Friday, June 29, 2012


Liz as far north as one can get on Borneo.
In Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Malaysian Borneo, we read online about an area on the north coast where rocky, jungle-clad hills meet abruptly with pristine, empty beaches that stretch for miles. Few outsiders visit the area, plus the government built a massive, if not kitschy, monument there to mark the northernmost tip of the island. Sort of like the shrine in Key West that designates the most southern part of the U.S. (at least, geographically), but totally different. Sounded like our kind of place.

From KK, we hitched a ride with a friendly, knowledgeable Brit named Howard, who we’d emailed about potential places to stay on the coast. As it happened Howard was in the city running some errands—including buying roofing materials for his longhouse-style jungle lodge—before making the four-hour drive back to his place.

Picking up some bamboo and palm thatch for the new roofs at Tampat Do Aman
He said we were welcome to go along, and he even let us ride inside the car, as opposed to in the back or on the roof where we’ve spent many miles of this trip. He also answered lots of our questions about the island, such as “Why does everything smell like fish?” (locals add dried, shrimp-infused anchovies to everything they eat) and “What does ‘pusat’ mean?” (it’s the Malaysian word for ‘center’, as in medical pusat, tire pusat, traffic pusat, anchovy pusat, etc. and is on every sign you see).

In addition to the free ride, the quality education, and the cheap housing at the Tampat Do Aman, Howard rented us a luxury automobile, which he’d nicknamed “the Malaysian Ferrari.” While the not-so-pretty hoopty had bad brakes, no radio, holes in the floorboard and an un-removable ignition key, there was no paperwork, insurance, or signature required. And at roughly $25/day with unlimited mileage—plus a steering wheel on the right side and a chance to drive legally on the left—we couldn’t pass up such a golden opportunity.
Kip shows off the impressive Malaysian Ferrari.
We spent the next couple of days cruising the back roads, checking out the surrounding shores, and visiting the aforementioned monument.

As unspoiled and stunning a place as Borneo's north coast is, it's hard to imagine it will remain this way for long. But for now, it's well worth a few days time...particularly if you can get in touch with Howard and reserve the Malaysian Ferrari.
Kip meditates on the tip of Borneo monument. And afterwards narrowly avoids an arrest.
Kip walks along a suspension bridge we came across.  The road led here, but we figured even the Malaysian Ferrari wouldn't make it across this bridge.
Liz made some new friends at the monument, and reminds everyone how short they are.
Taking in the sunset view with the only beer in Borneo.  It's called "3 Amigos" and is made in Vietnam...

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