• Mark

Borneo - the next tour

After the full day out at Bako and our chances to get some photos of the proboscis monkeys, we decided that we needed another tour to get a chance to see them again. We talked with our taxi driver and agreed to have him pick us up the following day at 5 in the afternoon to take us over to another small town where wetland boat tours leave.


The wetland tours take you out along the coast and you get to see more of the proboscis monkeys as they hang out in the trees along the coast and then as the sun sets the firefly's come out and you get to see all that beauty. We saw the Malaysian firefly colonies about 5 years ago when we came back to visit our family and they took us up to an resort who's name now escapes me. The neat thing about the fireflys here in Malaysia - unlike what we are used to back in Canada and the US - is that they sync up. We we last saw them we were in a boat and as we traveled along suddenly the whole stretch of bushes along the riverbank would light up, it's a strangely unique phenomenon.


But, before all that, we had the full day to wander around. Well not the full day, we actually took the morning to sleep in, so we had about 6 hours that we used to just slowly stroll around Kuching and see if we could stumble upon anything new to see.

We borrowed this Borneo travel guide from the guy behind us

We passed our day and then met up with our taxi driver at our appointed time. The drive out to the fishing village where the boats leave is about an hour and a half hour drive, and again since our driver loved to talk we got to hear all sorts of interesting stories. All the new buildings being built, and that are 98% empty, are being built by the Chinese. The apartment complex's as we get out of town, provided free to the local Bornean Malaysians just because - but only if they've never owned any property. His eldest sun speaks 9 languages, he only knows 4 but he made the whole family only speak English one night a week. I'm sure there was more, I tried to tune him out but you're in a small taxi so some if it manages to stick into your memory.


The scenery is beautiful as we drive out, but as the weather as always is fickle, we can see dark clouds around the tops of the mountains and we do wonder about the possibility of another tour with rain. Not a problem it turns out, as we pull into the small fishing village our driver is talking about how he will drive back and spend some time with his family before coming back to pick us up after the tour is over - it's about a 3 hour tour on the boat.


It's at this time that things take a turn, we have pulled up to the dock, we're out of the taxi and meeting up with the guys that will be piloting the boat, and I say "Do we have to pay the 200 MYR now or later, how exactly does this work?" The charge for the taxi ride itself was 120 Ringgits, about $30 USD, and the boat at 200 Ringgits was around $50. My mentioning the price throws up a flag, apparently they were thinking it was a totally different price. Okay, we're thinking, this sucks we misunderstood and that was the price for a single, it'll be 400 MYR, $100 US - a bit out of our budgeted allowance but something we may be able to begrudgingly cough up for the tour.


Wrong again, they wanted 400 MYR per person - that's $200 USD on top of the $30 for the taxi - that's completely out of our acceptable price range. We tried to haggle a little bit, not fully understanding why what we thought in our mind was so far off from what they believed the actual price should be. Any other time we wouldn't have cared, but here we are on a tight budget, and we are steadfastly holding ourselves to it. Our taxi driver finally realized that we weren't going to just submit and pay for the tour, so he talked to them in some manner to explain that we weren't going to join them on that night's tour.

On the trip back, we did get to stop and see the mausoleum of the only Sultan of the Sarawak region of Borneo. Something neat, not worth the taxi ride out to see it, but we're trying to salvage the evening at this point. We wouldn't have been able to get the photos after the tour, had we taken it since it would be dark by that time - so these photos are a little glimpse of something I think most people don't see.

The taxi ride back was full of a lot of apologies, from both sides as we did feel bad as well, but mostly from the taxi driver. Again, we don't really know why their was such a difference from what we thought the price was to what the tour operators expected, and in the end we'll never know if what we missed was worth it. The next day we did ask about wetland tours from a local travel agency - pricing was high, but not as high we were quoted, they had a full trip with transportation at 400 Ringgit ($100) per person, so we were being billed extra for the taxi. We asked if the agent felt it was worth it, she shrugged since it's her job to sell the tours but sheepishly admitted that since we had seen the monkeys at Bako park it really wouldn't have been worth taking the tour.


We ended up back early and got to stroll along the riverbank again before actually getting to bed at a nice time, and much earlier then we had initially planned. Oh, and we also asked for a discount for the taxi ride since we saved him the return trip - he knocked 20 MYR off, $5 USD. Not a lot, but it was something, and a little we can put back into our savings for some other future overpriced tour...

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