While revisiting old favorite places is always fun (read about our Coron adventure here ­čÖé ), making new discoveries are always part of the excitement of travel. When Ito and I flew into Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, this summer we didn’t know much about the island of Borneo. We were simply looking for a relaxing beach getaway that wouldn’t be too crowded! As it turned out, Borneo pretty much fit the bill. The largest island in Asia, Borneo is shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, and is home to wide stretches of beach, ancient rain forest jungles, and an incredible diversity of wildlife. Since we were just there to chill–not go diving in Sipadan or climbing Mount Kinabalu–we took our time strolling around, satiating our appetites and our wanderlust.

Before heading for the beach, our first day around Kota Kinabalu reminded me of going around Manila more than a few years ago. The similarities were even more apparent in the small stores selling various handicrafts (we didn’t visit the ‘Filipino market’, although we heard about it), and our shared Malay ancestry showed itself in the fabrics, carvings, and even the dances and musical instruments that we saw. It was a little strange seeing things that seemed so familiar, and yet not easily understanding what people were saying.

The next few days Ito and I spent enjoying nature, admiring the colorful, exotic wildlife and soaking in a little more of the Malaysian vibe. We woke up early to explore the loooooong stretch of beach at sunrise, enjoyed our overflowing breakfast buffet with several stations including, of course, laksa (but no pork bacon!) and had teh tarik┬á(Malaysian pulled tea) made with much ceremony at our table. We explored rocky coves where the jungle met the sea, feasted under the stars after a traditional ceremony played out at sunset, and discovered our Malaysian server’s fondness for Pinoy teleseryes. In the end, we found out that within our 7,100 islands or beyond it, we are all not that much different from each other.

It’s truly wonderful how travel takes us to different places only to bring us closer to home! Have you been to Borneo? What were your impressions of it?

My next travel blog post will be sharing some of our adventures as first-timers in Siargao ­čÖé

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*Photos by Ito

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