Kuching, Cat City

Trip Start May 17, 2006
1
4
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Trip End Jul 01, 2006


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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Saturday, May 27, 2006

I got back to Kuching on Thursday afternoon from the national park. That afternooon I walked around the waterfront on the river and visited the Chinese History Museum, which was kind of funny. The guy that works there is really nice and chatted with me about the history of the Chinese community in Borneo. The funny part about the museum was that they had all of these photos from the late 1800s that were faded to sepia, but they also had photos that were obviously taken in the last few years but were also sepia. Like they had made these photos of convenience stores with modern products look like they were 100 years old. I also walked down Jalan Carpenter, the Chinese street. The Chinese temples here are even more loudly decorated than the ones in China or Chinatowns in the US. Everything is bright red or green or blue.

Friday I went to the Cat Museum, which was awesome. This is, after all, Cat City. It was kitchy but there were some interesting displays on the history of cats and how people have viewed them. The weird thing was the taxidermy. They had a few stuffed wild cats but their faces looked all weird because they were poorly done, so some look like they are smirking or grinning. Some old Chinese guy at the Cat Museum came up and chatted with me, then wanted me to go hang out with him. That is the weird thing about traveling in foreign countries by yourself when you are female. You can never tell when someone is just being friendly in a way that you aren't used to at home or if they are being weird.

After the Cat Museum I went to the Sarawak Museum, which is in two buildings. One building is almost completely empty but the other one is good. They have displays on the different tribes that live in Borneo, as well as a replica of a longhouse you can walk through. On the bottom floor, however, there was more bad taxidermy. Birds, cats, monkeys, etc. A whole floor of crazy looking animals.

Friday afternoon I walked around the waterfront again and visited more of the city's cat statues, of which there are plenty.

This morning I went to the Sarawak Cultural Village, which has a bunch of longhouses and dwellings to show what the houses of the different people in Malaysia look like inside. I ran into the German and English couples that I met at Bako, plus the Australian who was at Bako happened to be at my hotel this morning. There was a cultural show where they demonstrated the warrior dances of the different tribes, plus a Malay singer came out and sang while they did some traditional dances. They had a blowpipe hunting demo and the guy got the German girl to come up on stage and try it. The best part of the village was the Chinese farmhouse. The lady who worked there told us all about the stuff inside the house, then explained what the Gawai festival is like. She told us about how people in Malaysia don't fight like people do in other coutries who are of different religions. (This seems to be a point of pride as my taxi drivers have almost all made a point of telling me about it.)

After the village I went to the Sunday Market (even though it is Saturday) and sampled some jungle fruits. I had one of these fruits that looks like snakeskin that I ate in Bali with David on our honeymoon. The guy gave it to me for free, which was cool. I also got a starfruit and a rose apple, which I have yet to eat. They had all kinds of things for sale, but nothing too weird.

That leads me to... Malaysia is very easy on the traveler. No one tries to rip you off, you don't have to bargain, and everyone speaks English. It's kind of too easy for my taste. It's not really third world and there is little to no culture shock.

It is true what the taxi drivers say; there are Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Chinese of various religions, and they all seem to get along and not be bothered by each other. The city is a weird mix of styles because of this. The public monuments are a mix of Malay (Muslim), tribal, and Chinese styles.

Last night I had the funniest taxi driver ever. He was super old and kept laughing his ass off whenever he said anything at all. I said I was going to Ong Tiang Swee, and he said "ong tiang swee... hahahahahahahaha!" And then he said "there aren't many American cars here because they are too big for our roads... hahahahahahahhaa," and then "Hotel Telang Usan, hahahahahahaa!" I think he was crazy.

Unfortunately, the Eagles seem to be a big hit over here. Everybody in town is listening to "Hotel California" ALL THE F-ING TIME. I am with the Dude on the Eagles (see the Big Lebowski) so it sort of sucks. But, those of you who miss hair metal need to come to Borneo, where the tradition is alive and well with Malaysian bands that sound like Quiet Riot or Warrant or something. Also big here: blue contact lenses. Apparently people think that having blue eyes makes a Malaysian look hella classy.

People in Kuching are crazy. Before I went to Sibu, I went out to the pubs near my hotel and had some drinks with locals. I got my first taste of tuak (local rice wine), which some transvestite bartenders gave me for free. Then I had some whiskey and lychee liquor (ass!) with another bartender and some Chinese logging industry types. They thought it was pretty funny that I spoke Chinese. I met some of the local gay dudes, too. They watch Queer as Folk over here and everyone loves Brian Kinney. In one bar they had a toilet tank over the sink that said "vomit station," which they apparently need because people there drink like lunatics, like crazier than any fratboy in Tijuana. They were yelling, falling on the floor, etc. By the way, the hotel I stayed at was called the Telang Usan and it ruled. It is owned by an orang ulu (upriver tribe) family and the service is really good, plus it is cheap (about $25). Stay there if you go to Kuching.
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