Chilling in Kuching
Trip Start Jan 27, 2006
26Trip End Sep 09, 2006
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Where I stayed
Breakfast was included as well. Every morning without fail we dutifully gorged ourselves. Malaysians eat curry for breakfast; westerners eat, well, western-style breakfast; budget travellers eat both one after the other and sometimes twice in the same sitting. We limped back towards the lift, struggling under the weight of the yet-to-be-digested carb-motherload and our croissant-filled pockets
The other attraction with Kuching is that it lies on the coast of Borneo and is surrounded by national parks.
First day, we visited a sanctuary for Orangutans. Getting up early to catch the 7.00am local bus to Semengohh in time for the 8.30am feeding, we scampered excitedly to the bus stop. And this is when we found Kuchings' only failing. Early morning buses depend on the sleepiness of the drivers. Ours was obviously still fast off because it never came. Were we to put off ? Oh no, not us. We struck a deal with a surly Canadian and his somnolent Korean girlfriend to share a minibus/taxi/thingy and we were off.
We were the first to arrive at a very low key visitor centre, to be greeted by Nora, a huge female orangutan and her two year old daughter. A couple of other orangs sat high above us at a distance, unmoved by the prospect of a free fruit breakfast.
The Sanctuary exists to rehabilitate orangs who have been taken into captivity as pets, cicus attractions etc. The wardens teach them to fend for themselves in the wild with the aim of a complete return to the wild
We spent a magical half hour serenaded by an unseen group of gibbons just us, our minibus mates, the wardens and the orangs. At 9.00am the wardens led us slightly further into the forest, this time with the aim of attracting other orangs back to the fold. By this time we had been joined by a group of about 30 other trippers all of whom seemed to believe that there presence in the forest was far more important than the native inhabitants and they were damn well going to tell each other about it. In fact, they might just get on the mobile phone to their friends and tell them too, "Yeah, I'm in a rain forest waiting for monkeys, its great !"
Rightly, the rest of the rehabilitated orangs decided that they would keep there own company and failed to show. Whilst a little disappointed, it was nice to know these beautiful creatures were indeed wild and could take us or leave us as they chose.
It is funny. Our 30-strong wave of human noise would surely tell themselves (and their mates !)how humans were the cleverer race having invented religion, New York, the car, Carling Black Label and mobile phones, whilst all the orangs do is hang about in the forest eating fruit, mating, playing with the family and scratching themselves.
Watching Nora contemplate her human host below her, you could imagine that she believed that it was the orangs who were the cleverer of the two primates
Back in Kuching, we spent the next four days pottering between museums, the riverside walk, hawker centres serving fabulous seafood, air-conned internet cafes and the sleepy kampungs where the locals live. Kuching has few 'tourist attractions', but that did not deter us. Just opposite us on the other side of the river sitting on a slight hill, half-obscured by mature trees and the scaffolding of a sodding great building site, Fort Marguerita was the best of a relatively poor bunch.
As usual, we picked the heat of the day (Kuching is about a millimetre from the bloody Equator) to cross the river and - due to the building site - traipse off down a deserted road running at right angles to the direction we need to go. We got 100 yards before a couple of locals pulled up and offered us a lift. Hashim and Zahidah could have been axe murderers, but in Kuching this profession would be regarded as far too 'big city'and just wouldn't do. Luckily Hashim was an off duty copper with nothing better to do than a little pro-active community policing, ensuring that two sweaty, hapless and vague westerners didn't turn into a statistic that he would have to mop up on Monday.
We jumped into their lovely air-conned car and set off - via a locked police compound - to find a back route to the Fort
Back from 'Days of the Dead', we made for the hotel. Our four star room had become increasingly damp over the previous four nights. Sam - who knows a thing or two about hotels - called for the duty manager. Five minutes of skilled whinging later and we were given another room. No, make that 'upgraded to a suite'. Four rooms, two televisions and as many toiletries as we could stuff into our greedy little rucksacks. A great end to a great week.