Borneo is, let us say, out of the way, being practically antipodal to Washington. From the West Coast, Northwest Orient has a new direct flight to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, and from there MAS, Malaysia's national airline, has a route to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah.
Kota Kinabalu, or KK as it's known, can be an expensive town. The house red at the Hyatt runs about 9 ringgits a glass. That's about $5 at the current exchange rate of a little over two ringgits to the dollar.
For travelers undaunted by the high prices, there is a beautiful and modern Beach Hotel at Tanjung Aru, just outside town, where you can look from your balcony at the offshore islands of the national park and at the sun setting behind them. Rates are 230 ringgits per night double. For the budget traveler, Lonely Planet's guide to the area suggests the Victory Hotel at Tanjung Aru, at 20 ringgits per night.
Tours of the Kinabalu National Park, and advance bookings for guides and hut accommodations, can be arranged through the national parks office in KK, or through any one of a number of tour services in town. I found Bakti Tours extremely helpful. Arrangements for boat transportation to the islands can be made through these offices as well.
The language barrier is in general no problem in Sabah, at least for Americans -- this is a former British colony. Among the younger people, though, a good knowledge of English may be less common. In 1983, the schools here shifted from English to Bahasa Malay as their primary language.
Malaysia has one of the most varied and delicate cuisines in Asia, partially because of the varied and delicate mix of peoples and races. Malay specialities are nasi goreng, a cousin to fried rice, and satay, small kebabs of fish or meat served with peanut sauce. Chinese food in Malaysia is excellent as well.
If you're going to try the various local climates, as I did, you must come prepared with clothing: wool sweaters, down vests, a hat and gloves for Kinabalu, and as little as possible for the beach. For town, cotton, preferably white. And remember that Malaysia is predominantly a Moslem country, and affecting a sense of modesty (quaint as that sounds) is probably a good idea.
What else? Shots -- I got a number of shots when I came to Malaysia: for cholera, typhoid, tetanus and pills for malaria. I found it, though, a clean country, which requires no immunizations and in which the tap water -- at least in the cities -- was potable. If you're going deep into the bush, certainly take precautions, and if you can find them, get those tiny purification tablets you can drop into your drinking water and get the bugs before they get you.