Wish you a fantastic 2011!

Wish you all a fantastic 2011!

May all your dreams come true! May the travel gods smile upon you! May your bikes take you places! May your cameras click wonderful images! May you live the life you always wanted to! May there be more leaves when you want to travel! 🙂

May your life be wonderful!!!

2010 through the rear-view mirror:

2010 to me was fantastic in terms of travel and photography!! Initially, I thought I would do a full fledged year review, but thought year reviews are too personal and hence wanted to save you the trouble of reading through yet another boring review.

So, I thought I will just list a few memorable moments of 2010.

Continue reading

Backpacking in Borneo-11: Epilogue

Okay folks! Time to wind up living in Borneo!

Filipino market

This is mostly a meta-post about previously written posts to give a better perspective of my trip. Also, I will try to cover a couple of things I haven’t spoken about yet.

First, thanks to the people who made this trip possible and a successful one.

  • My wife who was pretty cool about me leaving her and going to an exotic location for 10 days
  • Adarsh for being a wonderful companion and for all the painstaking research on Borneo
  • The kind-hearted taxi driver who helped us at Kota Kinabalu
  • Tong Ali, our amazing and friendly guide at Uncle Tan
  • Lan, Olong and other friendly guys at Uncle Tan
  • Yunus, our soft-spoken and gentle guide for the Mt Kinabalu climb
  • Jenny, the energetic guide at Gunung Mulu

Continue reading

Bangalore to Melkote / Melukote: A day trip

“Nann hesaru Basappa antha, illi thumba varushadindha iddinee (my name is Basappa, I’ve been here since many years)”, the Dasayya at the Kalyani (pond) in Melkote tells me, polishing his brass vessel with lemon.

Melkote Basappa

Every morning, he comes to the Kalyani near the temple and performs religious tasks for devotees at a small fee. His day starts early… applying the Vishnu nama on his forehead, polishing his brass vessel and plate, cleaning the shanka (conch) and jagate (stick to hit the plate)… and then approaching devotees offering his service.

Living this way is the only thing he knows. Clearly, life for this Dasayya revolves around the temple. Before I could ask him more questions, ‘clients’ arrive and I thank him for his time and leave.

Continue reading

Backpacking in Borneo-8: Climbing Mt Kinabalu

Our guide Younus

‘Younus! How do you think we managed the climb?’

Long silence…..

‘Hmmm… okay’, muttered our guide. More silence…..

‘Hmmm…. you guys took a lot of time’, he added.

‘Aaarghh! No, you are not supposed to speak like that in our video’, I told our honest guide!

A video for self glorification was being shot at the top of Mt Kinabalu at a height of 13400ft. What the guide just told in front of the camera was not exactly what we wanted the world to know.

Continue reading

Backpacking in Borneo-7: Expenses & tips to keep it low

“How much  did the Borneo trip cost you?”

“How did you keep your expenses low?”

These are two questions many of my friends had asked me. This post is an attempt to answer these questions. I hope you find it useful too.

The 11 day trip (from Aug 27 evening flight to Sept 6 evening flight) cost me INR 52018.5 including the visa application, insurance and other expenses that I incurred even before starting the trip. You can download an excel sheet containing the entire list of expenses here.

Most of the planning was done by Adarsh Raju, my good friend. It was indeed his effort that really helped in keeping costs low at the same time not skipping on the good things that Borneo has to offer. So, all credit to him!

At first thought, it might appear not so cheap, but considering the number of things that we did, I think we did fairly well to keep things tight.

  • 8 flights, 2 of which were international
  • Kuala Lumpur (transit), Sandakan, Kota Kinabalu, Miri (transit) and Mulu covered
  • Food, accommodation for all days including stay at places like Sutera lodge atop Mt Kinabalu,  Gunung Mulu national park,  Unce Tan adventures, etc
  • climbing Mt Kinabalu, guide fee, permit
  • 4 boat safaris
  • 3 forest treks
  • 4 cave explorations
  • 1 canopy walk
  • connecting travel (taxi, boat and bus rides)
  • visa, travel insurance, trip related purchases

The flight expenses were INR 23992 and non-flight expenses were INR 28026.

The average cost of acquisition of a Malaysian Ringitt to me was 15.3 INR. Every MYR expense was converted to INR by multiplying by 15.3.

Going on a trip and looking for a wide angle lens? Visit www.Tapprs.com.
Lens rental in Bangalore

Given below are a few reports that indicate the expenditure trend. Since the flight expenses are much higher than anything else and skew the report (one bar will be much higher than all of the rest), I have excluded the flight expenses.

Continue reading

Backpacking in Borneo-6: Photography gear to carry

What photography equipment should I carry on my visit to Borneo?

Is the humidity there a problem for camera gear? Should I carry a tripod? Do I need to carry my laptop too? Air Asia has a 7 Kg limit for cabin baggage, right?

These are just few of the umpteen questions a traveler to Borneo would have.

Here’s my attempt at answering a few of those questions. I will split my answer into 4 parts.

  1. must carry list
  2. specialized gear for specific places (must carry for certain places and not of much use elsewhere)
  3. optional gear (nice to have, but can do without it)
  4. points to remember

Continue reading

Backpacking in Borneo-5: Cave & canopy magic

“Wow! What a beautiful place!!!”, I thought looking through the window of the low flying small sized MA Swings plane.

Mulu from the plane
The thought only strengthened when I landed at the Mulu airport – the smallest and the most beautiful of any I had seen!!!

The cute little Mulu airport

Once inside the airport, Adarsh and I looked for the conveyor belt to pick our baggage… only to find a large table on which all our bags had been thrown. No conveyor belt! From that moment on, Mulu was full of pleasant surprises for the next 3 days!

Tucked away in the distant rain forests of Borneo, wrapped by mountains all around with the Pinnacles standing guard, peppered by rivulets, gifted with the World’s biggest caves and canopies that house a wide variety of wildlife and of course, that brilliant canopy walk-way (longest in the world), Mulu is a jaw-dropping place! Easily, one of the most diverse and the most beautiful places on Earth!!!

If you were to celebrate a birthday for the rocks of Mulu, the cake should be large enough to accommodate anywhere between 40-90 million candles!!! No wonder it is a UNESCO heritage site.

At the Gunung Mulu national park office, after a rickety taxi ride from the airport, we claimed our booking. We also enrolled for a few activities – cave exploration, a night trek and a canopy walk! (Unfortunately due to time constraints, we couldn’t do the Pinnacles trek).

At Gunung Mulu national park

The next 3 days were blissful! The itinerary below.

Continue reading

Backpacking in Borneo-4: The teksi scare!

Sitting helplessly in a shady taxi, plying through dark and shady streets in the night, in an unknown city, in a foreign country… I was scared of being mugged / kidnapped!


Earlier in the day, Adarsh and I had flown into Kota Kinabalu, late by 30 minutes due to flight delay.

We had to reach the Mt Kinabalu national park head quarters before nightfall, as we were supposed to start our ascent of Mt Kinabalu, the highest peak in S.E.Asia (13,400 feet), early in the morning next day. We knew little about the place, let alone transport options.The one thing we knew was that it took 1.5 hours in a taxi to the HQ.

After a few enquiries, we decided to go to the Mosque area and take a shared-taxi from there to the HQ. The time was 5.30pm. The taxi from the airport to the mosque area took us 15 minutes and cost us MYR 30.

Upon reaching the place, we were told that the last shared-taxi to Mt Kinabalu had already left! The other option was to hire a private taxi at a cost of 160MYR, which we didn’t want. Like abandoned puppies, we went in all directions and enquired about cheap options to reach Mt Kinabalu. All in vain! Our English was of no use with many locals and with the few it worked, answers were not forthcoming!

Frustrated and anxious, we checked the time. It read 6.15 pm.

The ‘Teksi

Just then, a white taxi screeched to a halt near us! A middle aged man in a white shirt sprang out and walked towards us. He came straight to me and spoke in Malay, apparently, stammering a lot. Stammer or not, I did not understand a word of it.

He seemed to indicate that he was willing to take us to some place. He also pointed to his watch and seemed to indicate 7, 8, 9..

Continue reading