In Flight Delights – Journey to Borneo

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

“Where’s Borneo?”, many of you have asked. “And, why Borneo?” Let’s put it this way, to dive in Sipidan with schools of hammerheads and barracuda. In fact, Sipidan, is the only oceanic island in Malaysia and is flourishing with more than 3000 species of fish and hundreds of species of coral.

“Where are you going after Borneo?” “I’ll take DIVING for $500 Alex.” The answer? “What is the Philippines?” I will be venturing all over the Philippines but Malapascua, near Cebu is my favoured target when I get there. It was only discovered by tourists and divers in the ‘90s and is a tiny island, only about 2.5 kilometers long and 1 km wide known for its thresher sharks and manta rays which are sighted on a regular basis.

Ok, so the first trip for the launch of The Travelling Munschkin has been entirely influenced by two of the top ten world diving destinations. But as I did extensive month long research I was pleasantly surprised that these countries would offer me the adventure and culture I so craved; they were perfect!

I arrived in Kuching in Malaysian Borneo after travelling 31 hours from the time I left my home in Toronto. Kuching, meaning “cat” in Malay, is the capital and most populous city of the East Malaysian state of Sarawak. It is the largest city on the island of Borneo, and the fourth largest city in Malaysia.

And you’ve got to find a city intriguing when they have large statues of cats everywhere you go. I imagine many a person has visited Kuching and now has photos of themselves on Facebook in drunken disarray posing with these cats. I mean, who hasn’t dreamed of straddling a 15’ cat in the middle of a busy downtown city square?

What can often be an arduous flight from North America to Asia was in fact quite delightful. Hats off to Air Canada and the #2 airline as voted by the World Airline Awards in 2011, Singapore Airlines. Since you’ll want to know, this year #1 went to Qatar Airways! Who would have known?

The service on both airlines was great, there were no delays and after two connections I arrived safely with my backpack in tow. But let’s be honest here. I love flying. I love everything about it. I should have been an air stewardess in the Pan Am days (yes, as you can imagine, I love the new Pan Am show on TV). I love the allure and the hidden story behind each passenger. Scoping out who is on their honeymoon, who is going to break up after a long flight, who is introducing their newborn baby to relatives and who’s on an adventure. I love the food and don’t even get me started on the entertainment system. I get caught up on all the movies I’ve missed, immerse myself into a good book on my Sony eReader and I have a chance to get some work done on my Mac while charging it to ensure I have enough juice for the entire journey. All I need now is Internet access and I may not even get off the plane when I arrive.

The best? Ask and you shall receive. Ok, might receive. We all want extra leg room when we fly, whether it be in an exit row or the bulkhead (the physical partition that divides a plane into different classes or sections) but most airlines are charging anywhere from $50-$80 per direction to receive these seats. The key in scoring one of these seats is to ask at the gate. Occasionally it works at check in/baggage drop off but most of the time these seats will not be released until people are boarding the plane. And don’t even think of going on Seat Guru and giving them the exact numbers of the seats you want, you’re shooting yourself in the foot that way.

I typically wait until the end of boarding to board the plane regardless of where my seat is because I see no point in sitting down early when I’ll be sitting for hours and also, because it is the best time to score one of these seats. I asked en route to London with Air Canada and received a bulkhead window seat. And in London I asked at the gate with Singapore Airlines and was told I’d have to go on the Internet and book it. I pointed out that in fact I was directed to ask at the gate thus why I was asking and lo and behold another bulkhead window seat was mine for the 12 hour flight. Note that this best works as a single traveller and that I also told the agent how appreciative I was for her to take the time to do this for me and that it made a huge difference in my day. Sincere flattery will get you anywhere.

This is a great opportunity for me to sing the praises of Singapore Airlines, an airline I specifically chose to fly with. What do I love about them?

  • This was my first time on an A380 Airbus, the full double decker and its new plane smell. Loved!
  • I was excited for the bar, yes, a bar where one can socialize. But go figure they don’t want those in economy trying to pick up a rich traveller who’s looking for privacy. Whatevs. I thought I might land myself a successful businessman who wanted to leave his life and travel the world with me but unfortunately the bar was on the upper deck in the Executive/First Class part of it and it wasn’t worth the additional 30,000 miles to me.
  • Onboard amenities are by Givenchy and the socks felt like cashmere. I also loved the luxurious blanket which I am now travelling with.
  • SQ is an airline that subscribes to the superficial but pleasant to look at rules of the early 20th century airline Pan Am. SQ flight attendants are gorgeous, slim and always smiling in made to measure colourful and exquisite uniforms.
  • Absolutely impeccable service and a four page menu indicating the meal and snack choices. We were always eating and they are not stingy with their snacks and ice cream.
  • Great wines and of course, they offer the infamous Singapore Sling created at the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore (yes, I’ve had one there). I love a city/state/country that comes up with a concoction like this – dry gin, Dom Benedictine, Cointreau, cherry brandy, shaken with lime and pineapple juice, a dash of angostura bitters and grenadine. Wowzers!

 A few accolades for Singapore’s Changi Airport.

  • It is super clean like the city itself. Beautifully appointed and spacious.
  • Free Internet is offered throughout as well as free Internet kiosks.
  • There is a large, free, open air media centre in the international terminal with couches, free e-postcard kiosks, a 20’ x 20’ TV screen (showing rugby when I was there), small individual TVs, more Internet and a gaming centre!
  • And as I found in the three Asian airports I’ve visited so far on this trip (Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Kuching), a free phone charging terminal. Each charging terminal is a large box with smaller individual boxes with brand names on each, such as Samsung, Blackberry and iPhone and their compatible chargers are inside. I used it in every airport as my phone was dead upon arrival.

I am going to end this post with a funny story about my preordered meal of fried rice and chicken satay on my Air Asia flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching. As I opened my meal I couldn’t help smell a slight fishy odour which I found odd as I ordered fried rice with chicken. As I began to eat I noticed small glimmers of iridescence. I looked further and noticed tiny fish heads with eyeballs looking back at me. I was a little taken aback and started picking them out, placing about ten little black eyeballs onto my white napkin. I then realized I soon would be picking out about a hundred of them. So…when in Rome, back they went in my rice and I have to say, I quite enjoyed my meal. 

What Was Spent En Route? 9 pounds in England for breakfast. RM 50 (Malaysian Ringgit) / CAD $16.50 for a taxi between terminals in Kuala Lumpur and RM 30 / CAD $10 for a SIM card for my Blackberry. Should last 2-3 weeks.

Total CAD: $42

Enjoying my time here, so much to say, more posts to come shortly.

Xoxo. JEM

P.S. Tip of the day – Take Cold Fx or some type of immunity booster before and during a flight. With all the recycled air many get sick after a flight. I’m one of them, happens nine times out of ten. I am so happy I’m not walking around in this humidity with a cold or even worse lying in bed and missing out!

3 Responses to In Flight Delights – Journey to Borneo

  1. Sounds like you are off to a great start! Err minus the fish heads… can’t wait to read more of your adventures!

    Laura October 8, 2011 at 10:39 AM Reply
    • Thanks for your support bella. You were officially my first comment – I’ll never forget that. Xoxo

      juliemunsch October 13, 2011 at 6:32 AM Reply
  2. Fish heads fish heads Julie’s eating fish heads! Yuck but yum! Your descriptive writing makes me feel like I’m sitting right next to you! I’ll see you tomorrow!

    denyse October 12, 2011 at 1:42 AM Reply

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