Spending some time with our new ginger haired friends, and we don't mean the Irish

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Asia » Malaysia » Sarawak » Kuching
July 4th 2011
Published: July 12th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

We had to make it back to KL early in the morning to catch our flight to Kuching. The problem was, we left ourselves about 2 hours before our flight, which normally would have been plenty of time. But our bus didn’t show up to pick us up at the station until over an hour after it was scheduled to! There wasn’t anything we could do. We were stuck. It was one of the rare times we’ve been pretty stressed out while on our trip. Not to mention we had to figure out how we were getting to the airport once we got back to Kuala Lumpur…let’s just say our hearts weren’t the only thing that was racing when we made it to gate with 20 minutes to spare, whew! You won’t see us actually run a full out sprint with our packs fully loaded on top of us, but we were bookin’ it through the airport! Our flight was a typical Air Asia flight, cramped in but smooth and easy all the way to Kuching. We split a cab ride with a cool couple from Holland, and got dropped off at Three House, the place they had booked. After we did a little shopping around, we decided to crash there since most places are pretty similar in terms of price. One thing we weren’t expecting though, was to be sleeping in bunk beds! Haha! We haven’t slept in those things since we were kids! It was like having a sleepover with your friend when you were in kindergarten, but we had free wifi, free coffee all day, and free toast in the morning. Not to mention, the place was really clean and Bindi, the owner, was incredibly nice and helpful.

We can’t help but laugh a little that almost every city/town we’ve been to lately we ended up staying in the heart of Chinatown. Yet again, that’s exactly where we stayed. Still on a mission to find the Indonesia Lonely Planet, we started to make our way down the road to the malls downtown. It’s still hard to get used to being in a country that’s so developed in southeast Asia! Once again, we had absolutely no luck! If you’re traveling to Indonesia, make sure you get the book when you can, because those suckers are like GOLD in Malaysia! Of course we just HAD to find an Indian place with some good roti’s, and that we did. It’s funny to see the look on the ladies’ faces when we order our food since most people order 1 each and Nate will order 3 just for himself! “Three Roti Canai? Oh very hungry!” Our new craving lately has been for iced Milo, basically chocolate milk. Yummm, so good!

The past couple of weeks we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about where we wanted to try to see some orangutans, but since it was so cheap, we decided to give it a shot just outside of Kuching at Semenggoh. It only cost us RM9 to get there, get in, and get back! That’s only 3 USD! We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the park when we saw just how much jungle they had to swing around in. It wasn’t anything like a zoo (not like we expected that), and we definitely got what we were looking for. When we got there, it was feeding time for the orangutans. As soon as one of the employees came to the feeding platform with the bucket of fruit, they started to come in, one after another. We were so excited to see a mom and a baby! It’s absolutely incredible how easily they swing around from tree to tree. We promise, you would NOT want to mess with an orangutan! Although they’re really gentle animals, they can definitely do some damage. One of them even started to break off some loose branches and throw them down at us! One of the men working said, “Orangutan hit you in face, bad day for you. Orangutan pee on you, this means lucky for you.” We wouldn’t exactly consider being soaked in some nasty monkey piss lucky, but that’s just us.

Jessie must have taken a hundred pictures while we were here. We could have watched this amazing animals all day long. They’re actually pretty entertaining. It’s hard not to laugh when you see one of them shove as many bananas as they can into their mouth before making their way back up a tree, or all the “fart noises” they make when they look at you. Of course no touristy spot would be complete without a few idiots, like the girl with the loud cell phone ringer in the middle of feeding time who started talking like a teenage girl gossiping with her friends, or the kids running around and screaming at the top of their lungs as the guide kept putting his finger to his lips trying to quiet them down. Don’t get us wrong, kids will be kids, but when the parents don’t even attempt to keep the quiet so they don’t scare off the whole reason you came to the park in the first place, it almost makes you want to…well, you get the drift. Within about 15 minutes, most of the locals where over watching the monkeys, but the 10 or so white people there all stared in awe as they watched them bending branches to get from one tree to the next and swinging on vines and ropes better than we can run on the ground! It was MORE than worth what we spent to get there and Jessie got some great pics as the mom and baby came back down when we were alone and gave us a personal photo shoot.

It wasn’t long before we were on the hunt for food again, going on a long walk to try to find an Indian restaurant with a tandoori (I told you, we’re obsessed!). Being on the brink of mild starvation, we finally settled for more roti instead. The one slightly disappointing thing about Malaysia, in our opinion, is a lot of the food. We haven’t been the biggest fans of Malay food or much of the Chinese food here, but the Indian has been incredible at least. Just for something new to eat, Jessie even cooked up some red sauce pasta one night in the kitchen at our place. It’s been a LONG time since she’s been able to cook, so she was definitely enjoying it (obviously Nate was too!). He misses being able to stuff himself on some good old home cooked meals!

Really, one of the only other things we did was go check out a Saturday night market over on the other side of town, where is seemed like everyone in the city was there to buy their fruits and vegetables, not to mention some seafood. You couldn’t help but be drawn in by the cat calls of the vendors, each uniquely trying to persuade you to buy what they had for sale. We’ve never seen so much fruit in our lives! It was like 4 big supermarkets crammed into a street market. As long as you duck your head under the tents and get prepared to say “no”, you’ll be fine, haha. Although there wasn’t much other than food and some trinkets to buy, we have to say, the fruit was pretty good, and something we’ve been missing lately is fresh fruit.

The last thing on our list to do in Kuching was check out the museum. The museum had a large exhibit dedicated to the different tribal artifacts, mostly of the Iban people. They had all KINDS of crazy stuff in there; a replica of a long house with human skulls lining the inside (from enemies of the tribe that lived in the house), all kinds of ancient tools and weapons, and tons of tribal tattoo pictures as it’s a big part of the culture here. There was however one thing that caught us off guard. Jessie pointed out a picture of a man’s piercing. Let’s just say it was enough to make any man hold his package and say, “OOOOO DAMN that’s gotta hurt!” The guy had a piece of bone shoved right through the sides of his penis! Jessie: “Baby would ever do that?” (OBVIOUSLY KIDDING) Nate looked at her in horror, “ Oh HELL no! You couldn’t pay me a MILLION dollars to do that!” Jessie: “How about a billion?” “Nope!!!” It looked incredibly painful! We found out that the whole reason behind the piercing was to replicate the male rhinoceros penis…mind you, this was for the pleasure of the female!

The funniest part of the museum was the absolutely horrendous taxidermy. Nate was seriously thinking that everything in the museum was manmade and never alive at one point. Jessie: “No, I think the taxidermy is just that bad.” It honestly would have looked better if you bought a stuffed animal from the toy store and stuck it behind a glass case. Here’s an orangutan everyone! Instead, what you saw was a scary version of a mix between a prehistoric caveman, big foot, and Chewbacca from Star Wars! Man, if orangutans really looked like THAT, they sure as hell wouldn’t be getting all the attention that they do, that’s for sure! It’s not like the other animals were done much better. Even the fish looked like some sort of plastic molded animal that just came out of an instant dispenser, like the kind you would find at a zoo when one of the kids wants the plastic figure of a lion or elephant. We don’t mean to rip on the museum, don’t get us wrong, but how could we not laugh at it? I mean, if you saw a bird that looked like a blow up feather duster instead of the real thing, you’d laugh too, we promise!

Ah yes. Kuching had been an interesting experience, we enjoyed the place we were staying and met some cool people. The city itself wasn’t too interesting and we were ready to venture out into the Borneo wilderness. But first we had to book a room at Bako National Park for a night or two. We actually got lucky considering there was a big music festival about to happen in town and at least got one night at the park. Getting there was a bit confusing since the bus actually leaves from a random street, nowhere near a bus station or bus stop. Honestly, the only reason why we even found it is because we flagged the bus down driving past us and hopped on, then found out it wasn’t leaving for another hour yet. So much for the posted bus schedule I guess, but at least we were on. It was a pretty quick 45 minute ride to get to the boat that took us to Bako, which only took 20 minutes. Jessie: “Ya know, it’s funny how desensitized we are to so many things now. There isn’t much that’s new or shocking lately because of many of the places we’ve been to.” It was true. Lots of people were taking pictures all along the river while we just kind of sat there, taking in the moment. With the tide being out so far, it reminded us of Railay when we had to hop into the water and carry our things about 40 meters up the beach to get to the main path. We quickly got checked in, signed up for the night walk later on, and got ready to go out and hit the trails.

The first thing we noticed was the wild boars roaming around the café area. They can definitely be a little intimidating when they want to be, and man did they stink! All you could smell when they were around was pig shit EVERYWHERE! We both hate that smell. We had also heard from lots of people that the macaques were all over here and very naughty! Neither one of us are big fans of wild monkeys getting that close to us, taking the chance that it might bite and give us who knows what. We were talking to someone who said they carries herpes, who knows if that’s true but we sure don’t want to find out! So, Nate found a nice piece of bamboo and carved himself a walking stick, aka a “monkey stick”, just in case. Within the first 10 minutes of our walk, one thing was for sure. The trails were a LOT tougher than we thought they were going to be, and the jungle was even hotter and more humid than we were ready for. Of course it didn’t help that we were hiking at about 1 o’clock in the afternoon when the sun is at its’ worst. The first trail takes you about 45 minutes straight up the mountain side, climbing up steps, over rocks, and over huge exposed tree roots. There were a couple of times when Nate truly felt like he was about to pass out from overheating. “Am I really that out of shape? “ No, he wasn’t. Later we would find out that we were only 4 degrees latitude from the equator! Yeah, that’ll do it! Needless to say, we didn’t make it all that far on day one. Instead, we went back to the room, took a nice cold shower, and chilled out for a while at the café.

While we were taking a break from the scorching heat, we looked over and noticed a big group of people all taking pictures up in the tree. At first we thought it was a troop of macaques, but we quickly realized it was one of the other monkeys we were dying to see in the wild…proboscis monkeys! We went over to the tree they were eating in for a closer look. Nate looked up in the tree, laughing a bit: “That is by FAR the pinkest penis I have EVER seen…and…wait, are his balls on his face?!” Jessie busted out laughing, because it really DOES look like it! All joking aside, it was a great experience to be able to see these animals in the wild, and we still cannot believe how much they look and move like a man walking on all fours. We seriously feel like we could watch monkeys like these for hours and not get bored. They just make swinging and climbing look so effortless. Jessie got as many pictures as she could before the troop starting to move onto the next snack. Speaking of snack, it was time for us to eat. Little did we know that we were going to be eating buffet food, and some of the worst either of us have had in a long time. It seemed like if it wasn’t cold, going stale, or dry, it wasn’t making it to the trays. Jessie was so grossed out that she ended up surviving on mostly crackers and some fruit from Kuching we brought with us. We don’t know if the taste was worse or the price. The lady at the desk literally looked at your plate and made prices up out of thin air as she added things up. Jessie: “Wow that seems like a lot. How much is the rice?” Lady: “I don’t know.” So, basically it’s however hard you feel like screwing us. Awesome! We still can’t figure that system out…so weird.

Although you don’t see them at night very much, the macaques were more than ready to jump in and clean up anything you might leave behind. Then again, they don’t mind coming up to you and taking it either. At one point, we watched as one monkey jumped up onto a table and stole a girls sandwich as she jumped out of her chair and shrieked at the top of her lungs! Little shit! Then again, it wasn’t really their fault, and we saw the perfect example right in front of us as an older couple sat down to a meal and drew the attention of another macaque. It walked right up on the railing and sat down within 2 feet of them, waiting for the right opportunity to jump in and snatch some food…but he didn’t even have to. The man GAVE him a half of a sandwich, thinking the monkey would go away. He had to get up and chase it off before it left, only to return back up on the railing right behind US. As soon as it saw that we had food, it was headed straight for us…making its’ way along the rail until Nate snatched his monkey stick and cracked it HARD on the railing, making a LOUD cracking sound and sending vibrations through the steel railing down to the macaques hands. You’ve never seen a monkey jump so fast in your LIFE…running away screaming until it got into the trees. Did Nate want to hurt it? Of course not, but giving it a good scare to keep it away isn’t a bad thing either.

By far the best thing we did in Bako was going on the night walk. To be honest, we really weren’t expecting anything too special, but it was cheap enough so we figured, why not? Within the first 10 minutes, our guide had spotted a flying lemur. That was definitely the first time either one of us had seen one in the wild. About 10 minutes later, he pointed out a green snake, coiled up and ready to attack at any moment. He said, “You get bite by this snake, is very bad. You don’t go hospital in 6-8 hours, no chance for you. You done.” We continued on our walk, stopping as we found some big centipedes, walking sticks, massive spiders, and king fisher bird. It was pleasantly surprising how much wildlife we saw that night, not to mention the unbelievable amount of crazy looking insects we saw. Many of them didn’t even look real! We spent the night in one of the dorms for the first time on our trip believe it or not. This was one time in Southeast Asia where it made sense and saved us a LOT of money to stay in a dorm.

The rest of our time in Bako was spent hiking the trails we had attempted the first day, except THIS time we left earlier in the morning. It’s amazing how much quicker you can make it up a mountain side and through the jungle when you don’t feel like you could collapse at any time. Even though it was still insanely hot out, the trails turned out to be very enjoyable. The beaches we hiked to weren’t anything too special, but then again we weren’t in Bako to see a beach. It was all about the hiking and nature, and we were NOT disappointed there. Other than the nasty food, we had a pretty good time, and one of the best parts is that there really aren’t a lot of tourists here at one time. Obviously it’s going to be touristy to some extent, but it wasn’t too bad.

We ended up staying one last night at Three House back in Kuching since we had a flight to Mulu National Park the next day. Normally, we are not about flying from one place to the next for a few different reasons but it was hard to beat the price of the flight. Our travel agent AKA Jessie found us flights into and out of Mulu for under $25 USD per person each way…ironically the flights cost us LESS than the bus and saved us from a couple LONG, close to 15 hours, bus rides.

We can’t wait to see what Mulu has in store for us and fingers crossed we can find a place to sleep since the accommodation in the park is fully booked!

Traveler Tips
Getting There
Getting to the airport in KL- Leaving Chinatown to Melaka Sentral Bus Station is only RM1.50 each. We spent RM12.50 each on a bus from Melaka to KL. From the BST Terminal in KL, you can take the LRT to the low cost terminal (LCCT) for about RM 11 each. You do not have to go to KL Central to get to the LCCT.
Kuching- We flew in from KL, which is where you’ll get most of your cheaper flights from. It’s easiest if you can share a cab with someone to take you into the main part of town or Chinatown. The cab cost was RM26 total
Bako- There is a main office for booking Bako right on the outside of Chinatown close to the waterfront. It will cost you about RM3.50 each to get to the river where you’ll take a boat for RM47, again try to find someone to share it with when you get there. There’s also a park entrance fee of RM10 per person.
Semenggoh Orangutan Center- It’s super easy to get her. All you have to do is go to the bus station close to the open food stalls and get on bus #6 for RM3 each. It costs RM3 to get in, and RM3 to get back.
Kuching- We highly recommend staying at Three House. A twin room with a fan is RM50 per night with breakfast and free coffee included. You can also stay at Track’s if they are full, which is about 15 minutes away. They’ll tell you how to get there.
Bako- We paid just under RM16 for a bed in the dorm. Make sure you book as quick as soon as you arrive to ensure you can be there on the days you want to be. It fills up fast!
Kuching- There is a really good roti place on Jalan India, half way down on the right hand side…it’s one of the only food places on the road.
Bako- We HIGHLY advise bringing some of your own food to Bako. The buffet is very overpriced for what you get and the food is just not nice to eat at all.
Kuching- You can walk just about everywhere you want to get to here, even the malls. If you don’t feel like walking in the heat, there are plenty of city buses running all day long and they’re super inexpensive.
Bako- You’re only option here is to walk everywhere since it’s a national park, unless you feel like paying for a boat to bring you back to the café area after hiking to a beach on the other side of the park.

Additional photos below
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12th July 2011

Its been a while since I read a really long blog. Your writing is funny, entertaining and very informative. Have more fun with your travels and keep blogging them. I can even feel the humidity just by reading your blog, hihihihi!

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