EXPLORING SARAWAK'S CAPITAL : KUCHING

BY DEAN JAIS, 08 AUGUST 2018

KUCHING: THE CAPITAL CITY OF SARAWAK

Kuching: The capital city of Sarawak

We couldn’t contain our excitement when we got news that we would be going on a familiarization trip to the capital city of Sarawak – Kuching; a destination named after a cat! We were stoked to visit all the places this vibrant city has to offer. It’s my first time to Kuching and Bedley as well but Nicca has been there before when she was young. Still, she was over the moon about it. Located at the southwest tip of Sarawak, the city itself is a tourist attraction and a haven of sumptuous food and a diverse culture. Story goes that before the arrival of James Brooke, the city was still known as Sarawak and later changed to Kuching by the head of state of Sarawak at that time, Charles Brooke.

We began our journey with a 1 hour 30 minutes direct flight from Kota Kinabalu to Kuching and greeted by our guide, Richard, a middle aged Bidayuh man that speaks English very well as he’s also one of the senior guides in Kuching. He drove us around on the first day and pointed out several interesting places to drop by around the area.

VISITING SEMENGGOH NATURE RESERVE A SAFE HAVEN FOR PRIMATES

Visiting Semenggoh Nature Reserve is one the best highlight during our familiarization trip

Our first jungle experience in Kuching despite the bustling hotel & resort inspection was to Semenggoh Nature Reserve to have a look at the semi-wild Orangutan. The young ones who were freed from captivity or orphaned at an early age are trained with survival skills before releasing them to the forest, similar to what Sepilok Rehabilitation Center is doing. Graduated orangutans usually maximize their time out and about in the forest but would often go back and forth the centre for feeding opportunities. All of them, if not some would stay in the forest and scavenge for fruit when fruiting season comes.

When we got there, we were surprised to see visitors running in a hurry. We heard the guardian wailing “Richie is coming! Keep your distance!” Then we saw a big male Orangutan weighing around 80 to 90kg, walking on the ground really fast and was heading to a trail where the feeding platform is. After a while, we saw a big movement from a tree coming from the direction where Richie was running away from. It was Edwin! Another bigger male, at least 15% bigger than Richie. He swung along the rope to get down to the ground and walking towards a pile of fruits. He sat there and ate for 20 minutes, ignoring all the people that were looking at him. There was one moment that we found it spectacular when Edwin tried to break a coconut shell by hitting it on a wooden stump and tear the shell apart with his teeth before eating the flesh bit by bit. Three of us were having difficulties and while we watch him gnaw his way through the coconut, we couldn’t help but feel amazed by it.

After Edwin left, we continued walking to the feeding platform and we saw another 2 young Orangutan playing on the rope. The feeding platform is not as big as Sepilok but enough to give nice experience for visitors as it‘s less of a tourist attraction. We spent about 1 hour there before heading back to Kuching for another hotel inspections, dinner and retire for the day.

A GASTRONOMIC ADVENTURE AND A TRIP TO THE TRIBAL LAND OF IBAN

Second day in Kuching, it took a 4 hours drive to Lemanak Iban Longhouse which is located in a district of Lubok Antu and a local spooky tale as to how this wonderful town was named. During the Brooke period, a number of people from the British military who were making their way to the upstream of Batang Ai in search of enemies were down with cholera which killed many of them due to its contagious nature. The corpses were discovered nearby a pool as the bodies were carried downstream hence why the river is said to be plagued with the souls of the dead. Just for the record, ‘Lubok’ is translated to pool and ‘Antu’ is translated to ghost.

Mouth-watering delicacies that will leave you drooling

On our way to Lemanak, we stopped for a quick visit at Serian town. ‘Serian’ is taken from a fruit ‘Durian’ since it has an abundance of durian orchard and you can find cheap durian there. It only cost RM10-12 per fruit instead of the usual per KG! If you’re a keen foodie, in the center of the town is a local market selling a wide array of homemade cakes and snacks; food galore you must not miss. It can be quite tempting to feast on everything laid out on the table. At the other corner of the market, you would see the wet market where locals would sell some exotic food like snakes and according to Richard, Sambar Deer, Bearded Pig along with other exotic meat from the forest.

Soon after, we learned about the family’s orchard on the property and shared fresh coconuts with some of the neighbouring children, whom also taught us how to catch our dinner in the fish farms – their skills at such a young age is impressive!

Immersing ourselves in the hospitality and cultural lifestyle of these wonderful people

Once we reached Lemanak River, we took a 15 minutes boat ride up river to get to the longhouse. We were greeted warmly with a shot of rice wine from the host and a welcome dance by the villagers. They also invited us to dance with them and it was so much fun. The longhouse is not the real longhouse anymore because it’s made on a cement floor. An original longhouse would be on stilts but the way they practice inside the longhouse is still the same. There will be a chief in the longhouse and the process is that of a monarch system – the title will be passed down to the chief’s eldest son as a successor. It’s a tradition for Iban people to be a farmer where they will go to their farm in the morning, come back for lunch and rest in the mid afternoon and get back to work until sunset. Of course, in the midst of modernization, the youths prefer to work in the town rather than engaging in traditional farming practices. Only the elderly and those who chose to stay in the village will work for their family managing the farm. One activity that we did was blowpipe shooting. I can tell you it wasn’t easy! You really need to practice a lot in order to get what you hunted. Otherwise, be prepared to go home empty handed.

CYCLING THE COUNTRYSIDE WITH PARADESA BORNEO

A long distance breezy cycling was enough of a workout for that day

EXPLORING BAKO NATIONAL PARK

Waking up at sunrise to capture views of Kinabalu Mountain like this was definitely worth the early start (Drone photo)

The fourth and last day in Kuching were filled with a nature adventure to Bako National Park. The trip to Bako village took about half an hour and a boat ride to the national park takes about 20 minutes depending on the tide. You wouldn’t want to get there when the tide is still low because the boat might get stuck. The journey to the park took us past the fisherman’s village scenery and mangroves. One thing that you can’t see very often here in Sabah is the traps set up for catching anchovies. Upon arriving at Bako, the tide was rising but still too low for the boat to reach the jetty. We need to take our shoes off and jump off the boat to walk to the shore. We were welcomed by the Silvered Langurs that were hanging around the trees near to the sandstone walls.

Upon walking to the reception area, we were also greeted by amazing wildlife like the Proboscis Monkey and the Long-tailed Macaques. Bearded Pigs were abundant in the vicinity. You just need to keep your distance from them. Always remember to avoid carrying plastic bags with food inside when you are walking around the park. The monkeys love grabbing it away from you.

All in all, the trip was great and definitely insightful for the three of us. No words can describe the feeling of being able to immerse in the culture other than ours. Our hearts are warmed by the hospitality given to us and a tummy filled with amazing food. Kuching, you have been good to us.