Malaysia: Peninsula and Borneo - July 2006
Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
To dive in Sipadan and on the bottoms of the neighboring islands (Mabul, Kapalai, Sibuan ...) you have to go to Semporna, southeastern port of Malaysian territory in Borneo.
I estimate the drive from Sandakan to be about 4-5 hours. I was right. The Jungle Resort The receptionist doesn't know if there is a bus. If there is one, he told me the day before, I have to be at the bus station very early.
The hypothetical bus leaves probably around 7am, maybe 8am. Maybe even 9 o'clock at the latest, he tells me. He can still arrange for me to get to the bus station by cab. Good.
In my back, a young English couple follows the conversation with interest. They also want to go to Semporna. We decide to share the cab until the bus station. Meeting point before dawn, at 5:30 am, on the parking lot of the Jungle Resort.
Breakfast at the bus station
An hour later, we are at the famous bus station, with its usual small food stalls, where the Malays swallow portions of nasi lemak (fried rice, anchovies, spicy chicken and red bean sauce) for breakfast. We inquire on the right and on the left... "No bus, only this car".a guy tells us, pointing to a rotten Jeep, which actually tackles the SEMPORNA panel behind the windshield. Good. OKAY.
Of course, he waits until he has enough passengers to leave. That leaves us time to have breakfast too...
The atmosphere is not unpleasant. The day has just dawned, it is not yet too hot, and we settle down at the stall of a nice young woman, who serves an excellent kopi (coffee) and speaks very good english.
The young woman who serves us does not have a scarf on her head. There are many more Chinese and Christians in the state of SabahThere are many more women who go bareheaded. Along the road, I saw large neon signs indicating various Christian churches: Catholic, Protestant, Methodist, Baptist... Most of the signs are also dubbed in Chinese characters.
A Jeep for Semporna
We will then spend nearly five hours in the most total discomfort, piled up to eight, with two other tourists, an Englishman and his Thai girlfriend, as well as three Malays, in the hot breath of the open windows (no air conditioning). Oil palm plantations as far as the eye can see. And the large posterior of Helena the Englishwoman who forces me to impossible contortions to fit mine, posterior, on the seat of the rotten Jeep.
She and her husband Paul are from Guernsey. Their honeymoon is a little bit special, as they have been travelling around Asia for almost ten months: they have been to India, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand... Where they will return, after diving in Sipadan, for a final week of relaxation and rest, in Koh Tao!
AT Sempornaand sweaty, we are all deposited, except for the Malays, at the Dragon InnThis is probably one of the best addresses in the port. A huge hotel complex on stilts, all in wood, with nice rooms, air conditioning, hot water and TV, from 66RM.
No hesitation. The first room I visit suits me and I even have the luxury of a sea view. This is the last step of the trip, I am not at a few ringgits more...