Borneo: From the Sublime to the Mundane

His steely eyes stared back at me intently. Was it curiosity I saw in them? Uncertainty? Irritation? Maybe he was still waking up, adjusting to the light of the sun as it burned away the mist lurking over the murky river.


It was almost unsettling how human he seemed in that moment. A macaque monkey hanging out on the banks of the mighty Sungai Kinabatangan river, eating his breakfast of leaves and scrutinizing the rag-tag group of travelers floating just feet away in a wooden boat. In that mesmerizing moment, I wouldn’t have been shocked to hear him admonish us for disturbing his morning bliss. “Yah, what d’you want? I’m trying to eat my breakfast in peace, man. Time to move along.”

But of course he didn’t. And of course we did – move along, that is. Continue reading

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Risk is a Relative Thing

IMG_5950“Loosen your vice grip on the steering wheel,” I willed myself, as I scanned the ever-twisting mountain road ahead for pot holes (countless potholes), as well as other potential dangers, like oncoming drivers who seemed to get a thrill out of passing on blind spots. I averted my eyes occasionally to check the speedometer. Don’t drive faster than 70km/hour on a spare tire? That was the rule, right? Or was it 50? We weren’t sure. Continue reading

Categories: Borneo, Kids Only, Malaysia | 1 Comment

We hit rock bottom with Steven Seagal

Maximum-ConvictionThe day started off on a positive note. We arrived at the bus station on time, purchased our tickets and picked our seats. A tour bus rep sauntered over and provided a detailed overview of the day ahead, including all the ins and outs of the border crossings on our trip from Brunei to Sabah, Malaysia (many, many border crossings, resulting in 10 new passport stamps). To put things in context, this kind of informative overview is never provided here…  as in N.E.V.E.R. When you get on a bus, train or boat, you sit quietly and hope for the best.

The bus rep estimated (optimistically, it turned out) that the trip would take about 7.5 hours. Continue reading

Categories: Borneo, Malaysia | 5 Comments

A New Malaysia

What do orangutans, longhouses and foosball have in common?

Your answer might be, “Uh, nothing.”

My answer: They can all be found in Kuching, Malaysian Borneo.

The name of the city, Kuching, is thought to derive from the Malay word kucing, meaning cat

The name of the city, Kuching, is thought to derive from the Malay word kucing, meaning cat

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“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.”   – Paul Theroux

My eyes scanned the quote as I sat at the funky bar of the uber- cool rooftop lounge at the Singgahsana Guesthouse in Kuching, Borneo, chatting with an academic from Denmark whose area of study is travel and tourism, with a focus on “independent” travelers such as us. (Anders looked upon us with some fascination as apparently extended travels with children as young as ours – and three of them to boot – are not that common, at least not according to his research.)

Chilling with a Tiger beer at the Singghasana Guesthouse bar

Chilling with a Tiger beer at the Singghasana Guesthouse bar

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Categories: Borneo, Malaysia | 4 Comments

There is a gecko in my toilet (and other tales from Penang)

If you have been following the blog, you know that I have had some “challenges” with bathrooms on our trip (see here and here).

For the past month, we’ve stayed at a condo in Penang. The place is nice enough – we actually have two bedrooms and a living room, so Karl and I haven’t had to bunk down with the kids at 9pm each night. But the bathrooms are in serious need of renovation. We’re not talking squat toilets or anything, but let’s just say a plumber has been involved (or at least he claimed to be a plumber). Continue reading

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The School of Hard Knocks and Other Adventures


Hey, Cate here. Just so you know, Mom and Dad have not gotten into serious debt and sent us off to be foreign child labourers. The “School of Hard Knocks” is the clever name of a workshop at Royal Selangor, a famous company that sells bowls, plates, picture frames and trinkets made out of pewter.

After a tour of the gallery, where we learned about the history of tin mining and pewter production in Malaysia, as well as how Royal Selangor was established, we entered the “school.” We were given a small, flat disc made of pewter, two wooden molds, metal letters and a mallet. Our task was to create a finished bowl. Continue reading

Categories: Kids Only, Malaysia | 7 Comments

Objects in Motion Stay in Motion…

… objects at rest stay at rest. This law of physics has stuck with me since I learned about it in a high school textbook. The ever-helpful Wikipedia adds: “Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion or rest.”

Strikes me that inertia also applies to people, particularly in today’s go-go-go society.  We are perpetually in motion, taking on way too much, filling our schedules beyond capacity, saying yes when we should say no. And thanks to technology, the lines between work and personal time have blurred to the point of being invisible.

The thing is, being busy can become self defining and some of us (Karl would point a finger straight at  me) can be, ahem, “resistant” to change, even when it would be in our best interests.

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Enlightenment and Excitement

Cen and Meskie here. This week we went to the biggest Buddhist temple in South East Asia (Kek Lok Si) and a cool eco-friendly theme park called Escape.

Advice from the Escape Adventure Park

Advice from the Escape Adventure Park

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Categories: Kids Only, Malaysia | 4 Comments

Parasailing, Dr. Fish and Monkeying Around

Hey everybody, Cate here. You probably just read the title of my post and thought “Wait, what? Has Cate lost it? Did she perhaps hit her head on that curvy green slide Mom mentioned in the last post?”


No, actually. Fish can be doctors (sort of). Continue reading

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