Valentine’s Day travel

Maria was excited. She couldn’t hide her happiness when she faced Aaron. Today is a special day, especially for a Filipino like her. Valentine’s Day is one of the most festive days for her country. Aaron Johnson pulled her closer and slowly kissed her.

Maria smiled as Aaron released her from his hold.
“Why Kudat, Aaron? Why do we start from there?” she asked. Aaron paused as he looked at the loveliest girl he ever met. Aaron turned away from her and picked up the car key.

“Everything packed, honey?” Aaron said while still looking around the room.
Maria, too, looked around. “Yes! Everything for our Valentine’s holiday trip, Aaron.”
“Are we driving there?” Maria asked. Aaron thought for a while.

“No! I’m parking the car at the airport,” Aaron responded. “Are you OK?” Aaron felt concerned with her hesitation. Maria stared at the man she loved.
“Yes! I’m OK,” Maria replied.

“Good! Let’s start moving!” Aaron grabbed Maria’s hand and moved out of the room. Aaron had bought her a white dress and a sun hat to wear, and she loved it. Indeed, this was the first time in her life a gentleman had bought her a dress.

And this is the first time Maria had left Sandakan. After arriving from the Philippines years ago, she had never set foot outside the former British capital of North Borneo. Aaron is bringing her to Jesselton, the vibrant new capital city.

“I’ve never traveled by plane, Aaron. I’m scared!” Maria complained.
Aaron paused for a while, then looked at her. “Have you ever been on a bus before?”
Maria looked up at him. She nodded.

“Then, it should be no problem,” Aaron assured her. “Just treat it like a bus ride.”
Maria gave Aaron a false smile.

“Once we arrived in Jesselton, a friend of mind will lend us his vehicle. We will stay one night in this city, and the next morning, we will travel to Kudat by car. We’ll be spending three nights there, and then two nights in Mantanani Island, followed by a trip to Mount Kinabalu and then back to Jesselton.”

While they walked away from their apartment, Aaron released Maria’s hand and stopped. Then she looked at her, smiling.

“I picked Kudat to start with our special journey because that’s one of the most beautiful places nearest to your home in the Philippines.” Aaron paused for a while. “And it’s romantic!”

The Tip of Borneo

Tip of Borneo during Valentine's Day

Kudat is about 187 kilometers from Jesselton. It takes three hours to reach this town by road if we travel by car. The town is so peaceful and clean. It is a beautiful place to spend time here with your spouse and lover.

Wait! About 29 kilometers north, you could see one of the best beaches on earth, call The Tip of Borneo. The map of North Borneo is like a German Sheppard dog head with pointed ears. Kudat and the Tip of Borneo are on the left ear of the state.

Aaron brought Maria to Pantai Kelambu and Simpang Mengayau. The white sandy beach stretched for miles, and both of them didn’t feel tired walking along. Soon Aaron and Maria reached a rocky cliff, the furthest point of Borneo’s island towards the north.

“If we could continue walking, Maria, we could reach the island of Palawan in the Philippines. It’s right there,” Aaron pointed to the horizon of the Sulu Sea.

“There used to be an orchestra here, by this cliff, playing music as they waited for the sun to set,” Aaron explained.

The highest mountain in Southeast Asia

Mount Kinabalu during Valentine's Day

Mount Kinabalu was once known as the highest mountain in Southeast Asia. Now, it is only one of the highest. During the colonial time, when the British were still ruling North Borneo, they harbored a hope to transform this place into a typical English countryside.

Indeed, Aaron wanted to come here because of the temperate coolness, just like back home in good old England. He wanted Maria to experience what it’s like to be in an area above the Tropic of Cancer.
The view is breathtaking. People could see The majestic mountain from the Kundasang valley below.

However, like so many nature lovers passing here, Aaron felt disappointed as the farmers chopped off the ancient mountain midget trees, replacing the terrains with highland vegetables.

But at this moment, it will be romantic to hold your spouse or companion tightly, watching the cloud covering the rocky slopes of Mount Kinabalu. The warmness of your loved one will shield you if it gets too cold.

The Paradise Falls of North Borneo

Waterfalls during Valentine's Day

Aaron and Maria struggled with the local guide’s help to travel along the hazardous trail leading to one of the most enchanting waterfalls; the Waterfall of Murug-Turug, Tamparuli. Aaron had parked the vehicle miles away because this place was inaccessible.

Only a few outsiders had ever been here. Aaron, being a former RAF pilot and experienced in jungle warfare, finds the challenges tolerable. However, he was not sure how Maria felt about it, which worried him as he saw Maria struggle with her steps.

Maria became petrified when she saw the waterfalls. The thousands of butterflies flying around fascinated her as the creatures hovered around the wet rocks.

Crystal Blue Water of Mantanani

Mantanani Island during Valentine's Day

“Look! Aaron! Mermaids!” Maria shouted. “It’s true! They exist!”
Aaron laughed at her ignorance. Aaron turned to the boatman. He was the Malaysian Marine Police officer who offered to take Aaron to this island. Aaron nodded to him as a sign of gratitude for his willingness to bring them here.

Aaron turned to Maria. He moved closer to her and slowly hugged her.
“Those are not mermaids, Maria. They are Dugongs. In the olden days, many sailors mistook them for being humans. That’s why when they came back on land, they made up stories of encountering half-women, half-fish tales.”

Maria looked up at Aaron, feeling lost.

“I know how you felt, Maria. You wished they were real mermaids. Me too! Unfortunately, or fortunately, they are Dugongs. But decades from now, the Dugongs too will become a legend, just like the mermaids. Men are hunting them, destroying their habitats and driving them into extinction!” Maria saw the sadness in Aaron’s face as he explained.

Maria is familiar with the crystal clear seawater surrounding the island of Mantanani; just like in the Philippines, a beautiful ocean covers the entire country. However, the wild animals in the sea and on this island fascinate Maria.

Sunset at Tanjung Aru

Tanjung Aru during Valentine's Day

After 12 days traveling around the northern parts of North Borneo, Aaron and Maria were safely back at Jesselton, ready to fly back to Sandakan the next morning. Tanjung Aru was the climax. Tanjung Aru is famous for its sunset.

The South China Sea horizon swallowed the glowing sun, and during a fine day, everyone could see how the red and orange sky slowly sinking into the sea. Tanjung Aru is one of the best places in the world to see the sunset.

Aaron picked a spot for their dinner. It was at the Kinabalu Yacht Club, and here the food and the wine were excellent. While they enjoyed their dinner, Aaron and Maria watched the sunset, reminding them of the Circle of Life.

It was the best moment for Maria, and her love for Aaron grew. This trip would be the most memorable Valentine’s Day for her. Aaron looked at her, pulled her closer, and kissed her. Aaron gripped her hands, and both in unison refocused their attention to the setting sun.


Aaron Johnson and Maria are fictional characters from my book, The Eurasians. However, the places and the descriptions are accurate. Readers will not find this story in my novel. However, The Eurasians’ story will lead them to understand how they met and develop their romance.