A Travellerspoint blog

Home sweet home

In Sydney, I had a 1h05 connecting time. With my 15 minute delay arriving, Qantas had rebooked me on a flight leaving 1h35 later than the original which meant waiting around for over an hour, which was pretty painless. Unfortunately I no longer had access to the Amex lounge here due to the raising of their entry criteria.

Waiting outside, I could hear announcements calling for straggling passengers for my original flight to Auckland [Auckland-travel-guide-1139106]. I could have made it but I guess the airline didn’t want to risk having that flight run late.

The continuing flight to Auckland was quick. It was good to have a spare seat next to me (as on the previous sector) but it was a non-recline exit row (which meant it was spacious). Again, the Kiwi crew on Qantas weren’t the happiest bunch (except for a trainee and her trainer).

Landing in Auckland, we touched down at an angle on one wheel. It was pretty hair-raising and I wasn’t the only one that noticed. Disembarking, I said loudly to the captain standing outside the cockpit door “Awesome landing, thanks!”. The conditions outside were calm with no white-caps in the sea and I had seen from my window earlier that the windsock was pointing in the direction of the runway.

It was a good time to arrive in Auckland as the airport was not busy. Traffic home was OK but any later, it would have been tortuous. Home sweet home after another great trip.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Leaving the family again

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I said goodbye to family last night. I got to Kuching [Kuching-travel-guide-1096915] airport about 2h before the 1045 departure. I had breakfast landside as there is no longer food available airside internationally, since the area has now been properly segregated from domestic.

The short flight to Singapore had been rescheduled a couple of weeks ago from 0945. The captain explained that it was due to closure of Singapore’s Changi airport for a military exercise. I just couldn’t believe that the government would disrupt so many people for the exercise.

Our ETA was just after the scheduled reopening and there was a chance of delays due to late reopening and a backlog. We were assigned a non-standard holding area “amongst the cotton candy clouds” that may give us a “roller coaster ride” but “a bit of bargaining” saw us avoiding that. Yes, the captain was a bit colourful with his language, right from the start when he described the air-con on the ground as “a little screwy” (it was fine and cool enough for me).
Changi wasn’t it super-efficient self today. I got out quickly enough still and did an early bag drop for my flight to Sydney and onwards to Auckland on Qantas.

This allowed me to go see my aunt for a few hours. She fed me a filling lunch and we chatted. I took a lie down then a swim in her cool refreshing pool before returning to the airport.

Even in just Terminal 1, I had a choice of three lounges to choose from. I chose SATS because I stumbled upon it first. Despite arriving 3+ hours early at the airport, time went quickly and I was soon on board the Qantas A330 bound for Sydney. The -200 series plane had an older version interior than the previous flight (on -300), with a smaller TV and no footrest basket.

A late passenger delayed us. He eventually turned up but it took time for the ground staff to return the luggage containers. We pushed back 30 minutes late and arrived into Sydney 15 minutes late, having made up part of the time.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Family time

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It was nice to wake without the alarm today. I had my last mango with a plain pouring yoghurt and muesli before heading down to the nearby Gaya Street Market. It was a very nice Sunday market with lots of atmosphere and many Chinese tourists. There was nothing I needed to buy; there were things I wanted to buy but not willing to carry and they can wait.

I checked out just before the 1200 deadline and Uber'ed to the airport more than 3 hours before the 1530 departure to Kuching [Kuching-travel-guide-1096915] to spend time with family.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

North Borneo Railway ride

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large_5550_14929571225668.jpgThe tourist train still uses the old name "North Borneo Railway".
I had always wanted to ride on the North Borneo Railway (the only rail service in Borneo) but when I last checked, it was not operating. The tracks were supposedly being refurbished and I expected the service would die a quiet death but surprisingly it was back in operation.

I had thought of taking Uber to the station in the morning for the 0745 departure. But my old friend David brought it up last night at supper and he was keenly interested too. He picked me up at 0630 and we drove to the new modern station near the airport.

We waited a while before ticket sales began at 0700. We had a good look around and understood there were three types of trains:

1. The historic train ride, operated by a resort / tour company utilising the old name “North Borneo Railway” (rather than the present name "Sabah State Railway", at MYR345 including meal and hotel transfers.large_5550_14929570948770.jpgThe rickety old carriage which operated our service to Beaufort. In the background is the historic carriage which operates the tourist train.
2. The old rickety carriage which costs MYR4.80 each way to Beaufort with all stops. This was the one operating our service.
3. The modern air-conditioned carriage operating the afternoon service with limited stops. There is a first class surcharge on this but I imagine it is still super cheap.

The train left promptly at 0745 with a few passengers but it sure filled up at the first stop at Putatan a short distance away.

The journey wasn’t very rural at first. But later we had a little jungle, mangrovey sago palms, river crossings, a tunnel, beach, swift houses (for cultivating edible birds' nest), a couple of water buffaloes and anchovies drying in the sun. To be honest, it wasn’t particularly scenic. The most scenic part is from Beaufort to Tenom, as I understand, but it wasn’t possible to do the entirety as a day trip due to the train schedule (outbound, it has a long connection for the onward journey from Beaufort to Tenom).large_5550_14929570972065.jpgThe historic carriage which operates the tourist train.

In Beaufort, we had about 1h15 before the departure back to Kota Kinabalu [Kota-Kinabalu-travel-guide-1096832]. We really had only about 45 minutes for a walk and to grab lunch before heading back to the station and buy our tickets.

The train was quite full when we boarded. It remained that way until Putatan. It rained heavily at one stage and all the windows had to be closed up making it quite steamy. Despite closing the windows, the train leaked through the joins in the wooden window frames.

One of the most memorable sights for me were the old wooden building with shuttered windows at Membakut. These are a rarity nowadays as old wooden buildings (perhaps with old wiring) tend to burn down. And when it is a long row without a firebreak, it spreads :-(

We grabbed a second lunch back in Kota Kinabalu before David dropped me off at the hotel. I rested until coming out for a pre-dinner walk to Centre Point then back to Suria for dinner.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Back to Borneo

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large_5550_14929571108327.jpgKota Kinabalu does not have significant historic buildings due to fires and also WWII.
I woke before the alarm at 0530 and hopped to check-out. I told the frontdesk to hold off entering my departure into her system so I could continue to use the wifi to order a Uber cab. Unfortunately there was already a small surge pricing at 0600; it would be more expensive than an honest taxi driver but it’s still better than risking a street taxi as I had enough money leftover for just an honest fare.

The driver went around a couple of times as he didn’t see me. I finally boarded and we set off for the airport with a short stop for petrol. His tank was genuinely empty and he put in PHP300 which was about NZD10 only. It just shows that people are quite poor here.

At Terminal 3, there were queues at every entrance. The furthest entrance had the longest queue and I got in pretty quickly.large_5550_14929570711085.jpgKota Kinabalu is a city by the sea. View of the sea from a city food hall.The AirAsia queue wasn’t long but it was painfully slow, as were the kiosks which weren’t compulsory here.

Fortunately passport and security were swift and I made it to the lounge 1h30 prior to departure for breakfast and to refill my water bottles. The flight boarded 40 mins prior and they tried to finalise the flight about 30 minutes prior. Despite the stragglers, we closed up and pushed back 15 mins ahead of schedule bound for Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia ... Land below the Wind (because it is just below the typhoon belt).

A dad on board needed to toilet his little girl during pushback. The crew allowed him to go but had tl delay the safety demo until he was out of the toilet. Recently, airlines in the US have had bad press for being very hard and unreasonable with passengers.large_5550_14929570779721.jpgWaterfront living nearing completion.Just shows that common sense still exists in this part of the world.

The flight took 1h40 on an older A320 with CFM engines which is the norm in the AirAsia group. The plane appears to have served time in Malaysia judging from some of the signage. It appears Philippines AirAsia had a mixed older fleet unlike the other airlines in the AirAsia group.

Before landing, the crew lined up and thanked us for our patronage, put their hands in prayer position and bowed. They did this yesterday too but I don’t recall this happening on my first flight in the Philippines. Their Indonesian counterpart do this too but Malaysians are probably too proud to do this :-)

At Kota Kinabalu, the taxi to town was MYR30 whereas Uber was less than MYR10. Wow! What a difference as in the Philippines, both are about comparable and I found that in Peru, Uber was actually more expensive.

I checked into the Hotel Capital for a 2 night stay. While in a familiar city, there’s little pressure to do anything. I wandered around the Suria Mall for a late lunch, skipped dinner (had muesli, fruit and yoghurt) before being called up by my old school friend David to go out for a cuppa tea and share a little of his supper (dumplings and kaya toast).


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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