Magical Malaysia – Sarawak & Sabah

Today is my last day traveling in both Sarawak and Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, and it’s confirmed that Malaysia is my favourite Asian country.

For eight weeks I’ve been at such diverse events as the Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching and attended the Sandakan Memorial service, and traveled to the Tip of Borneo near Kudat; I’ve been to many national parks; seen bearded pigs, proboscis monkeys, a pygmy elephant, the worlds largest flower, many birds, and of course, orangutans.

Despite this I now have a list of places I’ve yet to see so they are now on my ‘Borneo Bucket List’ file.

So, for more about magical Malaysia see my blogs (use the search box on the right) and for up-to-date information, use the links above, and make sure you get emailed  my blog updates (top right of this page) as, as soon as I get home and unpacked, the blogs, the photos, and articles will start flowing – the book will take longer! ( Do you have suggestions for book titles? Please.)

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PS Don’t forget to like me on Facebook,  Google+. & Tumblr, etc and recommend my blog to armchair, or actual travelers. (I’ll add the inks to those pages when I’m back in my office with my familiar systems)

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travel can dumb down the brain: especially with exchange rates

Some years ago I suggested to everyone ‘pull out the sock from under your mattress, in a couple of weeks the national notes of Europe will no longer be legal tender, so convert it now.”

That was when, on 1st January 2002 histories biggest monetary changeover happened and  the Euro entered the world in its final official state. Billions of crisp clean notes and coins were distributed to banks and shops and national coins and notes were no longer be legal tender. And, it made travel a whole lot simpler for people like me.

The trouble it takes me to work out the comparative value of a nations currency, with New Zealand’s, is unbelievable. I usually resort to a bed-for-the-night costs ABC so this purchase is the same as half a bed-night, or ten times a bed-value. And so I make my decision. Yes, I tell myself, this is worth three bed-nights or conversely no way will I pay the same cost for a safe bed as for this meal, trinket, or taxi!

The only time this really failed me was on a Greek island where I’d just arrived and had not worked out the monetary system in terms that made sense to me.

With Turkish currency rates still in my mind, the ATM had delivered me enough cash for two people to survive the next two weeks and now it was time to have a snack – an essential part of travel- sit, eat and watch the locals.

I order a coffee, my daughter a milkshake, and eventually the bill arrives. That small repast cost a weeks accommodation. Now, for those of you who stay in hotels and travel for a week or two, this may seem a weird way of costing a coffee and shake, but when you are staying in a pensione, someone’s spare room or a backpackers hostel, it is eminently sensible. After all, one of the many reasons travellers from all over the world use such places to sleep is to save money and therefore travel longer. So in this milkshake affair, it could mean a weeks less travel and therefore not worth it. Too late, it’s drunk.

This method of deciding costs is not easily worked out by someone as numerically challenged as i. One example only. ( I have some pride as to how far I am willing to let you see my failings).

It was in Laos, I’d crossed the Mekong river border some three hours earlier, it was hot and we were being attacked by school children celebrating the Buddhist New Year with hoses and buckets of water.  Escaping into a shop, we, an English friend and I, order a meal, amazed at the prices. We’d been told that Huay Xai, was an expensive place because it’s on the heroin trail. We’d not yet worked out the exchange rate, we just knew when we changed some money at the border we became instant kip millionaires.  The bill is in our hands, I do some convoluted sums.

“The Malaysian ringitt is x New Zealand dollars, and that is y Thai bhart, so this must be z kip.”  Polly, was doing something similar with the pound.

“It’s xyz pence or x pound” she said which confused me even more. I had no idea of what the strong English pound was worth compared to the weak NZ dollar. I just knew all those zeros for a bowl of food seemed weird.

Travelling can have a dumb-down effect on me and I often wish I had a money converter. Truth is I don’t really know how to work them, so guess I will continue to work out the value of things, to me, in bed night terms.

How do you work out the monetary value of a scarf, a meal or a bed when you travel? Do you compare back to the New Zealand or USA currency or use an different method? What do you do, say or think when a fellow traveller says incredulously “You paid what for that? I got it for half that amount” let me know.

PS another currrency problem was in Zimbabwe when I was told I could not leave without paying the depature tax in USA dollars cash. I had none, the flight was ready to leave, my ticket expired the next day, the banks opened in 12 hours: too late for me.

Read more in my book NAKED IN BUDAPEST: TRAVELS WITH A PASSIONATE NOMAD,  from my website www.kiwitravelwriter.com

great review for my book

Unsolicited email from an unknown reader

I purchased your book yesterday (Friday 14th August 09) after the Probus meeting and have just finished it.

It can only be described as an absolute gem. It is a fabulous travel book; it is an even greater person story. I read several books a week and for me this is The book of the year. Your comments on your success in the battle with alcohol for me made this book even greater. Well done Heather. You have the great skill and achievement of knowing what is important in life and of knowing what is trivial.

Also, places I have been to and know reasonably well especially S.E.Asia I could suddenly see in a whole new light, I guess that is the skill of the very observant traveller and the skilled travel writer

Cheers, Harry (NOTE – last name not added here in respect for this person’s privacy, Heather)

Another male wrote –

‘Suffering serious withdrawals after finishing Naked in Budapest, and being deprived of my daily fix of travel in far-away places. I have not enjoyed a book so much for yonks.’

Hugh Adams (author of ‘A bakers dozen’)

Read more reader comments here

Buy Naked in Budapest: travels with a passionate nomad (ISBN 978-0-473-11675-0) for Fathers Day: Details here http://kiwitravelwriter.com WEB naked-front-cover