30 Jul 2013

kuching 03

I'm back in Melbourne and on my way to finish the last semester before I graduate! I'm already starting to miss my family in Malaysia but I'm glad to be back at home. 

On our second last day in Kuching, we spent half our time at Bako National Park. Whilst waiting for our vessel to pick us up, I read some stuff on people being attacked/eaten alive by crocodiles and such was so paranoid I would meet the same fate. The awas (danger) sign didn't help. But when I asked the asked the boat guy, he just laughed and said he has never seen them. Ha... 

At the time we arrived, it was low-tide - which meant we had to walk a short distance onto mainland. Take off your shoes and socks and roll your pants up! Don't worry about dirtying your feet, there's a spot where you can wash your feet. Remember to bring a small towel or some tissues too.

We saw a lot of wild boars and monkeys around headquarters, but didn't see any animals on our trail walk. Oh! Except for a venomous (green and slim) viper on one of the bridges! 

We I became mosquito bait for 10-15 minutes whilst we waited for the Bako guide to find a proboscis monkey in the mangrove forest.

We then we trekked and wrestled mangroves up and down to see...

...the monkey's backside!!! heiowgbeiogbqekl

Kudo to my grandma and MC's mom who trekked through with the group even though they weren't wearing runners/hiking shoes. 

Our group took the Telok Paku trail. It was relatively short, estimated to take 1 hour. But once you get in the mood, 1 hour of walking isn't enough. My sister was raring to go for another round, but unfortunately it wasn't included in our itinerary.

We were sweaty from walking, but it's really cool and shady inside the rainforest. I didn't even get bit by mosquitoes inside as well. Our trail ended in a secluded beach which meant we had to take off our shoes and socks again. Wash your feet in the sea before your get on the boat and dry them in the sun.

Our tour guide then took us to fishing village for lunch. The setting reminded us when we were in Johor Bahru a few years ago. Two other tourists that were with us at Bako joined us and it was so random eating with randoms. We had a lot of food as usual, but I thought it was as spectacular as the food we had on the previous days. The yellow wine crab soup was delicious though.

Can't go to a fishing village and not expect to get a whiff of salty fish!

When we returned to the hotel, we had free time so some of us did some exploring. By the time we walked back to the hotel to call the remainder of our group out, all the food outlets in Atap Street (Chinatown) was closed to our horror! Luckily we found a sort-of Westernised cafe near our hotel for dinner.

Ordered the teh C special without knowing what it was. It's just teh tarik with some pandan syrup. It actually tastes quite good, but the teh ais kurang manis gao from the mamak store near grandma's is so much better.

No kolo mee (how could they!), so I got this tomato fried noodle instead. I got to eat kolo mee back in KL, so all good.

My cousin had a soft serve and said it was better than McDonalds!

And that's the end of my Kuching trip! Would I go again? In a heartbeat (if I had the money)! More on my KL adventures another day!

17 Jul 2013

kuching 02

Our first stop on our second day was at the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre. Fruits aren't in season inside the rainforest right now, so we were fortunate to be able to spot around 6+ of the 27/28 orangutans that reside here. Park rangers do feedings twice a day to ensure the orangutans get enough to eat. The youngest of the bunch was only a mere 15 days old! You can see her? with her mother in the photo below.

This orangutan's brightness made everyone chuckle. Instead of taking one banana from the park ranger, he took off with a bunch of bananas instead! 

It was an incredible experience for us to see these guys up close in the wild! Tip for future travellers with DSLRs - you have to bring your long-focus lens!

Our next stop was the Bidayuh Annah Rais Longhouse. We were supposed to go to a more traditional/further longhouse but MC's mum didn't like the sound of a six hour land and water journey thus, our guide changed it to Annah Rais, which was a closer alternative. I thought our local guide, Joda was great! 

We saw so many cats in and out of the Longhouse that we thought Kuching really lived up to it's name. Kucing means 'cat' in BM and has the same pronunciation as Kuching. We were welcomed with some homemade rice wine before we met Joda. He spoke English which was really good, since I don't understand BM (except for kurang manis [less sweet] which has actually become a little joke with the guy at the mamak store).    

The majority of the infrastructure is made from 9 different kinds of bamboo that thrive around the Longhouse. Each type of bamboo has it's own purpose. Even the flooring was constructed from bamboo. The slats that are exposed to the weather are replaced yearly, whereas the ones under cover can last for 4-5 years. The damaged bamboo are then collected for firewood, making the Longhouse very sustainable. Even though there are so many bamboo left in the rainforest, locals continue to grow and preserve bamboo for future Longhouse usage. We spotted giant bamboo shoots near the bamboo bridge challenge (which I was too chicken to cross by the way) and my grandma wanted to pluck them home!!

After watching Joda demonstrate how to extract juice from sugar cane to make sugar, he brought us to the panggah (headhouse). It was a small room which contains a wire basket of headhunted rival/neighbouring tribal leaders (?!). He isn't exactly sure how old they are, but believes the oldest date back to around 500 years. Basically, the number of skulls symbolise the strength and power of the tribal leader. Up until recently, the people living in Annah Rais had to hold a yearly ceremony to honour their past tribal leaders, but they have stopped doing it since the majority have converted to Christianity and the whole process is very lengthy and time consuming. 

Annah Rais Longhouse is where tradition meets modernity. As you can (barely) see in this photo, there are some buildings that are more modern compared with the rest. There is a Perak-styled building (not shown) and even a bank and wi-fi here! The modem is strangely locked up in the panggah for some reason.

One thing I found interesting was that in the past, men preferred to marry bigger and stronger women since they had to do so many heavy-duty household work - hand grinding flour, making sugar and fire etc. whilst the men hunted and collected food from the rainforest. Of course, this has changed now! 

Oh and another thing! A smart way they keep the bugs out is by using smoke. Fire wafting from downstairs would reach and smoke the food storage upstairs scaring the bugs out. 

Many of the older folk here continue with traditional handicraft. We were able to see a seventy-ish year old lady (who looks so young) beading a headdress, another old lady who was weaving baskets and a middle age guy who was making traditional clothing made from tree bark. I actually tried the last activity and although it seems simple, it's actually pretty hard. It's a long process of moistening the bark and constantly hitting it with a special wooden baton to make it flat. But, you can't just hit it anyhow, as it is fragile and can break, making holes which will seep in the cold rendering the piece of material useless.

We were all pretty impressed with the beading lady who was very patient with her beading and is still able to thread the tiny beads onto the thin needle. Young people's eyesight (mine included) are surely much worse than hers.

At the end of the tour, we were all invited to Joda's place for lunch. I was expecting to be sitting on the floor on bamboo slats, but to my surprise, his house was so modern! Lunch was cooked by his business partner, Alex whose aunty makes a killer rice wine. I had a bit and it was so strong, but my grandma loved it so we air flown four bottles back. 

We had curry chicken, spicy egg plant, a delicious seaweed soup, sweet and sour fish, stir fried vege with rice and jugs of bark tea which tasted like sugar cane. You can actually buy the edible bark from the villagers in the Longhouse for RM5 per packet. If you want to visit a Longhouse close to the city, I highly recommend joining Joda's and Alex's tour at Annah Rais. 

After that, we drove out of the kampong and back into the city. We visited the Civic Centre again since we couldn't go up the day before due to heavy rain. Look see look see and then back to the hotel for a quick rest before we set out for our river cruise.

Um, what can I say. A cruise is a cruise. Fortunately the lower deck was air conditioned. Kek lapis and orange juice was provided. Towards the end of the ride there is a dance performed by a guy from the Orang Ulu tribe, but I was too comfortable to go up and watch. 

Dinner was at a proper Chinese restaurant and the food was pretty good. It was my first time eating marmite prawns and I think it has a unique flavour. The duck was really good. Better than what we can get in Melbourne!