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As we wrapped up our stay in Singapore, we found ourselves with 11 days of free time before we were due in Kuala Lumpur. We decided to visit Borneo, as it has been at the top of our travel list for years. Without any real agenda, we arranged a flight to Kota Kinabalu, in the Malaysian state of Sabah, and booked a hotel for the night we arrived. We stayed at Hotel Eden54, which was within walking distance of many restaurants, Jesselton Pier, and a large shopping center. In the morning it was apparent that Isla was getting pretty run down, and our hotel room was very comfortable, so we ended up spending two nights. Having a quiet day to snuggle in bed, catch up on photos and watch movies was just what we all needed. That evening we felt the need to stretch our legs, so we ventured down to Jesselton Pier.

KotaKinabalu0001KotaKinabalu0002KotaKinabalu0003KotaKinabalu0004Just a couple of boats.

KotaKinabalu0005KotaKinabalu0006KotaKinabalu0007KotaKinabalu0008KotaKinabalu0009KotaKinabalu0010That evening we took some time to think about where we wanted to explore. One of Borneo’s well-known highlights is the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, situated on Sabah’s northeast coast. After chatting with the wonderfully helpful staff at the hotel we decided to rent a car and drive across Sabah to visit the orangutan sanctuary. The next morning, before leaving Kota Kinabalu, Isaac and Isla took a little stroll nearby the hotel to check out some local street art.

KotaKinabalu0011KotaKinabalu0012KotaKinabalu0013KotaKinabalu0014KotaKinabalu0015The hotel staff helped us arrange for a rental car (a very simple process), and by mid-day we were on the road! With the help of Google Maps we began the drive across Sabah. One benefit to renting a car was being able to stop whenever and wherever we wanted. About an hour outside of Kota Kinabalu we came across this mausoleum… certainly not a “normal” sightseeing stop, but really interesting!KotaKinabalu0016KotaKinabalu0017KotaKinabalu0018KotaKinabalu0019KotaKinabalu0020To break up the windy 7-hour drive, we decided to stop near Kinabalu National Park for the night. We stumbled upon the Kinabalu Mountain Lodge in Kundasang and it was a wonderful budget-friendly place to stay. The rooms were clean and basic, the bathrooms were shared, and there was a large common room and deck with sweeping views of the jungle.KotaKinabalu0021As soon as we checked in, we decided to stretch our legs and explore the grounds a bit. Tucked into a lush hillside, the lodge was in a relatively uninhabited area, and the jungle surroundings were so serene.

KotaKinabalu0022KotaKinabalu0023KotaKinabalu0024KotaKinabalu0025KotaKinabalu0026KotaKinabalu0027KotaKinabalu0028We dug out our old point and shoot camera before the trip and gave it to Isla. She had a great time documenting highlights of our adventures (more on this in a future post).

KotaKinabalu0029KotaKinabalu0030While our dinner was being prepared, we sat out on the deck and watched the last rays of sun dip below the tree tops. Isla entertained herself with little pebbles and seeds she collected during our walk.

KotaKinabalu0031KotaKinabalu0032KotaKinabalu0033KotaKinabalu0034KotaKinabalu0035Our dinner at the lodge was awesome! All meals were vegetarian, home made, and so flavorful!

The next morning we were back on the road and stopped at Kinabalu National Park. Our planning could have used a little improvement for this portion of our trip, as we did not research the park or stop at the visitor center when we arrived. Instead we drove around a bit, making a few stops when something caught our interest. It was nice, but we still aren’t certain whether we saw many of the park’s highlights. We did, however, get some peeks at Mt. Kinabalu when the cloud cover cooperated.

KotaKinabalu0036KotaKinabalu0037We also found a short hiking trail, Kiau View Trail, that was suitable for Isla’s toddler legs and attention span. We enjoyed our little hike and marveled over the fact that we were standing in the middle of a jungle in Borneo! Pretty darn awesome.KotaKinabalu0038KotaKinabalu0039KotaKinabalu0040Satisfied from our family hike and jungle explorations, we piled back into the car and drove on to Sepilok.

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13 of 52 Olive Fingers on Easter Sunday

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14 of 52 Isla reuniting with her barnacle friends after a long winter of high tides

We first tried fresh coconut ice cream after a long, sweaty afternoon of exploring atop Penang Hill. It was served in little paper cups from a modest food cart, and it was one of the best thing we had ever tasted (read, we each went back for seconds… and really wanted thirds, but you know, self control and all that). Made from coconut milk, this ice cream is sweet, creamy, fresh, and just a tad bit nutty. Yum, yum, yum! We are certain that coconut ice cream may be one of the greatest culinary creations in the world. For real. Each spoonful is a glorious, refreshing taste of the tropics.

We knew we could not wait until our next trip to Southeast Asia to enjoy some more of this amazing treat, so upon returning home I immediately began searching for authentic coconut ice cream recipes. I found a handful, but decided to go with the simplest option to start: coconut milk, sugar, and salt. Luckily, this recipe produced an ice cream with a wonderfully creamy texture and flavor just like we enjoyed in Malaysia and Thailand. The best part (or perhaps worst part, if you’re watching your figure) is that the ice cream is unbelievably easy to make!

Coconut Ice Cream_0001Coconut Ice Cream_0002Coconut Ice Cream_0003Coconut Ice Cream_0004Another memorable coconut ice cream stop was during our visit to the Bridge Over the River Kwai. This ice cream contained little bits of pandan leaves, which gave the ice cream an even nuttier flavor. I’m on the hunt for pandan leaves for our next batch of ice cream.

Each ice cream stand also offered a variety of toppings, such as salted peanuts, sweet corn and red beans, to name a few. We preferred the ice cream as-is, but this past weekend tried adding a little sweetened shredded coconut as a garnish.Coconut Ice Cream_0005The staff at Elephant Haven (an amazing organization we will be sharing about later) doted on Isla constantly. It was so sweet! They bought Isla this ice cream and she devoured every bite.Coconut Ice Cream_0006

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Anyone who has been to Chatuchak, Bangkok’s sprawling outdoor market, knows the narrow alleys between shops can be stuffy and sweltering. A couple of these coconut ice creams, served in hollowed out coconut shells (so cute!) certainly helped cool us down.

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I found this recipe via Noshing with the Nolands, and they got the recipe from Nancie McDermott’s book, Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking. Side note, this ice cream recipe is vegetarian and vegan!

Coconut Milk Ice Cream Recipe

Ingredients

 

  • 2 cans (each 14 oz/400 mL) unsweetened coconut milk (we used full-fat)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1⁄2 tsp salt

Directions (with a few notes from our personal experience)

  1. In a heavy saucepan, combine coconut milk, sugar and salt. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring often to dissolve sugar and salt. Our ice cream never had to come to a boil to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl.
  2. Cover bowl with saran wrap to avoid a skin forming and refrigerate until very cold, about 2 hours. We put ours in the freezer so that it was really cold, but didn’t let it freeze.
  3. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. We let our ice cream maker run for about 8-10 minutes, and removed the ice cream once we saw it thickening up. Serve at once or transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 weeks. We put ours back in the same bowl, covered with saran wrap and froze it until hard before serving.
  4. You can make the ice cream base in advance, cover, and chill for up to 1 day before you churn it into ice cream.

 

We’ve made two delicious batches of this ice cream in the past week and devoured it all before taking any photos! Both times the ice cream was creamy and perfect, which was awesome since homemade ice cream can be tricky to master. If anyone gives this recipe a try, we’d love to hear how it turns out for you!

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11 of 52 Practicing her new jumping skills all over Bangkok

PortraitAWeek_001212 of 52 Sand sledding in Winema