In Search of Proboscis Monkeys

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.

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Brunei Darussalam

We ended up staying for two days in Brunei’s capital of Bandar Seri Bagawan (BSB). That was probably one day too many – there’s no alcohol or night life of any sort, and the streets were eerily quiet, even in the day. The country is quite wealthy, due to its large oil reserves. I was sure I had spotted the Sultan’s palace whenever I saw a mansion with a sprawling green lawn (which was often), until I learned how big the palace actually is (2 million square feet). But this is a strict Muslim country, so it’s about the last place you’d want to go to party.

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On the Foothills of Mount Kinabalu

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.

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Kinabatangan River Adventure

After bidding farewell to the orangutans and sun bears, Courtney, John, Katie, and I ventured deeper into the jungle, to the Kinabatangan River. We stayed at the Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp, located on an oxbow lake. We got settled in and spent the next three days exploring the jungle, by foot and boat, on the oxbow lake and the Kinabatangan proper, by day and night.

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Sepilok's Orangutans and Sun Bears

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.

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Sabah's Great Train Journey

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).

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Tulou Country


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.

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Gulang Yu

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.

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A Trip to Kinmen Island

A few weeks ago, my mom made the long flight to Hong Kong to visit Katie and me. After spending a couple days around our home, the three of us went on a trip. Our first stop was Kinmen Island, which sits close to the Chinese mainland and is controlled by Taiwan. It was a fascinating place, rich with history. The vibe was very laid back and the people were quite friendly.

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