Collected from the airport after a long flight and a one hour delay out of KL. The drive into the city reveals Kuching to be much larger than anticipated and somewhat more congested. Our diver is a biker (Triumph Street Triple) so we exchange views and tours.
The hotel is love and the room spacious however we have an inside room with a view of the space inside the hotel rather than the river.
A walk around the block is interesting (hot though) and we find that the river looks like a worthwhile cruise, the nearby restaurants are shut and there is a shopping mall out the back with lots of familiar shops and fast food outlets (KFC, Macdonalds, Burgur King) and the like.
The hotel (Ranee Suites) looks like it for dinner which it has to be said was disappointing.
Kuching to Homestay
The breakfast was even more disappointing than the dinner, cold baked beans, warm scrambled(?) eggs, and cold toast. Rubbish considering there was only one other couple there when we arrived and it took them 40 minutes.
Our driver for the day, Baka, was there as expected at 8:15 and we were off to the Orangutang park. This was an excellent affair and we (together with a crowd of maybe 80-100 others) saw 5 of the apes including one baby come in for their morning breakfast (bananas, carrots and stuff). Astoundingly interesting and they are just so graceful in the trees. The visit is only allowed to be for an hour and then out.
A early lunch of local laksa (noodles and curry) is very tasty and welcome.
Afterwards Baka takes us up to the mountain village where we are to stay. We’ve been prepped for the worst, no power, cold water, basic facilities but the reality turns out to be much, much better. A picturesque open sided house built in the forest, with power but more than adequate facilities although no hot water which is in any case not really needed.
Our hostess, Saloma, is a real live wire and is focussing her homestay on the european market. It’s very impressive.
An afternoon visit to a local village is a fascinating insight into the way the people live now and although there is technically still a long house we suspect that it’s all fairly far removed from the way things used to be in the hills.
Family come and go and we are introduced to them all and dine with them. The food is excellent and ample but we are done in after an evening stroll to see fireflies, crickets and the like so in bed (not so basic) shorty after 9pm.
Overall an outstanding experience and one that we won’t forget in a hurry.
Homestay to Kuching
After breakfast (some kind of crispy pancake made by mother) and we are taken to a local waterfall for a swim. Despite my dubiousness it really is very pleasant and we while away an hour or so there.
After lunch it’s back to Kuching in the van with several of the family who are heading off to KL for some purpose which is unclear.
Today is the post Ramadan Holiday, Hari Raya, so pretty much everything is closed, including many of the bars and restaurants in the district.
There are a couple of boat tour operators however and we take one in a traditional sampan. Despite being clearly marked for 12 passengers only they load on 23 (many of whom are children). As is that’s not bad enough it becomes quite clear that the bilge is full of water as it rocks alarmingly if anyone moves.
Mercifully the weather cuts the trip short as the heavens open and we return moistly back to our starting point.
The best looking open restaurant that we see is the Barber’s. We’re conscious that we don’t want to go too far in the rain and that’s it. The experience starts well but it becomes clear the Manuel from Fawlty Towers has been used as a role model for training the staff. Very disappointing.
Sarawak Cultural Village
Breakfast back at the Ranee Suites is just as bad as the first day, this time it’s the french toast that is hopeless.
Our driver for the day, Nixon, takes us to the Sarawak Cultural Village. He drives well but talk about slowly!
The Village has living displays of each of the various seven cultures that make up Sarawak and has been very well done. Health & Safety however were not paramount in the design and maintenance of the site! In NZ it would be closed down before you could pay for the first ticket.
After going around the various long houses and so forth there was in a one hour dance/show in the auditorium. Actually surprisingly good. Greeted by rain as we came out of the auditorium so that was the end of the visit.
Nixon then drove us to see various sights, the parliament buildings, governors house, the museum, china town and the like. The museum rates special mention as the displays are old, the stuffed animal cases came from the UK in 1911 and are very much not to todays western taste. The only money spent in the last 50 years looks to have been on the antique air conditioners.
Finally at 4pm back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before looking for dinner again. It’s still a holiday here and again everything seems to be shut.
After walking down the waterfront we returned to the street where we had found the Barber restaurant last night and a few doors down stopped for a drink at the unprepossessing Bla Bla Bla. Lots of people went in while we sat outside so we figured “how bad can it be?” lacking any other obvious choice. Actually it was a very, very, good Chinese meal, one of the best we’ve had in Malaysia!
Bako National Park
Looks like the breakfast situation may just have been a holiday issue as todays is remarkably better. The french toast involved egg! (Sadly back to usual the next day)
Todays driver/guide is called Bongo(!) and his english leaves a little to be desired but he appears to know his stuff and takes us to the Bako National Park about an hours drive and a further half hour in a boat away.
There’s quite a bit of bureaucracy involved tickets, registration, check in and out and so forth but once accomplished we are allowed to walk on a number of trails, mostly on crumbling board walks, to see the various monkeys, lemurs and so forth. Again very interesting but very, very hot.
Lunch at the visitor centre is ok but people smoke everywhere and the toilets are awash, not great.
Again back to the hotel for a seriously welcome shower and change of sweat sodden clothes before taking an unsuccessful look in the nearby mall for a book about Kuching.
Back to Bla Bla Bla for dinner as pretty much everything remains closed. The locals obviously take the Hari Raya holiday very seriously.
Home Again, Home Again
We abandoned the rubbish breakfast in the Ranee Suites and went looking for something in the nearby mall. Not as easy as you'd hope but we got something in the end.
The remainder of the morning spent packing before embarking on the joy of a round of airport lounges and the like. Ho hum.
The taxi drive to the airport provided more than a little light relief with our drivers constant rapid fire chatter and commentary. Note the number of mobile phones stuck to the windscreen!