So over the bus rides

Over breakfast on Wednesday, we were paralyzed with indecision over whether to hike on our last half day on Borneo. The neat-sounding hike in the brochure was a five-hour trip, and we agreed we weren’t up for that after the last few days.

We finally settled on bunking down in one of the seating areas along the plank walkway heading out to the caves. We were also plotting to intercept the UK couple we’d met at breakfast who had a rented car and were heading to Miri’s airport that evening just like us.

We took snacks and reading material and claimed one of the rest areas a short distance into the jungle. Despite heavy application of bug spray, mosquitoes stalked Colin from the time we slowed down until we left. Giant ants and butterflies provided entertainment, but alas, there were no monkeys.

It looks like the chocolate river in "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory." It was not an Oompa Loompa driving the boat though, just a bored Malay. Colin Cam

Is hot. Colin Cam

I was content to read (finishing Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man), but Colin was antsy, and then we ran out of snacks. A scout of a rain shower interrupted my book, and we decided to pack up and leave shortly after.

It was good that we did, because not long after we’d checked out of the hostel and settled into the gazebo in the parking lot, dark clouds opened up and dumped buckets of rain down on Niah. We had conveniently set up next to the UK couple’s rented car, thinking they would surely be back from their hike at any moment. Colin finally gave up waiting and had the front desk call us a cab.

Colin coming back from calling the cab.

Sure enough, the UK couple arrived just as the unmarked car that would be our taxi pulled into the parking lot. Colin asked the guy for a lift, and he stuttered something about going to another park before going to the airport (in this rain?), and that they wouldn’t get there until after our flight (our 8 p.m. flight?).

So we jumped in the “taxi,” then caught the long-distance bus to Miri, and then another taxi to the airport. Who should we run into there? The UK couple, of course. “Run into” probably isn’t the right phrase, as they we actively avoiding eye contact with us. We were just going to use them for a ride, so I didn’t feel too betrayed, but still…

Colin and I shared a toffee nut frappachino from Starbucks—so good—and it cost as much here as it does in the U.S. (and in Taiwan), or nearly three times what we paid for dinner the night before, pricey itself compared to what one could find outside the national park. Then we paid too much for dinner at Coffee Bean on the other side of airport security.

“Do the people who work in the little shops in the airport have any idea what the prices are everyplace else in the world? ‘Yeah, $14, tuna sandwich, we think that’s fair. That’s what we charge in our country.’” Jerry Seinfeld

After too many hours of traveling and waiting for our flight, we ended the night in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown at the Chinatown Hotel II. The man showed us up to our “private double,” which turned out to be a particle-board cubicle in an area that looked like it used to be a lounge. I took the top bunk and probably could have reached over and shoved the guy in the next cubicle snoring the night away. He wasn’t really that loud of a snorer, even.

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