Monday 23rd April - Sunday 6th May 2012
23.04.2012 - 06.05.2012 40 °C
Arrived in KL after a pleasant flight and found that the transport system here is very easy and efficient! Paid RM8 for an Aerobus to take me to KL Sentral Station and then RM1.30 to get the tube to Masjid Jamek, from which I walked the 5 mins to Reggae Mansion!
I love that their subway system is overground, with lines running on stilts high above the city, which gives you a great view of KL! The people are all lovely and very friendly so I felt safe, with mostly Muslim, Indian and Chinese cultures.
Reggae Mansion is a three story hostel that was made from a converted mansion! Its very clean with great food but a LOT of stairs!
I was in an 8-bed dorm, where the beds are set into individual pods, for which you need a ladder to get into... they are VERY high up! but once you're inside you have your own nearly-double bed, plug socket, light and curtain so you can shut yourself away if you want to;
Here I met Darren, a Scottish guy who is teaching English in China and was taking a break in KL, I got on really well with him, although I originally thought he was gay as he is pretty camp! A great laugh!
We went straight out together to see the Petronas Towers (also known as the Twin Towers), which are the tallest buildings in KL and owned by a petrol company "Petronas"... was quite difficult to get a photo with the top of the towers in view, so Darren and I spent quite a while lying on the pavement! The sun was beginning to set though, so the final photos did turn out well;
We then went for dinner and ice cream (NOM NOM) at the Haagen Daz cafe! Strawberry Cheesecake and Caramel Biscuit ! (^_^) before heading back to the mansion for drinks on the roof terrace... SOOO happy when I found out they had a Chilean red wine! :-D
Seven Wonders of KL
I woke up early the next morning for a city tour of KL, we had breakfast in the courtyard- where they had CEREAL!!! yay!!- and then on to a minibus with a very nice driver! Here I met Steve (another Scottish guy)!!
The first stop was a Buddhist temple called 'Thean Hou' which was on top of a VERY steep hill (that the minibus struggled with), and the gardens were decorated with statues showing the Chinese calendar and the personality traits of each animal... This year is the year of the Dragon (which also happens to be my sign), but I also found Mum's, Dad's, Ria's/Jade's and Patrick's...
Next we went to the district of Little India, which was MUCH better than the one in Singapore as they had proper Indian decorations, Indian music playing from shops (which is a bit weird and tinny) and architecture that reflected the Hindu Gods!
We then went to the Mosque named 'Masjid Negara', which has a capacity for over 50,000 Muslims to pray and is located centrally in KL... the roof of the building is a star shape that can be seen very clearly when taking the subway or driving through KL.
Here we had to put on the traditional Muslim clothes to cover our bodies, with purple robes and headscarves for the ladies;
The museum/City Gallery and Freedom park where quite boring really... basically a small room which told the story of how KL got it's independence from the British Empire with photographs and a small scale model of modern KL... but they did have a cool 'I <3 KL' sign out the front! There was also a small factory in there which made life-like miniature structures of global icons out of very thin wood!
After this short visit we went to the Palace to see where the Sultan and his wife live... our driver told us that in Malaysia, the royal family consists of 9 Sultans- one from each Malaysian state, who take it in turns to rule for 5 years at a time before they pass it on... it is a circular system which means that the role of 'king' cannot be passed from Father to Son (even in the event of a death), so each Sultan must wait 45 years before the crown is returned to him... the current King is the only one to have been Sultan twice as he is now in his 80's (with a 40 year old wife!)
The Palace had guards much like those you'd see at Buckingham, who weren't allowed to move... I felt more sorry for the poor horses!
The yellow flag flying in the front indicates that the Sultan was at home! (shame we couldn't go in for tea and scones!) :-P
Next up was a war memorial, which was basically just a big pillar stating the names of the Malaysians who had died in the war for independence, as well as a very large statue of some British soldiers mascaraing Malaysian men... awkward!
We then went to the 'Batu Caves' which is a Hindu Temple that is located inside a large cave, the entrance of which is 272 steps into the air!
Steve and I had a 'before' 'during' and 'after' photo, once we had reached the top... they were divided into sections of 17 steps which made it easier as we got to rest for a few seconds each time... tiring in 40 degree sunshine! Plus we had thieving monkeys to contend with!
The cave itself reminded me of the 'Caves of Drach' that we went to see, although less impressive as this one was only small... they had set up little Nativity-esque figurines of Hindu gods into the sides of the cave walls, but apart from that it was just a big empty space... I guess possibly more impressive when it's filled with people!?
Our final stop for the day was a Coffee and Chocolate factory! YAY! where we sampled some of the local merchandise, my favourite of which was the 'Tirimasu' chocolate balls! I also got the opportunity to try Durian Fruit, which is the famous smelly vomit-flavoured fruit that is common in Malaysia... I figured that covered in chocolate the taste might be more bearable but I was WRONG! It is THE MOST disgusting thing you could taste! They weren't wrong when they likened the flavour to rotten custard! YUCK!
That evening, Darren, Steve and new friends Rory (from Galway) and Faraz (guy I'd met in Bali), all had a night out, starting on the roof terrace with a LOT of wine... Great fun!
Finally made it to bed at 6am, and thought my flight to Tawau was at 12pm... nope, it was at 4pm! I really need to learn to check my flights before hand! At least I didn't actually go to the airport this time! :-P
When I returned to KL, I also had dinner with Faraz at an AMAZING Italian restaurant that Alister (from Jakarta) recommended to me... was SOOOOOO GOOD!! Officially putting ciabatta bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil on the 'home-coming shopping list' (mother, take note!)
Mabul with Simon!
Wednesday 25th April - Friday 4th April
Flew to Tawau, and caught up on some MUCH NEEDED sleep on the plane... from the airport it was then a 2 hour bus ride to Semporna, during which the taxi man kept coughing violently or talking on his phone!
Simon was there though when I arrived with a BIG smile and an even bigger cuddle at Scuba Junkie HQ! We grabbed a pizza and caught up on gossip/ whats been happening in our lives since we were in Thailand! Then had an early night as we were up at 6:30am to get the ferry over to Mabul...
After breakfast we made the 45 min boat trip from Semporna to Mabul to drop off our luggage and then went straight over to the island of Siamil for a day of sunshine and snorkeling!
At this point I wasn't sure if I would be doing the scuba diving course, as it is expensive and I didn't know if I would like being amongst the fishes... but after Siamil, sampling the INCREDIBLE marine life that was just in the shallows I was certain I wanted to learn to dive! Twice that day I went snorkeling at 2 different sloping coral reefs and saw some beautiful things! My favourites were actually a type of urchin called 'Savigny's Sea Urchin' which were black with long sharp-looking spikes, that had incredible flecks of electric blue in the centre! It was here I was also introduced to more of the 'common' tropical fish that are found in this part of the world:
Two Lined and Rainbow Monocle Bream
Bicolour Parrot Fish
Blue and Horned Sea Stars
Moorish Idol Fish
Yellow Striped Fuselier and Yellow tail Surgeon Fish
On top of all that, the beaches where we stopped for lunch and the scenery of the island from the boat were INCREDIBLE! I even made friends with a hermit crab when sunbathing on the beach! A GREAT day!
Back at Mabul, I checked into the Scuba Junkie Resort and met my room mates Eric and Philip from Sweden, who were AWESOME and who I got on VERY well with, spending lots of the week together! They are both Dive Master Trainees, who qualified the same day I left! (^_^)
Open Water Course... aka 'The Birth of Scuba Skye!'
Having made up my mind, (and begged Mum for money), I signed up for my Open Water Diver course (OWC) which consisted of three days learning... the first day was a theory day, during which our instructor 'Scuba Steve'... a 40-odd year old surfery dude... took us through the science-y stuff behind diving and the safety techniques, procedures and risks you need to know about.
Each section (5 in total) had a quiz at the end to monitor your progress and then there was a final exam and two days of Confined Water and Open Water dives to practice and use the new skills... all of which, I am proud to say, I ACED!
The only area I think I wasn't completely perfect first time on was with my equalization... as you descend further under water, the pressure changes cause your ears discomfort, so you need to equalize the pressure by holding your nose and blowing, or swallowing etc and for some reason, my left ear doesn't like doing it! But Kev later taught me a good trick that meant I was MUCH better and quicker at getting to the maximum depth by the end of the week (18-20m)
On my first OWD, I saw a MASSIVE turtle, easily the size of a dinner table at a site called 'AWAS'... I had NO idea they got that big! Was really beautiful and Steve helped me to settle on the sand and get close enough to kiss it... amazing!
I also saw my first 'Fire Dart Fish' which was adorable and stunning, so worth a google too!
With a score of 50/50 on my final exam... I was officially SCUBA SKYE! <3
On Friday night Simon also took me to a fancy resort for dinner, the rooms where suspended over the crystal clear water and were all made of wooden huts... we had BBQ fish with LOTS of yummy desserts! (^_^) AND... look at the name of the boat!! :-P x
After my course, I took a day off to explore the island, sunbathe and have a break from all the salt water... the weather was GLORIOUS although I think it was actually too hot to sunbathe! (never thought I'd say that!) as it easily reached upwards of 40 degrees!
The villages weren't so picturesque, as there was a lot of rubbish but the houses were cool and the children are all BEAUTIFUL! I even saw them setting up for a Muslim wedding! :-P
Sipadan- One of the worlds Top 5 Dive Sites!
Tuesday 1st May 2012
Simon managed to wangle me on to the boat for Sipadan, which is a 4-dive day at various sites around the island... up at 5:30am to set off though, but WELL worth it!
I had to pretend to be a Dutch girl named Gurda Straanthof in order to use her permit, which was funny! We had four amazing dives that day with Uncle Kev as our Dive Master! I was SOOO lucky that the first day of diving I do as an official scuba diving was in Sipadan, apparently I will be hard pressed to top it in future!
The first site was 'South Point' where we saw a lot of white tipped sharks, and, as this was a shallow reef, we also saw a lot of the beautifully coloured tropical fish! The second dive was at a site called 'Mid Reef' where I swam in the middle of a giant school of Shevron Barracuda! There were literally over 1000 of them circling round me! I LOVED IT! We also went 'Into the Blue', where you swim away from the reef and out into the greater ocean... after about 5 mins you are completely surrounded by nothing but blue, which is a strange sensation that can be disorientating! I was just preying not to see the shadow of a great white emerging next to me! :-P Here I also saw actual 'Nemo' fish! they're sooo small and super cute!
We then stopped for lunch on the island, where I sat in the sunshine and my bum made an adorable heart shaped wet patch on the log, so I took a photo!
The last two sites were 'Barracuda Point' (with a very strong current) and 'Hanging Gardens' where we saw Grey Reef sharks!
On the boat ride home the cherry on top of an amazing day was seeing a pod of over 100 dolphins swimming next to the boat and jumping SOO far out the water! Incredible! xx
That evening, we all went to watch the sunset at a bar on the other side of the island, but instead we saw an INCREDIBLE thunder storm over the ocean... sipping on Tiger beer and watching the forked lightening was bliss!
Another day of diving, this time with Scuba Steve, and Phil came in the water with us to shadow which was cool!
Firstly we went to Kapalai which a dive site near a VERY expensive resort in Mabul... USD400 per night! Thats NOT including diving!... This site had lots of artificial structures built on the ocean floor, making a little underwater village of fishies!
Was a great experience to improve my buoyancy as I had to maneuver around the structures, but Phil was impressed with how well I did! (^_^)
Steve was my favourite instructor to dive with as he has a great eye for spotting lots of little, rare creatures and points them out really clearly! I think I had a bit of a school girl crush on him by the end of the week... he was just SOOO cool! haha
This is the first sight where I saw Nudibranchs (colourful TINY little slug-like creatures), Orangutan crabs (again TINY and covered in orange fluff!) and Frog fish, which are very rare in the world;
At the second dive site, 'Lobster Wall' we even saw a banded sea snake, which is highly venomous, and a huge peacock mantis shrimp (which has a very funny symbol underwater... PeaCOCK (make penis sign), ManTITS (tweak nipples) Shrimp (usual sign for shrimp)... Steve loved it when he found one!)
It was the third dive of the day which was the special one though... because at 'Ribbon Valley' we saw a BLUE RING OCTOPUS!! :-D which is one of the rarest creatures you can see, most divers never have and even the dive masters at Scuba Junkie had to go on hundreds-thousands of dives before they saw their first, and I saw it on my 11th! LUCKY ME! It's only about 3 inches big and when teased with a stick the blue rings on it's skin flushed to an amazing electric colour! SOOO cool!
ALSO, My favourite fish of all is a Yellow Cube Box Fish, and on the same dive... I FOUND ONE!! (not Steve... ME!).... which made it even more special! (^_^)
An INCREDIBLE day, and such a massive high! Ended brilliantly with band night, where Eric, Phil and I played this amazing game called 'Jungle Speed' where you have to match colours and shapes and be the first to grab a baton in the centre of the table... had to explain but SOOO much fun to play, and super competitive! (and we all know how much I like winning)
Lots of drinking (Mabul Mai Tai's) and bed at 3am, meant another day off on Thursday to recover and enjoy the last bit of sunshine!
Friday was my last day and luckily Simon's ear infection had cleared up so I was able to dive with him! (^_^)
This time he took a camera and so I was able to get some photos of some of the things I'd seen, as well as me in my dive gear actually DOING IT! :-P
The last dive of the day was at AWAS again (fitting that my first and last were at the same site!) where I got to see giant cuttle fish mating and laying eggs, as well as a giant barracuda, cow fish, dwarf lion fish, blue spotted sting rays and a peacock razor fish! (SO CUTE)
THANK YOU! Simon for a truly incredible week... I didn't want to leave and I will DEFO be back to do more diving in future...