Heather's Thairy

Heather's journey to Bangkok, Thailand: a year of adventure!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Vacation Day Six: White Water Rafting

Ryan, Alisa and I got up early on the sixth day to go white water rafting about three hours outside of Kota Kinabalu. We were picked up by a van around 7:30 AM; we should have known that the day would be full of questionable events when they didn't even ask for our names! We could have been anyone! We didn't sign waivers, we didn't provide our passports, nothing. Oh well, I guess it didn't matter because we didn't get washed away down the Borneo river...
Anyway, we drove through the countryside for about two hours- it was beautiful, Borneo is an amazingly lush country at this time of year- and arrived at Beaufort where we were to take a train to the rafting site. Apparently, the site is only accessible by train- it's that remote. We used the most horrific bathroom in the world and then waited around for a bit, wondering when the train was due to arrive.
We eventually asked one of our guides when we should expect the train. He told us he didn't know. Hmmmm???? We were intrigued. What did he mean, he didn't know? The train had no set schedule, he said. Hmmmmmmmmm???? I asked him why they would book tours based around a train with no schedule. That's where his English skills ran out and he wandered away, sending us his colleague to see if he would have more luck appeasing the foreigners.

The second guy was about as helpful as the first. The train had arrived at 1:30 the day previous. Excuse me???!?!? We were on the verge of mutiny when the train finally did arrive around 11. And what a train...

It was like something out of a movie. The platform had been crowded and it seemed like no one, including us, had a ticket to get on. People rushed forward en masse when the train came to a stop, throwing their belongings in the windows and pushing to get on. It was incredible. One of the cars was a flat platform with no walls and no roof, and there must have been thirty people squatting on it. I worried that we wouldn't be able to get a spot, let alone a seat, but Ryan and Alisa surged ahead and we actually weren't too uncomfortable for the ride...if you don't count the breastfeeding of the five year-old with a perfect set of teeth and conversational skills, the stink of the weird snacks on the cart beside us, the constant smoking that Malaysian men seem to do, and the overall weirdness of it all.
We got to the rafting site after not too long and had a brief tutorial about safety and whatnot, which was sort of funny given the events of the day up to that point. We got into a raft with the other people from our van and we were in the water! It was amazing: the rafting itself more than made up for the debaucles of the tour. We went through about five sets of rapids- one set, Alisa and I fell out so we did it on our backs instead of in the raft- and several slow-moving, relaxing parts. The whole trip was about an hour and a half in the water. Our guides were annoying and obnoxious, our raftmates entirely useless at paddling, and we may very well have died out there on that river, but we still had a great time and we all lived to tell the tale.

We had a pretty good barbecue lunch before heading back on the train and in the vans to Kota Kinabalu. We arrived back after dark, making for a long and fun day that we capped off with some incredible Chinese food at Ang's restaurant, this manic, busy spot that serves very good dishes at great prices with a certain abrupt gusto that we came to appreciate; we could tolerate the drug-fueled antics of the waitress because she brought us such delicious things!

Until next time,


  • At 3:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I happened across your blog when I was researching about Lertlah school in Thailand. I'm thinking about working there this year. You've written a lot about your adventures but not very much about the school itself. Would you recommend teaching there? Is there anything I should know about the school? Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    Tracey Smith

  • At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Auntie Bonnie said…

    Hi Heather,
    YIKES!! Hey, when you've survived one horrific bathroom you can handle ANYTHING! Glad you survived the rafting. Helmets anyone? Sometimes it's better to find out later, right Mom & Dad? Hey, it's all about living in the moment - and what moments they are! Take care! Love, Auntie Bonnie


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