Our next port of call, Kota Kinabalu (KK), is the capital of the Malaysian province of Sabah. A refreshingly modern city, it feels much more like home in the sense that you can (if you choose) avoid Chinese food. The bar scene is clearly geared to tourism and it offers by far and away the widest range of western influenced eateries we have seen since Singapore.
We plan to stay here for three days before flying across the mountains to Sandakan on the East Coast of Borneo, returning again for a few nights before flying on to Indonesia on September 13th.
For our first day in KK we agree upon a well-deserved beach day at Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. The park consists of a handful of small islands just a few miles off shore from KK and should give “The Boy” some enjoyable time in the splash-splash as it’s sadly become known.
On reaching the sales office at Jesselton Point (the departure jetty for speedboats to the islands), we are immersed in a bun fight of touting operators. Polite and organised touting operators granted, but a bun fights nonetheless.
We take potluck with an operator and discover that a return trip to any island comes at the same set price of 17MYR plus a 7MYR departure tax payable to the harbour office, plus a National park fee on arrival of 10MYR. Much easier to add it all in one lump sum and call it £7 a pop eh?
The speedboat to our island of choice takes about 15 minutes reach the launch at Pulau Manukan, during which time “The Boy” has once again proven himself to be a lover of excitement, enjoying the stiff wind from the bow and squealing with excitement at the occasional drenching from sea water he receives as we bounce sharply over the wake of other vessels.
The day is relatively overcast, the sea is calm and the water is warm. To top things off, we find a spot on the beach beneath an overhanging tree so there is no fear of sunburn.
We play in the sand, splash in the shallows and get deep(ish) in the water, all of which he loves.
It’s the same agenda for the afternoon,
punctuated by another fried noodle lunch and a quick nap for all three of us following yesterday’s airport drama.
“The Boy” happily nestles between us sheltered beneath his UV netting which itself is propped up above his face using daypacks and a variety of coloured stacking cups.
Later in the afternoon an older gentlemen comes over requesting a photo of our butt-naked son (like that would ever happen in the UK!) and we end up chatting with his family who are on vacation from Tawau in the far flung corner of Sabah.
Coincidentally, it turns out that his granddaughter is friends with a couple who live in Tenby, South Wales. The world is a small place.
The next day, our plans are in disarray as my better 0.5 wakes up feeling under the weather. I suggest that contrary to her belief, it’s likely not the massive 800ml of beer she downed the previous night causing the problem but an over bearing need to get some chillax time.
The trip so far has really opened my eyes to the intensity of a mothers work. It really is go. go, go from the moment the early morning baby-call chimes to the moment they finally decide to hit the hay.
I suggest we bin the idea of going inland to the Mount Kinabalu area and instead I’ll take “The Boy” to another island whilst she recuperates.
Packing as little as possible, I decide the benefits of having a buggy on this blisteringly hot day will outweigh the disadvantages of having to haul extra equipment onto boats and across unrelenting sand. This is how you think as a traveller with a baby. The small decisions make a big difference. Planning is with military precision.
I get some questioning glances throughout our day on Pulau Sapi
and even on occasion get interrogated as to where the mother is. Of course, it’s usually just an icebreaker to allow the interested party to pinch “The Boy” on the cheek or to request a photo.
We eventually return to a much more energetic and relaxed 0.5, whom I can tell from her reaction has genuinely missed her boy, if not so much her husband.
After a spot of (non-Chinese) dinner we buy some supplies and pick up some hooky DVD’s of pre-school children’s programmes. I find it disturbing that a pair of eponymous British heroes, Thomas and Bob, have lost any semblance of correct English, finding they have been dubbed into a lazy American drawl.
Christ on a bike, I never thought I’d be seeking a preservation order on the scouse inflection of Ringo Starr, but it’s a Beamondesque phonetic leap better than this lazy middle American voice over actor.
I listen on in angst as he unnecessarily replaces T’s with D’s and proves to me that he has been sucked so deep into the vortex of a linguistic wormhole that he wouldn’t know a pavement if I stood on his “sneaker” laces and he fell flat on his boat race.
Interestingly, the indefensibly poor Welsh accents of Fireman Sam and his cohorts remain true to the UK original.
A spot of racism there me thinks? I kept expecting Anne Robinson to pop up in the animation with a cheesy grin on her face and offering a knowing wink of her eye.
It used to be said that the Irish were the blacks of Europe. Unfortunately for us Welsh, they discovered the same skin-bleaching agent as Michael Jackson and moved on, leaving us boyos in the piss-take hot seat.
Perhaps with the rugby World Cup just around the corner (metaphorically, not literally as it’s still several time-zones from us) we can win back some national pride and return home with the Webb Ellis trophy?
Perhaps. But I’m not counting my newspaper-wrapped chickens just yet.