Day 1 - here we goMay 21 in Malaysia
Heading towards first national park - Semenggoh
Heading towards first national park - Semenggoh
Food is different from viet or Thailand but very good. Soup for breakfast.
Getting energy up for djungle hike later in Bakos
Today we finally say farewell to Malacca after 5 comfortable and interesting days/nights. Carol provided a breakfast of roti canai (Malaysian flatbread similar to a savoury crepe) and nasi lemak (rice & sambal with boiled egg & anchovies, wrapped in a bamboo leaf). She's been so good to us! She also drove us to the bus station which was about 20 minutes away on the other side of town, saving us getting a public bus out there!
The bus was much the same as the one that had brought us from Singapore, with wide comfortable seats, a footrest and decent reclining capabilities, air conditioning and luggage racks in the hold. The journey was pretty non-eventful, I dozed and listened to podcasts while Shandos mostly slept.
Only thing of note was that for some reason, the bus stopped at a rest area maybe 20 minutes short of our destination. I guess there's some rule that says you can't drive longer than x duration without a break, so even though the end of the line is 20 minutes away you still have to stop. Only a couple of people got off the bus to stretch their legs and inspect another disgusting Asian public toilet.
Arrived at the enormous KLIA2 airport in plenty of time - by now it was 12:30 and our flight wasn't until 3:30, plus it was domestic and we'd already checked in and didn't have to drop bags. Had a typical airport lunch at Subway and then headed for the gate. Very surprised to find that unlike every other time we've been through this airport, we only had to walk for about 5 minutes to the gate, rather than the 25-30 minutes it usually is. The terminal is in the shape of an H with the entrance at one of the angles, so if your gate is on the parallel side and at the end it's a bloody long walk!
Waited at the gate doing some various internet things while AirAsia apologised their way through another flight delay; this time about 1 hour. We've now had four flights with them and three have been running late "due to late arrival of the aircraft". I don't know what that's code for, but it's very annoying!
Took off about 90 minutes late (so close to 5pm), and the pilot earned his stripes during the climb-out! Powering up, powering down, dodging left, dodging right to avoid huge thunderheads that just seem to gather in the sky late every afternoon. Once we'd cleared those the flight was pretty uneventful. Only a short hop of 90 minutes, so we arrived at about 6:30 and cleared immigration very quickly (yes - even though it's a domestic flight all travellers to Sarawak are monitored separately from the rest of Malaysia).
Our hotel is clean and modern though not particularly fancy, and again on the edge of the main part of town. Being a Saturday night we freshened up and set out exploring the town of Kuching. First thing we noticed was statues and street art of cats everywhere - apparently Kuching sounds similar to "white cat" in Mandarin so it's colloquially known as the cat city.
We wandered a bit along the riverfront (there's a wide river which the old city is clustered up against, with very little on the other side), before settling on a restaurant in a colonial era building just back from the water. The restaurant was full of white people which when travelling is usually an immediate red flag that the food isn't going to be very good, but we persevered and ate here anyway. Happy to report that the Sarawak laksa we both ordered was excellent, and a good price at 11.5 RMY/$4 AUD.
Looked at a bit more of the riverfront but decided to save further exploration for tomorrow. I have a feeling we'll be doing a lot of walking!Read more
Super busy day of exploration today! Like much of Malaysia, Kuching and Sarawak are a mixture of various ethnic Malay groups with Chinese and Indian immigrants (from hundreds of years ago, not a recent thing). We were staying in the Chinese part of town, so we went downstairs to one of the noodle shops relatively early and grabbed a bowl of breakfast. I had a wonton mee which is a bowl of cooked noodles with no broth (just a smattering of oil and herbs) and some pork wonton dumplings on top, while Shandos had a kolo mee which is the same thing except with sliced char siew pork instead of dumplings. Our drinks were quite the adventure - coffee (or kopi as they call it) is served by default mixed with condensed milk which is great! Shandos's peppermint tea was hilariously strong - most peppermint teas in Australia taste like a mint leaf went vaguely near the water at some point, while this tea tasted like minty chewing gum.
Out we wandered into the bustling city of Kuching. It's actually the largest city on Borneo, with over half a million inhabitants though the city centre is quite compact. We looked around a couple of Chinese temples, walked back and forth along the waterfront, had a long chat with a nice old Chinese man who wanted to practice English and gave me a list of his principles to live by. I was waiting for a sell of some kind which never eventuated - he was just a nice old man who wanted to talk, and actually reminded me a lot of my grandpa.
More walking through the market districts of Little India, checking out various bits of street art, had a brief look at the large mosque (very imposing on a hill, and large enough to hold 4000 worshippers), wandered through an entirely Islamic shopping mall and eventually found our way through a large park to the ethnography museum. This was in a large old colonial mansion which had been renovated and now housed displays about the flora, fauna and humans of Borneo. Lots of displays about traditional jungle longhouses which we're hoping to see for real in a few days. Also some huge snakes, a crocodile skeleton and an interesting display about Borneo's headhunting tradition (yes, it's exactly what it sounds like though the practice is long extinct).
I should mention at this point that Sarawak has an interesting history - it's the only place in south-east Asia to have been governed by a white Rajah. Between the 1200s and the 1800s it was variously ruled by sultans and local tribes which warred pretty constantly, though by the early 19th century it was basically part of Brunei, but was never colonised by Europeans. In the 1840s there was a large rebellion against Brunei which a British explorer named James Brooke helped to lead. When it was successful he ended up as the Rajah of Sarawak, and him and his descendants ruled the area for the next hundred or so years - it was even formally recognised as a country by both the USA and the UK! Interesting little piece of history, as he ruled as a paternalist rather than a foreign invader or exploiter.
As interesting as the museum was, I couldn't stand it for too long as there was no air conditioning and conditions inside (and outside) were just sweltering. It was the usual 85% humidity 31 degrees that we've had basically every day since leaving Sydney, but all the walking and the stuffy museum really took it out of me. We retreated to a Western-style shopping mall where we basked in the air conditioning and chowed down on lunch - more noodles for both of us.
The food court was on the top floor and had a greenhouse-style ceiling, but between leaving the food court on level four and reaching the ground floor, an enormous tropical downpour had started leaving people soaked and scurrying for cover. Rather than venturing out we retreated back up to the food court for another fruit juice, watching the storm's progress via the greenhouse ceiling.
It died down within 30 minutes and we ventured back out, this time hoping to cross the river. We found a ferry boat (cost = 0.3 MYR / $0.10 AUD) and in a few short minutes we'd crossed the river. The other side was very very quiet, with not much happening, very few roads and dwellings. It's strange, because there's a few things over here - the Palace where the governor lives, the ridiculously over-sized but very impressive Parliament building, as well as an old Fort which now houses the police and justice museum.
After a walk along the other side of the riverfront (hiding from another brief rain squall in a gazebo), we made for the Fort, having to find out way through an abandoned school and scrambling through some undergrowth. The fort itself was actually closed, though it didn't look particularly large and we weren't super interested in seeing the museum, just the building. Tried to get to the parliament on foot but the roads only lead away from it - we probably would have had to walk miles out of the way, and besides we could see the entry points and it looked closed. On a Sunday afternoon out of session that shouldn't be surprising!
So we went back across the river in another tiny boat and decided to retreat to the hotel as it was by now around 6pm. Luxuriated in the shower, freshened up and went back out hoping to see the sun set from a rooftop bar with a tasty beverage. Alas we were to be disappointed; the rooftop bar we'd read about turned out to have no view! So we took a couple of quick photos of the sunset (such as it was) from the river front, then headed for a nice looking bar we'd seen earlier in the day named the Drunken Monkey.
After a few beers all was right with the world, though I still got annoyed at the Italians on the next table having a phone conversation on speaker. It's about the third or fourth time I've seen it now and holy shit it bugs me! Just a serious lack of respect for other people's space I think. Nothing special for dinner, we'd seen an interesting-looking burger cart on the waterfront which we wanted to try, but it seemed to be absent. Lacking in other ideas, we ended up having our third bowl of noodles for the day at a Chinese cart just near our hotel.
Steps today: 34,000. Yikes. Glad I wore my hiking shoes!Read more
Und schon geht es wieder weiter: Kuching wartet auf uns. Die größte Stadt Borneos, deren Name übersetzt Katze heißt. Also steigen wir wieder in diesen sehr kleinen Flieger - mit uns so ca. 6 andere Menschen und fliegen gen Süden nach Kuching.
Da wir erst mittags ankommen, flanieren wir durch die Stadt, schauen uns chinesische Tempel an, sowie hiesige Streetart und den Sonnenuntergang.
Morgen geht es früh weiter: der nächste Nationalpark wartet und hoffentlich mit ihm viele Nasenaffen.
Grüße aus Kuching
Als wir am ersten Tag in Kuching ankamen, waren fast alle Läden zu - schließlich war es auch bereits 17.00 Uhr... zudem läuft das Leben während des Ramadans ruhiger ab. Also haben wir uns heute noch mal Zeit eingeplant um China Town und den Markt anzuschauen. Ein paar Graffitis begegnen uns und wir wagen uns an chinesisches Street Food. Allen in allem einfach nur ein entspannter Tag.
Allerdings geht die Entspannung gerade flöten, denn heute wollen wir nach Jakarta. Leider müssen wir über Kuala Lumpur fliegen, da Kuching kein internationaler Flughafen ist. Und genau dieser Flug hat nun 65 Minuten Verspätung. Gut, dass wir 60 Minuten Umsteigezeit haben...
Immerhin schenkt uns der Himmel noch einen 2-bögigen Regenbogen. 🌈
Also nun hat es sich doch bewahrheitet: wir sind in Kuala Lumpur steckengeblieben. Unser Anschlussflug geht erst morgen um 7.30 Uhr. Dafür schlafen wir -zwar ohne Gepäck- nun in einem ziemlich guten 4-Sterne Hotel... ein gar nicht so schlechtes Ende für unsere Zeit in Malaysia. 🇲🇾
You might also know this place by the following names: