Let me take you to the "Land Below the Wind", Sabah, Malaysia. This state has a lot to offer for travelers who are interested in adventure, jungle trekking and mountain climbing.
My Journey Begins Now
“When you travel, you are like a child – innocent and have a lot to learn about your new environment. You will learn how to adapt to people, taste food for the first time and unique for you. You make decisions every now and then and definitely, develop a sense of direction. When you travel, you are like an empty space ready to be filled-in with adventure and lessons along the way. You are not afraid to get lost; you find the reality of what has been concealed as fantasy and hearsay. You become curious and wise all throughout your journey.” – This has been my paradigm when I hurriedly packed my things for my first travel abroad. I was alone and unsure why I booked this trip five months ago.
It was a hasty decision for I need to be alone and free from different stressors in my place. I deserved to be in a quiet environment where I don’t need to watch out my every move. I may not have the best reason but traveling alone will make me realize a lot of things, meet different people, experience various cultures and taste a variety of food and drinks. With a promo fare, I am a ready solo backpacker in a state called - “The Land below the Wind: Sabah, Malaysia”.
I boarded the plane bound to Manila with confidence that I could speak Tagalog/Filipino, my national language. I lived in a province where we commonly speak our dialect and English so, being in a different place somewhere in my country that uses our national language is a bit new and foreign to me. I am not a fluent Filipino speaker that is why I don’t talk too much with people along my way in Manila, our capital city. Anyway, I proceeded to NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) Terminal 3 alone. I was surprised that I did not have my tongue-tied when I spoke to the taxi driver, security guards, and some fellow travelers in my language. It felt good and I was proud at that time.
Nervous and Nostalgic Maiden Trip
Knowing that it was my first trip abroad and I was even alone, I felt tremendously nervous. First, how should I get through the Immigration and "what if" I would not qualify to travel abroad. Well, with an ounce of courage and confidence, I presented my passport to the Immigration Officer to have it stamped.
Unfortunately, he pointed the Immigration Office at me to have a minute or so for an interrogation. I trembled to the point that I was about to back-off on this thing. But, the bolder side of me triumphed that I stepped inside the office and filled-up some information and the stern-looking fat lady looked at me from head to toe and back again before she had me interviewed.
I answered her questions carefully and truthfully where I could sense positivism on her part. I was just being really optimistic that I could get through this uneasy and odd experience victoriously. Indeed, she approved my papers and pointed me back to the Immigration Officer who stopped me.
At that instance, I had another problem, the plane I supposed to board on was on last call but the Immigration Officer was nowhere to be found. A sense of panic hit me again, I should blame him of abandonment if I will be left behind.
Luckily, I was able to make it and boarded the plane bound to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. An intense amount of joy and excitement filled my heart and two hours from that time, I would be a wanderer ready to explore the unknown for the next 26 days.
At the Malaysian Airport
I booked my reservation at a certain hostel I searched in the net few months ago, while it was agreed that they are going to fetch me at the airport terminal at my arrival date and time, not a shadow showed up to me.
So, I looked around for a taxi and to have me dropped by the city to search for a hostel. It was really late when I arrived in Kota Kinabalu and I did not even have a single Malaysian Ringgit in my hand. It was not a problem though because the airport money changer was still open. With the certain amount I had at that time, I was a bit confident that I could survive the entire night (of course, I did not change all my US Dollars there).
Fate really brought me to the right people. I met a lot of Filipinos who were also looking for a certain guest. Without a doubt, I went with them and had a hotel to stay for the night. It saved me all the hassles and worries and all.
I rested well at the hotel feeling so exhausted yet contented. At last, my maiden trip was not in vain. With high spirits before I slept, I kept in mind that for the next few days, I am going to be in a new world!
> Book your hotel and be sure that you communicate with them to be certain of the accommodation.
- New Town Hotel (Pinoy Resources), Penampang Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
*with meals, transportation and friendly staff
> For a first time traveler, be sure to have your bookings printed and the necessary documents with you when you travel (The Immigration Officer might be looking for it).
> Be observant! Be vigilant and never leave your belongings anywhere and to anybody!
> Learn to scrutinize people whom you can trust and whom you can not!
> Always take a map and a travel guide with you - to save the hassles!
> Research about the place and learn a few useful terms in their language!