A glimpse of Borneo

It is not so far from Bangkok to Borneo.  Two short flights, each just under 2 hours and then a drive or less than an hour.  Not so far at all.

Yet it took a whole day!  My mid-morning flight from Bangkok was delayed by nearly 2 hours which meant  a mid afternoon arrival in Kuala Lumpur.  This also meant that my incoming plane was barely touching down, as my connection was soaring into the clouds towards Borneo. I had no idea when the next flight to Kuching might be, and what I would do if there was not a connection available.  But somehow, I had already let go of the stresses of the roundabout and did not really see this as either my problem or something which I actually needed to resolve.  I just placed myself in the care of the airline and hoped for the best.

And the best actually happened.  I was drooping by the time I reached the front of the queue at the transfer desk (I was far from alone as a number of us had missed onward connections) and slumped over the counter as the rep took my old boarding pass.  He made several phone calls, and I could hear my surname being spelled out so I knew something was happening, but I also knew it was not straightforward.  However, it did not worry me and eventually he passed me a new boarding pass, telling me to hurry.  He had got me on the flight leaving in a few minutes but I had to run immediately to the gate.  Another few minutes were needed to try and ensure that my luggage knew which flight I was on and withing minutes I was inelegantly rushing through immigration and towards the gate.

And a quick look at my boarding pass, to see which gate I had to go to gave a nice surprise.  There must have been no economy seats, so I had been upgraded and was sitting at the front of the plane!

So I did indeed arrive yesterday evening, landing in Borneo just as the light was fading. I had another immigration stamp for Sarawak and a welcome reunion with my bags which had to my delight and surprise, travelled with me.  By the time I exited the airport terminal it was completely dark and the drive to the village where I was staying told me very little of Borneo.  The island was keeping its secrets for another day. It took around an hour finally before I arrived at an oasis of peace, tranquility and tropical paradise.  The end of a very long but strangely perfect day.

Arrival finally

Now, in the light of day it is time for some gentle exploring…………….

Rains in the rainforest

Rains in the rainforest – view from the haven I am staying in

Future tenses

I have arrived.  I have no idea, and no good reason for this being my very first visit to Malaysia despite living so near for over a decade.  All I do know is that I am here now, and very glad to be.

I think that the impression I have always had, particularly of Kuala Lumpur, has been that it is a highly modern, futuristic city with of course the iconic Petronas Towers.  Now I am kicking myself that I have waited so long!  It is an incredible city, with a rich mix of architecture and culture.

So what could be more fitting than a sneak preview of the many photos and tales to come, with a change of background and some funky pics of the futuristic Petronas Tower high above the skyscrapers on the skyline, such as this one reflected in the table I was sitting at the first evening I arrived in KL.

Reflection of the iconic Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur

A classic view of the Tower itself, for the current background.

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And a couple of “preview” images of the diversity that is KL with a promise of much more to follow.

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This year has taken such a toll, and although I continue to struggle with the heavy side effects of potentially life waving meds, as well as that overbearing, ever present grief, it is good to have a diversity of surroundings such as the KL setting.

A setting to inspire and remind of the past, the present and the future.

Jigsaw puzzling

Slowly, slowly. Piece by piece, I am putting together a puzzle. Gathering, building, shaping fragments of ideas and thoughts into something tangible. Gingerly balancing between the tasks of planning and the delight of anticipation.

This past year or so has been hard, and pushed me to the limits of resilience emotionally and physically. This has been exacerbated by events such as the embolism conspiring to sabotage any opportunity to have a restful, healing break.

So I am cautious as I carefully share some ingredients of the puzzle I am working on, and the picture which is taking shape.

jigsaw plain

I am taking some holiday in the next few weeks. I am hatching a plan, a gentle adventure and escapade. I feel fragile so this will not be any bungee-jumping, jungle-trekking, kayaking or abseiling adventure, but a healing retreat. I yearn for the natural sounds and colours of the jungle, and the music of the breeze and the rains. I long to be surrounded by the elements and for my mind and body to be bathed gently.

It was not intended to be such a process, but this is taking shape in a fascinating way. I have been looking at specific parts of the break in a rather random and incoherent way. Little fragments at a time, with a broad landscape in mind, but only focusing on a piece at a time.

The framework has been fairly simple. I want to have a break over my birthday. I want to visit a country I have not visited before. In Asia. And just to further constrain choices, I want an easy, relatively short journey. Thank goodness Asia has so many options!

Happily there are a few more direct and even low airline options from Yangon to help to lay the background for this puzzle. A direct flight to Kuala Lumpur provided a very helpful foundation piece for the puzzle. I have not been to Malaysia before. Rather sad, given I have been in this region for thirteen years, but there you go! Quite convenient, for my planning. KL is not really somewhere I have been particularly drawn to visit, the images of the iconic Petronas Towers and sophisticated shopping malls not my first thought of a peaceful getaway. Until I saw the photographs and accounts of a visit to KL by my friend, and that presented a somewhat different impression. A fascinating old town, colonial architecture, museums and galleries. And besides, KL is not so far from jungle retreat and peaceful places. Definitely a viable basis.

The next part of the puzzle which provided the necessary foundation, was a recommendation from a friend for a little known place, a couple of hours north of KL on a tiny island. Not a beach location (it’s not really so far away from that seismic fault line which we have already witnessed rumbling) but a retreat in the hills, nestled in the jungle. I know it is monsoon season, and I know there will be a good amount of grey cloud. But the thought of the rains hammering down, drenching me and washing away those tensions and releasing emotions is incredibly welcoming and comforting.

Before long, these two pieces of the puzzle were in place, a single flight to KL and a five night reservation at the retreat. Many gaps were in the puzzle, but the start of a picture was taking definite shape.

And so the process has continued, making the planning as much a part of the break as the time away itself. I have picked pieces up and played with them, examining them to see if they would fit. Would a train journey back to Bangkok be a pleasant return? Or perhaps a transfer to Penang and flight back from there? Or what about returning to KL and the cheap flight back, direct? I played with these options over and over each having its disadvantages and advantages. The low cost flight’s departure at 6 am presented a clear contradiction – 4 am check-in a most unappealing close to a restful break.

As in any puzzle, the pieces are interdependent. Travel choices determine the range of accommodation options and preferences clearly determine those travel and accommodation choices. Another key factor, is the very real limit that there is in my mobility and the need to make sensible and comfortable choices.

Slowly the pieces are being placed. I will return from Penang, via Bangkok. One night in a pleasant guest house in Georgetown will gently prepare me for return. Prior to the island retreat, I will spend a few nights in KL, gently resting and perhaps exploring. And certainly downloading some long needed musical megabytes! Then the train to Ipoh, for a night. Stopover and possibly exploring of this city, before heading to the island early the next morning for the five nights of retreat.

Slowly, slowly I am arranging the various elements. A guest house here. A hotel there. Train tickets. Guide Book. Transfers. The pieces of the puzzle enough now for me to see the picture.

starfish puzzle

And the picture is one of rest, healing, recovery, discovery and revitalisation.

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