This is the last entry in our blog series for Borneo. To read our Borneo travel journal from the start, click here
Our first impressions of Kuching, Sarawak’s capital, were extremely positive. A friendly local helped us catch a bus into town, where we were greeted by a group of teens running a charity marathon who all shouted ‘Good morning!’ to us. This hospitality was extended by everyone we met, and we found Kuching (and Sarawak) to be far friendly, and more Malay in vibe, than Sabah. Although our week there wasn’t the most eventful, we had a lot of fun – namely because we were hanging out with our new buddies, Nichola and Jack that we met back in Uncle Tan’s Jungle Lodge.
Town itself is very cute – all Chinese shophouses, Buddhist temples, old Dutch buildings and a pretty waterfront adorned with a golden assembly building that looks like a spray-painted sister of the Sydney Opera House. After soulless Brunei, it felt like a place rooted in real history and culture, and you could see the melange of immigrant groups that we’d come to love in Malaysia – from ‘Jalan India’ with its tasty restaurants serving hot roti canai, to the hawker centres of Chinatown.
We spent much of our time in town food touring the local markets, trying delicacies like punchy noodle soup Sarawak Laksa, and tasty beef noodles. Everyone we met was so friendly – from restaurateurs that remembered us and gave us discounts for our repeated visits, to shopkeepers who told us about hidden sights, to our hotel staff who plied us with cheap booze (a rarity in Borneo!) and endless hospitality. A much less religious, and more informal culture, we found the locals here to be far more easy going than in neighbouring Sabah, and consequently everything felt far more relaxed.
In our time in town we checked out a few great sights, like the Chinese Museum (small, but modern and well curated), and the ‘hidden mosque’ which sits within a labyrinth of lanes in the centre of town. We also spent a few hours in the fantastic Sarawak Museum – an ethnographic museum documenting Sarawak’s culture, containing such delights as bad taxidermy monkeys, photos of the Queen visiting Kuching, a life-size model of a longhouse, complete with interior, and many displays of tribalwear.
In the evenings, we often hung out with Nicola and Jack at their homely hostel, where we drank a lot of spirits, chatted, laughed, met their mates and hostel buddies, and spent subsequent days idling around town eating lots of curries and noodles. It was pretty dreamy! They even had a TV room and DVD player at their hostel, so we spent a cosy evening watching films together which was super nice, and felt like home! Plus, we watched Django Unchained. What a FILM!
We even took a trip out of town together, to nearby Bako National Park, which was pretty fun as we made a great four, with plenty of lols to fill the days! Sadly though, Bako itself was a bit disappointing, as we failed to see the park’s most famous inhabitant, the penis-nosed probiscus monkey! Unfortunately we were also there in jellyfish season, meaning we couldn’t swim in the sea, but we did get the chance to see some massive jellyfish washed up on the shore which was pretty cool!
Despite this, we spent a fun couple of days there, trekking through challenging jungle and mangrove, boating around the coast to see the famous jutting bits of peninsula (meh), and monkey-spotting near our chalet. The park was also lousy with these huge wild boar things that were pretty fun to watch. They looked like something out of the Lion King!
The staff at the park were pretty terrible, and not very helpful, (apart from treating Jack when he impaled his foot on a spike.. the medical staff were pretty good!) and the dining room took the piss with the cost of the (terrible) food, so we rebelled by hiding high-value food (like chicken nuggets) under piles of low-value foods (like noodles). A life of serious crime awaits! We also had some spotty weather, with a bit of rain in the afternoon, but we passed the hours exchanging travel tales, eating biscuits and loudly bitching about some of the ‘Spring Break’ tourists also at the Park. After a couple of days we were done with the park, and after a quick look around the ‘museum’ and some honest customer feedback (Nichola wrote that the staff needed to be friendlier… only to be scowled at on our way out! FFS!) we left the park and headed back to Kuching for one last booze-up.
After our buddies had left we had a couple of days to kill before our flight, where I’m sad to say we didn’t do much apart from eating and lazing around, but given we only had 14 days left of our travel, we were lapping up the freedom and just enjoying it!
Then, to our next stop – back to the Malay Peninsula, and after a brief (necessary) stop in KL – onto the Perenthian Islands!