Saturday, June 16, 2012

Backpacking Borneo: From Kota Kinabalu to Brunei to Kuala Lumpur to Melaka

I booked a flight going to Kota Kinabalu a year ago and I didn't expect that this would be a grand adventure. We planned a Borneo trip from Clark, Pampanga to Kota Kinabalu to Labuan Island to Brunei to Kuala Lumpur to Melaka, back to Kuala Lumpur and returning home to Manila (whew!). It was a 7 day challenge and it turned out pretty well. I experienced being a backpacker that time and it was one heck of an epic experience.

Borneo is located just south of the Philippines. It is just below Palawan, and so, the weather there is similar here. I packed my backpack with a little less clothes compared to my Korea trip since I would only need some shorts and shirts in a tropical country like ours. I am off with a backpack and a small bag for my camera to a 7-day adventure to these places.
Since we booked our flight with Air Asia, we need to go to Diosdado Macapagal Airport in Clark Pampanga. You can go there by riding the Philtranco Bus that pass from Pasay to SM Megamall to Clark. It costs PHP400 on a one way ride there. It was not bad since they will drop you off on the airport itself. The trips has specific time departures and it is better to call them up. Below are the bus schedules:

PASAY TERMINAL (Central station):
EDSA Corner Apello Cruz St.
Pasay City, Metro Manila
Telephone: +63 2 851-8077, 851-8078, 632 851-8079
Fax: +63 2 851-5812

We boarded the 11am bus and we got there at around 1pm. It was a 3hour comfortable ride and we got there hours before our scheduled flight.

The airport was just small and there are a few choices to dine in. Also, airport food is very expensive, but since we haven't had lunch yet, we looked for food in a small food area outside the main airport. As soon as we're done eating, we went inside at around 2:30pm. The counters for boarding pass are already open and so we got our boarding passes, travel tax and terminal fee settled so we can go to the boarding area to sit and rest. Yes, as you can see below, travel tax and terminal fee here in the Philippines are much more expensive than the actual fare cost (sigh!).
Air Asia one way ticket to Kota Kinabalu - PHP   360
Additional check in baggage fee                -           450 (*shared PHP900/2)
Travel Tax                                                -        1,620
Terminal Fee                                            -           600   TOTAL                                                              3,030
Our flight is at 4pm and at around that time, we are already waiting for the gates to open and board. We wanted to board already since it was a bit uncomfortable in the waiting area. There are a few food stalls but the place was just crowded with passengers waiting for their flight. It was a bit small and not comfortable for an international airport which asks us a sum of money for terminal fee. But so much for the rants, we got in the aircraft and after about 2 hours, we reached Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

We got to the immigration and out their budget terminal. We need to have some money first and so we looked for a forex booth. After we had sufficient funds, we hired an airport taxi to get us to our pre-booked inn in town. It costs around RM30 for that ride and an additional RM5 for the tip to the driver who was really friendly on talking with us. 

We checked in our inn and paid the overnight stay at the counter. After that, we went to our air conditioned room to get our stuff down and rest for a bit. It was around 7:30 pm when we decided to go around town for dinner and also to explore the town of Kota Kinabalu.

It was drizzling for a bit and we need to walk going to the town. We looked for something to eat and after that, explored the town until late night. Here are some of the places we went on that night.

Atkinson Tower (sorry a bit blurred, it was raining :P)

the street where there are a lot of restaurants

tourism office

Suria Sabah mall

Kota Kinabalu sign at City Park

Jesselton Point archway

herritage village

Sabah museum

Archway to Sabah museum and Heritage village

Australian Place

port at Jesselton Point

After touring around, we decided to go back to the inn and rest for our adventure the next day. We woke up early and had breakfast in the inn the next day. We planned to tour the morning and get to the 1pm ferry going to Labuan Island in the afternoon. Just to be sure, we went to Jesseltom Point to by tickets before heading to the Museums. We toured the museums and went back to the in at lunch. We grabbed a quick meal before going to the port and spent the time there waiting for the ferry. At 1am the ferry departed and it was a 3 hour ride going to Labuan Island. It was quite a long ride but I was glad I was back on land.

Labuan Island Map

shores at the water village

houses at the water Patau-Patau village


Peace Park

Sunset at the beach


My friend's friend met with us there at around 4:30 pm. She was the one to tour us around the area. We went around in her car and after that, we settled in her home for dinner with her other friends. Late at night, she brought us to the bars there where we met Filipinos. We were drunk and tired when we got back to her house and we all went to sleep.

The next day, we woke up quite late. We hurried on packing our stuff and eat breakfast. We went back to the port to catch the earliest ferry going to Brunei. We were in a hurry because the earliest ferry is leaving and we are the last passenger to arrive. We were running at the port to catch it. We bid goodbye to our new friend and to Labuan Island.

At around noon, after an hour of ferry ride, we reached Brunei Darussalam. We were fetched by another of my friend's friend there. We were so thankful with him because he toured us around and introduced us to his small country. Also, because we find it difficult to see public transportation there that is why we are thankful for the ride and tour.

View from our inn

Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

University of Brunei Darussalam

The Empire


mall near our place

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

Water Village

their fishing area

Brunei Museum

We toured checked in first in a Youth Hostel which is pretty cheap (BND10 per night). After that, we went for a quick lunch and we were returned to the hostel to rest. Our friend was a Muslim and since it was a Friday, he needs to attend to his obligations in the mosque. We rested for an hour ad he came back and picked us up. He toured us around until late afternoon. We got back to the hostel and rested again (because he needs to attend to other religious obligations again). At late evening he went back and picked us up for dinner. The next day, we were on our own in the morning and before noon, he came back again to tour us for the rest of the morning. He was really kind and we definitely enjoyed our stay there because of him.

We went to their airport at around 2pm to catch our 3pm plane to KL. We bid goodbye to our new friend and we boarded the plane going to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.

National Mosque

Structures around the mosque

Stone Hedge at the Planetarium

National Museum

dioramas in the museum

Bird Park at KL

Merdeka Square

Batu Caves

Goddess Statue at Batu Caves

Petronas Tower at day

Petronas Tower at night

We arrived at around 7pm in KL and we went from their budget terminal using the train system. We arrived at Fern Loft Inn at around 8pm. We planned to see the Petronas Towers that night but we were so tired, and so, we just went looking for something to eat around. We went back to the inn and rest. The next day, we went around KL and tour the places around there. We went to the museums and their famous landmarks. We went to Batu Caves and the Petronas Tower. It was a packed day and we went home tired.

The next day, we went to Melaka. It is a 2 hour bus ride from KL. The province is just small but there are a lot to see in it. We roamed around the place and took photos.

bus going to Melaka

Church of St. Francis Xavier

Melaka Church

Melaka Tourism Office

windmill at the town

some land marks

Large ship, this is a museum

naval ship in a museum

some landmark

Port Santiago

St. Peter's Church Ruins

inside the ruins

clock tower

Mr. Universe statue at Jonker Walk

After that, we went home and spent the last few hours of the evening at the Central Market looking for souvenirs. We continued the shopping the next day at Kasturi Walk and Petaling Street.

Kasturi Walk

Central Market

Petaling Street

Petaling Street in the morning

In the afternoon, we checked out of the inn and went to the airport. We are going back to Manila and our adventure has ended. We were all tired but the memories of the adventure, food, places, people and the learning we had will forever be remembered.

Below is a copy of our itinerary. By the way, if you are curious on how much I spent in this 7-day adventure, I only spent PHP13,000 (minus the air fare) all in all including the food, transportation and the accommodations and the souvenirs.

12:00 PM Lunch
1:00 PM Rest at Hostel
2:00 PM Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque 
3:00 PM University of Brunei Darusalam
4:00 PM The Empire
5:00 PM The Mall
6:00 PM Back at Hostel and rest
8:00 PM Tour around town (Sultan's Palace)
8:30 PM Walk around town (Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque)
9:30 PM Dinner at Break Wate Café
10:30 PM Head back to Hostel
11:00 PM Rest at Hostel
Day 4
6:00 AM Wakeup Call
7:00 AM Walk around town in the morning (Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and Water Village)
8:30 AM Breakfast at De Royale Café
9:00 AM Back at Hostel, Meetup with Amiru again
9:30 AM Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque (enter the mosque)
10:00 AM Brunei Museum
11:30 AM Lunch at Mangrove Paradise Resort
12:30 PM Check out at Hostel
1:00 PM Souvenier Hunting
2:00 PM Go to Airport
3:00 PM ETD to Kuala Lumpur
6:00 PM ETA Kuala Lumour
6:30 PM Airport Transfer to Inn
7:30 PM Check in at Fern Loft Inn
8:30 PM Dinner at Petaling Street
10:00 PM Rest at Inn
Day 5
6:30 AM Wakeup Call
7:30 AM Breakfast at Inn
8:30 AM KL National Mosque
9:30 AM Planetarium
10:00 AM National Museum
11:30 AM Walk around Bird Park
12:00 PM Back at KL Natonal Mosque
1:00 PM Lunch at Kasturi Walk
2:00 PM Merdaka Square
2:30 PM ETD to Batu Caves
3:00 PM Batu Caves
5:30 PM ETD Batu Caves
7:00 PM KLCC Suria
8:00 PM Dinner
8:30 PM Petronas Towers
10:00 PM Back at Inn, Rest
Day 6
7:00 AM Wakeup Call
8:00 AM Breakfast
8:30 AM Train to Bus Station
10:00 AM ETD Bus going to Melaka
12:00 PM ETA Melaka Sentral
12:30 PM Cab to Melaka Town, walk around
1:00 PM Lunch
2:00 PM Continue walk around town
4:30 PM ETD Melaka Town
5:00 PM ETD back to KL
7:00 PM ETA KL, take train back to Inn
7:30 PM Central Market and Kasturi Walk
8:30 PM Dinner
9:30 PM Back at Inn
10:00 PM rest
Day 7
7:00 AM Wakeup Call
8:00 AM Breakfast at Inn
9:00 AM Petaling Street, Kasturi Walk and Central Market
11:00 AM Check out at Inn, leave bags
12:00 PM Lunch at Central Market
1:30 PM Back at Inn to get stuff
2:00 PM ETD KL to Airport
6:30 PM ETD Going to Manila
10:00 PM ETA Manila

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