The Toners travel to Borneo

February half term and Oliver is visiting. We planned a trip with him to Sabah in Borneo to visit Lena. Lena used to look after the boys 20 years ago when I went back to work after Inigo was born. Oliver was 7 then so remembers her. FB is fantastic for keeping in touch with people and Lena had long ago said that we should visit Malaysia- this seemed an ideal opportunity.

It was brilliant having a local to show us around. We were taken to food establishment that most tourists wouldn’t find!

Some facts about Borneo that I didn’t know…

* Borneo is the 3rd largest island in the world.

* Borneo is the only island which has 3 nations on (Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia)

*Borneo’s rainforest is one of the oldest in the world (140 million years)

* some remote villages still practice head hunting!! (allegedly) we were advised not to travel without a guide.

Borneo is certainly a place for an adventure holiday (if any of you are looking for one). It is very green and warm (but not too humid -unlike Bangkok).

In fact Borneo boasts some of the largest ferns in the world.

We visited the mountain region. Lena told us that Mount Kinabalu is the highest peak in SE Asia at 13,435 ft. We didn’t actually climb it but the village we drove to was pretty high and the views were picturesque.

There was also an extremely rickety bridge which the locals used to take produce to market. Planks were missing but they didn’t seem to mind!!!

The highlight of the trip was a visit to an area where we saw Proboscis Monkeys in the wild. We piled into boats along with Chinese tourists (it was Chinese New Year) and floated gently past an island where the monkeys swung in the branches of the trees. If you look carefully at the pictures you can see them. At one point a baby missed its branch & fell but the Mother caught it. Some things don’t change between the species.

(This picture is from the internet but gives you an idea of what we saw)

After a delicious Chinese buffet we all got back on the boats and sailed back along the same river. As the sun set millions of fireflies began to glow their bioluminescence flickering and twinkling magically. In the soft warm air it felt as though we had entered a fairy kingdom. Apologies that the picture is so dark. We were just mesmerised.

After all the excitement the down time relaxing in a tropical island was very welcome. A little ferry took us to the island at a cost of £21 each which included lunch, tea and access to water sports and batik painting activities.

The hammock hut was a big hit with us. Very chillaxing…

Even though Kevin and I stayed under the shade we still caught the sun.!!

Our abiding memory of Sabah though is going to be the feasts that Lena and her brother treated us to. This is a seafood lover’s paradise. There was lobster with butter, lobster with cheese (!), crab, huge prawns which looked as though they had recently modelled for ‘aliens’ and even Stingray. That’s not to mention the dim sum, satay and adorable banana fritters.

It’s back to the diet now…

It was an amazing adventure and gave us a taste of Malaysia. There is so much to see and experience that we have decided to visit the other part yat some point.

I will just finish with some of the beautiful flora that we saw. It is lovely to see flowers that we don’t get back at home.

And a butterfly..,

Chinese New Year

Today is multi-celebrational (I might have just invented that word) on so many levels.

Back at home there is a tussle between Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. Here neither of those get much of a look in here as it’s Chinese New Year which is HUGE for us.

Streets and Shopping Malls have gone to town on decorations to rival their Christmas ones

The school had a special celebration with a dress up day for the juniors. They looked splendid in their red and gold outfits.

The library joined in. This is Tub one of our newest library assistants looking very dashing. Kevin said it was the ‘wear matching outfits to work day’!!! I have to say that the blouse was actually quite heavy/thick material so I got very hot!!!

In the morning the Chinese department organised a dragon dance performance. It was quite spectacular and the videos I took will be on Facebook as I can’t upload them to WordPress. Here are some photos though

The performance involved dramatic acrobatics in lion costumes! I was impressed. I have seen Chinese New Year parades in Soho and this was several notches above that.

Then the parents committee put on a massive spread of Chinese snacks. The objective being to sample food that you might not otherwise have tasted. There was SO much left over that I am now completely stuffed with spring rolls, custard filled dumplings and moon cakes. All totally delicious.

And to top all that excitement it is also our wedding anniversary…

Nai Lert

The Nai Lert Heritage House and Museum is a hidden gem in the centre of such a bustling modern city and I am so glad to have been taken to it this weekend.

The home of an extremely wealthy Thai businessman has been restored and opened to the public as a museum in 2015. It comprises two teak houses joined together and surrounded by a veranda so huge you can fit several full scale dining suites there. It sits alongside one of Bangkok’s canals and nestles in quite extensive lush gardens.

This weekend Kevin went on a football outing to Hua Hin and I think that probably the less said about that the better…

So when my friend Maxine suggested the flower and art show at Nai Lert I was keen to go. I had no idea where it was so the whole day was a delightful surprise.

The flower and art show is only on this weekend and basically it does what it says on the tin. Floral displays and art installations scattered together in the gardens of the house. It reminded me of a very small scale Chelsea Flower Show as displays were submitted by companies and individuals (I think – the notices were all in Thai so I couldn’t tell exactly)

This one came second although I think it was my favourite. It comprises intricate folded petals to make the shapes.

I was just blown away by the work that had gone into every little detail


The actual winner was more abstract and used drift wood and a flower of gorgeous colour which was probably quite rare. Possibly some sort of orchid?

There was a craft fair, flower display workshops, a food market, live music and other entertainment . It was certainly very popular but didn’t at any point feel too crowded. We paid 150 baht entrance fee which is about £3.37! Then we were allowed into the house and museum free.

I have included some of my photos here. They are very colourful and detailed. Some of these are from a category called ‘wedding collection’

Unfortunately I am not a botanist and have no idea what any of these plants/ flowers actually are. Maybe some of you can enlighten me.

I do know a lily pond when I see one though. This site was apparently bombed at some point so the crater turned into the lily pond. This is the most colourful one I have seen

And this one has the largest lily pads that I have seen for a while!

The floral mandala was an intricate carpet and the perfume rising from all the petals was heavenly. I could have stood breathing in the aroma for hours.

And interspersed between the flower arrangements were little bits of art

Then, just when I thought we had seen it all we went into the house and found these displays of folded banana leaves which were used as table decorations. Coming from the ‘plonk a bunch in a vase’ school of flower arranging, I was seriously impressed! These must have taken some time and skill to produce.

All in all that was £3.37 well spent!