Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Jul 15, 2008

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

March 29, 2007
Bus to Bintulu

The facilities at Niah Cave National Park are excellent and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. In fact, unless you are keen on bat pooh a short visit to the caves is about all you need and the rest of the time can be spent lounging in your spacious jungle chalet and at the very atmospheric camp restaurant. Sometimes we get things right and staying here was one of those things. But we have to move on. We have relatives of friends waiting for us down the road in Bintulu. Our friend Michael told us that as long as we were going around the world we should stop in to see his brother Dave and sister-in-law Carol in Sarawak. Turns out they live in Bintulu. But they are real people with regular work a day lives, including two young girls in elementary school, even though they live in this jungle paradise. School means vacations and they are leaving town to go to Bangkok April 1 for the kid's spring break. So we have to get there before they leave. At least long enough to get photos of us all together to send back to Michael.

A taxi from the park back to the bus stop at that strange Food Court at the Batu Niah junction costs RM 30.00. The bus to Bintulu cost RM20.00 for both of us together. We are the only passengers on the bus. Carol picked us up at the bus station and took us to their very modern home in the Bintulu suburb of Kidurong. We had time to unpack and then see a bit of the city before picking the girls up at their private international school. David is not home but off at his job site on the Bakun Dam project. It's about a two hour drive for him back to Bintulu so he has a house at the damn site where he stays during the week. Don't worry about the expense, his house there and as well as in Bintulu are paid for by his employer, an Australian engineering consultant company, including utilities. In fact his children's school tuition is covered also. The down side is that he's stuck off in the jungle most of the time away from his family. In some cases this could be a blessing, but his wife is a sweetheart and his daughters, 6 year old Sam and 8 year old Peggy are the smartest and cutest kids we've meet east of the South China Sea. We had a good time exploring the city with Carol and the girls, including the city zoo and the Chinese Temple. We also met Carol's house lady, Sherrie who escorted us across the river to the traditional Malay river town of Kampung Jepak with houses built on stilts next to the water. We also ate well from the menu of traditional Sarawak foods. Arvid tried laksa and noodles as well as a bunch of weird things at the traditional day market. Carol was a big help in shopping because she is Chinese and speaks both Mandarin and English fluently. Since most of the shops are run by people of Chinese descent she could act as our interpreter. Her Malay wasn't that good but where they only spoke Malay she could usually find a local who spoke both Chinese and Malay so the translation would take another step.

March 30, 2007
Bintulu family life.

We sleep in late this morning while Carol takes the kids to school. Afterwards we see more of the city and get a package of souvenirs together to be shipped back home. Shipping stuff back is always a hassle. Sometimes we have to use shipping companies like DHL, which is very expensive. Here in Malaysia we can use the post office. But for some reason we can only ship by air out of Bintulu. The freight charge for our 10 kilo box would be RM500 by air. But if we can get it to Kuching we can ship it by boat for RM100. A big difference, so we'll take it there.

Much of the time we relax around the house with the kids watching the Disney Channel just like any American family with kids that age. Peggy and Arvid play a couple games of chess but he's not the challenge she was hoping to hone her skills on in preparation for the school tournament. Carol and the girls are taking piano lessens so we often hear piano music in the house. It's a lovely peaceful family environment. But the house is on the edge of the subdivision and across the fence the jungle starts. The jungle creatures don't respect the boundary line and the family has found about half dozen cobras in their back yard. One came right up to the patio window to look in. That can be scary when you have two little girls running around back there. David will be back from the Bakun Dam site this evening. While we are waiting we get on Carol's computer and look for cheap flights from Kuching to Johor Bahru on the peninsula. We had thought of flying or taking a boat to Singapore but we learned that it is cheaper to take Air Asia to Johor from Kuching. And Johor is just across the bridge from Singapore. The more we read and hear about Singapore the less time we want to spend there. We may just take a day trip there from Johor. On line tickets for both of us from Kuching to Johor on Air Asia cost RM289.98 including taxes.

When David arrives we discover he looks just like his brother Michael, but with more hair and more talkative. We learn about his engineering career which has taken him all over the world. He was raised in the metro Detroit area but earned his engineering degree in Germany, which required him to learn German. This evening we go to a sidewalk restaurant where we try more Sarawak style food. All very good with lots of the spicy pepper that Sarawak is famous for.

March 31, 2007
Bintulu is not a tourist town, but rather an industrial town basically centered on natural gas production by Dutch Shell. Still David finds a few more sights of interest to show us today. Tomorrow the family flies to Thailand for a week of shopping and play in Bangkok during the girls' spring break. While we are in town David drives us to the bus station where he get tickets for tonight's bus to Kuching. The price for two tickets is RM120. We'll leave about 8:30 PM and arrive about 6AM tomorrow morning. We've had a real nice time with David, Carol and the girls. It has been interesting to see how expats who are fortunate enough to work in paradise actually live. It's nice but hard to have a family life. David is fortunate that Carol is willing to travel to these assignments with him. The girls are well taken care of and we can't help but believing that having the chance to live among such diverse cultures will be a great learning experience for them.
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