May 10, 2007

That Old Familiar Feeling

I bought my flights to Borneo today. It was the high point of my day really. It's somewhere I've been looking forward to visiting since the beginning of this trip, without even knowing if I would really make it this far.
Early in August I'll be flying from Kuala Lumpur out to the Malaysian province of Sabah to its capital, Kota Kinabalu. From there, I hope to climb Mount Kinabalu, SE Asia's highest peak, to watch the sun rise. It's going to be tough, by all accounts, and I'm not sure I have the same level of fitness that I did when I tackled the Inca Trail, but I'm not going to let that deter me! I'm going to try it! I'm also hoping to pay a visit to Poring Hot Springs and maybe visit some orangutangs.
Then I plan to travel down through Brunei (if I can get a visa and it's not going to relieve me of too much money) into the province of Sarawak. High on the agenda is a trip down the river to stay with a local tribal family. 2 weeks later I fly from Kuching back to Kuala Lumpur.
I can tell you, it feels good to be planning this next stage of the trip. My friend Hien who lives in K.L. is going to my tour guide while I'm there, which I'm really looking forward to, and he may even make the trip out to Borneo to try and summit Mount Kinabalu with me.
The best bit was that my return flights cost me just 40 euro with Air Asia, which seems to be SE Asia's answer to Ryan Air. Pretty sweet!
Not long to go now.......

May 9, 2007

Ignorance is Bliss!

Saturday was a lovely autumnal day. I was up bright and early, ready to head into the city for my appointment with The Travel Doctor. I thought, when I had had my travel consultation back in Ireland, that I was covered vaccination wise for all of my trip and that I wouldn't really be needing any more, and so I really just wanted to have a chat to the doctor about options for malaria medication.
Basically, when I got up that morning, I wasn't exactly preparing myself to be stuck in the arm with lots of needles again.
So, after a long chat with the doc, it turns out that I will be needing a course of Japanese Encephalitis injections at $135 EACH for three. She also stressed that I shoudl really consider the rabies vaccination at $145 each for three. I also need Polio at $55. Then we got to chatting about malaria meds. Lots of expensive options. We agreed on a four month course for $80! Then there was the consultation fee - another $80!!!
After having "pencilled me in" for all these horrendous jabs, she dispatched me off to the nurse clutching a big bundle of leaflets outlining the terrors of contracting rabies, malaria and dengue fever. Lovely.
The nurse was devoid of any sort of tender touch and rammed two needles, one after another into my poor arm. First time ever I felt faint from jabs. She was a goodly sort though and distracted me by giving me a sucky sweet and asking me all about my TYPHOID EXPERIENCE in Peru. She went on to underline everything the doctor had said, going into great detail about the possible diseases and viruses that lay in wait for me in SE Asia. She painted a not so lovely picture of me being chased by rabid dogs, monkeys and bats, water snails multiplying under my skin, mosquitos sucking on my blood, and general merriment and feasting on my body by all manner of ticks, insects and bedbugs!
One's grand vision of one's trip never really includes this sort of stuff. But I suppose it's better to do your best to ward it off nevertheless. So, I signed myself up for the works! I have a few more rendezvous with said nurse before the fun is over!
The depressing part is none of these vaccinations are 100% proof, as I discovered in Peru. So, all you can do is hope you escape! You think it's better to be an informed traveller, but sometimes really ignorance is bliss!

May 1, 2007

A Little Piece of Home

I've been missing home just a little bit in recent weeks. Maybe that's what prompted me to leave work early yesterday, brave the driving wind and rain and make my way into the city to apply for a new passport. That, and the fact that my current one will be out of date soon! I was bold and skipped off work early. It was lovely to get away before everyone else and miss the rush hour traffic and crowds.
I found the Irish Consulate pretty easily, and immediately upon walking into the tiny office I felt like I was at home. A sat in a cozy armchair as I waited to be served. On the floor, there was a bundle of the Irish Times with familiar faces like Enda Kenny and Bertie winking back at me. I browsed through a Bord Failte brochure and firmly resolved to be more of a tourist in my own land when I return.
A soft Midland's accent rose me from my little reverie. The girl I dealt with was called....what else?......Mary! She was so friendly in that easy going way that I have almost forgetten Irish people to have. In my job here, I deal with quite a lot of sugar-coated receptionists and forceful demanding medical professionals. Mary was just so warm and welcoming. She even let me have the Times with Bertie on the cover.
So, pleasantries out of the way and me having quelled my almost irrestible urge to give Mary a hug, we set about the business of hooking me up with some new travel documents. Mary threw her eye over my application form. Happy enough. Then, I handed her my photos which caused her to purse her lips at me.
"Oh no.", shaking her head. "Those won't do now at all. You're too small". Seriously, Mary was just ASKING for a bearhug. "Well, that's always good to hear", says I with a little titter. Mary beamed a big Athlone grin at me before dispatching me down the street to a little Chinese man who sorted me out with 8 photos of me looking fairly enormous. Apparently, 70% of the photo had to be my head.
I preferred the one where I looked small.
Anyway, back I went, forked out $145 for a new passport and told them I'd be in to collect it in a few weeks. I really wanted to sit and hang out there for a while and just read the paper and listen to Mary's lilting tones, but I'd have looked like a weirdo, so off i trotted, umbrella in hand back out into the rain and the wind, feeling a little warmer than I was when I came in, and a little closer to home.