Trip Start May 24, 2008
71Trip End Apr 2009
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The textile museum was actually more interesting than you might expect. Each of the many tribes in Borneo has its own textile (a bit like tartan to the Scots, I'd imagine).
Sarawak museum was also pretty cool, with lots of stuffed animals, a mock traditional longhouse, totem poles, sculptures and various other exhibits. The soursop - at least that's what we're guessing it was (it looked similar to a lime on the outside with sour flesh like a hard melon) - and pineapple chunks from the stall outside the museum went down a treat
We were both feeling quite tired - probably a combination of lack of sleep last night (Chrissy didn't sleep much as she was excited about being in Borneo!) and the increased humidity in Borneo (which actually wasn't as bad as it has been in some countries).
That night we went to Top Spot, an open air food court on top of a multi-story car park. It may not sound very glamourous but all the stalls are dedicated to seafood so Chrissy was in her element! We went with Wesley's recommendation and ate at stall 25 - Bukit Mata. We ate squid cooked to perfection in a delicious Malay sauce and huge prawns - Chrissy was in food heaven! We also had one of the ubiquitous coconuts - drunk with a straw - which we'd still not gotten around to trying. The coconut proved a bit disappointing, to be honest. We went back to stall 25 another 3 times whilst in Kuching!
The next day we took the bus for about an hour to Sarawak Cultural Village. This was as touristy as we were expecting and more, but was nonetheless worthwhile. There were various traditional longhouses and people from several of the many tribes that live throughout Borneo
We bought some tasty rose cookies (or Kuih Cap) that a lady was making fresh in a longhouse. These deep fried delights are made from wheat flour, rice flour, sugar, egg and coconut milk and were a welcome accompaniment for the ensuing cultural show. The 45-minute show took place in a modern, comfortable air conditioned theatre! Tribes-people performed their various dances and one humourous and very theatrical warrior-dude even shot balloons over the audience using a blowpipe! An acrobatic guy got on top of a long bamboo pole held up by his chums and spun round on his tummy. It was all very entertaining but it wasn't Moscow State Circus!
We had lunch at the village and tried our first of many Laksas
After lunch we took Wesley's recommendation and found a nearby secluded beach near a 5-star resort. The resort's beach is nice but usually busy, but a short stroll along a path through the jungle got us to the picture-postcard second beach, which was empty - paradise found! Icy-cold jungle water poured down a short waterfall into the sea and mixed with the warm salt water, which was where we saw our first-ever 'untanked' wild prawn. We spent a couple of hours enjoying the sun, sea, sand and seclusion
That night Wesley's wife, Teresa, told us about a trek that she and a friend, Edward, were organising into the jungle to stay with the Bidayuh people in the village of Bojong. This tribe had recently been cut off from the city by the government who are building a huge dam in the rainforest for electricity and drinking water (which is becoming surprisingly scarce as more and more people flock to Kuching city). The government is trying to get several villages to relocate before they flood the area in two year's time. As a helpful 'incentive' for the people to relocate the government blocked off the road leading to the village. Edward, who runs a local scuba diving and adventure centre, had 'opened up' an old jungle trail for the villagers using his GPS (he had tied pieces of tape to the occasional tree as markers). The following Monday was a bank holiday. So Edward, Teresa and several of their mates were taking the day off work to trek to the village. We were cordially invited along as the first tourists to do this trail. We wanted to stay in a longhouse and to do a jungle trek and had been researching various options in Belaga. However, this seemed like an opportunity not to be missed as it was nearby, non-touristy (we'd be the tourist pioneers!) and with locals whom we trusted.
Natalja, a nice German girl from our hostel, was also very interested
The next day the bus to the Cat Museum was late arriving so we decided to try it another day when we weren't so pushed for time. Instead we wasted the morning faffing about trying to sort out our plans for the next few days. The tourist information office was very unhelpful and wouldn't let us change our booking for Bako accommodation so we could do Wesley's longhouse trip. We angrily marched back to the hostel to use the phone to make some calls to try to get round this. Frustratingly we kept getting re-directed back to the tourist office so we begrudgingly decided to book another night through them and waste the previous booking. The two ladies in the office must have sensed our determination and frustration and they had a helpful change of heart
That afternoon we took a bus to Semenggoh Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre. There's not much worth saying about these cuddly climbers as our photos speak for themselves. I'm sure that, like us, you've all seen them a hundred times on TV but standing there in the jungle with Orang Utans swinging about above us was something very special. We arrived a bit before the 3pm feeding time and got to see some of them sitting around at the entrance. We walked into the jungle to the feeding platform where a guy left a pile of bananas and other goodies. We were allowed to observe for an hour, after which we were the last people to leave and I had to drag Chrissy away!
The next day we left the hostel at 6.15am to get to Gunung Gading National Park in order to see the famous Rafflesia flower. It is the world's largest flower and is only in bloom for 7 days of a 9-month cycle. Wesley had told us to contact the Park directly to find out if one was in bloom because it often takes a couple of days for the news to reach the tourist office, by which time the flower is starting to wilt. We had phoned when we arrived in Kuching and been told none were in bloom. Then a couple of days later, by chance, we saw a sign in the tourist office saying it was in bloom so we decided to go the next day.
We went with a girl from our hostel called Nat - a dread-locked vegetarian with vegetarian hiking boots (apparently they're not made from the skin of vegetarians)! She had had "traveller's tummy" for a few days and was always whinging about something or other! She spent almost every day of our 10 days in the Kuching area watching horror movies at the hostel
We saw 2 Rafflesias in bloom and a few others in various stages of their life-cycle. They were an impressive 50cm or so in diameter although they can grow up to nearly a meter. Up close they smell of rotting flesh so they can attract flies to pollinate them. They still smelled much better than the local Durian fruit. This smells and tastes almost exactly like vomit - I'm sorry, but it does. Despite it being quite popular with the locals - and even being used to flavour drinks and yoghurts - we've seen several hotels and hostels with signs banning the fruit from entering their premises!
That night we managed to get to the TV before Nat did so we got to watch a DVD - Terminal, with Tom Hank's. It was a novelty just sitting down and watching TV! We didn't watch the end as we had an early start the next day. We watched the end of the film a few days later, after our Jungle Trek.
[Random observation: most of the cats in Borneo have no tails or very short ones. Chrissy thought that maybe cats-tail soup was a delicacy but it turned out they are just a particular breed! So there you go].