The Rainforest World Music Festival

Trip Start Dec 29, 2007
Trip End Dec 12, 2008

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Where I stayed

Flag of Malaysia  , Sarawak,
Monday, July 14, 2008

Thursday 10th July

I went to bed at the hostel in Kuala Lumpur at about midnight, regretting not having gotten around to buying new earlplugs yet, and spent the next four and a half hours lying awake staring at the ceiling, listening to the loudest snoring I have ever heard.  It was quite a relief to get up and out of that room at 4.30am to head to the airport.  The flight to Kuching (in Sarawak, the southern state of Malaysian Borneo) was pretty uneventful and I was happy to be sitting with somebody friendly and chatty, even if he was a little obsessed with taking photos of basically everything - including me, the air hostesses, his in-flight breakfast and various other features of the plane.
My first view of Borneo from the plane took my breath away.  I had no prior expectations of what it would be like here, but the reality would definitely have exceeded any expectations I could have had.  I haven't seen much of Asia yet, but my first impression of Kuching and the surrounding area was of a sense of space and freshness that I haven't yet experienced in Asia.

I had an afternoon nap at the hostel (Singgahsana Lodge is somewhere I would absolutely reccommend to anybody, it's such a nice place) and then went out to buy some ear-plugs, as one of my dorm-mates is a 6-month-old baby.  In the evening I got chatting to a nice Danish girl called Rikke, and we are planning to travel together in Borneo after the festival.  I do feel happy and confident in my own company - I think you have to for a trip like this - but it's still such a nice feeling when you click with someone and meet your next travelling companion!

Friday 11th July

This morning Rikke had to move to another hostel, as they had no room here.  I went along with her and we met up with Lena, a Canadian girl who Rikke had met yesterday.  We went for a coffee and had lunch (beef noodle soup from a hawker stall), and then headed off on a shuttle bus from the town centre to Sarawak Cultural Village, the venue for the Rainforest World Music Festival. 

We walked around the festival site, spending the afternoon browsing stalls and exhibitions from all over the world.  There was a really good balance between international and Malaysian artists.  The bands play in the evening, but during the day the musicians participate in workshops.  We went to a percussion workshop in one of the longhouses (traditional communal houses on stilts) featuring musicians from Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan - all over the place!

In the evening we watched the bands, although we didn't last long by the stage as it poured with rain, so we took refuge in a longhouse and watched from a distance.  My favourite band were a Portuguese group called Fadomorse... I must look up some of these musicians once I'm back home, as I would hate to forget all the beautiful new music I've been hearing here.

Saturday 12th July

This morning I got up early to meet Rikke and Lena, as we had decided to skip the daytime part of the festival today and instead go walking in Bako National Park before going to watch the concerts this evening.  We took a bus from Kuching, and on the way met a really nice German couple called Alex and Gina, and then the five of us took a boat together across to the National Park, which is on the headland between the Sarawak and Bako river mouths.

Together we walked through a mangrove boardwalk and up through the rainforest to a viewpoint overlooking an unspoilt, inaccessible beach.  Then we walked down again to a different beach, and from there took a boat around to a different trail where we had been told there was a good chance of seeing Proboscis monkeys.  We relaxed on the beach for a while and then headed off on the trail.  We were lucky enough to see a Proboscis monkey, as well as lots of the more common macaques, and a viper. 

After the walk we took the boat and bus back to Kuching, said goodbye to Alex and Gina, and went back to our hostels for a quick rest and shower.  Then I met up with Rikke and Lena again and we headed off to the festival for the evening.

For dinner tonight we went family-style and shared lots of small dishes, which we all really enjoyed.  Then we found a spot in the stage area from which we could watch the bands for the evening.  The best one tonight was a Polish band called Beltaine.  After the show finished we had to queue for a ridiculous amount of time for the shuttle bus but we made it back eventually.

Sunday 13th July

This morning I met up with Rikke and Lena for breakfast (well, just a coffee for me as the hostel provides a really good breakfast).  Then we took a bus to the other side of town for the weekend market.  There were the usual tourist parts, nothing very exciting there, but we spent most of our time browsing the local produce which was a much more interesting experience.  The fish and meat markets weren't exactly a pleasant experience but certainly an authentic one!

We went for lunch at an outdoor Lebanese cafe near our hostels, and again shared an assortment of small dishes.  I love how easy it is to eat well out here without the hassle of self-catering that was our only real option in New Zealand - I don't think I've paid much more than 1.50 for a main course since I got here, and that's an expensive one!

After lunch we spent a couple of hours relaxing before catching the shuttle bus to the festival.  There we spent some time browsing the craft stalls for souvenirs and gifts, before finding a nice spot at the edge of the lake to enjoy a cold drink.  Again we had a big shared dinner, topped off with ice cream.  We were just about to leave our lakeside spot to go to the stage area, when the heavens opened.  So, we stayed under the shelter of the big umbrella over our table, and watched the bands on the big screen across the lake.

On the shuttle bus back to the hostel I bumped into my friend Romain, one of the Belgian guys I met in Tioman.  That was a nice unexpected surprise, and I enjoyed catching up with him on the journey back to town.

Monday 14th July

It was another early start today as Rikke, Lena and I wanted to make another trip to Bako National Park before Lena goes home tonight.  On the way there it rained heavily; the rain stopped just before we actually started hiking, but we had to be careful and take it slowly as the leafy rainforest floor was very slippery.  Today we did the Lindang trail, a circular track with some nice viewpoints and a good variety of terrain and vegetation.

As we waited for a boat, we got some biscuits from the cafe to share.  It wasn't long before a macaque, complete with a young baby hanging from her belly, leapt up onto the table, grabbed both packets of biscuits, and made off into the jungle with them - pursued by a boy who works at the cafe using his pocket catapult to pelt her with stones, to no great effect.  There was one beautiful moment when he was leaning over the cafe veranda looking into the jungle for more monkeys to hit, and about two metres from him a monkey sat on a bin calmly watching him.

On the boat ride back, the driver took us close to two crocodiles that he had spotted basking in the afternoon sun.  Once we got back to Kuching we said goodbye to Lena, who flew back to Hong Kong where she is working as a music teacher.  Rikke and I were both sad to see her leave, we've spent a really fun few days together.  It's strange to think that some people are just on holiday for a few days or a week, rather than a few months or a year like most of the fellow backpackers I meet!

Tonight we had dinner by the river with Romain and a couple of people we met at the hostel.  One of them was an Australian guy who used to live in the same Yorkshire town that my sister lives in - what a small world it is!
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