Two days of interesting encounters between yesterday and today. I went walking to the Post Office in Sandakan and was the only tourist there. In fact, once I left the area of the waterfront, I didn’t see another tourist. Everywhere, people looked at me shyly but kept looking back like they hadn’t seen a tall tourist before. When I notice, I smile or wave or say hello or all the above. They break out into a huge smile. Even the very stern looking faces of men and women wearing their Muslin garb.
When I pushed open the door of the post office (POS here), it felt like a tremor passed through the lobby as everyone realized a foreigner was in their midst. Slowly, they all turned to look much as the faces of the crowd at Wimbeldon turn in unison to watch the volley cross back over the net. I smiled, found the stamp window and made a minimal spectacle of myself.
On the walk back, a man working construction smiling and excited standing beside a large truck said “Picture! Picture!” I stopped, took a picture and showed it to him. A smile from ear to ear gave me a thumbs up and his buddies started ribbing him.
I got on the bus early rather than stand in the parking lot for the last half hour. An older man drove up as I was getting to the truck, stopped beside the ticket office, got out and purchased tickets. He’s obviously done that before. The car came through the buses and stopped by my bus. A woman got out and three young children. A young girl of maybe 13 was helping with two gorgeous brown eyed, black haired boys about 2.
I took my seat and got out my book. The woman and children were seated across from me. Bags stashed above, the man left and came back with a basket that looked like supplies for the boys, bottles, snacks, etc. They looked like twinc.
Pappa or Grandpa, I couldn’t be certain. But his affection for the family was clear. He gently touched the faces of the woman and girl. Then the young boys, one at a time, took his hand, brought it to their lips and kissed it. Very touching moment.
During the ride, something fell out of the bag in the overhead bin. She attempted to stash it in her pile but I offered to put it back up more securely. The boy sitting on her lap couldn’t take his eyes of me. She was trying to get him to sleep. I looked over and saw one eye closed, the other looking at me.
When he was awake, he was staring at me. I’d wave and he’d nod his head. Finally he fell asleep and all four of them then slept together in their two seats. I woke and saw a sign for Semporna so started putting my things back in the pack. The young boy woke, his mom grabbed his hat and cool sunglasses. He then saw me put something away and excitedly shouted, “Good Bye! Good Bye! Good Bye!”, before rattling of something in Malaysian that had everyone around me laughing.
I got the bags from overhead and said good bye. They left the bus, and I walked into a field of operators wanting to know if I had reservations already and pushing brochures in my face.
After walking away, putting my packs down so I could get them on properly, and then asking a few questions, I asked directions for where town was. I started off and noticed the family standing just a few feet away. The little boy’s face lit up when he saw me. Spontaneously, out of habit, I reached down to shake his hand.
He took my hand, raised it to his lips and kissed the back of my hand. His brother did the same. Feeling very honored, I walked on toward town.
At the fish market, a coupe men asked me to take their picture. At the bus station, an man shouted at me from across the street (the one in the black t-shirt) PICTURE! Boys here make money by hanging around the markets and carrying people’s things in wheel barrows. When not used for hauling, they are convenient for napping. There are a few photo’s of that.
I found lunch at the Dragon Inn. The views were spectacular but the food only average, the price spectacular. After my daily second shower, I wandered down the street and found a restaurant that served roti. The owner was very excited and helpful. OH MY GOD, dipping chicken and vegetable roti in a fresh curry sauce, amazing. And less than a third of my mediocre lunch for everything! He makes his own Masala Tea, let me know he opens at 6:00 am so I can come before going snorkeling. I’ll visit tomorrow.
I’ve only been in Borneo for 11 days and was prepared to spend weeks here. I didn’t find it the kind of place I could spent weeks in! But now I know since I’ve had first hand experience. My friends are staying on Mabul where I’ll be snorkeling tomorrow so I may see them once more.
Then, I’ll head for the border at Tawau and start my journey into Indonesia. From the few things I’ve read, it sounds unmistakeable when you pass into Indonesia. Schedules, road conditions, immigration, travel, etc. are very disorganized compared to things here.
Not knowing just how long it might take me to get around, I’m considering an early morning mini-bus to Tawau at the border and going straight away to customs and the ferry terminal. It looks like it’s possible for me to take one ferry for three hours instead of having to catch two different ferries with scheduled that don’t sync. It looked like I would have to take one to Nunukan, then another on to Tarakan. Now, it looks like there are two a day that go all the way to Tarakan.
Once I start that leg of the journey, it may be a writing blackout for a few days. Stay tuned!