Sarawak - a complete unknown to me!

Trip Start Feb 01, 2011
Trip End Mar 31, 2011

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Where I stayed
ThreeHouse B&B, Kuching

Flag of Malaysia  , Sarawak,
Wednesday, March 2, 2011

2nd Mach - flew from Penang to Kuching - flight on time and no problems.  However, the airport is quite a long way outside the city - taxi RM25 to get into town.  Kuching is on a lovely river with a very nice waterfront walkway.  There are lots of hotels, coffee shops, market places and hawker stands to buy food.  There is also a lovely golf course nearby, which I went to see, but did not play.  My friend, Maya, who I met in Chiang Mai at a Thai cookery class, looked after me royally - she was wonderful.

Things to see there - I spent my first day walking around the place - topped up my phone - went to tourist info office and the Forestry Office to book my stay in the Bako National Park.  I had intended to stay 3 nights there but there was only space for 2 nights.  I walked along the river and had good coffee and a warm blueberry muffin in the Deli Cafe - that became one of my favourite coffee shops!  I also made arrangements to go to see the Orang-utans the next day.  A bus takes you to the entrance of the Semmengoh Rehab Centre - there are only 2 visits per day - one at 9 am and the other at 3 pm - for one hour each time.  I chose the 9 am visit.  When the bus drops you off you have a 15 minute walk into the Jungle, where you are met by one of the rangers.  You are given instructions on what not to do while there - the whole visit is well organised.  The ranger takes you to the feeding platforms but you are about 50 ft away from the orang-utans.  You can watch and take pictures (no talking).  I was fortunate that the man standing beside me had a professional camera with tele-photo lens - he got great pics and is going to email them to me - my camera is fine for normal situations but has not the long range lens he had - but, I am happy he has offered to send me really good pics.  After the visit finished at 10 am I went on a guided walk through part of the park and got the bus back to town at noon.  I spent the afternoon visiting a mosque, and some historical buildings from Brookes time there - another British influence.

Next day I went to Bako NP - one hour on a bus - 15 mins on a long-tail boat with a motor - a bit scary because when we met the open sea, the boatman had to skilfully ride the waves which were coming towards us - he obviously has been doing this for years - it looked like the way surfers ride a wave - it was exciting but scary at the same time.  When we got to Bako we had to take off our shoes, get into the water and walk ashore!!  We (I was with 2 French chaps, Cedric and Raphael) were lucky to get on the last boat to the park as the tide was going out and the next boat would be 1.30 pm!!  We got a boat at 9 am.  The boat costs RM47 and can take up to 5 people - the bus to the park is RM3.50 and overnight stays are RM106 per night if you have your own room with air-con (which you need).  When you sign in you have to say what trails you intend to walk and this is registered in a book - you must sign out on your return, as this book is checked at night to see if all have returned or a search party has to be sent looking for you. 

In total, I did three hikes - two of them with the French boys, who were really good company.  Some of it was pretty hard going, a lot of climbing up the jungle paths, with wooden steps, climbing over tree roots and rocks - you lose gallons of water through perspiration - you also drink lots of water, which you have to carry with you, plus snacks and fruit.  It is so much better walking with other people - if anything happened on the way at least you have help.

The first day, we set off at 9.30 am and got back at 3.30 pm - I went out like a light when I fell into bed at 8 pm!!  The good thing was that it was worth it - the views - the proboscis monkeys, the snakes, wild boar, huge insects, scorpions etc and of course the birds.  The biggest pests were the macaque monkeys - they would steal the food out of your hand and if they heard a rustle of paper or plastic they appeared like magic to see what was available for them.  One lady at the restaurant bought a can of coke, put it down to get a straw, the macaque leapt onto the table, drank it down in one go and then tried to eat the can - they will even take the food out of your hand and can be quite aggressive!  We had some heavy rain and thunder during the first night so the next day we were advised what trails were the safest.  There were many nationalities at the lodge, but mostly from Germany, Holland, Denmark and Australia - one English lady and an Irish couple.  In the evenings, people sat around in the restaurant and chatted about their trip.  I met a really nice couple, Monika and Tomas from the Chech Republic, who were staying in the house next to mine.  We sat on the verandah in the evening and chatted about the trip and other places they had been.  We took another trail together but could not go the full length as the tide was in and it was impassable, but we enjoyed it anyway.  they have very kindly offered to show me Prague when I am there in May, and have also invited me to their home, not very far outside Prague.  I am really looking forward to meeting up with them again - thank you Monika and Tomas - very kind people.

The trails normally ended down at a totally secluded beach - only other way of getting to these beaches was by boat when the tide was in.  Of course, you had to climb all the way back up again to get back to base.  However, it was a fantastic few days and I really enjoyed the hikes and being with nature.  Thank you Cedric and Raphael for your company.

On my return to Kuching, I only had another day there and then I was on the move to my next destination - Sibu.  I left Kuching on 7th March by Express Boat and arrived in Sibu at 1.30 pm - 5 hours on a boat - I got a first-class ticket (only RM45) and had a good seat upstairs in the boat.  I could go in and out onto the deck when I wanted to take photos.  However, the air-con was freezing - no way of reducing it - you either freeze or swelter - no happy medium!
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