Thursday 31 August 2017

Adventures in Borneo (1) Kota Kinabalu and The North Borneo Railway

There are two distinct sides to Malaysia. West (Peninsular) Malaysia and East (Borneo) Malaysia and they are separated by the South China Sea.

Trav and have explored most of the Malaysian peninsular including the islands of Penang and Langkawi on the west side and Perhentian Islands on the east but up until now we haven’t ever ventured across to Malaysian Borneo. That all changed when we flew from Kuala Lumpur to the town of Kota Kinabalu.

Kota Kinabalu or KK is known is the capital of the northern part of Borneo and is the gateway to the Kinabalu National Park. Many people come here to climb Mount Kota Kinabalu – but not us – we were here for a train ride!

Riding on the North Borneo Railway is like stepping back in time and travelling through towns and jungle in the heart of Borneo on one of the very few wood-fuelled engines left in the world today. Originally manufactured by the Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows Lancashire UK and part of a fleet that have plied the tracks through Borneo since the late 1800’s.

We had the most amazing day travelling on this fabulous old steam train re-living the by-gone era of old colonial times. We were given travel 'passports' and they were stamped at every town we went through. We had breakfast on the outbound journey and a traditional 'Tiffin Lunch' on the way back as we passed through town and tunnels and jungle and waved at cheering waving people as we chugged along. It felt so romantic and nostalgic - and steamy hot. The carriage windows were open for the whole time and it felt wonderful once we got up some speed to have a breeze coming into the train along with wafts of wood smoke from the engine. You can find out more about the historic North Borneo Railway on their website HERE.

All aboard the North Borneo Express!

Back in Kota Kinabalu, we spend the first few nights in a budget hotel in town, so we could enjoy the waterfront bars and restaurants.

But after a few days in KK, we wanted to get away from the busy crowds and after spotting an out-of-season offer on we moved up the coast a little to stay for a few nights at a fabulous beach resort. It was great to mix up a bit of cheap and basic with a bit of bargain luxury!

After a few days at the beach, we were keen to be back on a plane and to fly a considerable distance across the country to Sandakan in the Sabah region of Borneo.

The reason for this trip was to see Orangutans in the wild at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre – the precious home of the last wild Orangutans of North Borneo. I was SO excited!

Meeting Orangutans in the wild in Borneo is the subject of my next travel blog post – so please pop back soon - until then I’ll leave you with this sweet photo!

Love, Janice xx