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!

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Just for fun

Postcard from… Taiping

Same old me, always delaying. Today is exactly one week since coming home from Taiping. Yeah, Luke and I backpacked to Taiping! It was one hell of a trip as I didn’t really prepare myself mentally or physically to be honest. Two days before the trip I got a call from Luke (herein will be referred to as Lychee or Raymond Lam Fung) out of the blue asking me to be his fellow traveler. I was in the mood of traveling, in fact not long ago I successfully booked tickets via AirAsia to Kuching next year, and poisoning from programs on Discovery Travel & Living and real life influence from my friend, Deco who had recently returned safely from his first ever backpacking trip. So I was quick to reply a yes after short consideration. In the next 48 hours I could be seen in front of the computer, doing this and that, got my ten fingers in ten pies, none of what I did was related to the impending trip though. I was still awake on the night before the trip 0300 hours to blow my wet sandal I washed earlier with a hairdryer.

Of course, as clever as always, I managed to wake up the next morning, although not exactly on time. After a quick bath, and grabbing my gears and gadgets off I go to the Pudu Bus Station with Lychee. You would think we were going on a trip aimlessly wouldn’t you? Well, I certainly know the importance of preparation before a trip. On the bus Luke said he’s nervous LOL.

29 Nov 2009 1200 GMT: After 4 hours of bus journey, we arrived at Kamunting Bus Station 1200 hours sharp. We then continue our journey to Taiping on a taxi although there are omnibus services at the bus station as we figured out it’ll take more time for the bus to leave according to schedule. As a side note, the taxi operators are uniformed in bright orange as required by their association of taxi operators on every Sunday according to our driver. The fares are also fixed accordingly and for ours trip RM8.00 will be charged. I remembered 4 years ago at KL I was charged the double of the price I’m paying now for a similar service. Our driver was kind enough to introduce a few interesting places along the short 15 minutes journey before reaching Taiping. We stopped perfectly at a casual market where a food court is just right in it besides the public taxi station. Time for lunch! We ordered some of the recommended cuisines we saw from internet like Fried Fishball Kueyteow, Popiah, ABC, rojak and Eight Treasures Tea. For certain reasons we actually took quite a long time in ordering food although we had already decided what to eat, maybe it was because of the bags that we were carrying people turn their eyes to us most of the time which made us feel a tad of awkward. Strange to say but there’s a “rule” in the food court that’s if you’re ordering drink from a beverages stall you would be better off sitting nearby to them or else they might not want to serve you even if you order from them. Having satisfying enough of our taste buds, we were on the move again, and off we go to explore the city of everlasting peace, with heaps of historical traces.

around Taiping

clockwise from top left: Taiping Market or Old Market | backview of District Office | 1930-built now shop lot with accomodation service | Kwang Tung Association building

Just when we were about to leave our table a young girl came and said to me I haven’t pay for the ABC. All blame it upon Mr Raymond Lam for he didn’t tell me the drink is unpaid yet. Taiping is a fairly compact town, with two major roads (Jalan Kota and Jalan Taming Sari) stretching from one end to the other end, connecting every parts of the town are the occasion cross streets, which made destinations and places of interest accessible by walking distance. The town also receives the highest rainfalls in the Peninsular, as you can see in the photographs most of the time the skies are cloudy and dark. I saw a man talking on the phone in Cantonese saying some vulgar words cursing the sky because it started to rain.

around Taiping

clockwise from top: cross road like this made up the town of Taiping | Lychee checking his hair in front of an unusable red telephone booth | we had to rely on this map on display in the Perak Museum for the rest of the day | Clock Tower with tourist information counter but it was closed on Sunday, we had no map!

Thanks to Mr Lychee’s bloody brilliant idea to travel on Sunday where some of the most important places like the tourist information counter below the Clock Tower is closed on Sunday! We then went to 7-11 and Popular bookstore to look for a town map but we can’t seem to find any. Eventually we found a map on display in the Perak Museum so we took a picture of it.

around Taiping

top two images: birds lining along on the cable and lamp post besides the Taiping Market | a white stork caught flying across the top of a building

Went into The Store too, no town map as well, but got myself some Carera ball pens (B-1). I don’t understand why must I go hundreds of kilometers away from home to buy a Carera product. The last time I bought the B-1s was at the KB Mall at Kelantan.

around Taiping

clockwise from top left: Perak Museum, we saw it on our way here on taxi | statue of Col. Walker approaching to an old jet fighter besides the museum | tombstones besides a church we passed by on the way to museum | Taiping Prison Dept. | the church we passed by

The way to the Perak Museum by walking is quite a distance away. Pity Lychee for he had to be my “Ah Sei”, my camera bag and tripod were all attached onto his backpack while I only travel light with my camera strapped on my hand and a rather small backpack I carried along. It was late afternoon by the time we arrived at Perak Museum and it started to rain heavily too! Just in time for us to spend in the oldest museum in Malaysia while waiting for the rain to pause. The museum exhibits lots of wildlife and its skeletons in the front hall. As we visit deeper into the inner part of museum only to found it’s still under renovation. Apparently, Sir Hugh Low, the British Resident of Perak founded this museum in 1883.

around Taiping

Luke posing with Mr Choong, former English teacher, the Taiping Market as backdrop

We took opportunity to rest and rejuvenate while waiting for the heavy downpour to stop. That’s the most noisy museum I’ve ever been to in my opinion. Lots of  kids running around and occasionally amaze in enthusiasm. We moved on shortly after rain had stop to the Taiping Prison, if you have sharp eyes you’d probably by now should be able to anticipate what’s next on our storyline. Well, it’s Sunday, the gate is closed! Since we were at the end of our planned journey we figured out it’s time to return to town and look for accommodation before it’s too dark. But things took a twist we somehow lost our way back, and we ended up arriving at another destination, the Taiping Lake Garden. We were not in the mood for sightseeing anymore as the sky is getting darker so we quickly resort to asking a couple of hawkers in that area and we finally managed to return to town.

Back in town, our task was to look for and locate some hotels that we both know through our studies and then check if the pricing is acceptable. We were still unable to settle down after some searching as they were mostly too expensive, fully booked or too far away from town. An old man in his 70s approached us at the corner of a five foot ways while we were busy looking at my camera screen locating street names. He asked us where did we come from and he even asked our names. He introduced himself as Mr Choong then when I agreed with him that I have the same surname like him he excitedly tapped on my shoulder.  He was a friendly and nice man. We chatted for awhile and he went on to become an instant 15-minutes-tour-guide of the town. The best part was he solved our accommodation problem by recommending us two hotels from the same owner whom he knows. We were so grateful for his helping hands and we asked for a photograph with him. He looked a bit worry at first and told us he is too old for photograph and while saying that he checked his hair with bare hands and said no problem. Meeting this gentle old man is never quite in our plan but sometimes this kind of thing just came along and lift our heart and certainly it makes a trip more memorable. At the end of the day, we settled down at the Malaya Hotel for RM40.00 per night. Thanks to a fine old man who just wanted to have his dinner before stumbling upon us.

around Taiping

clockwise from top left: Peace Hotel | another hotel across the street owned by the same owner of Malaya Hotel according to Mr Choong | swallow nests hut built on top of building, there are plenty of them in Taiping | City Council Plaza, the lowest level houses a wet market, we had our breakfast the next morning in the food court thanks to Mr Choong's tip and there's a bowling arena in it too!

30 Nov 2009 0900 GMT: We overslept one hour before waking up reluctantly, after one whole hell day of walking and as a result of that two more corns pop up to make it four under my right feet. Remember the “rule” I mentioned earlier in a food court? We went to the upper floor of the City Council Plaza to have our breakfast and I saw one very old lady, she’s a drink stall operator from far waving to us. Maybe because we looked like tourists. We couldn’t bother enough though as we continued looking for food and a place to sit. I glanced at the old lady by chance when we finally sat down at the other side and the following thing I saw actually hits me very hard. Stepping down from her tall chair I saw an old lady with hunchback walking slowly to other place. I felt a lot for her. She then sat back on her tall chair continued inviting customers. I asked Lychee why is the world so unfair. Supposedly our plan of the day was to visit to Matang or Port Weld at the late morning and then return to Taiping Lake Garden cum Taiping Zoo for the rest of the day. We however screwed up the visiting plan to some places of interest namely the Mangrove Forest and Charcoal Factory at Matang, due to communication and time constraint. We headed back to Taiping on an omnibus for lunch. While on our way to lunch we finally got ourselves the town map we had been looking high and low for at the tourist information counter. As for lunch we had the famous Ipoh Beansprout Chicken and some side dishes at a restaurant close to the Lake Garden before going back to the place where we got lost yesterday.

around Taiping

clockwise from top right: Taiping Lake Garden, former tin mine and oldest lake garden in Malaysia | tourist riding a big swan | the famous branches of rain trees along the street bending toward to lake | Lake Garden of Taiping with Maxwell Hill serving as backdrop | a leafless tree bending toward the lake, ignore Lychee

We decided to take the longest path to Taiping Zoo in the hope of seeing and taking more pictures along the Lake Garden before reaching the zoo. It’s a huge piece of god-made landscape. I enjoyed the breeze air and wind there while walking although it was an afternoon. If I’m to be at there again I’m going to find a suitable spot and just lay and laze there while enjoying the gentle breeze of cool weather.

around Taiping

hidden beauties

The ultimate destination of the day – the Taiping Zoo & Night Safari, showcases variety of animals from Sahara desert to tropical forest in the oldest zoo in Malaysia. The Night Safari is also first of its kind in Malaysia but we chose not to visit it. The entrance ticket was RM12.00 per person. I taught some foreigners Malay language at the zoo. She was looking into an empty cage and I told her it’s an empty cage while pointing to a signboard which says “Kandang Kosong”. She smiled and thanked me and I said no problem.

around Taiping

wild life on exhibition at Taiping Zoo

We spent almost half of the day in zoo seeing animals and taking pictures. We were lucky to pay every corner of the zoo a visit before it closes at 1800 hours. Lychee was looking all over the zoo for a tiger because he think it would be a waste if he can’t get to see a tiger in a zoo. It’s surprising to spot some kangaroos (bottom picture between a lazing Malaya Tiger which Lychee finally found before we go back and a butterfly). I saw a magpie too! It was a Magpie Robin (bottom left), sounds like a very heroic bird. It’s the second time in two weeks I encounter a magpie. I know it’s gonna be my lucky day every time I see a magpie around. And Newcastle beat Watford a few days later.

around Taiping

Ready for Another Round; A zoo staff clearing the walkway after the zoo closes and making way for the Night Safari session.

Catching a taxi in Taiping is fairly difficult. We got lost again while on our way back because the Lake Garden is way too enormous. This time it was already dark when we got back and the first thing we did was looking for food. We took a break at an outdoor food court ordering Waat Dan Hor, lobak, Roasted Duck rice, several pastries and herbal teas as our last dinner at Taiping. We took down the picture of the food on the table and a friendly hawker spoke in a loud tone from far “Wa cameraman ah!”

1 Dec 2009 1000 GMT: It was the last day of our trip. We finished the movie, “Vantage Point” on HBO from the comfort of our room before checking out. We spent the next few hours after brunch shopping before purchasing bus ticket at a counter near to a taxi station and got on a taxi shortly to transfer us back to Kamunting Bus Station. The driver kept talking about prison matters, which made me suspect he could be a former prisoner as he told us lots about what’s inside of a prison. At 1500 hours we bid farewell to the town of everlasting peace. Back in KL, we actually had a short adventure in the heart of the city. We missed out the famous Jalan Alor where we intended to have dinner at while looking for it. We came to the landmark McDonald’s at the centre of Bukit Bintang so we thought it’s not a bad idea also since we never have any burger in it. I apologized for the lack of food photos throughout the whole trip as I don’t have them with me. I hope you enjoy the photos, stories and our journey.

Until the next “Postcard from” update, ciao!

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