Under the Gloss
As Malaysia heads towards its 20/20 vision of being a first class nation by 2020, its toilets remain a curious oversight. Expect the worst unless you are fortunate enough to be able to step into the comfort of a mid range hotel. Village and many city toilets are often the 'squat' variety – usually navigable unless you have just descended the summit of Mt Kinabalu!
Unless you are fortunate enough to be in the highlands then the heat and particularly humidity can be stifling and downright debilitating. You simply cannot drink too much water on your trip and rehydration sachets are recommended at least once a day as course.
In the last 30 years Borneo has suffered some of the highest rates of deforestation in the world and despite some best efforts of a few it does look like this process will end soon. Fortunately its size and remoteness has so far spared some fantastic areas and Adventure Alternative is actively supporting some grassroots community tourism and education programs, some of which the trips visit en-route.
Due perhaps to having been so far spared the 'tourism hordes' that now visit other areas in the region, the locals of Borneo are some of the most trustworthy and welcoming you will meet in the world. It is unlikely anyone will give you the hard sell nor rip you off, though of course if buying at street stalls then a little bargaining is part of the experience. If you are stopped by a local, more often than not it will be a chance to pass the time and have a chat - most locals have at least a basic level of spoken English or want to simply practice -dont miss this opportunity to engage yourselves. Unlike some other countries in the region, Borneo is generally very 'moderate' and there is little that cannot be discussed 'off the record', be it religion, politics or sex.
Street crime and begging is practically non-existent but be wary when leaving cash machines and normal levels of awareness should be upheld . Be mindful of any shows of wealth. Some of the places you will visit although not on or below the poverty line strictly speaking have little access to hard cash or consumer goods. The wealth gap in Malaysia is growing as fast as anywhere in the world!
Beware of the length of time it takes to acclimatise to the jetlag and the climate, for most people it takes the first few days to get used to being on the other side of the world and being so hot.