Miri was built on oil; Sibu was built on the timber trade; Kapit is built on coal and rubbish!

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May 11th 2018
Published: May 11th 2018
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Friday 11th May 2018

Well now! Kapit is a bit of a dump! It is by far the dirtiest town we have ever seen in Malaysia and we have probably risked our health eating there! However, we didn’t journey three hours up the mighty Batang Rejang to see Kapit. We journeyed up the mighty Batang Rejang to journey up the mighty Batang Rejang; and we are glad we did. We stayed one night in Kapit and got the first boat back out this morning at 7.30 a.m. to head back to Sibu and the lovely little boutique hotel the “Hi-Inn” where we had left our rucksacks.

The river is majestic and the express ferry boats plough along it, past dredgers, coal barges and timber barges up to a little town called Song where some folk disembarked. Thereafter, the river narrows and one can enjoy seeing forested banks all the way to Kapit. Longhouses and Orang-Ulu settlements are scattered along the banks. Orang-Ulu literally means “Up-river people”. The longhouses look similar to those around Mulu.

The express boats are called “Coffin Boats”. We are assured that this is to do with their shape and not their safety record. Luggage
"Coffin" boats at Sibu jetty"Coffin" boats at Sibu jetty"Coffin" boats at Sibu jetty

These long boats hold about 100 people. Ours is the one on the left.
and other goods are strapped on top and all passengers have to ride inside. When our son Nick was here last year, he bravely rode on top but this is no longer allowed. Although it is surely more comfortable sitting inside, it is a shame that the grubby windows, which are set too high up to look out of easily, do not give much of a view of the passing scenery. This is a great pity, because to journey up the Batang Rejang is rated as one of South East Asia’s best river journeys. We therefore spent quite some time standing in the narrow corridor by one of the small open hatchways (when it was free of people who wanted the loo or a fag). We were the only tourists on board but the boat was full, mostly with people returning home having journeyed down to Sibu to vote on Wednesday.

As soon as we arrived we went to get a ticket to return today. These seats were in a better location for us to take turns by the outer hatchway to enjoy the views. Unfortunately, a sick elderly man on a stretcher (with saline drip attached and two nurses in attendance) occupied most of this space, so again we spent the greater part of the journey inside the cabin. The air con was ferocious and for the first time in four weeks, we felt cold!!! So, it was worth the journey but we cannot say we enjoyed a night in Kapit. Can’t win ‘em all!

It has been promising a thunderstorm all week. This afternoon it arrived with a vengeance. Those readers who have experienced tropical thunder storms will know how dramatic they are. The thunder was ear-splitting and the lightning was sensational! We had visited the Heritage Centre, which is a wonderful place, full of beautiful artefacts and a full history of Sibu, the Orang-Ulu and the Chinese immigration to Sarawak over the last century. After leaving the Heritage Centre, we just managed to find a bar (a rarity in Borneo) before the storm started. So, we had to stay in the bar until it stopped! Any excuse! Actually, we were starving and they didn’t serve food. However, as you can see from the photo, we are smiling happily, because John had a few big bottles of Heineken and I had a double gin and orange juice (no tonic available and that was the last of the gin)! The barman, Pradesh, from India, was a lovely guy. Once the storm eased off a bit we paddled back to our hotel, dried off a bit then went back out, it was still raining but less heavily, to eat.

Tomorrow morning, we are off again on a third boat ride. This time with full rucksacks as well as our small backpacks. Just hope we don’t have to cross over boats to get onto ours, along the narrow side walkways. That water ain’t for swimming in! This will be a five-hour journey, downriver, across the Rejang Delta and then across open sea to enter the Batang Sarawak and the port and city of Kuching. Should be an exciting ride. The boat tomorrow has an upper deck with an outside space, so we have booked that and hopefully shall be able to enjoy viewing the journey. Can’t wait! We have been told by so many people, including Nick, that we shall love Kuching. Since he knows our taste well, we are eagerly awaiting our Kuching experience; to arrive there by boat should be brilliant. We have enjoyed Sibu, which we are told is just an appetiser to the main event, Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak. From there we plan to visit several National Parks, including Semenggoh, to see semi-wild Orang-utans and Bako, home to the Proboscis monkeys. We may also venture further west to the Talang-Satang islands, depending on how much time we have. We have just two weeks left until we leave Borneo and our flight to Kuala Lumpur. Firstly, however, this weekend, we just want to stroll around the waterfront in Kuching and have a lazy weekend. We wish all of our readers a happy weekend as well!

Additional photos below
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11th May 2018
Still smiling!

12th May 2018

You know how to whet the appetite! Excellent prelude to Kuching - hope it delivers and lives up to expectations. Lovely photos of you both too. You seem to be packing 6 months experience into your time in Indonesia. How do you remember the spellings, let alone pronounce, the names of the places you visit??! Take care both of you. Love, Ann xx
13th May 2018

Little notepad!
Hi Ann. I have a tiny notepad and pen in my small backpack to write down the names! Thank you for your lovely messages. Love getting them xx

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