Crawford Market (officially sanket phule) is one of South Mumbai‘s most famous markets. It is named after Arthur Crawford, the first Municipal Commissioner of the city. The market is situated opposite the Mumbai Police headquarters, just north of Victoria Terminus railway station and west of the J.J.flyover at a busy intersection. The market houses a wholesale fruit, vegetable and poultry market. One end of the market is a pet store. Most of the sellers inside the market nowadays sell imported items such as foods, cosmetics, household and gift items. It was the main wholesale market for fruits in Mumbai until March 1996, when the wholesale traders were relocated to Navi Mumbai (New Bombay).
This wikipedia article makes the market sound like any other market but this place has to been seen to be believed. The sights, sounds, smells are something that can only be experienced in person. I wish I could have explored more of Mumbai on my recent trip but all I could manage to do outside of my meetings was this short side trip to Crawford Market and a few iphone photos.
The number one photo tip is to bring a tripod!! Shooting in the rainforest is usually pretty dark because of the canopy. If you find yourself without a trip you end up contorting yourself in various positions to get that extra stop of shutter speed to freeze the frame. You can try my techniques below but believe me bringing a tripod is much easier.
I would also recommend bringing one on the boat when you are traveling on the rivers around Sukau. It may be a tight fit and you’ll still have to fight with the rocking boat but it will help steady those long shots.
Not much good to say about the Shangri-La Rasa Ria. It’s not a bad resort but it’s not in the same class as other Shangri-La properties. The whole experience started off pretty bad trying to redeem the free nights I was entitled to so that didn’t help their cause. I would recommend this place to families as all the kids running around seemed to be having a good time. The main draw of the Rasa Ria is the attached Orang Utan rehabilitation center. This is definitely a must see. We saw Orang Utans in the wild which was much more rewarding. However, having them in a semi-controlled environment allowed me to get some really good up close pictures.
After visiting the SRL (Sukau Rainforest Lodge) we were ready to move on and based on the reviews of BRL (Boreo Rainforest Lodge) we were exciting but cautious based on experience at SRL.
In short, BRL was FANTASTIC. They did everything well. From the pickup and transfer from Lahad Datu to BRL in the Danum Valley all the way to the drop off back in Lahad Datu 4 days later.
BRL is located about a 3 hour very bumpy drive into a primary rainforest called the Danum Valley. Upon arrival you are created with a warm towel to wipe off the dust from the long drive in. The main lodge was under renovation so they had a temporary lodge which was actually very nice. They could have fooled me and called this the main lodge and I wouldn’t have been disappointed. After meeting our guide and brief orientation we were escorted to our room. The room was very large and nicely appointed with an amazing view of the river and rainforest behind it. Truly one of the nicest views from any lodge we stayed at.
After settling in we went to the “Elephant Pool” which is a nice little swimming area in the river. We went here everyday to cool off after the long hikes. Really one of the best places in the world to take a swim. We were even joined by Gibbons and Macacs on several occasions. They are very active and always put on a good show.
Video of Miki swimming in place at the elephant pool.
That night we went on a night drive and saw flying squirrels, slow loris, samba deer, and several other animals I can’t remember.
Days 2, 3 and 4 were equally packed. The day usually started with a morning walk before breakfast. Usually over the canopy walk with is several hundred meters long and very high up in the canopy. After breakfast you go on another walk with can be 2-3 hours long and arrive just in time for lunch. After lunch there is usually time for a short nap or a swim and then you meet up with the guide again for another 2-3 walk before dinner. After dinner you can go on on another walk or a night drive, depending on your preference. As you can see. Non stop activities all day long which is exactly what we wanted.
The wildlife spottings here were non stop. Spotting wildlife in the rainforest is not as easy as spotting wildlife on safari in Africa. Part of the adventure is trying to find it. We were very lucky that we spotted orang utans on two separate occasions (for a total of 5 wild orang utans while in Borneo). The first one at BRL was a mother and it’s baby. They were on the move so I had to run through the thick jungle chasing them while taking photos. The other was a large and very lazy male that just sat around all morning eating and sleeping. The last sighting made the trip. I got some amazing pictures of a large male that seemed to be posing for the camera.
What made the wildlife sightings even better was knowing all the hard work hiking would be followed by amazing food. I was very surprised at the quality and variety of the food. They had various kinds of curry (my favorite being the lamb curry), every night for dinner they had a grill where you could get lamb, steak, prawns, chicken, etc. They had a huge selection of fresh fruit as well. To top it all off it was all served by a very good staff on tables under the stars. The main lodge was being renovated which non of us complained about because we liked eating under the stars better than having to eat in the lodge.
Would I go again? Yes. Absolutely. We rarely go the same place twice but this might be the exception.
Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes. The first thing I mention when people ask about my trip to Borneo is BRL.
The lodge was ranked as one of the top 50 eco lodges by National Geographic Adventure magazine. Based on this we booked 3 nights and 4 days here and had pretty high expectations of the lodge.
This was the first first lodge we stayed at when we arrived to Borneo and it didn’t start off very good. The driver that picked us up from the airport didn’t speak much english at all. It was my understanding we would have a driver and guide and that the guide would speak english. It turns out that every other group we meet at the lodge had a guide except for us. Not sure why or how this happened but the staff didn’t seemed surprised that we didn’t have a guide even though everyone else did. To be honest, it didn’t really matter. There wasn’t much for a guide to add any value. The boat drivers did most of the work.
The accommodation was very, very basic. A very small room with two single beds. The lobby was pretty dated but had a nice local feel to it. Half of the lodge was under renovation so it was a little noisy during out stay but we were warned of this before we booked.
The food was the same for almost every meal. Nothing bad but nothing memorable.
The staff was friendly but didn’t seem to go out of their way to make the experience memorable.
The key draw for the lodge are the boat cruises on the river to spot wildlife. This is one of the only places in the world to spot Proboscis monkeys. Funny little creatures with long noses. We had many sightings and this, even with the negatives about the lodge, is reason enough to stay in the area. We even saw elephants which we are told are very rare. They only come around every 3-4 months. We saw them crossing the river while following them in our boat which was a unique experience.
On the last day we were lucky enough to see an orang utan and her baby in a tree pretty close to the river. There are a number of orang utans in the area but they are increasingly more difficult to spot due to the encroachment of the palm oil plantations.
What is sold on their website and confirmed over the phone and in an e-mail is that there was a morning and an afternoon cruise with options for hiking during the day and many other activities. In actuality, you do a morning cruise from 6-8 am and an afternoon cruise from 4-6pm. From 8am to 4pm there is absolutely nothing to do. There is a short walk on a elevated boardwalk in the back of the lodge but that only takes 30 minutes. Other than that all you can do is read, sleep, eat, relax which is not bad if that is what you signed up for. We did not. We wanted an active vacation.
The other thing to note about the lodge is it’s claim to fame on being very “eco friendly”. Eco lodges are a strange thing. A lodge can do a few eco friendly things, provide less services, less amenities, and charge a lot more all in the name of being eco friendly. The funny thing is that people tend to leave happy. I think there should be two ratings for eco lodges. The “in your face” eco lodge (i.e. Sakua Rainforest Lodge) and the “behind the scenes” eco lodge. I prefer to stay at an eco lodge that does it’s part for the environment but it does so behind the scenes and doesn’t impact the guest experience.
Would I stay here again? NO. I’ve seen the Proboscis monkeys and once is enough.
Would I recommend it to a friend? YES to the Sukau area but NO to the lodge. No matter where you book only stay for 2 nights. It’s all you need. Do some research to see if there is another lodge in the Sukau area that gets better reviews.