Borneo. It’s a word I remember hearing from a young age, and it brought to mind exotic forests, animals, and wild orchids. For as long as I can remember, whenever my grandparents told stories about traveling, they always brought up Borneo. The older I got, the more I thought, “I must see this place.”
So I did. And I brought my sweet boyfriend with me.
When we told our friends about our plan, their responses sounded a lot like this:
“Wait, you are going where?”
“I’ve never heard of that place.”
“Where is that again?”
Most people hadn’t heard of Borneo and if they had, they couldn’t place it on a map. But Borneo is huge – it’s the world’s third largest island and the biggest island in Asia. It’s home to all sorts of incredible wildlife (Orangutans, pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, hornbills, the slow loris, I could go on and on). It’s full of awesomeness.
Or, it used to be.
Borneo used to be covered entirely with dense rainforests – some of the most biodiverse places in the world – but a few decades ago people began logging and burning them down at incredibly rapid rates due to the timber and palm oil industries. Whenever we were traveling between locations on the island (which we did a lot of because we stayed in 9 different places in 16 days), all we saw out the window of the car were burning jungles, logged forests, homes, and more than anything else, palm plantations. Miles upon miles of palm plantations growing the exact same plant over and over to make palm oil for all of us westerners who use it in literally everything.
Thus, Borneo was simultaneously incredible and heartbreaking all at once. And I’m 100% positive I will be going back again, because it is one heck of a special place and there is SO much I still want to see.
We only got a chance to visit the Malaysian side of the island during our trip. We started in the state known as Sarawak and visited Kuching, Bako National Park, Miri, Niah National Park, and Mulu. We also took a day trip to a tiny, wealthy Muslim country called Brunei. Then we went to Sabah (the other Malaysian state) and visited Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, The Kinabatangan River, Mt. Kinabalu and Pulau Gaya. We kept ourselves busy!
Since I’ve been back, people keep asking me what my favorite part of the trip was, and I don’t even know where to start.
Was it the incredibly delicious food we ate every day, the hot and spicy Laksa we looked forward to every morning for breakfast? The mix between Malaysian food, indigenous food and Chinese food that reflected the blend of people in the country?
Was it the birdwatching? The enormous, noisy, dinosaur-looking hornbills we spotted flying over us at dusk each night? The colorful kingfishers, bee-eaters, coucals, hill-partridges, or barbets with their funny “touk-touk” sounds?
Was it the people? My friend Ruby who was born and raised in Borneo and her kind friends who she introduced us to? The taxi driver who went out of his way to call a bus driver and catch up to a bus we had missed? The random lady on the street who offered us a taste of her cooking for free? The strangers who always waved hello when we passed by?
Was it the jungle? The rain? The ocean? The rivers? The enormous trees and singing cicadas?
It was everything.
We loved it. We drank it in. We soaked it up. I was so freaking happy.
So, without further ado, here is the link to my video and below are about a million photos that I took during our adventure. Enjoy!