Blissful Borneo: A steam train through time

After my adventures in Australia it was time to jet off to the next destination. I flew out to Hong Kong to meet Kirsty, where we had a bit of time to catch up before our 3-hour flight to Kota Kinabalu, Borneo.

Having let Kirsty do most of the planning (she’s on maternity leave so was more than happy to gather all of the info and make plans!) I was excited to be visiting a new country, which I knew surprisingly little about. We arrived late at night and after a quick taxi ride to our hotel settled in, ready for an early start the next morning.

Our plan for the day was the North Borneo Railway, a steam train ride which runs twice a week and takes you from Kota Kinabalu to Papar, through the lush landscapes of Sabah.

Our journey started off at the train station, and we had some time to stroll around and have a look at the original steam train that would be taking us on our journey.

Once onboard and on the way, we were served a tasty breakfast which included some local delicacies. While we weren’t entirely familiar with a couple of them, everything was delicious! With the wind blowing in through the window, it was time to sit back and relax.

The steam train chugged past luscious green fields, local houses built on stilts, and the beautiful countryside and mountains in the distance.

Our first stop of the day was at Kinarut Town, where we had around half an hour to stretch our legs. There was also the opportunity to visit the local temple, but having been to Myanmar together and explored plenty of temples there (as well as Kirsty living in Hong Kong!) we gave that a miss and just took baby Theo for a bit of fresh air.

Soon it was time to jump back on the steam train, before heading off to our next stop. At the beginning of the journey we were given a small “passport”, and at every stop one of the staff would come with a different shaped stamp to stamp our passports.

Along the way we managed to spot some water buffalo in a few of the fields, which was a great sight.

Our next stop was Papar Town, where we had plenty of time to explore the small town and pay a visit to the local market. It was very similar to markets all across Asia, but still interesting to see some of the items for sale, such as the fish that had been left out to dry in the sun.

After having strolled through the town, it was back onto the train for our traditional “tiffin” lunch. Tiffin is actually an Indian English word used to describe a light midday meal, however it is also widely used in Indonesia and Malaysia as well as India where it originates.

Ours was served in small round tins stacked on top of each other, which contained fresh fruits, fern shoots with prawns, fish curry with okra, chicken with steamed rice, and a delicious starter of mackerel, lime juice and ginger, which was very fresh and similar to ceviche.

We enjoyed our lunch in the train, whilst fanning ourselves from the heat and humidity!

Due to some technical issues, we did have a couple of stops along the way. It had something to do with the engine overheating, but we hadn’t made plans for the rest of the afternoon so weren’t in a hurry to get back. The train ride is supposed to get you back around 1:30pm but it was almost 4pm by the time we made it back.

There was still plenty of scenery left to enjoy along the way, and baby Theo loved the rocking motion of the carriage and was perfectly well behaved!

The North Borneo railway runs every Wednesday and Saturday, and includes breakfast and a tiffin-style lunch. Tickets are priced at RM345 per person (children under 4 free). To book, click here.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

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  1. December 7, 2017 / 10:28 am

    wonderful nature, our friends and family will be visiting next year same time

    • thedubaidiaries
      December 9, 2017 / 12:19 pm

      Have a great time! 🙂

  2. Cedric Pierre
    October 23, 2017 / 9:42 pm

    Bonjour! I love Borneo and its simple,innocent people.I was stationed with my unit there few years back.Food is amazing.Seems you like that gorgeous yellow gown a lot.I saw you wearing in another prev post.Keep blogging.

    • thedubaidiaries
      October 26, 2017 / 1:20 pm

      Thanks for reading Cedric! 🙂 Borneo was beautiful, I loved it as well! Haha so funny, I’ve actually only ever worn that yellow dress twice, both times I happened to blog about it! 🙂

  3. Asher
    October 21, 2017 / 7:18 am

    Wonderful pictures and scenery! Borneo seems like a beautiful lush country! I would love to take that train ride and enjoy the delicious local cuisine!!

    • thedubaidiaries
      October 21, 2017 / 1:10 pm

      Thanks Asher! Borneo was indeed a beautiful country, I’ve got another post coming shortly so I hope you’ll enjoy some more pictures! 🙂

  4. Emily
    October 18, 2017 / 2:39 am

    Wow, Rachel! What a fantastic experience. Wonderful pictures as always!!

    • thedubaidiaries
      October 19, 2017 / 5:36 pm

      Thanks for reading Emily, glad you liked the pictures! 🙂 xx

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