Day 669: One Hell of a Halloween

31.10.10: I left the Mariott with a spring in my step.  I had my book back and I had plenty of time to get to the train station, even considering the gridlock nightmare that is driving in Jakarta.  But there was a problem.  Two weeks ago when I was last here in Jakarta, Barclay’s bank, in their infinite wisdom cancelled my debit card (it would seem I’ve been abroad too long).  After much kerfuffle, I managed to get it unblocked and told them in my best Monty Python voice to never do it again. So I need to take out money for the train fare this morning, and what happens?  Seven different ATM machines turn me down.  Oh you’ve GOT to be kidding me.  I get to the station and try to pay on Visa, but (of course) they don’t take Visa because THE ONLY PLACES…

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Day 667: Captain Bob

29.10.10: So last night I arrived onboard the ferry from Pontianak on Borneo to Jakarta on Java.  As I entered the passenger area, what could adequately be described as a floating refugee camp, I started to worry – I really didn’t want to sleep on the dirty metal floor – I mean, I didn’t even have a flattened cardboard box to lie on. Er… can I get out of here? I was kindly shepherded into the crew’s quarters by one of the guys and offered a bunk in a grotty (but eminently serviceable) cabin for about $25. All or nothin’, I haggled it down to $12 and we shook on it.  But when push came to shove, I ended up spending the first night not in that bunk but in the crew’s recreation room sleeping on the incredibly uncomfortable couch.  This morning I was asked if…

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Day 666: Such a Chill

28.10.10: I awoke with my teeth chattering like I was camping naked under the stars in Svalbard: my jumper, jeans, waistcoat, sleeping-bag AND blanket were not enough to shield me from the searing frigidity of the air conditioning on this bus.  I mean, I’ve been on buses where the driver has had the same homeostatic malfunction that allows fat orange girls from Newcastle to go out in a blizzard wearing little more than a piece of dental floss, but this was just nuts. I tried to get him to turn it down, but he just laughed and ignored me.  Was I the only one suffering?  Would I be the first person to die of hypothermia in the history of Borneo?  Everyone else looked just as frozen to death as me, but they seemed to be taking it in their stride.  One guy was wearing a woolly…

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Day 665: The Battle of Brunei II

27.10.10: Urgh, I thought as my mobile blipped my alarm: not again.  Today’s mission – very much like last Wednesday’s, was to make it through bloody great boring Brunei.  By 7.30am I was down at the port for the ferry to Palau Labuan.  By 11.30am it had arrived.  The next boat to Brunei was at 12 noon, so I just had time to rush out, fill my boots with Nasi Goreng (spicy fried rice with chicken and eggs – it’s the best food around these parts). By 1.30pm I was back in Brunei getting stamped back in.  A taxi driver outside the port told me that the last bus for Miri in Sarawak, Malaysia left at 2.30pm, which gave me an hour to get from port Muara to the capital. Ha! The bus to BSB took AGES to get there: it was 2.50pm before I arrived. …

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Day 664: Return To Sanda

26.10.10: It was early afternoon before the ship pulled into Sandakan.  I’m now going to be backtracking over the exact route I took last week, so if you like you can just read those blogs again but backwards. At the taxi rank outside the port a woman overheard me asking the cab drivers how much it would be to the bus station and, since she was going the same way, suggested that we share a taxi.  This unfortunately required a short fight with the drivers.  Not only do the taxis in Malaysia not have meters (SO annoying) these guys were insisting that we took separate cabs.  Seriously – what is this?  Saudi? Eventually they relented.  It was about half three by the time I got to the bus station and I was left with two options: I could get on the 4.30pm bus back to Kota…

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Day 663: And The World Will Be Better For This

25.10.10: I was woken by Jenn knocking on my hotel room door at 7.25am.  It was time to go.  We grabbed some breakie in the Chowking restaurant downstairs and then headed out to the ferry office to buy my return ticket to Borneo – this time I thought I’d splash out and get a berth in a four-person cabin.  The ship was due to leave at midday, so we had time to go to the supermarket and grab some supplies (wet-wipes, mainly) and then it was down to the docks through the surprisingly cheerful mean-streets of Zamboanga. I said my fond farewells to Jenn and thanked her for looking after me all weekend (although do I shake her hand or give her a kiss?).  I wished her the best of luck getting to Thailand and promised to give her a shout next time I’m in town.…

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Day 662: Surviving Zamboanga

24.10.10: After a (much needed) lie-in I head out to the park 'Jardin Maria Clare Lobregat' with Jenn, safe in the knowledge that ladyboys to Muslim fundamentalists are like garlic to vampires.  Maria Clare Lobregat was the previous and (seemingly very popular) mayor of Zamboanga and this delightful park, filled with birds and butterflies, was built in her memory. Funny – here’s me expecting Beirut in the 1980s.  However, all is not sweetness and light - there are parts of Zamboanga that I was told – in no uncertain terms – I was ill-advised to visit, but we stayed away from them in the same way that you’d stay away from Scunthorpe if you ever visited Britain.  Easy. Jenn’s dream is to move to Thailand.  She currently works in Malaysia and gets on with most people there, except for the few who call her haram and…

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Day 661: The People’s Republic of Spock

23.10.10: I had purchased a AC ticket for the ferry to The Philippines.  I didn’t really know what the difference would be, but after sleeping in cockroach central on the way from Jakarta to Pontianak, I had no intention of repeating the experience.  Happily, the Tim Marine ship from Sandakan to Zamboanga was nowhere near as bad and at least a million times more fun. As on the ferry from Pulau Batam to Jakarta, I shared a large-ish cabin (only this one had bunk beds) with about forty or fifty other people.  It was a nice communal atmosphere and everyone who spoke a bit of English was happy to sit and have a chat with me, amongst them was a guy called Zakaria who was the Secretary General of the Foreign Relation Office of the Sultanate of Sulu. Where’s that eh?  Next to the Kingdom of…

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Day 660: A Tale Of Two Rangas

22.10.10: Another late night followed by another early morning: I ejected myself from by bunk at 7am and was already at the seaport for 8am, not that it made any difference, the very same woman who told me to come back this morning told me that they don’t sell tickets for the ferry to The Philippines: I had to go an agency halfway back to town.  Which I grumpily did, and eventually I got my ticket.  Damnit: I could have had a lie in; the boat wouldn’t be leaving until 7pm.  Bah! Well there was nothing for it but to return to the backpackers, eat some breakie and head out to the nearby Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre.  I arrived about 11.30am only to discover that the park shut down between 12 and 2, but a ticket was good all day, so I bought one and headed…

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