We left Mabul in somewhat questionable conditions (high winds and seas) for the boat we were using to make the hour long trip back to Semporna, but all ended well. Our boat ride wasn’t nearly as harrowing as we imagined it might be, although the local fisherman and his son whom we plucked from the water on the way in would have begged to differ.

The son was only about 8 or so, and they were fully clothed and treading water, heads looking almost like styrofoam buoys as we approached, only the father was frantically waving his hands in the air. They had tipped out of their long skinny fishing canoe with the motor running, and it sped off into the blue, pilotless, leaving them stranded near the entry to the river mouth. Neither had a life jacket, and it left us wondering how often people, and their children, are lost to Davy Jones’ locker out in that area. The boats are perilously narrow for their width, and without the help of outriggers (which none of them have), the boats must roll over in heavy weather pretty frequently. Once we’d hoisted the boy and his father aboard, they pointed in the distance at their runaway canoe, which was still puttering along, and our launch driver motored them to it so they could resume their fishing. With boat speeds matched, Dad did a flying leap and grabbed hold of the tiller, cut the engine, then returned his son to their boat. We’ve got photos, so we’ll post more on this later once we get the photos off of our other camera.

After that little adventure, we spent the night in Semporna and grabbed some decent grub from the Scuba Junkies restaurant in town before driving back to Tawau in the morning for our flight to Kuala Lumpur. With less than 24 hours in KL, we managed a whirlwind tour of Pasar Seni, a local arts market, and Batu Caves, a very famous and unique Hindu shrine with several temples.

In favor of having dinner, we had to skip closeups of Petronas Towers, but we saw them from a distance, and we had a great vegetarian dinner at Saravanaa Bhava in Brickfields (Little India), where we each sampled an assortment of dishes, curries, chutneys, breads, etc from both north and south India. Here are some of our favorite snaps from this leg of the trip:


50-foot statue of Hanuman outside the Ramayana Cave at Batu Caves:



Temple dedicated to Hanuman:




Entrance shrine at Batu Caves:






140-foot statute of Murugan, the world’s tallest:


Entrance to Temple Cave:









Local macaques:


Yesterday morning, we left KL headed for another layover, this time in Padang, Indonesia. We had a full day and a half in Padang before heading south to Kerinci-Seblat National Park for some Sumatran village life and jungle trekking. There isn’t much to do in Padang for tourists, as it’s usually just a transfer city for surfers heading to one of the countless world-class surf breaks surrounding the area. (Ever heard of the Mentawais?)

The food in Padang is a welcome change from the prison-quality stuff we were being fed in Mabul, and we’ve been very fortunate to have a local to guide us about what’s good around here. We met Bernard in Kuala Terengganu airport waiting for a flight. Bernard heard our American accents and struck up a conversation. He’s a local from Padang and was returning home after a holiday in Redang Island, but he lived in Toronto, Canada for several years. We told him we would be stopping through Padang in a few weeks, and he said we should call him up.

Once we got our Indonesian SIM card, we sent him a text and ended up catching up for yesterday’s dinner, then drinks with his buddy Ari at a local bar, and lunch today. Bernard has been an awesome host, chauffeuring us around to experience local Padang cuisine including the famed, and very smelly, durian, as well as the highly regarded nasi Padang, a meal where you sit down at a table and the waiters bring a huge assortment of dishes from giant prawns to salted fish, chicken curries, delicious chunks of tempeh, greens, and more. You eat what you want from each dish, and when you’re ready to leave, the waiter eyeballs what’s left on the table and charges you for what you ate. We also ate martabak mesir, a popular meal in Padang that consists of a dough laid out thin like a crepe then topped with meats and vegetables and seasoning, and folded over and over in layers until it measures about 6″ x 4″ x 1″. It’s delicious. Bernard also introduced us to tamarillo juice, and Indonesia dessert drinks, which are usually coconut-milk based and full of an assortment of fruits and ices.

Below are photos from a bit of wandering around Padang and our food experiences with Bernard.

Cultural center in Padang:



Bendi, a horse drawn cart used for everything from taxis to goods transport, or date night:


Boatyard at the river mouth in Padang:


If you’re wondering, the beige ping-pong ball looking eggs below are sea turtle eggs. There must have been at least 30 nests worth for sale. The women selling them were so proud of their wares. Lara burst into tears. We mentioned it to Bernard later, and it turns out most people here don’t know that only one or two turtles from every clutch makes it to reproductive age, and that sea turtles are threatened globally. They’ve always eaten them, and it’s all they know. A sea turtle conservation/education program could go a long way here, but we suspect it’s not the last we’ve seen of wildlife situations that make Lara cry.


Padang food restaurant:


All kinds of dishes arrive, and you pay for what you eat.


Adventures with the king of smelly fruits, durian. This is shaved ice with seaweed and fruit, topped with durian cream sauce. Lara said it tasted like onions/radishes.