Monday, April 9, 2012

Kota Kinabalu

Snorkeling Spot on Sapi Island

My brother Wesley, Julius, and I just got back from Kota Kinabulu, Malaysia. My uncle and his family were going to be there vacationing for a week and they invited us to come out and spend a few days with them. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, as it was easy for us to hop on a direct flight with Air Asia and meet up for a mini family vacation.  

The downtown area of KK, mostly just a concrete jungle, doesn't have much to offer. With its outdated shopping malls that most people reach by car, pedestrians are at a gross disadvantage and they have their work cut out for them when getting from point A to point B due to the lack of a consistent system of sidewalks. Sidewalks often end abruptly without any warning, leaving one to improvise a new route through a mall at the last minute.

My uncle and cousins on the boat to go scuba diving

Although the city of KK is lacking in architectural beauty, it makes up for it with the natural beauty of the surrounding islands, which are protected as part of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. We took a boat to Sapi Island, and the water was a clear aquarmarine, brimming with colorful fish of all shapes and sizes. We spent one whole day lazing around on the island, snorkeling, eating, and socializing with my uncle Thad, his wife Bin, and the twins, Hannah and Julien.

Coral on the ocean floor and tropical fish. Notice the evil little black one with the yellow tail...

The water was delightfully warm and calm, which was perfect for viewing the magnitude of tropical fish. After we'd been snorkeling around for awhile, Julius swam over to me shouting, "A fish bit me!" I examined the wound, which was nothing but a tiny red spot. The fish hadn't even broken the skin and there was no blood. I was thinking how strange it was that a tiny fish would bite someone, and that maybe Julius had been imagining it when out of the corner of my eye I saw a little black fish with a yellow tail swim up to me in attack mode and before I could react, I heard myself yelping in surprise as I felt a sting on my leg.

That little bastard! I swam away from that area as fast as I could as if I were escaping from a rabid shark.

I told Julius that a fish had bitten me too, and he was right, it did sting! We decided we'd been in the water long enough, and that ended our snorkeling adventures in Kota Kinabalu for the day. The rest of the day was spent gawking at the 20 or so Monitor Lizards we saw (we even saw one pooping!), and playing frisbee with my cousins Hannah and Julien once they had returned from their "Scuba-Doo" adventures. 

One of about 20 monitor lizards on Sapi Island

The weather took a turn for the worse as we boarded the boat to head back to KK. The city loomed ahead of us, partially hidden beneath ominous black clouds. Lighting forked from the clouds directly over the harbor, our destination, and thunder cracked. It was about to get really wet. I hugged my Longchamp bag close to my body, wondering how water-resistant the material really was. I guess I was about to find out.

As you could probably guess, we were completely soaked by the time we reached the harbor, but it was exhilarating. Lighting was flashing all around us as we made our way as quickly as we could toward the Hyatt Regency. We improvised a route through a mall where our little group of sopping wet westerners managed to attract an excessive amount of attention from the locals. The reason they were all staring was not because our flip flops went "squeak squeak" with every step. The reason they were all staring was because my cousin Hannah was wearing her bathing suit and a t-shirt, but no pants. In a Muslim country where at least half of the women keep their heads covered, this was certainly not an everyday sight at the local mall. Laughing uncontrollably, we navigated the mall as quickly as we could before angering too many locals, or worse: catching a cold from the overzealous air conditioning. We eventually made it back to the hotel, and I was happy to discover that the contents of my bag were miraculously still dry.

The next day we gorged ourselves at the breakfast buffet at our hotel, and then spent the better part of the day frolicking around in the pool. For some strange reason, Wesley didn't want to join in our antics, so we decided to gang up on him.

Pool antics: Human Tower
We had to work hard to get Wesley into the pool, but he never really stood much of a chance. Fortunately my uncle had removed Wesley's iPad from his grasp beforehand, noticing that he ironically had been reading Aristotle's dissertation on Ethics only moments before we attacked him. All the negative energy from that stressful situation was eradicated however thanks to the poolside foot massage he ordered.

Wesley getting a poolside foot massage

Having worked up quite an appetite, we went to a restaurant called Little Italy where we gorged ourselves yet again with delicious salad, pizza, and pasta, and Hannah outdid us all when she ordered a triple scoop ice cream sundae consisting of vanilla, strawberry, and another scoop of vanilla. You go girl! 

Hannah triumphantly holding her ice cream sundae

Back at the hotel, everybody collapsed in a semi-permanent state of "food coma". The situation worsened when we started watching the movie The Artist in bed. Don't get me wrong, The Artist is a phenomenal movie, but probably not the best choice to watch in bed when you're already having trouble keeping your eyes open. Feeling refreshed after my hour and a half nap, we had one last dinner before everyone said "Bye bye" to each other. Til we meet again in Shanghai!

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