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2018 NOV 5 - 10 MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Kuching

REST IN A HIGH RISE IN 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.

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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.

SEMONGGOH NATURE RESERVE
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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)

2018 NOV 1 - 5 - MALAYSIAN BORNEO - Santubong

SARAWAK - UP TO THE JUNGLE IN SANTUBONG PENINSULA

semi-overcast

**********28 DAYS IN SABAH AND SARAWAK**********

Thursday 1st November – day 126

Big travel day today. We are leaving Sabah and flying down to Sarawak – the southern part of Malaysian Borneo. This involves a flight back to Kota Kinabalu from Sandakan, then another flight from KK to Kuching.

The apartment manager knocked on our door at 7.30am to return the 200 myr bond we had to pay. A nice young girl who was not even interested in looking around to see if we had damaged anything – of course we had not anyway. I called a GRAB and we were in the elevator heading down to meet it by 8am. Our flight was not until 10am but we were not sure if we would need to call 2 GRAB cars to take us and luggage to airport. Luckily, we all fit in the one car and the GRAB price of 6myr = $2 (I gave him 10 myr = $3.30 as he assisted with loading and unloading our bags) was a bargain to take us the 10-minute drive to the airport. Loving these cheap GRAB rides.

So, we were very early for our flight, but were able to check our bags in and then just sat around until it was time to board. All smooth, the flight was about 50 minutes and we were given a meal – hardly enough time to eat it before landing – as I had purchased the flight with luggage and meal deal. The chicken rice meal was quite nice, and I ate most of mine, the others said theirs was very dry and awful looking so did not.

The flight managed to get us into Kota Kinabalu 20 minutes ahead of schedule before 11am, which was not much good for us as our next flight was not until 3.35pm. This time we were too early to be able to check in our luggage, so we sat in Maccas waiting until the 3-hour mark before our flight. Finally, bags dropped in, we still had 3 hours to wait for the flight. We found a seat after going through security check and waited until it was time to go to our boarding gate. Thought it was a good idea to have some lunch before boarding the 2nd plane which was due to land in Kuching at 5pm, and I had not purchased the meal deal on this flight. We had some very ordinary food from Marry Brown, a Malaysian fast food chain. I have eaten at Marry Brown before and it was ok, but here everything was cold and soggy so not very enjoyable at all.

Our flight to Kuching left a little late, and I slept most of the 1 ½ hours it took to get there. On the ground we collected our luggage and had to line up and go through immigration again. This was odd considering we came in on a domestic flight, within Borneo even. They did not stamp our passports but did take photos and finger prints again.

I called for a GRAB car, luckily finding one that would take us all. The fare come up as 78 myr = $26, which was about right compared to an old Lonely Bastard book I am carrying. Our accommodation is a fair way out of Kuching – more than 1 hours drive so this price is pretty good and divided by 4 a real bargain.

We managed to get a nice friendly driver, who played good music we all knew and didn’t flinch when we all sang along.

It was dark by the time we reached our accommodation PERMAI FOREST RETREAT. It’s costing us about $120 per night for the 4 of us with breakfast and dinner included. After checking in, we were given a mud map to show us the way to our cabin, which was about 200 metres away. So, we had to drag our luggage in the dark, although the path was lit up, and granted the path was cemented but there were a few slight inclines which made it quite difficult to struggle with our luggage. Finally, we found the cabin and I must say it was a bit of a surprise. 2 bedrooms with 3 single beds in each room, and a sitting area with limited furnishings and a little mini fridge. No air con, but ceiling fans and open screened windows. And a nice big veranda at the front – it was better than what I had expected.

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Friday 2nd November – day 127

April woke me this morning with ‘Cindy, its 20 to 9, best get up if we want to go to breakfast’. I sat up and dug the breakfast vouchers out of my bag – breakfast finished at 10am, but it was time to get up anyway.

Our cabin is about 100m from the restaurant and we walked the same path that we had dragged our luggage over last night. I looked a little different in the daylight. We could see the ocean, that we could only hear last night, through the trees, it was about 10 meters away. The little bit of sky we could see was unfortunately grey, which meant it was cloudy, and it was hard to tell where the water met the sky on the horizon as they were the same shade.

Breakfast was semi buffet, a help yourself local noodle dish and local bean dish. A couple of cereals, coffee, tea, toast and a guy standing cooking egg omelettes. Bread and a toaster were help yourself and there was an empty plate that was labelled pancakes. The others had toast and eggs, I waited another 10mins for some fresh pancakes to come out. They were ok, a bit stodgy but ok. Breakfast in included in our room rate.

We sat around chatting and admitting the view from the dinning room. Then April suggested we try the jungle ‘walk’ to the waterfall. Everyone was keen, so April and I walked over the wooden boardwalk to the reception as it was a requirement to register when you did a walk.

The beginning of the track was not far from our cabin, just past the jungle pool, which we thought would be nice for a dip on our return. The map from reception claimed the walk was 2km round trip. It was fairly easy walking, although we were steadily climbing up. About an hour in, we came across 2 Dutch guys (in their 60’s) who had started the track from the other side and said it was pretty hard going and did not think we could make it. They had already been walking for almost 2 hours. We were less than half way so when we walked a little further and came to a part of the track that was climbing over huge boulders with the aid of a rope, we all agreed it would be best for us to turn back an go the way we come.

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We had walked for almost 2 hours by the time we returned to the jungle pool. Dolly and I were the only ones who braved the cool water. Dolly already had her swimmers on and I just took off my shorts and went in knickers and t shirt, I was dripping wet with sweat anyway. April decided to walk back to reception to advise them we were back, to avoid a search party being sent out and Robyn returned to the cabin for a shower.
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After our swim, Dolly & I returned to the cabin for a shower and we all had a bit of a relax after our strenuous effort for today. Shame about the waterfall, however when I asked the Dutch men about the waterfall, they just said it was a trickle of water, so we did not miss much I am guessing.
Worst part is, my camera has died! Yes, the new one that Robyn brought over for me from Australia. I too some photos during the walk and it just stopped working. I don’t seem to have much luck with cameras at all, hopefully it will come good.

After showers and a rest, we headed out to find some lunch. April decided to stay in and rest some more so just the 3 of us headed out to see what we could find. The restaurant here does do lunch but after a look at the menu it seemed a little pricy for local food. We walked into the village and found a big food court in a type of shopping centre. Here there was a lot to choose from, all at good local prices. There was also a 711 store and a couple of other shops selling assorted goods and souvenirs. We had a browse through them all to kill some time then strolled back to our bungalow. The sun was out, and it was still hot, nice blue sky.

Our included dinner was nothing exciting, they served the good old chicken curry again, but tonight was corn soup which I filled up on as I thought it was very tasty.

Saturday 3rd November – day 128

I was woken up by a clap of thunder at about 1am. It sounded like it was going to rain so I got up out of bed and went outside and took in my washing which I had left out to dry overnight. Good thing I did too, as I’m not sure how much later but it did rain for the rest of the night. It sounded like quite hard rain but it’s a little hard to tell as we are surrounded by trees and perhaps it was the sound of the rain coming through them that made it sound so loud. In any case, it did rain and was still pouring down when we woke in the morning.

At around 9.30am we headed up for breakfast and there was hardly a spit of rain falling by then, but the day looked like it was going to stay grey for the duration. It’s a little cooler but still you can feel the humidity. Not much we can do when the weather is like this, hardly the beach weather we were hoping to at this location.

Breakfast was the same, fried or omelette eggs cooked on demand, with tea, coffee and stodgy pancakes. Sorry I cannot get excited about the food here, am so over ‘Asian’ everyday food so will not dwell on it.

So, looks like a reading books, catching up on blog sort of day today, as although the rain has stopped its gloomy.
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The activities advertised here by our accommodation are very expensive, and we cannot do them anyway as they involve going in a boat on the sea and we have been advised it is too rough for the boats to go out. A 3 in 1 trip which is snorkelling from an island, attempting dolphin watching and a mangrove tour is 250 myr = $83 per person. I thought it might have been 250 myr per boat but no it was confirmed per person. This is a very expensive excursion, but it’s irrelevant anyway because the boats are not going.

And my camera is still cactus! I was kinda hoping it was spring back into life after it cooled down a bit, but it’s still as dead, refusing to do anything.
The sky had cleared a little by 2.30pm when we ventured out to the village to get some lunch. On the way passing through reception I stopped to ask if it was possible to change our reservation from 5 nights to 4 nights. The young girl asked by me why and I said because of the weather is not so nice we have nothing to do here. Luckily, they were able to change the Booking.com reservation without any problems because we had not yet paid. I will have to look and see if I can change the booking for our hotel in Kuching town for an extra night. At least if we are in the town we might be able to do something.

We returned to the same food hall we visited yesterday, today I had a chicken chop with chips and a coffee milkshake, all for 15 myr = $5 – so food is cheap enough that’s for sure.
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After we had eaten we did another lap of the same shops as yesterday, however April was not with us yesterday and we had nothing better to do anyway.

Returning to our accommodation, we had tried to take a look at the flash resort next to ours, but you cannot go in without paying a 10 myr day pass. Weren’t that interested to see inside so we decided against it. Back in our reception I managed to get onto the interest to try and change our booking for Kuching. Booking could not be changed, but I was able to just book another night in the same hotel, same type of room so all good there.

I then contacted the GRAB guy who took us from the airport up to here to collect us on Monday and drive us to Kuching. He had a nice big car that fit us all and luggage comfortably. He responded and will be here on Monday at 12 to collect us.

With not much else to do we relaxed until it was time for sunset where we took a seat on the restaurant balcony. There was not much of a sunset view due to trees, but there was cloud cover as well so it was not a great sunset anyway. As the restaurant did not serve any alcohol, we ordered mocktails and took our own Malibu to add to it. That was not very successful either as most of the mocktails were not available either. I ended up with an orange juice with a scoop of ice cream, which tasted ok with a dash of Malibu splashed in (on the sly). Dolly and Robyn had a coconut with a scoop of ice cream and a good splash of Malibu – April decided on nothing. There was no pineapple available, so the choice was very limited.
We sat and watched what we could see of the sunset and then went to dinner. Returning to our cabin it had not rained all afternoon or evening, but I’m sure there was more rain to come.

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Sunday 4th November – day 129

The rain first woke me at about 12.30am. I guess it was heavy as it was loud enough to wake me. It was still showering when we woke up later in the morning. Being under tree cover its often hard to tell if its actual rain or tree drops that are falling on the roof of our cabin.

Walking up to breakfast didn’t even warrant a rain cape but the rain looks like it has set in for the day. We had a long leisurely breakfast, not in a hurry to go or do anything again today. The breakfast is ok as they serve help yourself toast, and someone is there to cook an egg omelette or fried egg, so at least breakfast is hot. Not the usual luke warm food served at dinner.

As I sit in our cabin typing this it sounds like the rain has set in for the day. On other days it has usually stopped and started to clear by nearly midday. We don’t mind lazing around, but how much relaxing can one do?

2.45pm we decided it was dry enough to wander into town to the food court for dinner. Yes, the rain was finished, and it was a muggy as anything. Everything feels slightly wet, washing that has been hanging for 2 days refuses to dry and even clothing that has not touched water since the last machine was even feels damp. Things could easily go very mouldy here very fast.

Being Sunday, the food court was busy, even at this late time of 3pm. I had the same meal of chicken chop and chips as I had yesterday as it was so tasty, and I’m done with rice and noodles if there is a choice. We did not linger around after lunch as the local karaoke was starting to make our ears bleed. I was about to grab the mike and have a go as it was obvious singing talent was not needed in this entertainment. Instead we walked back to the cabin and waited for dinner time to click around.

Our last dinner was not memorable so nothing to advise there. It had not rained at all during the afternoon, although the sea still looked choppy and uninviting.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 23:24 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo kuching Comments (0)

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