Lovin’ this tune

Very comfy bed. On par with the dream beds at the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver at a fraction of the price.

Very comfy bed. On par with the dream beds at the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver at a fraction of the price.

Quick post before I board a flight to Tawau in Malaysia.

I’ve found my new love in budget accommodation and it’s called Tune Hotels.

This one, near door to Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2, is walking distance from terminal 2 and a three minute train ride (cost under $1 CDN) from terminal 1.

Air Asia either owns or has a financial holding in Tune Hotels. They’re popping up all over the world.

I flew Air Asia a few years ago from Bangkok to Denpasar, Bali. A few hitches with check-in, but otherwise a great experience.

This room, for which I paid $64.49 CDN is fantastic. Small, yet everything I need. Shower, toilet, air conditioning and fan, sink, bed, safe, desk and excellent wifi. It also has a honking big TV. Also, clean beyond belief. Great desk staff.

The bed is so comfy I slept 11 hours. Even the noise in the hallway didn’t prevent a night of amazing slumber.

There’s a 24 hour 7-11 next door to the lobby. And, Air Asia check-in kiosk. I’m in heaven. I’ll be staying here again on my way back to Canada in a few weeks.

Next stop, a week of scuba diving near Sipidan Island.

Bat #guano, #orangutans and #leech socks

Flight to Sandakan and the start of my wilderness adventure.

Flight to Sandakan and the start of my wilderness adventure.

Along with kittens, koalas and sharks, orangutans are my favourite critters. It would have been insane of me to travel all the way to Malaysia and not check out Orangutan country.

So, following my week long diving trip to Mabul Island, near Tawau, I’ll head to the Myne Resort, near Sandakan for four days/three nights of wilderness fun.

Here’s a video about the Myne Resort…

Here’s my itinerary for the four days:

Day 1: Pick  up  from  Sepilok Nature Resort  between  0845  -­‐  0850  hrs  and  transfer  overland to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Upon arrival, proceed with the documentary video show (30  minutes)  before  witnessing  the  feeding  time of  the orangutans  at 1000  hrs. Then  transfer  overland to Myne Resort, which will take approximately 2.5 hours. Upon arrival at the resort, check into your  accommodation followed  by lunch  at the  resort’s  restaurant.  At  1530  hrs,  have  your  coffee/tea  break with local snacks. At 1600 hrs, take a river cruise in search for wildlife along the Kinabatangan River.  Good  chance  to  see  and  spot  numerous  types  of  birds and wildlife. Return  to the resort at about 1800 hrs to freshen up and followed by dinner at 1900 hrs.

Day 2-3: Early morning at 0600 hrs, head to the restaurant for light breakfast before proceeding with the early morning river cruise, which is scheduled at 0630 hrs. Return to the resort at about 0830 hrs for breakfast. Free  at  leisure.  At  1030  hrs,  proceed  with  the  jungle  walk  to the  Historical  Merbau  Tree  or  the  Bird’s  Watching Tower. Lunch will be served at 1300 hrs and free at leisure. At 1530 hrs, have your coffee/tea break with local snacks before the afternoon boat cruise at 1600 hrs. Return to the resort at about 1800 hrs to freshen up and followed by dinner at 1900 hrs.

Day 4: Breakfast  at  0800  hrs  and  by  0900  hrs,  check  out  from  resort  and  transfer  overland  for  visit  to  Gomantong Caves. Then, proceed to Sandakan for lunch at local restaurant. After lunch, continue your trip with the Sandakan City Tour prior to drop off at Sandakan Airport for flight departure at 1815 hrs.

Journey to Myne Resort.

Journey to Myne Resort.

Check this out: “Entering the cave is not for the squeamish or feint hearted as inside the cave the floor is covered with bat guano (and it will smell as such) The cave floor is alive as beetles, cockroaches, centipedes and scorpions feed on dead swiftlets that fall from the nests above – some may say it is interesting, awful yet unique but definitely an unforgettable experience! Fortunately, a wooden walkway runs along the sides of the cave to keep visitors safely above the estimated 10 feet of guano deposited by millions of bats and resident little critters, and the tourists who come to admire them in their home, are kept safe and apart.”

Can’t wait. Anyone know who in Vancouver sells leech socks?

 

Sipidan – world class #scuba #diving? Hope so

Leg #1 of the journey.

Plane, bus, boat, SCUBA

Plane, bus, boat, SCUBA

World class scuba diving? Sipidan, Malaysia had better offer that. I’ll be there in August,

Jacques Cousteau liked it…..

I’ll be staying at the SMART resort on the island of Mabul. Supposed to offer high-end accommodation. The resort has bungalows on the water, but a wee bit out of my price range. I’ll be in a chalet near the beach.

SMART will be my home for a week. In order to dive Sipidan, which restricts the number of divers it allows on site each day to 120, I had to book a certain number of days at a specific hotel room price point. And, that only guarantees one day of actual Sipidan diving. But, there are amazing unrestricted dive sites outside of the restricted area for the rest of the stay.

Costs so far: (not including Vancouver to Kuala Lumpur flight and one night hotel in KL)  = $2497.00 CDN (biggest chunk of the cost)

  • Air Asia flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tawau:  225.73 MYR = $75.00 CDN (Yes, I know Air Asia did crash a plane earlier this year. I flew the airline to Bali two years ago. It was great. I’ve also got a flight booked on Malaysia Airlines, which lost two planes in recent years. Not worried).
  • SMART resort 8D-7N: 7207.00 MYR =  $2422.00 CDN
    Package Includes: Transfer between Tawau -­ Semporna Jetty -­ Sipadan-­ Mabul Resort -­ Tawau by van and speedboat, food and  hot beverage while at the resort (excluding alcoholic, fruit juice and carbonated soft drinks). Three boat dives per day with divemaster around Mabul, Kapalai and Si Amil islands including use of tanks with air, weights and weight belt. Unlimited diving at Mabul’s House Reef and 1 Day Sipadan Diving. For someone accustomed to a $30USD a night room in Roatan, Honduras, this is a bit much. At this price point, I likely won’t be able to/want to do this a second time in the future. I’ll be taking pictures and videos so I have lots of memories.

Next week: Tank meets Orangs.

Malaysia-bound: #scuba with #orangutans

Travelling Sabah, Malaysia with bug spray and scuba gear. Oughta be fun.

Travelling to Sabah, Malaysia with bug spray and scuba gear. Oughta be fun.

[Okay, not really. But I’ve been scuba diving with Pandas, so anything is possible!!]

I’ve been making the arrangements for a year. Paying for it since last October. But, this journey has been in my head much longer.

Three years roughly. That’s when my orthodontist and occasional dive buddy mentioned (while tightening my braces – OUCH) a couple of scuba videos he’d watched. One was shot in Layang Layang, part of the Spratly Islands, north of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. The other video was from Sipidan, near Tawau in the Celebes Sea.

By the end of the appointment, they’d been added to the scuba diving bucket list. The plan, originally, was to do both in one visit to Asia in the summer of 2015. Then, life stuff happened and the trip was postponed for a year. Turns out Layang Layang wasn’t going to work. So, Sipidan became the focus. Oh, and since I’m there maybe see some orangutans.

I’ll cost it all out in a future posting – but you can imagine it’s a wee bit costly. A ‘take money out of your saving account for a trip in a lifetime costly’. But, I’ve made a commitment to spending money on life experiences rather than buying stuff. In the end, I’ll have made three payments to the dive company-adventure travel agency I’ve been working with. It’s called Dive Downbelow. Very professional, but having to fax documents between Canada and Malaysia is hellish.

I’ll fly from Vancouver to Kuala Lumpur, with a stop in Taipei. Overnight in KL then fly to Tawau, where I’ll be picked up for a bus ride to Semporna then boat ride to my accommodation and home for one week, the SMART resort on Mabul Island. Check out the maps below.

More about the trip next week.

Best of Tank’s Travels – the 100th blog posting

Two milestones to observe.  One hundred blog postings and one year of travel blogging.

Thanks for reading Tank's Travels.

Thanks for reading Tank’s Travels.

Who knew I’d encounter enough batshit crazy people over 12 months to fill a minuscule nano-portion of cyberspace with travel stories and photos.

A special thanks to all the nutcases and genuinely great people I’ve met in the last year for supplying me with content.

Here are some stats:

  • My site has had more than 5,000 views.
  • My best ever days for views was December 16th, when I had 94 views.
  • Most of my views come from Canada and the U.S.
  • People find me through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Pinterest.
  • May 2014 was my best month ever for views. I had 394 visitors who looked at the site 823 times.
  • My most popular posting ever is This is what a jerk looks like, the story of an asshole on a Westjet flight between Vancouver and Edmonton in December 2013.

Other popular posts include:

Diving with Pandas, the story of a nutter who brought stuffed pandas on a scuba dive boat in Cozumel, Mexico.

Lost-ish at sea, how I got separated from my dive boat in Cozumel and lived to tell the tale.

Postings about cats have also been popular. Here are a few: Who can resist a mooching cat and The cats of Thailand.

What I’ve learned from travelling:

  • people are spectacularly annoying and others wonderful everywhere in the world.
  • there are a lot of adult babies on airplanes who make everyone’s life miserable.
  • being nice to flight attendants will often get you a free drink.
  • there’s no point getting pissed off about flight delays, your luggage not appearing fast enough at the carousel or bad weather.
  • airlines are going to trash your luggage.
  • United Airlines is the worst airline I continue to patronize. Air Canada is much improved. Its international and Rouge services are outstanding.
  • people in most other parts of the world speak more than one language. Some are fluent in several. Makes me feel inadequate.

Thanks for following Tank’s Travels and for the comments. Lots more adventures on the way.

Travels to #Bali (video)

Diving near Nusa Pedina, east Bali.

Diving near Nusa Pedina, east Bali.

Bali is one of those places people long to visit. I didn’t. Seemed a long way to travel and a lot of money to get there.

Turned out it wasn’t as expensive as I expected, thanks in part to a 25% discount voucher from Air Canada. Glad I went, so much that I’ve got plans to return to Indonesia next year (fingers crossed).

I didn’t spend any time in the touristy areas of Ubud, Kuta and Seminyak. Here, in a nutshell are my impressions of east Bali, where I stayed:

  • Crazy driving.
  • Quiet and peaceful (when you’re away from the traffic).
  • Great scenery.
  • Friendly, helpful people (hotel, restaurant staff, scuba diving staff).
  • Beaches so-so. More rock than sand.
  • My best ever day of diving (and I’ve done nearly 200 scuba dives).

Here’s my video of some of the sights I saw:

Other Bali-related blog postings

Bali Diving

Earthquake Bali-style

The world’s most annoying travel companions

When to splurge on travel

Monkey madness

The hat came back

@Aeroplan Points to #Malaysia – Tank’s UPDATE

Getting closer but a long way to my business class seating goal

Getting closer but a long way to my business class seating goal

Here’s the plan.

Business class travel to Malaysia in the summer of 2015. Using Aeroplan miles = 155k (ouch).

As you can see, at roughly 114k miles, I’ve still got a long way to go.

Here are some of the things I’ve done since my last post to rack up the miles.

  • Gas up at Esso. No exceptions.
  • Drugstore purchases at Rexall.
  • Flew to Cuba on Air Canada with a connection (going) and layover (returning) in Toronto. Lost some sleep and time, but earned an extra 3000 miles. Would normally have flown direct from Vancouver via Westjet, Air Transat or Sunwing.
  • Booked two trips on United Airlines, where I normally would have flown another airline. United flight miles can be converted to Aeroplan miles.

Here’s the problem going forward (I know, first world problem. I don’t take for granted for one second how fortunate I am).

It can be hard to get Aeroplan seats on planes.

I have enough points now (90k) for economy travel to Kota Kinabalu. I could book an economy seat many, many months in advance and probably get the days of travel I want.

OR

I can keep growing Aeroplan points in the hope of flying business class, with the hope there will still be Aeroplan seats in business class available when I want to travel.

Stay tuned.

Any advice?