After landing in Manila and killing a morning at the mall, we caught our flight over to the Malaysian city of Kota Kinabalu. We only spent one night here since it was a transit, but our friend Gordon took us to an awesome seafood dinner at Welcome Seafood. I’ll talk more about this in the future. We arrive early in the morning in Kuching. The sun is out, we’re rested and ready to tackle this city.
Kuching is located in the northwestern corner of Borneo, in the province of Sarawak. Sarawak was the last province to join the federation of Malaysia and is known for its cat statues and its intricate network of caves. Our hostel is beautiful, and a nice change from the very basic places we were staying in in the Philippines. Rich red paint, dark wood floors and Buddha paintings made it very quaint and homey. Threehouse hostel is run by a Swedish girl (if I remember correctly) and is located right in the heart of Chinatown. The opening faces an alley more than an actual street, which is pretty cool. Its a perfect example of what a great hostel can be.
We wasted no time. About 45 minutes from the city center there are a series of caves that are open for exploration. We rented scooters from a local shop and eventually made it there after 30 minutes of getting lost. The feeling of being on a scooter again was amazing. Jungle, plains mountains and small random huts on either side as we zip down the highway. Its a great way to see any city if you haven’t tried before. Once we’re in the general area it takes a bit more exploring before we find the Fairly Caves that I hear so much about.
The parking area is quite small and abandoned when we arrive. You climb up a long set of stairs and eventually make it to the modest opening. Along the way you can see broken down steps and ladders, presumably used at a time when pilgrims would have to climb a 5 story rock face to reach the cave opening. The opening is wide and right away you climb a narrow and very steep set of step to get into the main complex. The cave itself is amazing. Its massive in every sense and you hear your voice bouncing back and forth between the walls. The air inside is thick with humidity and you feel the damp immediately. There are a number of cracks and crevices you can explore as well as a high lookout within the cave where you get nice panoramic views of the whole interior. Unless you have a flashlight I wouldn’t explore too far in, especially since you don’t know exactly where you’re stepping on the uneven ground.
The whole time we were there there were 2 other people exploring the cave. Both were friends. One from Singapore and the other from Calgary. Its a small world after all eh?
The ride home was almost as adventurous as the whole trip to the cave. Because it took us so long to get to the caves, we needed to leave right away to make it home before sundown. Although because we didn’t have Google Maps, we had to trust our own instinct and memory of the ride here. Riding along the winding roads, I lead, but I noticed after a while that Mandeep wasn’t following. I pull over to wait for him but after a few minutes he doesn’t come. I head back a few minutes and see Mandeep in the middle of the road, without his scooter. Turns out he ran into a bump trying to dodge a car and essentially flipped his scooter into the ditch. Yes ladies and gentlemen, he flipped into the ditch.
He was so lucky to have gotten away with minor bruises and and scratches. Our next order of business is to get the scooter out of the ditch. This turns out to be harder than I think. Who would have thought those things were so damn heavy! I even managed to burn my shin on the muffler (I still have a scar! Thank God I brought my first aid kit). OK. So the bike is on the road again. Lets be on our way yeah? Well no. The key came off the ignition and it, along with its green keychain, was lost in the green reeds in the ditch. You’re kidding me right?! We start looking and about 20 or so minutes later, we miraculously find the key! Unfortunately, it is horribly bent out of shape and basically snaps in two when we try to stick it in the ignition. Now we’re really stuck.
We manage to wave down a passerby, luckily, and borrow his phone to call the rental shop. We are so lucky that they send out a guy to fix the bike. Essentially, the key is gone but we can start the scooter no problem. OK. Time to book it back to town. The sun is coming down and we don’t want to be caught in traffic. We enter the city limits and we manage to loose each other on a roundabout. 30-40 minutes later we manage to find each other. We are completely lost at this point. I lead and manage to get us even more lost, reaching the outskirts of the city center. We stop at a gas station to gather ourselves. There is one final roundabout that we essentially have to do a 180 degree turn back to the city. I turn but Mandeep goes off another way. I wait for him nearby for about 30 minutes but alas, we are lost and have no way of contacting each other. FAK what am I suppose to do?!
I figure that if I were him, I’d want me to just go home and meet him there. I use my intuition and manage to find my way back home within 20 minutes. I showered and waited another 2 hours for Mandeep before he showed up at the hostel doors. I was so close to calling the police. 3+ hours after leaving the caves, we manage to make it home more or less unharmed.
I’ll say it again, when you travel you never know what’s going to happen. You can try to prepare but seriously there are so many factors contributing to the situation that you never know where you’ll end up. What you can do is prepare yourself with the tools (unlocked phone + SIM card, first aid kit, snacks and water) and just hope for the best. Our experience at Fairy Caves was amazing but our experience of driving scooters at night back to town was one we would not want to repeat any time soon! It sucked but we got a few awesome stories out of it no?