James, Bernd and the two of us shared a taxi into town. Bernd had chosen a mid range hostel because of the bar and Foosball table on the upper floor, so we accompanied him there, and walked towards China town to find a cheaper place for us. We visited a few hostels, until we settled for Berambih Lodge. This hostel’s first floor is themed as if it were a long house, with bamboo walls, low tables and cushions, making it cozy and familiar. All rooms had AC, though we were moved to a private room as the dorm’s one was not functioning at that time. A few metres from it, a wonderful Buddhist temple was erected, catching my eye every time we exited our street in that direction… It is also very close to candy cane building, featured below.
I fell in love with Kuching shortly after arriving. Walking around, I felt like I could easily call this place home and spend time there. It has a beautiful waterfront, with wide paths and colourful LED lights all over the place. On our first night we found a small restaurant called Borneo Delight, that made really cheap and delicious food. The rest of our week there, we explored the city back and forth trying to find a similar place, but kept coming back, unable to find another spot that matched its price and food quality.
The next morning, we took our clothes to the Laundromat, and then I visited the local museums with Bernd. Tim had seen them previously and did not come along. We spent a few hours going around, learning about the city’s history and reading about the local tribes and their way of life. We then walked the long way back, exploring some other parts of the city unknown to us and enjoying each others company.
To give James a proper send off, we decided to splurge that night and eat Indian food. Needless is to say it was mouth watering fabulous, but they could most certainly use a lesson in customer service… After dinner we made our way back to our friends fancy hostel to have a beer and play pool. Since neither Tim nor me have drank at all pretty much since we left NZ, one can of beer put us on a very lively and prompt to laughter mood. Since it was James’ last night with us, we tried to make the best out of it and stayed out until our eyes would no longer stay awake, chatting and having a good time.
We devoted the next day to sorting a new 60 day visa for Indonesia. We were not sure we would need all two months, but I found it best to be prepared and be able to take our sweet time visiting Java and Sumatra, rather than having to hurry through or worry about extending the visa, as this process can be timely and costly (bribes included). We took a taxi to the Embassy, and it was driven by a very friendly Chinese man. We asked him about dumplings, as we missed them deeply, and he advised us to visit a nearby shop complex in their pursuit. Matters at the embassy went very smoothly. We arrived, stated our business, and got given a number starting with AXXX. We noticed many people waiting, and were ready to do our part. However, next number called was ours! Bule treatment all over again. Though we sense this was unfair for the rest, we were pretty happy to have it over and done with so swiftly. All our papers were in order and we were told to return at 3pm to pick up our passports. We made our way towards the above mentioned complex, and walked around until we found the desired dumplings. To be honest, they were not as good as Balmoral’s, but they were ok… We also spent some time going around the supermarket, gathering some stuff to take to the jungle camp the next day. Once we returned to the embassy, I occupied a few chairs and had a long nap, until Tim woke me up with my newly stamped passport 😀
The next morning, we packed up our stuff, checked out of our lovely room, and got in a bus towards Bako National Park. We rode for about an hour on a pretty comfy AC bus, but our luck was about to end. No point dwelling on what we should have done, but bottom line is, our plan fell to pieces as we were informed some international students were at the Park occupying all of its beds, and leaving no room for us to spend the night. It was already 1pm or so, so making a day trip was not an option either, so we admitted our defeat and quickly climbed back into the same bus and headed back into town. By the time we returned to the hostel, our private room was taken, and we were back on the dorm room, with the AC fixed.
With an extra day on our hands, we rented bicycles and set towards the opposite side of the river, to visit the cat museum. Kuching means cat, so it is only fair for them to have a whole museum dedicated to these wonderful creatures. The place was as bizarre as it sounds, and we laughed like children at some of the expositions. Some of the pictures broke my heart or brought tears to my eyes by being so incredibly cute, and one wall featured cat records, as funny and ridiculous as can be. The only complaint would be that they don’t keep live cats to pet, as that would make the place perfect. The ride back was long and hot, but nice regardless.
We slept deeply and got up very early the following day, to take the first bus to Bako and make the most out of the day. The boat ride was speedy and we arrived at low tide, which meant taking our shoes off and going ankle deep into the water and towards the beach. We checked their maps to decide what route to take, and decided upon a loop around the jungle, that featured four different types of vegetation. We also opted for a side track to a nice beach, where a proboscis colony was meant to be located.
Shortly after starting our walk, we were making our way across a bridge, while looking at the mud-skippers and some crabs, when a loud noise startled us. Something big had dropped on top of a nearby corrugated iron rooftop, making it creak and scream. Through the trees I spotted a familiar big belly: a proboscis. We went back down the path and chose a side road that would take us closer to the building, to find a colony of bachelors (young males) playing around, making noise and being hilarious with their big noses and funny body shapes.
We headed back towards the track, stopping multiple times to take pictures and admire the landscape. Close to the bridge, the salt water seemed to have claimed a bunch of trees, leaving their pale corpses standing as trophies. We soon reached the first side track we wanted to follow. The day was growing hotter, and we were already sweating profusely. After months of travelling, I am no longer in great physical shape, and this trekking only reminded me of that. Luckily the body is smart, and soon realized it needed to conserve fluids if we were to make it out of the jungle, and after an hour or so, we both felt a lot better. It consoled me to watch other people drenched in sweat, as I was not the only one in that situation. The beach was gorgeous, surrounded by deep forest, but there was no sign of any monkeys around. We turned around and went back through the rough track, skipping up and down through tree roots. We did spot a lost monkey on our way back, but did not get a clear shot of him.
Back on the main track, it started climbing steeply. We pushed on, until we got quite high, and the landscape changed completely. Up there, it seemed rather dry and desert like. A bunch of beautiful orchids hung off trees all around us, adorning them with their colours. There were also some carnivorous ones, but I did not manage to see them grab any bugs unfortunately.
Towards the end, we again chose a side path towards the mangroves. There we admired hundreds of mud skippers, creatures I had not seen before that look ancient and cute. We also chased a bunch of hermit crabs, trying to convince them to get our of their shells so we could get good pictures, but rarely succeeding. We made our way back through the tall grass and into the park HQ.
After almost 5 hours of walking, great was our surprise to find that, only a few metres away from the kitchens, there were lots of monkeys hanging out. Some proboscis perched in the trees, endlessly eating leaves and slowly swinging around, and a big family of macaws getting up to no good, trailing on the ground. One of them managed to jump into the kitchen, and was swiftly kicked out. They eyed our possessions slyly, waiting for their opportunity to snatch them and take off. I was absorbed watching them clean each other, when I started talking to a French guy, who got his backpack stolen by them the day before, only to have it returned once they assessed there was no food inside. Cheeky bastards, I love them so! Tim practically had to threaten to leave without me to pull me away from them, but I finally said my goodbyes and sadly made my way back towards the boat that would return us to Kuching…
We bought a bus ticket to Pontianak online that night to save time and money. Once we arrived to the terminal, we were told that the 9am bus did not actually exist anymore, but the website had not been updated accordingly and there were no seats on their 10am bus. We showed our best annoyed faces, and they set to make things right by putting as on A bus heading towards Indonesia. After an hour of waiting, we were advised we had been upgraded to business and would be leaving around 11.30am with a different company…