Kuala Lumpur was a bit like a bar of Hershey's chocolate. Stuff it between a two graham crackers and a toasted marshmallow and it'll do the job, but it's not great chocolate by any standards. Kuching, on the other hand is like the most delicious hand-crafted truffle. I love it here. It has small-town charm and the mystique that surrounds the jungle being just a few kilometers away. As we took the one and a half hour flight here from Kuala Lumpur I couldn't help but think that we were going on an Indiana Jones type adventure.
We usually fly by the seat of our pants and don't book reservations beforehand. It's worked every time up until Kuching. Unknowingly, we arrived here along with 6,000 Hash House Harriers from all over the world. We managed to get a dingy room at the first hostel we went to but when we weren't so satisfied and went looking for other places to stay we realized the entire town is booked full. We overheard some Harriers say they booked their accommodations a year ago. Yikes. With that bump aside, Kuching has been wonderful.
For starters everyone here is friendly. Everyone says hello
as we walk by. They also speak an impressively high level of English, far more than most Japanese do. Food is delicious and cheap at about $2 a meal. It's a great town for aimless wandering, which is the way we tour towns so this town suits us wonderfully.
Kuching has a handful of free museums, some of which are really good. The Sarawak Museum was impressive with a large collection of information about the native tribes of Borneo. Next to the museum is Kuching's aquarium, which looks like an average fish tank at first with tons of tanks dedicated to gold fish but does house a few crocodiles and some impressive fish I've never seen before. A lot of tanks are empty so when we wandered onto a caged pond, I managed to overlook the creepiest crocodile I've ever seen! Bob's now unsure of letting me wander in the jungle since those crocs live near where we'll be going. Oops!
The weekend market here is hands down the coolest market I've ever been to. Villagers from the surrounding jungle come into town on Saturday morning with their goods ranging from fruits and vegetables to coffee and plants.
Some vendors are the tiniest little women who sit behind their small collection of hand-picked vegetables. Bob found his favorite treat of the trip so far at the market which was a pancake filled with butter and a chunky hazelnut, maple filling. He tried his first one for what he labeled breakfast at around 4pm, then we ate delicious Chinese food for dinner which left room for dessert. Guess what we ate? Another pancake. We'll be going back next weekend for more, too! One vendor asked us where we were from and when we said the US, he asked us if we ride horses. Apparently the rest of the world thinks everyone in America is a cowboy.
On tap for the coming days is a visit to an orang utan rehabilitation center, several days in the jungle at the Bako National Forest where we hope to spot some proboscis monkeys, pitcher plants and fingers crossed for spotting a loris on a night trek, which I will immediately put in my bag and bring home as a pet. Anyone know the rules for bringing home an endangered species? Kidding. And next weekend we'll attend the Rainforest World Music Festival! We'll
be seeing groups from: Iran, Japan, France, Czech Republic, the Reunion Islands (where are those? Better Google that one), the UK and Burkina Faso. If we're lucky we'll also get to see a rafflesia in bloom at Gunung Gading National Park, the world's largest and perhaps stinkiest flower.
So much to do!
Note if you're coming to Kuching:
The public buses Lonely Planet mentions to take you from the airport into town don't exist anymore. The only way to get into town is by taxi. Get a taxi ticket right outside of the baggage claim area. It's RM26. Try sharing a cab with other travelers heading into town.
And if you're coming before or during the Rainforest Music Festival book accommodations ASAP as well as accommodations in the national parks because the Harriers have booked this place to the brim!
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