Last Stop on Borneo

Trip Start Apr 01, 2016
Trip End May 11, 2016

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Flag of Malaysia  , Sarawak,
Saturday, April 23, 2016

Today we were in the other Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, Sarawak, probably best known for its orang utans (their spelling, not mine!).  More about that  later.  What is now Sarawak was once under the control  of the Sultan of Brunei.  In 1841 he ceded the territory  to a British explorer, James Brooke, as a reward his assistance in quelling civil unrest and chaos.  Three generations of Brookes, who became known as the White Rajahs, ruled for 100 years.  In 1888 Sarawak and Brunei became British Protectorates.  In 1941 the Japanese invaded the area, and Sarawak remained part of the Empire of Japan for three years and eight months. Sarawak was  officially granted self-government on 22 July,1963 and later that year formed the federation of Malaysia with Malaya, North Borneo, and Singapore.  Malaysia is a young country.

The three main ethnic classifications of the population are the indigenous people (tribal), Chinese, and Malays. This is in contrast to the other Malaysian state of Sabah, which has very few Chinese.  The religious makeup of the population is 42% Christian, 32% Islam, and 16% Buddhist.  Sarawak is the only state in Malaysia where Christians outnumber Muslims.

 We explored Kuching, the capital, which is considered one of Malaysia's most charming and laidback cities.  We started our day at the Semmenggoh Willdilfe Center, which was established  to care for wild animals which have either been found injured in the forest, orphaned, or were previously kept as illegal pets.  The Centre has been a resounding success, caring for almost 1,000 endangered mammals, birds and reptiles from dozens of different species. However it is the orang utan rehabilitation program that has made the Centre famous.  Today there are twenty-seven orang utans in residence,  The Centre is located in a deep forest; heavy ropes have  been strung among the  trees to bring them to the feeding stations twice a day, and they KNOW when it's time for a meal!  We had less than an hour to observe them; tourists are allowed into the park only twice a day for the feeding times.  They really are smart.  Most of the ones we saw had snagged coconuts from the feeding stations, and took off on the ropes and the trees to enjoy them.  They first stripped off the husks of the coconuts, then banged it on the tree trunk to open the top.  Next they tipped it up to drink the milk inside, then proceeded to crack it open so that they could enjoy the meat of the coconut.

We returned to the city of Kuching, which translates to 'cat'; we passed the large, colorful sculpture of kitty cats, and noticed later that many of the souvenir T-shirts had images of cats on them.

Our next stop was a photo op at the central mosque, covered in gold as usual.  In front of the mosque there was a Muslim graveyard.  Each body is buried so that they are facing Mecca, and there is a marker at each end of the cemetery plot.

We visited the Sarawak Museum, which was hot, poorly lit, and filled with stuffed snakes, moth-eaten squirrels and monkeys, and two killer whale skeletons.  I never made it to the second floor, but did find the ladie's room, which was much more important to me.  Our guide had to give me a coin so that I could get in.  And that doesn't even buy you TP!

Our final stop was a shopping area along the river, which had been landscaped  and modernized in 1990; it was a very pleasant place to stroll or sit on a bench and watch the world go by.  Once again we had no local currency, but fortunately some of the shops took US dollars.  My sole purchase was half a kilo of black pepper corns for $7 USD, which are considered to be among the best in the world.

We have some SERIOUS shoppers on  the cruise.  One couple already has two suitcases filled with stuff.  I'm at the other end of the scale, because I have no room at home for any more 'things'.  So far, I've bought two small hand-made pottery bowls in Okinawa (had to get rid of our Japanese currency), booze and the pepper corns.  I'm looking forward to doing more damage in Bali, our next stop.

The sunset tonight was you'll see in the photos.
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Marie Busch on

Great sunset.

Ricki McMillian on

Wow what a sunset you sent our way. Love your descriptions and your usual humor. Then there are Don's wonderful photography. Thank you for the journey.

Bev Conrad Waggener on

I am looking forward to your blog on Bali. That is on my list I hope I don't always have to live vicariously thru your blog. Enjoy

Jan Brookshire on

Those sunset pictures are amazing. Thank you Don.

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