Backpacking in Borneo-2: A sneak preview

After 10 days in Borneo, the oldest rainforests of the world, am back!

It was an out-of-the-world and overwhelming experience to say the least and I need to take time to allow things to sink-in. I am bewitched by S.E.Asia! Perhaps, this is just the beginning.

(Please visit my flickr stream to see  the large size version)

A climber going down Mt Kinabalu

I intend to blog in detail about the trip (including how we planned, expenses, cheap travel options, etc). For now, this post is just a sneak preview of what we did.

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Backpacking in Borneo-1: Prologue

Its travel time! In less than 12 hours from now!

Backpacking to Borneo this time!

Oldest rain forests on Earth, largest caves in the world, tall peaks such as Mt Kinabalu, amazing flora and fauna… Borneo has it all!

As I had tweeted earlier, my Leh-Ladakh trip went to the dogs courtesy the rain gods and the unfortunate devastation there. I had to quickly make alternative plans. I was thinking of either of these

  • Dharamshala
  • Valley of flowers
  • cycling in Nilgiris in rain (again.. never get tired of it)
  • Some other place in Western ghats

However, Adarsh had other plans. Borneo! Initially I didn’t give it much thought, especially because I wasn’t interested in an expensive trip. But when he said he had applied for a visa, I started thinking about it seriously. The airfare on Air Asia for both domestic and international was surprisingly cheap. The fact that I could do this 10 day trip in less than 40-45K (INR) was another alluring carrot dangling in front of me. I gave in! Tickets were booked!

Borneo is the old name for the island comprising East Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. We are visiting only the Malaysian portion of it.

View Larger Map

Here is my 10 day trip itinerary:

  • Aug 27: Bangalore – Kuala Lumpur Air Asia flight
  • Aug 28: KL – Sandakan flight early in the morning (Air Asia)
  • Aug 28, 29, 30: Uncle Tan’s wildlife adventures near the Kinabatangan river (2 nights/3 days)
  • Aug 30:  Sandakan ->Kota Kinabalu -> Miri flights. If possible, roam around Kota Kinabalu as the Miri flight is at 9pm. Sleep in Miri for the night
  • Aug 31: Miri to Mulu 9.30am flight  (Malaysian Airlines)
  • Aug 31, Sept 1 and 2  in Gunung Mulu national park exploring caves and rain forests (2 nights / 3 days)
  • Sept 2: Mulu to Kota Kinabalu flight in the noon (Air Asia). Take a bus from Kota Kinabalu to Mt Kinabalu / Kinabalu park and sleep there for the night
  • Sept 3 & 4: Climb Mt Kinabalu
  • Sept 5: Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur (Air Asia)
  • Sept 6: KL – Bangalore (Air Asia)

And just in case if you are interested, a total of 8 flights cost me 23.4K INR! Air Asia prices are awesome! I only hope the service is decent too. I hope to keep the expenses below 40k (backpacking, staying in dorms, sleeping for a night in the airport, eating cheap stuff, .. you get the picture), but at the same time, not compromise on things that could make for a good trip.

My backpack is packed. Almost all of it is camera equipment. The clothes don’t weigh as much as my lenses! I am carrying my 70-300, 10-24 and 105 VR micro lenses. Along with the SB600 flash and Gitzo tripod/Arca swiss ball head. Climbing Mt. Kinabalu with all this weight is going to be fun… will come back and tell you if I made it or not :-).

My internet access in the next few days is limited. Whenever possible, I might upload a picture or two and post an article maybe. For now… please allow me to drift into dreamland!

Wish me a good trip!!!

Update: Want to know how my trip went? Read the posts below.

The entire Borneo backpacking series is listed below.

US diaries-7: Epilogue

Am returning to India on July 11th.

Yes, I am excited to be back home and look forward to playing with my kid. But there is a tinge of sadness too. I had a great time here. Easily, it was one of the best trips of my life. I visited a lot of places and made a few friends too. Will miss them all. I will especially miss the wonderful national parks of US and those mammoth landscapes!

This post is a quick reflection on my trip in Twitter style. Few words. A photo or two, thats it.

My 3 favorite photos of the trip:

1. Tule elk shot at Limantour wilderness area

Tule Elk (Cervus elaphus nannodes)

2. Antelope canyon

Antelope Canyon

3. Tufa’s of Monolake

Tufa's @ Monolake after sunset!

Places visited and a one line description of each

  • Point Reyes (Limantour, Drakes beach, Bear Valley, Tomales point, lighthouse, Muddy hollow): An amazing place with a great diversity and a great place for birders.
  • Bryce canyon: Amazing hoodoos that can inspire your soul and a clear night sky that can transcend you to Neverland.
  • Grand canyon south rim: A geologists dream. Huge. Did I just say huge?
  • Antelope canyon: An awesome awesome awesome place to be in when the crowd is less.
  • Monument valley: An interesting place at the right time of the day.
  • Horseshoe bend: Sitting at its edge can pack you off to eternal bliss’dom.
  • Colarado river gorge: Unnoticed beauty with extremely inspiring rock formations.
  • Marin Headlands: A cyclists dream route.
  • Golden gate: Shot to death several years ago by photographers.
  • Yosemite (Toulemne meadows, Le Vining, etc): Wonderful. A big big bang bang wonderful. Did I say wonderful?
  • Monolake and its Tufa’s: A wonderful and ever-ongoing love story between a certain Mr Calcium and one Miss Carbonate.
  • Convict lake: Be there at 5.45 am.
  • Alcatraz prison: I went to the once most dreaded jail in the world and came back! Alive!

Most memorable moments
– Cycling in Marin in pitch dark of the night. Taking a detour on Conzelman road and photographing Golden Gate in pitch dark from an isolated area.
– Walking up the Sunset point in Bryce Canyon and being wowed by its beauty.
– First morning in Point Reyes HI hostel. Waking up early and seeing through the large window. Chilly morning. Rain drops. Dreamy mood!
– Driving through Toulemne meadows in Yosemite early in the morning.
– Driving through Point Reyes, esp the Pierce point ranch early in the morning.
– Being so close to a bear in Yosemite.

3 most admired things in US
– US national parks
– ownership of assigned tasks

Random thoughts from the trip
– Absolutely love Galen Rowell’s adventure photography and his go-light-on-gear attitude. A huge Galen fan now!
– David duChemin. I knew him before, but got hooked to his photography during this trip.
– Tenting is fun.
– Night photography is way too much fun.
– VR/IS/SR can never kill a tripod.
– US has as many problems as India does.
– US media is worse than Headlines Today in India.
– We Indians respect white folk more than we do our own folk. The spillover effect of a British raj!
– When you are in trouble, do nothing. Just wait until your head is clear. Most likely, the issue would clear by itself.
– Ghana deserved to win the game. Suarez snatched a goal and got away with a penalty. A sure goal != a chance for a goal.

Additions to my equipment during the trip
– Gitzo 3541LS tripod and Arca Swiss Z1 monoball head
– Nikon TC17E II
– Singh Ray 3 stop soft GND filter
– B+W Kaesemann polarizer
– Canon S90 pocket camera
– Eureka Nxt 2 man tent

Books purchased
– Mountain light by Galen Rowell
– Picture this: How pictures work by Molly Bang
– Photography and the art of seeing by Freeman Patterson

US diaries-6: Yosemighty!

Another week went by. Another trip etched into memory! 

Mono lake

Mighty mountains that are a geologists wonder , snow capped peaks that glow like an orange ball in the early morning sun, freezing cold lakes that have just begun to come out of their long hibernation by shedding their icy coats, innocently clear water in the lakes that can chill your bones, American black bears that stare straight at you with stone-cold eyes within 500 metres of distance,… Yosemite is a wonder! This time, we avoided the usually visited and much crowded areas in and around Yosemite and went to the Le Vining side which was very beautiful.

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US diaries-5: Lost in the dark

Last weekend, I visited the Marin headlands area.

Golden Gate in the night

My plans were simple

  • reach Marin before sunset and click pictures of the Golden Gate bridge at the twilight hour
  • stay in Marin Headlands hostel for the night
  • to reach Point Bonita before sunrise and click pictures of the lighthouse / Golden Gate

But, my planning ended there. I had not thought about transport, food, maps, directions,… blah blah. The minimalistic planning either made for a great trip or screwed things up depending on how you view it.

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US diaries-4: Camping in the Canyons

Last week, from May 29-31, Adarsh and I had gone on a camping trip to the Canyon’s of the west – the Grand canyon, Bryce canyon, Monument valley and the Antelope canyon!


May 30th was Adarsh’s birthday. 31st was mine. Need I say that I had the best birthday till date!!!

On May 28th night, we flew down to Phoenix from San Jose and then drove to the places mentioned above. Well, we started on a shaky note at Phoenix when the car rental guy told that our already booked Nissan Sentra would be parked at J-8 and that this was the ONLY compact car available there. Upon reaching J-8, we were taken aback to see a totally worn out car with its bumpers and headlights literally falling off!!! We were for a minute unsure whether to take the only car or to cancel it, but decided to do the later. Just then, we noticed that we were looking at the wrong parking slot. The place had 2 numbers for some reason. And both the J-8’s had Nissan Sentra’s. One nice car from the car rental guys.. the other, a torn down car belonging to someone!!! Laughing at our blunder and the strange coincidence, relieved, we jumped in and quickly sped-off! The time was 12.15am on Saturday.

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US diaries-3: Tule Elks

    Tule elks are the smallest sub-species of North American Elks that are found only in the grasslands and wetlands of California. Having gotten their name from eating the Tule grass found only in these parts, these animals roamed across California in huge numbers, believed to be at least half a million before the 1850’s.

Tule Elk

But the mad rush to hunt these wonderful creatures during the Gold rush and a decline in grazing land led to their count falling to as low as 28 in 1895 (source: wikipedia). They were even thought to be extinct, but for the effort of a good hearted California ranger called Henry Miller, who saved around 20 elks and reared their population towards recovery. Otherwise, these wonderful creatures would have been gone.. forever! Damning humans!!!

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US diaries-2: Vintage streetcars of SFO

They are old. They are slow. And they are small. Yet…, they are extremely popular!

You can’t miss them when you are in Fisherman’s wharf or in Pier-39 (or anywhere on the F market & wharves route). The beautiful vintage street cars!

Heritage street cars of SFO

 Having been sourced from all over the world, from places like Melbourne (Australia), Tokyo (Japan), Birmingham (UK), Milan (Italy), these street cars behold heritage status and have become an attraction by themselves! 

After having served in their respective countries / cities for several years, after almost being written off as junk, it is heartening to see these old horses being put to test again in this amazing melting pot (of street cars, if you will :-)) called San Francisco!

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US diaries-1: Prologue

Am starting a new series of posts covering my visit to the US of A. Blame it on my lack of imagination, I am plainly calling it “The US diaries”.

Golden gate bridge

I was initially thinking of writing in the day report style covering each day of actual travel (usually weekend).  But we do so many things in a day that a daily report post will be really long. Hence I intend to write short posts on just one subject area, for example, the Golden Gate and what we did there, etc. Maybe will link such reports together to stitch a timelined post. Let me see how it goes.

As the first in the series, this is just a prologue covering only a few details.

Destination: San Francisco (Emeryville actually)

Duration of visit: Apr-24 to July 11

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Gopalaswamy betta and Kalhatty falls

Last weekend, my colleagues and I had gone on a 2 day trip to Masinagudi and Ooty. We stayed in a place called Forest hills farms and resorts (location is good, place is kinda average). En route, we visited Gopalaswamy betta, Kalhatty falls, etc.

Himavad Gopalaswamy betta

I had written a lengthy post.. but the browser crashed and I am now mad with myself for not having saved it. My patience to sit and write it again too has crashed :-(.

Instead of a lengthy trip report, I will leave you with a few snaps, the route to Gopalaswamy betta and Kalhatty falls and a few pointers.

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