Just for fun

Postcard from… Kuching

There are a lot of good sides when travelling early before beholding the sun. You can:

1. Avoid traffic congestion

2. No need to endure the increasing heat like 4pm in the noon

3. Catch a glimpse of the sunrise on the plane if it isn’t a gloomy day;

And the best bit is you don’t have to waste your life during wee hours because of sleeping!

clockwise from top left: Harbour View Hotel in line with Tua Pek Kong Temple facing a colourful cinema | St Joseph Cathedral | Tua Pek Kong Temple during evening | Sarawak Museum

Thanks to an early flight at the crack of dawn, we landed at the Kuching International Airport as early as 0900GMT in the morning – just another benefit when you wake up early and travel – the subsequent 12 hours were generally ours to make use. After checking in and a brief rest at the Harbour View Hotel, which commands a superb vista of the Kuching River and a couple of interesting places like the Kuching Waterfront from the looking glass of our 10th-level room, we were ready to probe into everything that the City of Cats has to offer to us.

from left: Carpenter Street entrance | Sarawak Textile Museum | n/a

As most of the places of interest in the city are located within walking distance, we visited most of them by foot, namely the oldest museum in Borneo – Sarawak Museum (1888), another museum that exhibits mostly craft arts – Textile Museum (1907), some well-known streets in the city like the Carpenter Street, India Street and Kuching’s oldest street – Main Bazaar, which has a high concentration of all kind of handicrafts and souvenirs traded in ancient Chinese shop-house. Sarawak’s famous Kek Lapis can also be found along the Main Bazaar shop-house lot.

clockwise from top left: New Bangunan DUN Sarawak from across the river | Kuching Waterfront's observation tower during dusk | Kuching River night landscape, far across the river on the right side is the Astana, a palace built by Charles Brooke for his wife, Margaret

Maybe because we stayed in the older part of Kuching city which is quieter, we encountered some difficulties when looking for dinner. We went back to the kopitiam earlier where we had our lunch at Carpenter Street as it was the only restaurant available. Instead of ordering again the foods that we tried earlier like the kolok mee and fish tauhu soup, we opted for some local dishes served with rice which we found them to be tasty but curiously expensive. I personally liked the dining experience at Kuching as the place is surprisingly clean, with only very little litter that can be noticed. The same goes to the condition on the road as well. Due to its cleanliness factor, it’s no surprise that the city is considered as one of the world’s healthiest cities by the World Health Organization.

As a matter of fact I didn't really take down most of the food photos it should be more than these. Emm must try harder.

Apart from the great native tribes like the Iban, Melanau, Orang Ulu and etc., this place is also apparently dwelled by another form of creature – cats, although I don’t really often catch a sight of cats in the city. Perhaps it’s merely about symbolism. If you’re a cat lover, Hello Kitty, Doraemon or even Garfield fanatic, you might not want to miss the one of its kind Cat Museum. Some lovers of this feline animal from places across the world purposely send in letters with special cat stamps to the museum to be put on display.

'Cats' in the Museum

In addition to knowledge in geography and history, a good tourist guide must also understand the culture and background of their clients. Especially being a tourist guide in the nation’s largest state where distance between destinations could prove to be a stumbling block, carefully selecting the appropriate spot of interest is crucial. On a bright second day, we were introduced to a Chinese temple that is strangely located in a Malay village far outskirt from the city – the Muara Tebas Temple. Built 200 years ago, this temple was a place of worshiping among the travellers who landed safely after sailing across the South China Sea.

Here, at the Qing San Yan, travellers gave gratitudes after safely crossing the South China Sea.

Like their cats counterpart who made their name in Kuching, Sarawak is also infamous for its crocodiles, I mean, killer crocs. The rivers in Sarawak are often synonym with headlines of man-eater crocodile’s assaults, with the most remarkable onslaught happened in 1992 – When an Iban girl was murdered by a gargantuan crocodile that reigned and frightened the villagers for nearly a century, Bujang Senang, as the villagers called it, was finally killed after 4 hours of hard-fought battle between the men and the beast.

Jong's Crocodile Farm and a host of other animals in it

The breeding farm also set aside a site to exhibit photos and newspaper reports of past crocodile’s assaults headlines. The images are somewhat to some extent, gory, as it can be seen clearly the severity of wounds that a killer croc can cause. You can spare a few minutes to search for related gallery on the web if my statement failed to please your curiosity.

hidden beauties in the Land of Hornbills

Not everyone likes a trek deep in the jungle, people such as myself is one example. Every now and then when I venture into the jungle, a bad unpleasant feeling follows right behind me. If you ask me why, I’ll yell at you and tell it’s mainly connected with nasty experiences of blood-suckin’ leeches and my subjective phobia towards creepy-crawlin’ creatures. Truthfully I’d rather get stung by irritating mosquitoes than to lose my blood to bloody leeches. Watching those teeny-weeny invertebrate livin’ thing wigglin’ round my toes can make my hair all stand up in the split seconds. That being said, of all the numerous extraordinary national parks that the Land of Hornbills has to offer to me, I can only say yes to Bako National Park, and that also had to be done in a reluctant manner.

View of the Paku Bay after hiking up and low in the jungle for 0.8KM! (the shortest trekking trail of all!) I hate jungle trekking!

I remember seeing a comment made by anonymous that goes more or less like this,

“Don’t say you’ve travelled to all the places in the world until you reach Malaysia.”

Aside from being the largest state in Malaysia sprawling across loosely the size of the Peninsular, Sarawak is also best note by housing the nation’s most multi-ethnic groups in one single state, which simply connotes startling culture transcendence. It might not be easy for someone to encounter another similar place outside of Malaysia like what Sarawak is blessed.

clockwise from top left: Bidayuh woman rice grinding demonstration | Mrs Iban traditional cloth knitting | Mr Funny Orang Ulu poses for the camera | Congkak in Malay House | almost every different ethnic's staircases are made of trunk | Mr Bidayuh smoking with bamboo pipe | Iban's musical instruments | Malay woman found singing gracefully in Malay House

cultural performances being orchestrated in the theatre

Staying three days in Kuching is basically sufficient but not if you were to explore Sarawak into its depth. According to a young Penan native, a trip back to his village in Belaga takes about 3 days by boat cruising along the river leading deep into the interior. As such he will only return when the Gawai Dayak Festival is held annually. Since the state comprises more than 40 sub-ethnic groups that distinct from each other in term of culture, language and lifestyle, prolonged stay is absolutely needed in order to truly learn what the diverse state has in store.

The Native Hunter Show

Elsewhere you can visit the Sarawak Cultural Village situated at the foot of the mysterious Mount Santubong. Hailed as the living museum by many, the 14 acre village showcases various replica of houses the indigenous tribes live in along with demonstration of their daily activities like sago processing and traditional music and games. You can easily spend a half day here talking with the locals who live in it and at the same time get an insight of how their lifestyle is like. This might as well saves you the time from the need to visit the interior if you’are staying in Sarawak for only a few days.

Sarawak Cultural Village showcasing the living shelters of seven different ethnic groups, namely Bidayuh Long-house, Penan Hut, Chinese Farm-house, Iban Long-house, Malay House, Melanau Tall-house and Orang Ulu Long-house

Travelling with family is indeed far different from travelling on oneself. It’s really two different things. But you can’t compare it as it’s ultimately boiled down to the personal thing, that’s how you yourself decipher the meaning “travel”. I still like travelling the harder way – adventurous (no jungle-trekking) and with sense of “money-wise”, when a map is always in my hand and preferably with a mate of two, and I could still get a decent bed to sleep in after a whole arduous day of exploring, also not forgetting yielding the biggest pleasure and satisfaction out of the least possible money.

Sarawak in History

I’ve always been wanting to write a travelogue on trip to mainland of South East Asia. Hopefully that will happen in the near future. Meanwhile, I’ll be visiting to Cameron Highlands next week and the Pearl of Orient, Penang the ensuing week with my bunch of friends. Let’s see how will I reflect on the impending expeditions. Hope you enjoy the photos, stories and the journey.

Until the next “Postcard from” update, ciao!