Courtney, John, and I decided to hire a boat taxi on our last afternoon in Brunei. Because BSB is built along an estuary, with tens of thousands of residents living on the water, there’s a large network of boat taxis that will take you wherever you want. We walked down to the shore and immediately were able to secure a ride for a couple hours. Our driver was quite knowledgeable of the area, and this ride turned out to be the highlight of our entire time in Brunei.
We were now in Kundasang, a town at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu, 6200 feet above sea level. The air was noticeably cooler, and the town had a laid-back vibe. We spent a couple days there, hiking in the hills, traversing a perilous canopy walkway, and exploring a dairy farm. On our last morning we were treated to a spectacular sunrise, with Kinabalu looming clearly in the distance.
The next day was one of the highlights of our entire trip. We headed to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, which was a full- or part-time home to dozens of the orange primates. Before we had even reached the official feeding area, we got our first glimpse at a mother leading her child along the handrail. We share 97 percent of our DNA with orangutans, so it wasn’t surprising that I felt an immediate connection with them. They looked a lot like humans, except their feet acted as a second set of hands, allowing them to swing through the trees with ease.
On a recent trip to Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo, I learned of a nineteenth-century train line that’s still in operation. Starting from Kota Kinabalu, the biggest city in Sabah, the train takes you along the coast to the small town of Beaufort. From there, you can take a second train that roughly traces the Sungai Padas River to the coffee-producing town of Tenom. I love traveling on old trains, so this adventure seemed right up my alley. But it was not without its roadblocks (or landslides).
For our last stop on our trip to China, Katie, my mom, and I visited the Hakka tulou region of Fujian province. Tulou (土楼, literally “earthen building”) are the “castles” of the region, fortified to prevent invasion. They were built as either circles or rectangles, and they contain large central courtyards, with housing for up to 800 people.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Gulang Yu (鼓浪嶼 “Drum Wave Islet”) was one of two foreign concessions in China (the other being Shanghai). Because of this, the island is full of European-style mansions and churches. It also has a piano museum and a calligraphic wood carving museum (my personal favorite attraction). Cars and bicycles are banned on the island, so the tourists get to walk around and take it all in.