Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bako && KK

After Kuching, it was a bus and a boat north to Bako National Park. I just turned up and got a bed, which may of been fortunate as the next day was full. After arriving I went for a walk. Selected the Bintang walk which loops through the forest and takes 3-4 hours. First a short walk along a boarded walkway to get to the start of the trails. Then the first 1km was hard work, being in thick rainforest is very humid. Hot and sweaty as the path climbed sharply in the first section. I breifly saw some proboscis monkeys crashing through the jungle, although I was never to get a very good look at them. After reaching a peak, there was a bench to rest upon and a taped off barrier behind. I had a peak down the crevice and it was a LONG way down.
Then jungle thinned out and gave way to rocky ground, some small pitcher plants don't offer much cover from the sun. The path had a trickle of water running through clay and sand, on top of hard black volcanic rock. Very different from the rainforest which I soon re-entered. Got back to the headquarters and slurped down a bottle of water and a coke. Considering going for a second walk but I was knackered. Watched the bearded pig (who has a giant nose and tiny eyes) roam about. Looking for scaps, didn't exactly seem wild or bothered by humans. The macques were less bothered by humans again, and sat watching the cafe waiting for the moment to pounce and steal anything they can get their sticky fingers on. A few raids into the canteen to steal bananas!
Later I took a short stroll down the boarded walkway and watched the proboscis moneys from a distance. Also in the distance I saw a big creature walking like a crocodile, but I think it was a monitor lizard.
About 8pm a few of us went for a night walk with a guide and our torches. The guide spotted a big spider, and a fluroscent mushroom but otherwise we saw very little, but there can be no guarantees as it's not a zoo!

The next day I had to check out at 11am, but arranged with a couple of people to share the boat ride back at 3pm. So went for a another walk this time to the next beach along, signposted as only 800m it should be easy, right? Nope, seemed like the longest 800m I've walked. Up and down a lot as you go over the cape to get to the next bay. One scary point where you have to go across a small hole, the top of a grotto, but the only way is by walking across tree roots! After that I descended down and came out at the small bay. I saw some mudskippers which were cool, looked strange closeup. They were all sitting on the same rock peeking over the top.

I headed back to headquarters as I was out of water, and got some food. After lunch I decided on final walk up to the cape above the main beach, nice view up there but I didn't take my camera. Back on the boat we were zooming along when we did a u-turn, there on a pipe in the middle of the river sat a crocodile sunning itself. We went quite close enough in the boat! Then back to the mainland where after waiting for a while got the bus back to Kuching. The next day I flew up to Kota Kinabalu.

Kota Kinablu centre is a long strip of roads sandwiched between the seafront and the green hills behind. Actually I think some of the flat land is reclaimed from the sea. Having a look around, it seems a bit more rough and ready than Kuching. Large market as the seafront, rows of shophouses, lots of basic coffee shops/restaurants. I had some nice beef sate from one. However things take an upturn as you enter one square where there is a popular new mall and pricier restaurants and the like. I had nice fish and chips at a restaurant, served in the pan for some reason. (I still prefer newspaper) Of course the chips, weren't chips but fries. Still never mind, eh? As it was the weekend I went for a beer. Walked into an Irish pub were a Malaysian band (with a japanese drummer) were playing The Shadows. Then a Philipino singer joined and they played some other old songs. I had a look elsewhere, as I was walking past I heard another band and the singer saying there were going to play another rock song so I walked in there. But he was being sarcastic as they launched into a rendition of My Way. I was conned!

On Sunday there was a flea market where you could buy some jewellery, biscuits, maybe a siamese fighting fish or some nailclippers? Mostly junk! Or stuff I can get cheaper in Thailand. As there is approx. 10 baht to 1 ringgot easy to compare prices. Tomorrow I shall head off to Mount Kinabalu National Park, but finding out more information I don't think I'll be doing the climb.
1) You need to book accommodation on the mountain way in advance.
2) If you want to have a chance of having a clear view you should arrive at sunrise. Which means you have to get up at TWO AM and climb up in the dark with a torch. Hmmm
Of course it could still be cloudy :)

Monday, June 25, 2007


After some roti canai for brekky (okay brunch). It was off to the Cat Museum, Kuching is the city of cats after all. Hopping on the city bus took me to the museum, well the bottom of a big hill upon which the museum resides. After sweating my way up it was inside to the cat-o-rama.
Where else can you find such tenious links to cats as here? Like the Cats in Music section, with posters of Cat Stevens and Curiousity Killed the Cats. I particularly liked the dress up the cats as musicians section :) And if that wasn't strange enough I bought a ticket for "Katz" where 10 people dress up with cat makeup and costume and dance around. Kinda of Andrew Lloyd Webber meets tribal dancing. Didn't seem very popular as there was only 2 other people watching. I was dragged up on stage to show my blow dart pipe blowing skills. Performing admirably I nailed a balloon on my very first shot.
Then it was back to Kuching where the Sunday market was taking place (as it was Saturday...) I picked up a pair of Raybans for 3rm (about 50p!).
Next day I had a look round the Sarawak musuem which had some decent art pieces, some good longhouse models, and some so-so natural science exhibits. Across the road some archieological stuff from the caves, way back in the good old days 40,000 years ago. Some more rain, seemed to be easing off, so I mad a dash and nearly got struck my lightning, seemed to explode right above me, gave me a headache. AND the rain quickly came back on strong.
After looking at the price of the tours, I decided it was time to do some DIY so I rented a crappy motorbike and set off for the Crocodile Farm, quickly getting lost. I stopped and asked somebody, showing them my not very good map. They could point me in the direction of the Orangutan sanctuary only, no problem I wanted to go there as well. So I set off for Semmengoh Orangutan sanctuary and after a while I came across a sign for the crocodile farm, carefully navigation! Crocodiles tend not to do much except when they are eating, so they just lay around looking sleepy. A few other animals but nothing much to talk about, just don't let the rabbits get mixed up with the crocs.

After that I try to find the orangutan sanctuary, at one place the road was being worked on so I stopped, and then the starter died. After lots of kicking, it engaged and I was off again but I ended up miles away going towards "Borneo Road" or some such place.
I decided I better turn around, again getting stuck where I had to stop for roadworks. Started again after 5 minutes. By this time the petrol was getting a bit low, so I pulled into a Kampung and found a corner shop which sells petrol by the plastic bottle. After filling up, I cooled off with a coke on the bench outside, why the locals kids gawked at me, then ran away. Feeling refreshed I hit the open road again determined to at least get back to Kuching. As I was heading back, I whizzed past the sanctuary, a quick u-turn and I got inside. The engine cut again and I decided I would be quicker walking the last 1km if I wanted to get there in time for the feeding. The orangutans are semi-wild so they roam free, but usually turn up for the free food when hungry. They have 23 in all, I think 4 turned up. Looking very non-plussed about the camera-snapping tourists. Just turn their backs!

Anyway I made it back after a few more cut-outs (Note I'm blaming the motorbike not me!) Actually the traffic here is quite reasonable. Especially once you get out the city, not that many motorbikes :) A lot quieter than Chiang Mai! Just a shame about the lack of signs. After being on the bike most of the day I'm now a rather red shade of red from sunburn. I'll have to hide inside tomorrow.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Arrive in Kuching, Borneo

About ten hours after leaving Chiang Mai I arrived in Kuching, in the West of Malaysian Borneo (an island split between Malaysia and Indonesia). I dumped my bag and went out for a look around. Seems like a modern clean city, on the taxi ride through town didn't see many people walking about. The Sarawak river runs through the city, splitting it in two, although most of the built up area is on the flat south. A fort on the north rises above the city, and a new construction of a large dome takes place under floodlit cranes. A cluster of large hotels are situated near the riverfront. As I was thinking there wasn't many tourist around, a big cluster of people spilled out the Hilton. Walking towards me a separate couple of tourists pointed at the group behind me and asked "Is that David Beckham? Yes it is!"
So I turned round looking at the tour group again, maybe David Beckham and his entourage? Nope, they were pointing at the 20 foot advert of him selling a phone.

After wandering around some more, I settled into a basic restaurant for some turmeric beef, which wasn't really worth the wait! Back to the hotel and find out that it next door is the dreaded top-volume karoke bar, a power cut saves the day and I get some sleep. I move into a quieter hotel the next day. Kuching being a compact city is easy enough to walk around for the most part, although the heat and humidity can be rather oppressive. I decided to visit the Sarawak Cultural Village a 40 minute drive away. After chatting with the hotel owner I purchased a "tour" i.e transport and entrance ticket, which was marginally cheaper and the van picked me up from the hotel. I was the only one in that van, passing along some nice green scenery, with a steep forest-clad pinnacle rising up from the ground. At the village there is a variety of longhouse (traditional architectural houses for the locals). The longhouses sit on stilts, with an angled log, with narrow notches carved out serving as steps. Inside a few local people sitting about, when I said I was from Scotland, one of the guys said he used to support Celtic (boo!), until he bot bored of football (hah!). Now more interested in rugby, aah, the benefits of satellite TV.

I managed to snare some free fruit from a leftover party, after a quick snack, it was onwards to the Penan tribe. Well actually it was just one guy. More of a lean-to shack rather than a longhouse as the Penan are traditionally nomadic hunters (although the government tries to settle them). Here the had a long metal rod, which has used to burn through a piece of bamboo. Just turn the rod back and forth for a MONTH and you have a blowpipe. (Hope you don't make a mistake). I stepped up for a go at the blowpipe skills, deep intake of breath, press lips against the pipe and quickly exhale! And the dart dribbled out the end...
At least the next few times it worked better, couldn't hit the target of a can though. With a poisoned tipped dart, hunt of all animals is possible.

Next stop was the Orang Ulu house, a huge longhouse built nestled into the hill. Upstairs they were playing music, something resembling a guitar, with a large flat bit of wood, with a few strings, odd placed frets, and tuned for droning. Then a few people danced around, kinda of slow and graceful, until I got dragged into it. After that, a quick stop in a sword hut, where with a fire and some belows, some hammers and somebody that knows what they are doing you can get a sword.

Another house had a medicine room, with something akin to wood oragami, with birds and insects representing the physical manifestation of illnesses, with the local quack would identify and cure. (At least I thinks that how it works!) The last hut was the Chinese pepper house, where the pepper is collected, thrashed and dried. Some samples of "Bird's Nest"
which is hugely expensive, collected at great risk and then served up to big wigs. Hmm, I wouldn't of thought bird mucus wouldn't of been that tasty.

Finally there was a show which highlighted the tribal dances, one of them featured bamboo poles being danced around, one of these carefully timed pieces, where if it goes wrong, you get your ankle broken!