Basically Malaysia is 2 countries (and loads of islands) There is West Malaysia which is the mainland and where Kuala Lumpur is, and then East Malaysia which is essentially Borneo.
Malaysia is a Muslim country and as such imposes Sharia law – But only on Malaysians not foreigners. The authorities have shown they are all too ready to impose Sharia law – I’m not sure if it has been picked up in the UK but a big story here is a Muslim woman who was seen drinking beer, she is going to be getting 6 lashes of the cane (or something like that) However, Malaysia is very multicultural, not everyone is Muslim there are many different religions here.
Now if you have been to a Muslim country then you will know that they are very strict about do’s and don’ts and it is the same here. But the difference is it’s not really expected from tourists. The general population are all too willing to accept that you are a visitor and as such should not be treated like a resident. In contrast I have found the Malaysian people to be very willing to help and friendly.
It is Ramadan here now and despite all the fuss which surrounds it there is nothing expected of anyone. Multiculturalism really does look like it works in Malaysia, but I’m no expert on the subject and am purely commenting on how it appears to me. Also, I have yet to see a woman with her face covered. It’s almost like a ‘liberated’ Muslim country.
Anyway the flight took about 3hrs. Upon landing in Kota Kinabalu you instantly realise you are in a tropical country. It is beautiful. The airport is so snide the plane literally has to spin round on the runway since it’s the only piece of tarmac.
I hadn’t been in the country long before I was royally shafted 50RM for a taxi. But, it seems that one thing in Borneo which is consistent is the extortionate taxi prices – Malaysian Law says all taxi drivers must use a meter, I have yet to meet one who will even entertain the idea. However, I was fortunate enough to get in a taxi with someone who isn’t actually a full time taxi driver – No; he actually works in Kuala Lumpur as a stock broker but wanted to take a few months out…….. Really…..
Now, so far the entire holiday has pretty much gone to plan, every single thing I planned has worked out or near enough. But I proper messed up with Kota Kinabalu. You see, I for whatever reason was under the impression KK (as the locals call it) was a coastal city surrounded by beautiful white sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and turtles big enough to ride on – No actually it’s not. In fact there isn’t a beach in KK. The only beach is about 30km away and even then is just a skanky bit of sand. Well, here is where I messed up, I had given us 2 days in KK, now those 2 days were to be the only really days which I hadn’t filled with exciting stuff to do, with the end of Asia imminent I had decided to get to KK and spend 2 relaxing days catching up with stuff and relaxing on the beach. Sadly I did not know that there are 5 amazing little tropical islands with the white sandy beaches, swaying palm trees etc only a few km from the coast. By the time I had found this out it just was not realistic to squeeze it into the limited time we had left.
Ever the adventurer the kids and I spent 2 days doing pretty much nothing other than going to the cinema a few times, bowling and shopping. The sad thing is it was actually quite nice to experience a bit of normality.
Our flight out of KK was at 7am, so at 5.30 we headed out for a taxi. The taxi driver was all too willing to realise he was the only person actually in existence where we were at that time and quite happy to sting me the normal cost +50% I had absolutely no other choice but to pay it, I tried arguing the point but he simply said “get another taxi then” Point being, ALWAYS arrange your early morning taxi.
Next stop Sandakan…