Borneo Photo Diaries: The Prologue - Chinese New Year

February 21, 2015

Happy Chinese New Year from Borneo! 恭喜發財, 萬事如意 (gongxi facai, wanshi ruyi) - Wishing you prosperity and may all your wishes be fulfilled. 

Some of you reading this (hello, Malaysians!) are probably either driving back or flying down to the city from the kampung this weekend after a satisfying binge of all things festive and buttery. Ever year the fam and I flock back to my mother's kampung in Kota Kinabalu (KK), Sabah and this year is no exception - but with one big difference. One big, white, bearded difference - my Henry! For his birthday - which I missed because I was in Kuala Lumpur - I flew him down to Kuala Lumpur, then to KK, where I introduced him to my gramps at his first Chinese New Year; which, we both agree is far superior to non-Chinese New Year for one very good reason. CNYs in sleepy Sabah tend to be a big snoozefest but this The Year Of The Goat I embrace the slow pace of Kota Kinabalu. Henry and I enjoyed being reacquainted after weeks apart; whiling away the hot, lazy days with long drives along the coastline, enjoying the unspoken bliss of ice cubes clinking in our glasses by the pool, and splashing about the turquoise waters of the South China Sea. Today is the second part of my birthday present to Henry - getting up close and personal with orangutans and other Bornean wildlife - which hopefully will yield some striking critter photos that I can share with you. 

For now, some photos from my Chinese New Year in Borneo to kick off the year of the wood goat.

Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu. A 5* star hotel with faultless service (perhaps for me because I'm a Starwood Preferred Guest) but in desperate need of a facelift, or at least a good scrub - grubby carpets in the lift and hallway, dated furnishings, and the permeating odour of the Filipino market across which could be neutralised with some well-placed lemongrass or pandan.

Jesselton Point in downtown KK is the perfect starting point to explore the islands of Sabah; the most popular being Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, and Pulau Mamutik of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. Every Chinese New Year, hordes of native Chinese flee their landlocked counties to seek out Sabah's reasonably-clear waters and enjoy the laid-back pace of Borneo away from the urban chaos of, say, Guangzhou or Beijing.

While neither the waters are as clear as Redang nor the sand as powdery white as Langkawi, Sapi Island is still a decent destination for snorkelling, jet skiing, parasailing, and of course the famous Coral Flyer Zipline - the world's longest island zipline, between Gaya and Sapi islands.

Photo by Henry. Instagram: @regi_mental
Photo by Henry. Instagram: @regi_mental
Sapi is a great island for spotting monitor lizards, if you're into that sort of thing. Interesting how water monitors (these suckers here) have protected status in Nepal, Hong Kong, and Thailand, but not in Malaysia where they are regarded as, well, standard egg-stealing garden pests. 

Henry stalking a dragon.

Emerging from 'sea-walking' - an overrated form of diving (skip the sea-walking, just go diving or snorkelling instead) where one walks along the sea floor, holding on to a cable, with a giant sort of fishbowl on one's head. I tried it, but only made it two feet below the water with that terrifying heavy, medieval headpiece before I had a sinking feeling - ha! - that I could well drown from the weight and that I much prefer being unencumbered while underwater.

I did enjoy parasailing - it was incredibly liberating to soar above the sea like a gull and to be dipped into the waves, although I got a lot of sea water in my mouth. You could say I was...*pause*...a-salted. *cricket sounds*

Henry and I even squeezed in a quick shoot for our online boutique. US Military digital camo shirt available on Regimental Vintage, here.

A touch of Berlin in Borneo. Columns from a condemned building, standing like sentinels in downtown KK, turned into canvases for street artists and spray-can maestros. Overrun with tropical vines, the slippery tendrils were not so much a rope but a challenge for the urban jungle-man...

Henry flexing his photography chops in anticipation for the Bornean wildlife we're going to visit in Sandakan.

No more photos of me in this blog post - but for satisfyingly far away shots - because I've come to the sudden shameful realisation that I've let myself go in a really bad way. Appease yourself with this panorama of Sabah and her islands, seen from the club lounge of Le Meridien... 

...isn't the sunset quite something? For all its over-industrialisation, Sabah still deserves the title of 'The Land Beneath The Wind'.

Have a beautiful Chinese New Year, with love from Borneo. x

Photo credits: 3 and 7.


  1.'s just so wonderful to be reunited with a loved one who you haven't seen in weeks...and what an amazing way to do it! I love you animal photos and the parasailing looks amazing!
    Lots of love,

    SilverSpoon London

    1. Thank you Angie! If you liked the monitor lizard photos wait till you see my orangutan photos...I'll post them tomorrow! x

  2. reading this is making me miss KK so much! and it is indeed the place with the most beautiful sunset ever!! x

  3. Parasailing looks completely unreal. Thanks for giving me a new itch to scratch! And, girl, look at dem pinsticks as you fly through the sky with your one true love -- "let yourself go," pffft!

    Michelle Marie

    1. Them pinsticks only look like such from a distance ;( But yes, go parasailing - and take a GoPro! x

  4. Hello Jasiminne,

    I heart your blog. It's one of the best I have read in a long while. You are a well spoken and well educated gorgeous lady.

    It is also refreshing to read your honesty.

    Happy New year to you, your family and your Henry ��

    Sending Light and sparkles from Australia xox

    1. Thank you for your kind words! Sending you all my love and wishes - xin nian kuai le, gong xi fa cai, wan shi ru yi! - from Malaysia to Australia! xx

    2. You are most welcome dear *smiles*

      Reading your blog has made me crave Malaysia baad! The last I visited was in 2007 for my cousin's wedding. There was a spurt of weddings that year - lol

      Take care Jasiminne.

      Love and light


  5. I miss Mr Lizard. He was a gentleman and very welcoming.