kota Kinabalu, with the total riding distance of 1,125 KM for 7 days.
We love to spend long hours on beautiful countryside roads, either by car or motorbike. And since it’s just the two of us this time, we decided to go with the latter. Just one motorbike for both of us and our luggage. We did that most of the time, and that’s all this trip is about. 😉
When we ride a motorbike, we have the freedom of getting closer with nature and it feels more enjoyable when wind hitting our face (not so much when the exhaust fume do so, though). We are able to do the trip in our own pace. Sometimes we saw something interesting that is not mentioned anywhere on the guide book or the internet and just made a stop.
I know most of you think that it will be more enjoyable and safer to just join a trip and have someone drive you around. Also there’s that thought of the mortality rate for bikers is pretty high, especially in Southeast Asia. But well, coming from the developing country like Indonesia have its perks, apparently. If anyone mentioned in any forums that riding in Thailand/Laos/Vietnam is the worst and super dangerous, trust me, Indonesia tops it all. Alvin is a good driver. for both car and bike, and i’m a professional passenger/pillion. 😀
We’ve done a lot of tour, either as a participant, tour leader, or guide. And over time, we met different people with different experiences, where we share stories, we learn, and we got the knowledge. We then applied the good knowledge to our business and to our own personal leisure.
Let’s go back to the trip. Our main goal this time is actually to see the proboscis monkey in Sandakan. The orangutan sanctuary is more well-known in this part of the town, but we’re already fortunate enough to see the smart primate in zoo, safari park, and in their home at Tanjung Puting National Park. Yet, we haven’t actually see the proboscis monkey for once.
Just 1 week before our scheduled departure date, we got an e-mail from Scoot, that our initial departure flight on March 4th from Surabaya was cancelled. By this time, Singapore has already had quite plenty of COVID-19 cases, and awareness bars are raised in the country. We were given several choices, either cancel and getting a full refund for the whole legs, or reschedule the flight before June 2020. We picked the second option.
So we decided to leave earlier on March 1st and go back on March 9th. Good things all hotel bookings are amendable, though some require additional cost. Little did we know, that most parts of the world will practically shut down just right after our trip.
We prepared the health measurements needed, such as finding the somehow rare hand sanitizers and face mask. Wet wipes and vitamins came next.
On D-day, we left home at 7AM and headed to Juanda International Airport Surabaya just as usual, 3 hours before flight. And the airport is almost empty. No line on check-in counters, no line on immigration and security check. We arrived in Singapore at 1PMish, just the perfect time for lunch.
Now, before departing, we installed the iChangi app on both of our phone. Upon registering, you will get 1 voucher for CONNECT Lounge for each account. This voucher came with a 1,5 hours free use of their internet access (if you want/need something faster than the free public internet), and a complimentary 1 drink and 1 pastry of your choice. We both chose cappuccino for the drinks, a beef lasagna, and a cheese and ham sandwich for the pastry. It was a good free lunch, worth S$28. Ha!
**Perks of the iChangi app is valid when this entry is written.**
We only had a short transit of 3,5 hours in Singapore for the departing leg. The returning flight from Sabah required a long 19 hours layover, but that’s another story to keep.
On the next post, we will start to write about our daily activities for this trip. We will try to elaborate on where to go, what to eat, and what to see. Hope it will give ideas to any of you guys who want to explore this part of Malaysia.
Thank you for reading this far, and please, STAY HOME DURING THIS VIRUS MAYHEM!