The alarm clanged off at 3 a.m., at once stopping my heart and making me wide awake.
Starting your day at 3 a.m. and then spending over 17 hours of it either sitting in an airport or on a plane is not entirely pleasant, no matter where you’ll be at the end of it all. We had been unfortunate to not realize that our lay-over airport in Kota Kinbulu was a short commuter flight away from our final destination until we were reboarding the two-hour flight that would take us to Kuala Lumpur, where we would wait for four hours before boarding our two-hour flight to Miri.
Arriving in Kuala Lumpur, annoyed that we’d been so close to Miri, I threw a mild temper tantrum over having to spend the next four hours in the airport. Our window left us not quite enough time to go into the city (and with rain falling lightly outside, it probably wouldn’t have been worth it had I gotten my way). As it turned out, we needed almost all of that time, what with our wandering aimlessly through food courts, finding the bus that went to the departures terminal and discovering we would need money to ride, returning to the main terminal to use an ATM, riding the very crowded bus to the departures terminal twenty minutes away, and locating where we needed to check in for our next flight. All of that took nearly two hours.
We waited out the remaining time at theobroma’s Chocolate—a coffee shop selling melted-down Belgium chocolate. It was more chocolate than we’d had since arriving in Taiwan (and surely long before that, even), and our stomachs were a little unsettled afterward. Something savory to even it out—a sort of chicken quesadilla with too much sweet mayo (any sweet mayo is really too much) for me, and a too-spicy peppered beef crepe-wrap for Colin. Poor guy.
A very nice woman we met in the KL airport offered to drive us to our hostel in Miri, and she held true to her word and waited patiently with her husband while my checked bag made it to the carousel. She just had to stop at her parents’ house and pick up dinner, and her mother came out to meet us and seemed tickled that her daughter was chauffeuring two ragged-looking Americans.
We finally got to the Brooke Inn about 11 p.m. and were shown to our bare-bones room. It reeked of cigarette smoke—ashtray on the desk!—so badly that, were I in the U.S., I would have asked for another room. Here, however, I was happy for clean sheets and a private bathroom. The plastic—yes, plastic—“painting” on the wall added to the charm. Plus, the night cost less than our painful chocolate-crepe airport dinner.