A Travellerspoint blog

December 2018

2018 NOV 5 - 10 MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Kuching


**********28 DAYS IN SABAH & SARAWAK**********

Monday 5th November 2018 – day 130 Kuching

We woke up after a dry night, no rain at all during the night. Once we had walked up to breakfast we could see the ocean was flat also. It still didn’t look very inviting with its grey colour matching the grey sky, but it was a lot calmer than past days. Ironically, it’s starting to become swimmable on the day we are departing.

After our non-descript breakfast, they ran out of bread today and we had to attempt to toast cut up baguette sticks that have been sitting in the bread box as decoration all week, we returned to the cabin to finish packing our suitcases. The luggage is being collected at 11.30am, hopefully, after Dolly’s request to reception this morning. Our driver is due at 12 noon to drive us back into Kuching.

Luggage collected we walked to reception, I paid the bill and we loaded ourselves into our GRAB car who was a little early. He had already loaded our bags, so we sat back and enjoyed the hour-long ride to Kuching.

We drove up to Merdeka Palace Hotel & Suites, our home for the next 6 nights. I had managed to book an extra night since we left the jungle a day earlier. First impressions were good, the foyer of this hotel is huge and impressive. But I have been fooled before by showy foyers, usually the rooms behind them are a lot different to what the façade displays. However, this time the room, or I should say rooms, did not disappoint. We are in a 2-bedroom suite, with a lounge room and a dining room and a mini kitchenette with absolutely nothing inside except a hot water jug and a microwave oven. Not a plate or a bowl or a fork to use in the kitchen. Little matter, we have no intention on cooking anyway.

We are on the 16th floor, with a corner suite and a great view overlooking downtown Kuching and its waterfront. The view would be even better if they had washed the outside of the windows in the last 20 years, but that’s just my opinion. This is a great location and confirmed it was a good decision when I changed our Kuching hotel booking last week.

We settled into and relaxed in our spacious surroundings before heading out to the Plaza Merdeka to find some food for a late lunch. The big flash shopping mall was just 5 minutes’ walk across the park and we found the food court to have lunch in. After we ate we walked around having a look at the shops.

A TV channel showing crappy shows, but in English, caught our attention for the afternoon and evening until we headed out for dinner after 8.30pm. Pizza Hut in the mall was handy so that’s where we headed.


Tuesday 6th November 2018 – day 131 day out from Kuching

We organized a day trip with our GRAB driver from yesterday. This is the easiest way for us to organize transport rather than pay for seats on a tour. This way we have the time to ourselves and can come and go as we please. And it works out a hell of a lot cheaper.

Our excursion today was to the SEMONGGOH NATURE RESERVE, where we were again able to see the magnificent orangutans. We were pretty lucky with our sightings here as they are a lot more wild and don't always show themselves for food, preferring to forage in the jungle for themselves. At the start there was just one young male hanging around, but by the end of the 2 hours we had seen a couple more and a great finale by the giant alfa male who came very close and posed while we all took photos. It's just amazing to see these animals so close up - a real privilege.

For over 20 years, the wardens at Semenggoh Nature Reserve have been training young orangutans, who had been orphaned or rescued from captivity, how to survive in the wild. The success of this programme has left the surrounding forest reserve with a thriving population of healthy adolescent and young adult orangutans, who are now breeding in the wild. The programme has since been transferred to Matang Wildlife Centre, but Semenggoh Nature Reserve is still home to its successful graduates, semi-wild orangutans and their babies. They spend most of their time roaming the forest but frequently come back to the Centre for a free meal. If it is the fruiting season in the forest, some or even all of them may not come to feed. This in itself is a good sign and another step on the way to full rehabilitation.


Next stop after about an hours drive through the jungle was the ANNAH RAIS LONGHOUSE. It was good to actually see just jungle and not any palm plantations like we had seen in Sabah. I'm not saying they don't have palm plantations down here in Sarawak, but they do have a lot more visible jungle.
There are not many long houses left anymore, and the few that remain seem to have been turned into tourists attractions I guess to create income for the villages. A long house is basically houses which are all joined together with a common veranda where families or tribes lived together.
We were lucky enough to see some tribal women who had come in from a more remote village dressed in traditional dress. They were happy enough to smile with their betel nut stained teeth and have photos taken of their colourful costumes.

Annah Rais Longhouse is a Bidayuh settlement about 100km south of Kuching, at the foothill of Borneo Highlands near the mountains marking the border to Kalimantan. Kampung Annah Rais is a large Bidayuh village centred around a centuries-old bamboo longhouse, one of the finest still in existence. The Bidayuh make up about 8% of Sarawak’s population and were formerly known as Land Dayaks. They are gracious hosts and village is the perfect place to discover Bidayuh culture and learn about their fascinating way of life.


Our final 2 stops were at FAIRY CAVE and WIND CAVE. The fairy cave was massive inside, after we walked up 4 flights of steps to the entrance, then scrambled in the semi darkness up a ladder to get to the main chamber. You can see by the pic's below the sheer size by the staircases that led to the top in several places. The last photo shows 2 small people (April & Dolly) standing at the base of chamber, I took the photo from a great height.

Wind cave was less impressive as it was dark, dank and stank of bat shit, which was not surprising considering the cave was inhabited by hundreds of bats which we could see when I shone the torch up high. We got out of there as quickly as possible and our driver was surprised to see us back so soon.

Fairy Cave (also known as Gua Pari) is an impressive show cave near the former gold mining settlement of Bau and about 40km from Kuching, Sarawak. It is just a few minutes drive from another show cave, Wind Cave, and most tourists would combine both on a half-day trip from Kuching.


We were dropped back at the Merdeka after a great day out. Dinner over at the food court.

Wednesday 7th November 2018 – day 133 Kuching / Thursday 8th November - day 133 / Friday 9th November – day 134

The next few days we just spent around Kuching town. We walked around exploring or just relaxing at the hotel. There was a bit of rain during the days so we did not venture too far.
We saw the street art on the walls in China Town and visited the Cat Museum - apt considering Kuching means cat in Malay language.


Made it down to the waterfront to watch the bridge light up and the fountain water show that they put on two times at night.


Saturday 10th November – day 135

Weather does not look better today at all, but its today or never so we are going to Bako National Park regardless. Robyn has decided to sit today out, so it was just the 3 of us: Dolly, April & I who met Mr Yeo outside the hotel at 8am. He had quoted us 54 myr = $18 each way for the ride to the ferry dock. The only way to get to Bako NP is by water, there are no roads that lead up to the park.

The drive was much shorter than the drive up to Permai, taking about 35 minutes. Arriving in the car park just before 9am. Not sure if it was because it was Saturday, or every day is like this, but the car park was already crowded.

We were directed to a ticket counter where we had to purchase boat tickets 40 myr = $13.50 each return and a guy hung around hassling us for a guide. We had no idea whether we needed a guide or not so shunned him away and hoped we could decide on arrival. Next, we were directed to the National Park entry counter where we had to pay 20 myr = $6.70 each.

We shared the small wooden motor boat with just 2 other tourists and their guide (oops) and of course the boat captain, so luckily it was not overcrowded. And it was compulsory to put on the sticky, stained and tatty life jackets, which I would be very surprised if they would save a life in the condition they were in. But we donned them anyway and were soon motoring up the small river out into the sea and around to the beach where the NP office was.
We had to scramble out of the boat into knee deep water and walk up the beach about 200m to the park buildings. No jetty here and due to the tide times we would not be able to leave until after 2pm when there is enough water for the boats to get across the sea back to the river mouth to take us back. I'm sure we would be able to kill a few hours here.

First stop was the one and only restaurant to have some breakfast that we did not have time to have before our pick up this morning. The food is not worth mentioning so I will just advise about our breakfast companions - a couple of bearded pigs. Yes there is such an animal and here are some pictures to prove it.

After we had eaten we decided to attempt at least a short jungle trek. This seemed to be the most popular option even for the other people we saw who had guides. So we took off on the marked path coming to a boardwalk which lead us over the mangroves. Looking down to the mud there were lots of tiny crabs with one huge claw and also lots of mud skippers. And we were lucky enough to see the resident proboscis monkey. A fine looking specimen, a male who had a noticeably short tail. I overheard a guide advise that this had been amputated as the monkey had been injured and the tail was damaged beyond repair. At the same spot there was also a green viper snake basking in the sun on a tree branch- only snake we had seen in Borneo.


The boardwalk led us into the jungle track where we walked for about an hour and led us out onto the beach. The jungle track was in parts quite difficult to transverse and there was a bit of climbing and struggling over tree roots and rocks. Not helping was the fact that it was so hot and the humidity under the tree cover was just making us all walking waterfalls of sweat. It was a relief when the track opened out to the beach where we saw monkeys and some more bearded pigs roaming around on the beach. We were even more relieved when we were told by someone else's guide that we did not have to walk back through the jungle track but could pay a few dollars to be transported back by boat. And there were a couple of boats waiting just off shore for this very reason. Of course we took up this offer which also included a quick ride around to some rock formations before returning us to the NP office beach. Unfortunately our boat captain managed to get the motor caught up in a fishing net and we had to bob around in the water for about 30 minutes as he cut the entangled net away from the prop of the motor.


The boat returned us to the NP beach where we walked up and had some lunch while we waited for the tide to be right for our return up the river to the start jetty. Mr Yeo was waiting for us to take us back to Kuching. Another great day out.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 00:26 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuching bako Comments (3)

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