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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Me, cycling around Taiwan

I rented a bike in Taipei from a father and son team with a crazy dog


 I found some great cycle trails


Some lonely roads


 And some scary tunnels


 I stumbled upon festivals


 Chilled out on beaches


 And got some picture perfect views


I drank litres and litres of free water from police stations around the country


But my brain constantly needed freezing and the 7-11 was happy to help


I saw sunsets and sunrises from both coasts


Climbed lots of hills


And sweated it out at the tops


I saw industry


Artistry


Small fishing villages


And beautiful unspoiled coast lines


I survived a super typhoon


And broke the law a few times (inadvertently and on purpose)


I cycled the infamous Suhua highway


And thought the truck drivers were alright


I stayed in a church, with a couchsurfer, a guy from the bike touring website Warm Showers, above a surf shop, at some hot springs and even with a lovely Taiwanese lady I met at a 7-11, in exchange for help with an English class


I ate some seriously tasty food, was blown away by the Taiwanese generosity and met some amazing people I hope to see again someday


And I made it - a complete circle of the Taiwanese island by bicycle. My odometer read 1370km when I gave the bike back but the feeling of accomplishment was slightly overshadowed by the fact I wouldn't be cycling anymore. It was an unbelievable trip and now I know a big bicycle tour is something I want to try.


Monday, 26 August 2013

Borneo on a budget

After seeing a few BBC documentaries, the jungles of Borneo were somewhere I was desperate to visit. I booked a flight from Kuala Lumpur prior to researching the area, assuming Malaysian Borneo would be just as cheap as the peninsula, the subsequent research suggested otherwise. The lower end of budgeting figures I saw were between £20-30 per day, and that’s for couples sharing accommodation costs. Travelling alone, I was worried Borneo might blow my meagre south east Asia budget of £10. It then turned in to something of a challenge to succeed.

I didn't like Kota Kinabalu too much but the evening time watching the sunset and eating monstrous amounts of street food was a highlight.
So, is it possible to travel Borneo on a budget of £10 a day while visiting the national parks, travelling the region, staying in paid accomodation and not starving myself? Of course! My average daily spend was just £9.16 per day.

Looking out from my homestay in Palau Bangii
I stayed in the Sabah region for 9 nights, Brunei for 2 and Sarawak for 10, making a total of 21 nights. I paid for accommodation every night (except for one overnight bus to Kuching – the most expensive part of this trip), I ate loads of food and I travelled independently between Sabah to Sarawak via Brunei. You can see every Ringgit I spent at the end of this post.

Mount Kinabalu, the tallest mountain on Borneo. I didn't climb to the top but the trails at the base were nice.

I didn't see much wildlife in Kinabalu national park but lots of birds and nature.
Here is a quick summary of my movements in Borneo:
·         Arrived in Kota Kinabalu from Kuala Lumpur
·         Hitch-hiked to Kudat and took a boat over to Pulau Banggi
·         Transport back to Kota Kinabalu
·         Hitch-hiked to Kinabalu national park
·         Hitch-hiked back to Kota Kinabalu
·         Hitch-hiked to Brunei
·         Transport to Sarawak border then hitch-hiked to Miri
·         Transport to Niah Caves
·         Hitch-hiked to Bintulu
·         Overnight bus to Kuching
·         Flew from Kuching to Singapore

The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in the capital of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan.

Niah caves near Miri. If you're lucky enough to find 3 other cool people you can rent a ski chalet style dorm room for peanuts. 
How did I do it? Hitch-hiking made it possible. Without hitch-hiking it would have been much more difficult to keep under my budget. I did try couchsurfing a few times but didn't secure a couch, if I had couchsurfed a few times it would have been even easier to fall below my budget. Most hostels were cheap and included some kind of plain breakfast and I took full advantage of the free food. The most expensive was a homestay in Palau Banggi at £6.15 a night not including breakfast, the cheapest was Borneo Global Backpackers in Kota Kinabalu for £3.08 with toast and jam in the morning.

The orangutans in Semenggoh Wildlife Centre were unbelievable. Easily accessible making it cheap.
Staying the night at Bako national park was an awesome experience. The wildlife was immense including this poisonous viper.
In the 3 weeks I visited the island of Bangii island, Kinabalu NP, Brunei, Niah caves, Bako NP, Semonggoh Wildlife Centre, Santubong mountain and probably a few other things that have skipped my mind.

Proboscis monkeys.
Beach over a cliff in Bako.
Despite having a small budget I packed loads into my 3 weeks here, I left wanting more but very happy with what I had seen in Borneo. If I come back with a little more money to spend I would climb Mount Kinabalu, visit Danum national park and walk the Head Hunter trail near Mulu. Something to look forward to :-)

View from the top of Santubong peak near Kuching. A great day out and a nice climb involving ladder and scrambling, a little more danger than I anticipated. 
Before visiting Malaysian Borneo I searched the internet for some tips on budget travel through this region, I didn't find too much. Hopefully this export of my expenditure might help someone:

Date  Ringgit      GBP Category Notes
17/08/2013 4 0.79 Transport Bus to santubong village 
17/08/2013 8 1.58 Entrance Costs Santubong mountain entrance
17/08/2013 3.5 0.69 Food
17/08/2013 20 3.96 Accommodation Beds hostel kuching
17/08/2013 3.2 0.63 Miscellaneous Duct tape
17/08/2013 4 0.79 Food
16/08/2013 20 3.96 Accommodation Beds in kuching
16/08/2013 2 0.4 Fruit, veg and nuts Pineapple
16/08/2013 1.2 0.24 Fruit, veg and nuts Bananas
16/08/2013 10 1.98 Miscellaneous Laundry 
16/08/2013 1.2 0.24 Toiletries  Soap
16/08/2013 3.2 0.63 Toiletries  Toothbrush
16/08/2013 4 0.79 Food
16/08/2013 3 0.59 Food
16/08/2013 1.4 0.28 Crisps & biscuits
15/08/2013 20 3.96 Accommodation Beds in kuching
15/08/2013 3.5 0.69 Transport Bus from bako to kuching
15/08/2013 5 0.99 Food
14/08/2013 15.9 3.15 Accommodation Bako national park
14/08/2013 1.2 0.24 Fruit, veg and nuts
14/08/2013 3.5 0.69 Transport Bus to bako
14/08/2013 19 3.76 Transport Return boat
14/08/2013 20 3.96 Entrance Costs Bako national park
14/08/2013 11.5 2.28 Food Dinner at national park restaurant
14/08/2013 10 1.98 Tour Night walk
14/08/2013 3 0.59 Water
13/08/2013 20 3.96 Accommodation Beds in kuching
13/08/2013 0.8 0.16 Fruit, veg and nuts Bananas
13/08/2013 3 0.59 Transport Bus to orangutans 
13/08/2013 3 0.59 Transport Bus back from oragutans
13/08/2013 3 0.59 Donations, tips & gifts
13/08/2013 10 1.98 Entrance Costs Orangutans park
13/08/2013 3 0.59 Food
12/08/2013 2 0.4 Drinks & ice cream 100 plus
12/08/2013 2 0.4 Transport Bus to town
12/08/2013 20 3.96 Accommodation Beds in kuching
12/08/2013 2.5 0.5 Food Chicken and rice
12/08/2013 3 0.59 Food Rice with veg and chicken 
12/08/2013 0.7 0.14 Miscellaneous Notebook
12/08/2013 3 0.59 Food Rice with veg and chicken 
12/08/2013 2.1 0.42 Food Sardines for the next day
11/08/2013 5 0.99 Transport Shared taxi from niah to junction 
11/08/2013 2 0.4 Fruit, veg and nuts Banana
11/08/2013 65 12.88 Transport Bus bintulu to kuching
11/08/2013 2.2 0.44 Fruit, veg and nuts Sunflower seeds
11/08/2013 1.3 0.26 Drinks & ice cream
11/08/2013 2 0.4 Food 2 x roti
11/08/2013 1.2 0.24 Drinks & ice cream
11/08/2013 1.2 0.24 Drinks & ice cream Ice cream
11/08/2013 3.8 0.75 Food Pizza
11/08/2013 1.5 0.3 Miscellaneous Headphones 
11/08/2013 2.5 0.5 Food Sandwich
11/08/2013 1.2 0.24 Crisps & biscuits
10/08/2013 10.5 2.08 Accommodation Split chalet in niah
10/08/2013 5 0.99 Food Noodle dish
10/08/2013 4.9 0.97 Entertainment 350ml brandy
10/08/2013 3.2 0.63 Entertainment Bottle of coke
10/08/2013 3.8 0.75 Donations, tips & gifts Birthday cake for agna
09/08/2013 5 0.99 Transport Taxi to bus station in Miri 
09/08/2013 10 1.98 Transport Bus to junction 
09/08/2013 5 0.99 Transport Minivan to caves
09/08/2013 10.5 2.08 Accommodation Shared chalet in niah
09/08/2013 2 0.4 Food Bread
09/08/2013 2 0.4 Crisps & biscuits Biscuits
09/08/2013 20 3.96 Entrance Costs Niah caves
09/08/2013 1 0.2 Transport Boat across ricer
09/08/2013 2.7 0.53 Crisps & biscuits Bourbon biscuits  
09/08/2013 2.9 0.57 Food 5 x noodles
09/08/2013 7 1.39 Food Rice dish
09/08/2013 4 0.79 Entertainment Half vodka
09/08/2013 1.5 0.3 Transport Boat back across
08/08/2013 6 3.09 Transport Minivan from bandar to kuala beliat
08/08/2013 1 0.51 Transport
08/08/2013 22 4.36 Accommodation Highlands - Miri 
08/08/2013 1 0.51 Food Nasi amok - rice and chicken
08/08/2013 13 2.58 Food
08/08/2013 1.2 0.24 Drinks & ice cream
07/08/2013 10 5.11 Accommodation Pusat belia - brunei
07/08/2013 0.4 0.21 Fruit, veg and nuts Bananas
07/08/2013 2 1.03 Food
06/08/2013 4.8 0.97 Transport Train kk to Beaufort 
06/08/2013 10 5.11 Accommodation Pusat belia - brunei
05/08/2013 15 2.97 Accommodation Borneo global backpackers
05/08/2013 2 0.41 Fruit, veg and nuts Pineapple
05/08/2013 2 0.41 Fruit, veg and nuts Papaya
05/08/2013 1 0.21 Fruit, veg and nuts Bananas
05/08/2013 0.8 0.16 Miscellaneous Soap
05/08/2013 4 0.82 Food
05/08/2013 0.8 0.16 Food
04/08/2013 4 0.82 Transport
04/08/2013 15 2.97 Accommodation Borneo global backpackers
04/08/2013 5 1.03 Food
04/08/2013 1.2 0.25 Food 3 eggs
04/08/2013 1.5 0.31 Drinks & ice cream
03/08/2013 5 1.03 Transport
03/08/2013 20 4.1 Accommodation Bayu homestay - Kinabalu park 
03/08/2013 2 0.41 Fruit, veg and nuts Bananas
03/08/2013 1 0.21 Food 2 eggs
03/08/2013 15 3.08 Entrance Costs Kinabalu park fee
02/08/2013 10 2.05 Transport Boat
02/08/2013 25 5.13 Transport Bus to KK (hitch-hike fail)
02/08/2013 15 3.08 Accommodation Borneo global backpackers - kk
02/08/2013 1.4 0.29 Toiletries  Toothpaste
02/08/2013 2 0.41 Food 6 donuts
02/08/2013 1 0.21 Food Rice
02/08/2013 1 0.21 Food Noodles
02/08/2013 1 0.21 Food Banana fritter
02/08/2013 3.5 0.72 Food 5 pack noodles
02/08/2013 0.8 0.16 Food 2 eggs
01/08/2013 30 5.94 Accommodation Homestay on palau Bangii
01/08/2013 3 0.62 Food
01/08/2013 0.8 0.16 Food
01/08/2013 0.2 0.04 Water
01/08/2013 4 0.82 Food
01/08/2013 1 0.21 Food
31/07/2013 30 5.94 Accommodation Homestay in Palau banggi
31/07/2013 1 0.21 Fruit, veg and nuts 2 tomatoes
31/07/2013 3.5 0.72 Food Bread 
31/07/2013 30 6.15 Transport Boat to island
31/07/2013 4 0.82 Food
31/07/2013 2 0.41 Food Fish
31/07/2013 0.3 0.06 Water
30/07/2013 4 0.82 Transport Bus to Tuaran
30/07/2013 2.5 0.51 Food
30/07/2013 10 2.05 Transport Boat to pulau banggi
30/07/2013 3 0.62 Food
30/07/2013 30 5.94 Accommodation Homestay in Palau banggi
30/07/2013 3 0.62 Food
30/07/2013 0.8 0.16 Food
29/07/2013 15 2.97 Accommodation Borneo global backpackers
29/07/2013 1 0.21 Food 3 empanadas
29/07/2013 1 0.21 Food Big plate of noodles
29/07/2013 1 0.21 Food Banana fritter
29/07/2013 1 0.21 Food 3 donuts 
29/07/2013 0.8 0.16 Food 2 eggs
29/07/2013 1 0.21 Drinks & ice cream
28/07/2013 1.5 0.31 Transport Bus from kk airport
28/07/2013 15 3.08 Accommodation Borneo Global backpackers 
28/07/2013 2.4 0.49 Food 2 roti
28/07/2013 5 1.03 Food
28/07/2013 3.2 0.66 Food 5 pack of noodles
28/07/2013 1.6 0.33 Food 4 eggs