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Singapore to Borneo

22 September 2010, off the North Borneo Coast

Dear Friends and Family,

Great sunsets on the South China Sea
Great sunsets on the South China Sea

Much water has passed under our hulls so we thought we'd send out an update.  Our time in the USA was WONDERFUL and very productive.  Sue finished her book on walks in the Seattle area (Take A Walk, the main reason for our return) and we did tons of much needed work on our house and saw many friends (but, as always, not as many as we wanted).

We flew back to Ocelot in southern Malaysia on September 10th to find that Ocelot needed LOTS of cleaning.  We have never seen her so dirty.  So we cleaned madly because 3 days after we returned we had Aussie friends Suzette and Sandy arrive for 2 weeks.  They (and we) wanted to play along the North coast of Borneo so we left Danga Bay Marina in Jahor Baru the day after they arrived.

Our trip around the bottom of Singapore was interesting as we hit a HUGE "Sumatra" squall just as we started.  There we were, entering the busiest shipping lanes in the WORLD, with less than 300' (100m) visibility and too much sail up.  WOOT!  We quickly took 2 reefs in the main and turned on our AIS (ship-plotting) equipment and went screaming through the (mostly) anchored ships.  We kept (mostly) to the sides of the shipping lanes as we sailboats have NO rights in the shipping lanes.

Approaching Santubong, Borneo. More squalls!
Approaching Santubong, Borneo. More squalls!

The winds in SE Asia are usually quite light (out of the squalls) so it took us 3 days (and much diesel) to make the 375nm passage to Kuching, on the NW corner of Borneo.  Ashore, we caught a passing taxi (teksi) into town, stocked up with maps, etc at the information-center, and then visited several museums - always a fun pastime.

It was "Mooncake Festival" time, which has many Chinese historical roots but is basically a harvest festival and time for families to get together, much like our Thanksgiving but with more external celebration.  We found several street-fairs with dancing and exotic music and (of course) LOTS of food, much of which was completely unknown to us.  Like Mooncakes - elaborately decorated small pastries stuffed with a variety of sweets or nuts.  Quite yumlicious.

We strolled along the promenade bordering the river that winds through town, watching the sunset and all the many lights come on while the water-taxis busily shuttled folks across the river.  All very fun and relaxing, especially after sailing for 3 days.

Kuching River from the promenade
Kuching River from the promenade

The next day was the most amazing.  We'd contacted a friend of a friend of Sandy's - an 18 year old Chinese university student here in Kuching.  Adam met us at 8:30am and we headed west for a 2.5 hour drive to see a flower.  Yes, a 2.5 hour drive to see a single flower...

Suzette shows size of Rafflesia
Suzette shows size of Rafflesia

This one was the Rafflesia, named after the Raffles that made Singapore famous.  OK, it IS the biggest flower in the world, 18‑24" (50‑80cm) across.  They take 9 months to bloom, then they bloom for 6 days, and then they rot.  We were VERY lucky that the national park, Gunung Gading, had one blooming (we'd asked before we'd set out) as we caught ours at day 4 and the next bud they knew about wasn't due to open for 3 months.  The flowers are red and fleshy and somewhat stinky (they need to attract flies to pollinate).  Sort of like a giant fungus (we weren't allowed to touch) with stinky male fluid in its big cup.  Very cool - if you're into that sort of thing.

Next was a quick stop in the local village for BBQ chicken, BBQ pork, fried rice, steamed ferns(!), and lots of fluids.  Then a mad dash to an orangutan rehabilitation center a bit south of Kuching.  We got there just before the 3pm feeding time.  First up was a mother with a baby clinging to her, the matriarch of the bunch.  Then a young (8 years old) female followed by a similarly aged male.  These 2 obviously liked each other, as he brought her fruits from the platform.  She seemed affectionate but didn't offer him gifts.  They were very sweet together.

Delima's baby with banana
Delima's baby with banana

Then came another mother and older baby, this one self-mobile.  They each came down to the platform, grabbed some food (usually stuffing 2 pieces in their mouth and another 1‑2 in hand or feet) before escaping up a tree.  Nobody wanted to be on the feeding platform when Big Daddy showed up - which he did soon after.  Richie was huge, and not too subtle coming through the forest, bending trees and snapping branches as he swung through the tree-tops.  He sat on the platform with his back to us, snubbing us firmly before moving off.  Then came 2 single males followed by another mother and baby.

These orangutans are incredibly powerful, hanging from trees, ropes and branches with complete ease from any arm or leg.  All their movements were pretty slow and methodical but they displayed extreme power and flexibility, hanging from any 1‑2 limbs in just about any orientation.  One mother/baby pair played games together in the tops of some trees for ages, swinging from branch to branch, climbing after each other, sometimes playing tag.  Fun to watch.

We capped the day off with a delightful dinner at a seaside seafood restaurant, with prawns done 2 different ways, oysters, veggies, chicken, rice, sauces, etc.  All deliciously ethnic and quite different from foods we'd had before.  We finished the day by using Adam's car to refill our diesel jugs for $0.60/L (about $2.25/US gal).

The southern part of the island of Borneo is the Indonesian state of Kalimantan (which we visited as we came through Indonesia) but a strip along the northern coast is Malaysian, with the tiny oil sultanate of Brunei about in the middle of the northern coast.  We're currently sailing NE towards the town of Miri, just west of Brunei.  Our plans are still being worked out but Suzette and Sandy may leave Ocelot in Miri and fly to another orangutan preserve in the NE corner of Borneo.  We plan to make our way NE to meet up with friends who have sailed up from Brisbane to cruise with us.

Fair Winds and Calm Seas -- Jon and Sue Hacking

Malaysia Letters: Up | Leaving Borneo | Kinabatangan River | Top of Borneo | South China Sea | Malaysian Interior | On the S China Sea | Brunei to Kuching | Mt. Kinabalu | Heading East | Singapore to Borneo | Malaysia Arrival | Weh Island | Perfect Day | Bountiful Sea | Half Weh | Crossing the Indian | Return to SE Asia | Straits of Malacca

Related Pages: Malaysia Home | Malay Newsletters | SE Asia Flora/Fauna | Cruising Malaysia

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