Off the Radar Travel Destinations – Borneo
This week, we have with us Mahtab and Mashida – journalists/writers, travellers, nature and food lovers, and bird watchers, originally from Bangladesh, living in Thailand now for almost a year. They will be talking about their travels to one of their paradise destination – Borneo –where they have been to twice.
Tell us a bit about yourselves and your travels
We love travelling, wildlife and the outdoors. We’ve managed to do some pretty fun stuff over the years. Last year we went on the Ghorepani Trek in Nepal, and climbed up to 3,200 meters, somewhat unprepared for the out of season rains that dogged us all the way, but completely worth it when we saw the breathtaking Annapurna bathed in the first light of dawn.
We took our own time trekking, finishing in six days, and stopping whenever we wanted, at the small tea lodges that dot the mountains all the way to the top; reviving ourselves with hot momos (steamed dumplings) and Thukpa (Tibetan soup)!
Other than that we’ve climbed the Great Wall of China, been to the mouth of the Nile at Jinja in Uganda (Mashida), spent nights sharing couscous feasts with locals under brilliant skies in the Western Sahara (Mahtab), gone looking for the One-Horned Rhino in Chitwan (also in Nepal) and for tigers at Corbett National Park in India (a pilgrimage for us both). We love travelling through India.
Our favourite place in Bangladesh is Lawachharra Forest in Srimongol, and we’ve spent many mornings there, often running into a friendly family of Hoolock Gibbons. We love the Sundarban mangroves in our native Bangladesh, and a couple of years ago did a great drive through the archaeological sites of North Bengal.
Why did you choose to travel to Borneo?
We read a book called Into the Heart of Borneo by Redmond O’ Hanlon. He is one of those awe-inspiring travellers, who confronts epic journeys from Borneo to the Congo and the Amazon, with the ethos of ‘why not?’. His erudition and humour are matchless. So when we found out that Borneo has a 140-million year old rainforest where you wake up to the calls of hornbills, not to mention a pestilence of Pig-tailed Macaques, an assault of flying snakes and the possibility of tarantulas in your always damp mattresses and clothes, we found ourselves asking ‘why not’?
Where did you stay?
We stayed at a magical place called Uncle Tan’s Wildlife Camp. It’s very basic; log cabins on stilts on a swamp, no running water, and electricity. Our first night there, we went to bed in shock, city-slickers completely fazed by the darkness and the cacophonous sounds of the forest, vowing to leave the next morning. We ended up staying five days, extending on our original plan of three, and loved it so much we went back two years later. By the second morning, we were walking around barefoot, bathing in the oxbow lake, and a few evenings later, when a wild boar charged out of the darkness as we brushed our teeth, we dodged it with the matter-of-fact dexterity we employ when crossing a crowded street in our hometown Dhaka. The guides at the camp are warm and wonderful, and belong to the Orang Sungai (people of the river) tribe.
Highlights of your stay? These pictures say it all!
What was your favourite food there?
Our friend Lan, the head guide at the camp, took us on a special trip deep into the forest, where we fished and collected wild ferns. We made camp by the river, and he cooked us the best food we’ve probably had on any of our trips. It was fish soup and stir fried ferns with rice.
Would you recommend this place to others? Is it cheap/family friendly/easy to get to/not for the faint hearted(!)
We saw couples that brought their kids, and had a great time. We wouldn’t say it’s for the faint hearted, and you have to have a love of the outdoors to make it worth your while. The nearest airport is Sandakan and then the camp can arrange for a pick up.
What’s next on the horizon for your travels?
Months back, we had planned a motorcycling trip through Vietnam for this winter. But a nice surprise got in the way of that plan—we are 6 months pregnant! We’ll still head to Vietnam in December, but it’s going to be a much quieter trip. We hope that once our baby boy is born though, we can go back to our adventures on paths less trodden!
Mahtab and Mashida – We wish you the very best in your travel adventures ahead, and even more so when you are travelling to paths less trodden with your little explorer 🙂
This post is linked to Our World Tuesday