Kuching - Borneo [ Wednesday 2nd February - Saturday 5th February 2005 ]
Our visions of Borneo were of tiny villages, jungle and very little else. We were therefore suprised to find Kuching as big as it was, complete with the ubiquitous McDonalds and Hilton hotel.
We stayed at the Borneo B&B, which had rooms in a family's home who were extremely friendly and made us feel very welcome.
Across the river are a number of traditional villages, so we took a 'tambang' across and had a wander through some of the streets.
The local people were very friendly and the children were practising their English on us which they found highly amusing.
Whilst in Kuching we also took a tour with our own private guide and visited the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. The centre is famous for its orangutans who have been orphaned and they look after them.
They're semi-wild and are fed each morning, which we managed to see. They have about 50 but only 6 of them now require to still be fed - the others feeding off food found in the forests.
After this, we headed to the longhouse village of Kampung Annah Rais. Along the way the guide kept pointing out small bushes, which were 'paper' trees. He explained to us that you could get 'white paper' from them but if left out in the sun it would become 'black paper'.
We were slightly confused as to why you'd need 'black paper' but he assured us everyone in the world used it pretty much everyday.
He said that it was restaurants that probably used the most, we were then even more confused. Are they using the 'black paper' for the menus?
It finally dawned on us that the 'paper tree' was in fact a pepper tree!
Still shaking our heads at how thick we'd been, we arrived at the longhouse. The longhouses are gigantic wooden structures on stilts where the entire community lives.
We were suprised at the shear size of it all and more so at the fact that they all had satellite dishes on the roof.
It was good to see the traditional people just going about their daily business, we weren't too keen on seeing a chicken lose it's head though!
We were originally going to go and see a pottery mill, but our guide decided to take us to the Bird's Nest shop. Birds nest's are considered very good for you and is a highly lucrative business.
After watching a video about how it all works, we tried some birds nest products which were different to say the least. We decided to take a box of birds nest candy as that was pretty tasty and we were told it would prolong our lives.
I was tempted to take a pallet of the stuff, but wasn't sure if I'd enjoy living till I was 200.
Munching on our candy and still laughing about the 'paper tree', we were then driven back to our guesthouse.
We'd decided to just have a quiet one and only have a beer or two in a new bar called Soho, popular with the local hip crowd. We were soon chatting to a guy called Gerald who was met later on by a load of his friends.
One of which had just come back to Kuching after studying at UMIST in Manchester and knew some of the bars we like to frequent in Manchester. Small world eh?
A beer or two soon turned into a full session and the bar was packed to the rafters. They have an ingenious idea where insted of buying shots you actually buy the whole bottle and share it between themselves.
The number of bottles of vodka and whiskey being knocked back was pretty frightening. If you can't finish the bottle, and that happened very rarely, you can leave it in the bar with your name on and finish it another night.
What a great idea! I'm gonna see if the Red Lion will do me a deal on a barrel of Fosters.
We've now learnt to book afternoon flights, just in case of ad-hoc events such as last night, so we headed to Kuching airport for our flight back to KL.
Tampang boat on the river, Kuching.
Sungai Sarawak (Sarawak River).
Schoolchildren in Kuching.
Two smiling boys on a bicycle.
Pedalo that's seen better days!
Me and Joo next to the 'paper tree'.
Longhouse village - Kampung Annah Rais.
A Newcastle United fan?
Cocoa beans drying out in the sun.
New bridge, old bridge.
Chicken with head, but you can't see it.
Chicken minus head.
Bird's nest candy.
The cats of Kuching. Kuching is Malay for cat.
Air Asia - the Easyjet of South East Asia.