Borneo 2020 · family

Saturday in KK

We started Saturday off with a free walking tour.  Hasif, our tour guide, was super knowledgeable and enthusiastic.  The group doing the walk included other Australians, Singaporeans and a few locals from KK.  We started at the Sabah Tourism Board building, built in 1918 as a goverment department building that later became the main Post Office.  It’s one of three pre-war buildings that survived  the Allied bombing raids in WWII.

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Our walk then took us to the Pillars of Sabah.  This building was one of the other buildings that survived the WWII bombings, but it was eventually destroyed by fire with only the pillars left standing.  They were unable to be demolished because of their historical value, and have recently become a fascinating place for public artworks.  Currently each pillar has artwork about a Bornean species that is threatened with extinction, with information about the species on a plaque on one side of the pillar and the artwork on the other sides.

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Our tour then proceeded past The Jesselton Hotel.  Built in 1954, the Jesselton Hotel boasts a rich history as it is Kota Kinabalu city’s first hotel built after the Second World War (WWII). Before WWII, the name Jesselton Hotel was referred to as the town’s quaint timber and tin roofed Government Rest House, located behind the city’s present Kota Kinabalu Police Station. After the war, there was total devastation which befallen Jesselton town, which Sir Herbert Ralph Hone, the Colonial Governor of Jesselton was instrumental in the rebuilding Jesselton. He encouraged a consortium of Chinese Hong Kong businessmen to invest and build Jesselton town’s first modern post-war hotel which was completed in 1954 on what was then Jesselton town’s 69 Bond Street. The consortium owners engaged architects, contractors, builders and craftsmen from Hong Kong to construct one of the city’s first modern concrete building, emulating a Hong Kong 1940’s architecture.

Saturday in KK

Next we ascended the many stairs to the Signal Hill Observatory Platform.  It was important to keep looking down, as there were around five steps where a board was completely missing!  We all got to the top sweaty but safe, and were able to admire the views and get a better sense of the layout of the city.

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

The centre of KK has the jungle-covered hills on one side, and waterfront (much of which is reclaimed land) on the other.  The area in the photo above is the only section of flat land.  This area, known as Australia Place, hosted the Australian Liberation Forces when they landed here after WWII.

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Then it was back down the stairs and along to The Atkinson Clock Tower, the oldest standing structure in KK.  This was built from Mirabau timber in 1905.

 Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

We were equally as fascinated by this fig tree!  The ground was covered in figs, but apparently this species is inedible.  I haven’t seen them growing directly from trunks and branches before.

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Our walk then took us past one of the gates at the end of Gaya Street, one of KK’s oldest and busiest shopping/eating/market areas.

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

The Malaysia Monument was erected to commemorate the creation of Malaysia in 1963 through the joining of Sabah, Sarawak and peninsular Malaya.

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

The North Borneo War Monument was originally built in 1923, but has been added to to commemorate the Australian Armed Forces who died defending Sabah during WWII.

Our walk then took us across to the waterfront, where we were able to check out more market stalls and sample fresh and dried fruits.

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

I definitely find walking tours a wonderful way to learn about a city from those who know it best.  My description here barely scratches the surface.  Highly recommended!  By this stage it was HOT.  Really hot.  And humid.  We found some drinks and cake, then headed back to our Air BnB to watch some Netflix (Anne with an E) then cool off further in the pool.

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

What a relaxing way to spend an afternoon!  We tried to watch the sunset, but most of it was behind clouds.

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

For dinner we visited a Chinese steamboat restaurant located in the same complex as where we are staying.  I find it hard to believe that we haven’t eaten this way before!  Delicious food, thinly sliced, cooked in the herbal or tomato broths that were bubbling away in the middle of the table.

Saturday in KK

Saturday in KK

Borneo 2020 · family

Kota Kinabalu and Klias River Cruise

Our first full day in KK started with a sleep in.  I have discovered that I am still an early bird – after all, there are blog posts to write and travel research to be undertaken – but the rest of the family don’t seem to have any difficulty dozing for a long as possible.  Eventually we caught a Grab in to the Sabah Tourism Board, right in the centre of the main part of town.  I like to start off by gathering information and familiarising myself with the overall layout.  So a street and waterfront wander was in order. There’s always something interesting to see.

 Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu was formerly known as Jesselton. In the 15th century, the area of Kota Kinabalu was under the influence of Bruneian Empire. In the 19th century, the British North Borneo Company (BNBC) first set up a settlement near the Gaya Island. However, it was destroyed by fire in 1897 by a local leader named Mat Salleh. In July 1899, the place located opposite to the Gaya Island was identified as a suitable place for settlements. Development in the area was started soon after that; and the place was named “Api-api” before it was renamed after the vice-chairman of BNBC as “Jesselton”. Jesselton became a major trading port in the area, and was connected to the North Borneo Railway. Jesselton was largely destroyed during World War II. The Japanese occupation of Jesselton provoked several local uprisings notably the Jesselton Revolt but they were eventually defeated by the Japanese. After the war, BNBC was unable to finance the high cost of reconstructions and the place was ceded to the British Crown Colony. The British Crown declared Jesselton as the new capital of North Borneo in 1946 and started to rebuild the town. After the formation of Malaysia, North Borneo was renamed as Sabah. In 1967, Jesselton was renamed as Kota Kinabalu, Kota being the Malay word for Fort and Kinabalu after the nearby Mount Kinabalu. Kota Kinabalu was granted city status in 2000.

Kota Kinabalu is often known as KK both in Malaysia and internationally. It is a major tourist destination and a gateway for travellers visiting Sabah and Borneo.[4][7] Kinabalu Park is located about 90 kilometres from the city and there are many other tourist attractions in and around the city. Kota Kinabalu is also one of the major industrial and commercial centres of East Malaysia. These two factors combine to make Kota Kinabalu one of the fastest growing cities in Malaysia.[8]

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Waterfront open air markets always have loads to see.  We were wandering around in the middle of the day, and I have to say that it was bloody hot and incredibly humid.  Other than the stall vendors, most people had headed in to the nearby airconditioned shopping malls.

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

There were many sewing machines set up outside the handcrafts market.  Those that were actually in use were all being operated by men.  None are powered by electricity.  I love seeing those old machines just keeping on keeping on!

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Once we escaped the heat and found some lunch, I jumped online and discovered a wildlife cruise on the Klias River that we could do that afternoon/evening.  Thank goodness for the internet and hotspotting to a local sim card!  Less than an hour later we were on a comfortable bus heading out of the city toward the Klias River.  Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and gave us plenty of information about the river and the wildlife that we might be able to spot.  Located on the Klias Peninsula is the Klias Wetland, a Mangrove Forest Reserve. With the bizarre-looking proboscis monkey gaining as much popularity with the tourists as the orang utan, the Klias Wetland with its large proboscis population is fast becoming the latest ecotourism destination in Sabah.

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

The tour overview: Journey 112km from Kota Kinabalu City to the pristine Klias wetlands. Cruise your way down Klias River in an open boat in search of the endemic proboscis monkeys, long tailed macaques, the rare silver languor, and other wildlife along the river bank. Get your cameras and binoculars on stand-by and keep your eyes peeled for the shy creatures chilling on the branches. As dusk settles in with a sunset, enjoy the sights and sounds in a natural setting as you have a sumptuous village style dinner.  The show’s not over yet though, as there is one more trip through the mangrove swamp.  This time, it is graced by the secret rhythm of fireflies and their flickering lights. 

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

And spot the wildlife we did!  Firstly some monitor lizards, and then proboscis monkeys.  Plenty of them!  They were easiest to see once they’d moved – otherwise they blended in to the surrounding trees.  They come to the riverbanks to eat leaves in the late afternoon, then climb higher up in the trees to rest for the night.  I couldn’t really capture just how amazing it was to see them in the wild with my phone camera; just take it from me that it was incredibly cool!

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus), nicknamed “Monyet Belanda” or “Dutchman”, are endangered mammals that are endemic to Borneo. Their key characteristics are the huge pendulous noses used to attract mates, big bellies, their striking colours fur coats for adults, and a permanently erect bright red penis seen in mature males. They live in organized harem groups consisting of a dominant male and up to 24 females with their offspring. They have webbed feet and hands to help them outpace the crocodiles, one of their main predators. Proboscis monkeys survive mainly on a diet of leaves, seeds, and unripe fruits but will occasionally consume insects as well. The only fruit they will eat are unripe fruits, as the sugars in ripe fruits can ferment in their stomachs and cause fatal bloating. 

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

Kota Kinabalu day 7 with Klias River cruise

After dinner, we went back onto the boats in the dark to spot fireflies.  Many of the trees lining the river are festooned with the tiny glowing beetles.  It honestly looked as though twinkling Christmas lights had been slung along the branches.  They often blinked in synchronised patterns, and every now and then a few would take to the air and circle our boat.  It was absolutely magical.

Borneo 2020 · family

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Travelling from one end of the country to another seems to fill almost the entire day, even when flight times are less than two hours. We had enough time for the girls to enjoy the wi-fi at The Marian, and for me to do some last minute shopping, before we headed to the airport via Grab (Malaysia’s version of Uber – very efficient!)

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

For those of you who are interested in such things as luggage, we travel with one soft sided wheeled suitcase each, and a day pack each. None of the suitcases are particularly large. They tend to have around 10 to 12kg in them at the start of our holidays, and usually plenty more by the end! It’s great now that Stella is old enough to take responsibility for managing her own stuff and we don’t have to double check everything quite as much. I do provide each member of the family with a packing list before we leave home, with guidance for both their checked and their carry-on luggage. This seems to work well for us as a family. Both Stella and I have laptops with us this holiday, which definitely adds weight to carry-on luggage, but also comes in handy for photo storage, blogging, and researching and planning what we’ll do each day.

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Clare was particularly entertained by the humour in the signs on the backs of the toilet doors at the airport. Speaking of toilets, I really do need a lesson on how to use squat toilets properly and especially on how to use the rinsing hose attachments without causing a flood in the bathroom! Obviously I have used them many times before on my travels, but have always thought that I could do a much more effective job.  Unsurprisingly, I am not the first person to have googled ‘how to use a squat toilet’ and found this gem of a thread on tripadvisor that includes the following: Come on guys, have you seen a malaysian Ladies toilet??? must be joking if you guys think that our anatomy allows everything to be done in those strange shaped toilets!!! I am woman, and speaking from a woman’s point of view, there are two ways you have to adjust to. there is NO WAY you can do small business facing the door due to our anatomy and the shape of the malaysian toilets, you will only find every thing spilling over the door. So, the only thing that works for ladies is:

  • Small business; facing the wall or with your back to the door.
  • Big business, facing the door

there really is no other way with those unevenly shaped toilets unless you want to mess all over the floor. Other tips:

  • roll up your long pants and wear waterproof shoes before entering the toilets, the floor is all wet and there is usually a hose inside the toilets with running water.
  • bring ADEQUATE toilet paper. Most malaysians DO NOT use toilet paper. so you will never find toilet paper in the toilets. Only the chinese malaysians use toilet paper and they have to bring enough.
  • The flush never works!!! So in that case, look to your right or left, find the long rubber hose, point it into the bowl and turn on the water full, or look for the bucket of water and throw some in. That is usually the only way to flush the ladies squatting toilet.

I have now also discovered this Wikihow article on how to use a squat toilet that even has illustrations.  There’s a handy how to use a bidet article as well.  Paper is mostly used for drying after cleaning.

kuching to kota kinabalu

Arriving in Kota Kinabalu also meant that we were now in the state of Sabah.  Wikipedia says that the earliest human settlement in Sabah can be traced back to 20,000–30,000 years ago along the Darvel Bay area at the Madai-Baturong caves. The state had a trading relationship with China from the 14th century AD. Sabah came under the influence of the Bruneian Empire in the 14th and 15th centuries while the eastern part of the territory fell under the influence of the Sultanate of Sulu between the 17th and 18th centuries. The state was subsequently acquired by the British-based North Borneo Chartered Company in the 19th century. During World War II, Sabah was occupied by the Japanese for three years. It became a British Crown Colony in 1946. On 31 August 1963, Sabah was granted self-government by the British. Following this, Sabah became one of the founding members of the Federation of Malaysia (established on 16 September 1963) alongside SarawakSingapore (expelled in 1965), and the Federation of Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia or West Malaysia). The federation was opposed by neighbouring Indonesia, which led to the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation over three years along with the threats of annexation by the Philippines, threats which continue to the present day.[21]

Sabah exhibits notable diversity in ethnicity, culture and language. The head of state is the Governor, also known as the Yang di-Pertua Negeri, while the head of government is the Chief Minister. The government system is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system and has one of the earliest state legislature systems in Malaysia. Sabah is divided into five administrative divisions and 27 districts. Malay is the official language of the state;[22][23] and Islam is the state religion, but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the state.[24] Sabah is known for its traditional musical instrument, the sompoton.

Sabah has abundant natural resources, and its economy is strongly export oriented. Its primary exports include oil, gas, timber and palm oil. The other major industries are agriculture and ecotourism.

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Our accommodation is an Air BnB at Sutera Avenue, a fairly new shopping mall/apartment complex that is mostly still empty of shops and is still having apartments fitted out.  It’s in a very convenient location near the airport and not far from town, is quite spacious, has a washer/dryer (oh the small things that excite me!) and has a rooftop pool with magnificent views across the water.  Our apartment is on the 8th floor.

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

But then we circled the buildig, and discovered that immediately beside us were some of Kota Kinabalu’s water villages/slums.  Triposo tells us Stilt villages, are houses found along the coast of ethnic Bajau, Suluk, Iranun, Malays, and Ubian people. Some villages are made up of people who have been here since 15th -18th century from Sulu Archipelago (now southern Philippines) who are considered natives under Sabah law. However massive influx if new migrants from this same region beginning 1970s have occupied these same villages mostly due to similar heritage and ethnicity as these local inhabitants. Some new migrants are illegal with no proper documentation. Illegal migrants would normally occupy deeper parts of these stilt villages in slums. These slums are significantly dirtier and dangerous since the people and their homes are illegal. Stilt villages can be found in Kampung Tanjung Aru, Kampung Sembulan, Kampung Kasuapan (Pulau Gaya) and Kampung Pondo (Pulau Gaya). Since there is no real boundary between a traditional stilt village and the slum, visiting these places is generally considered dangerous and very dirty and not recommended even for locals unless accompanied by tour guides. 

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

As traditional and long-standing as these communities are, Stella in particular found it very confronting to see these slums immediately beside our comparative extravagance.  She wanted to ‘do something’ about it – I’ve told her that we’ll investigate further what could actually be helpful.  I’ve found a couple of news articles about the slums here and here that might interest some of you.  I also discovered that the average monthly net salary after tax in Kota Kinabalu is RM2,314 – around A$810.  I only snapped a couple of photos as I didn’t want to be intrusive, but there are many on google if you want to get a better visual of the conditions that these people are living in.  I also found this and this blog post and this news article.

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

Kuching to Kota Kinabalu

So to add a little more surreal, we headed across the road to the new Imago Shopping Mall, where there were numerous luxury shops and many food outlets.  We happened across a (very loud) dance performance and had a photo with the dancers.  Once again quite a few people took a photo of us – this has become a common occurrence (which I wasn’t really anticipating).

So today (Friday) will be our first full day in KK.  I’m still working out what we’ll do – possibly catch a few Grabs to museums and other ‘sights’.  You’ll have to wait and see!

Borneo 2020 · family

New Year’s Day in Kuching

After all the activity of the previous few days it was definitely time for taking things more slowly.  After all, there was laundry to be done!

Kuching day 5

Kuching day 5

The 15kg washer and dryer definitely came in handy! I was able to get through a few more pages of my novel before we headed down the street in search of handicrafts and then food. Juliana Native Handwork had been recommended to me as a great place to buy quality crafts – and it was!  Note that it is now in a shop in Jalan Carpenter rather than being located in the Textile Museum (and currently has a stall at Plaza Merdeka).

Kuching day 5

There is a book, Beads of Borneo, that appears to be the definitive guide to the history, types of beads, and techniques used in Borneo.  One website tells me that Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo has a unique relationship with the beads of Borneo. Although there isn’t any definitive evidence of when exactly the beads came to the region, there is evidence to suggest beads were first used in Borneo by visiting sailors for bartering. Back then, beads were made out of shells, teeth, bones and stones that were perforated and worn as ornaments.  If you’re interested in beadwork, please take a look at the link – the information there is quite comprehensive.  In essence, beadwork has been extremely important to the tribes in the area for many years.  This includes both making the beads and working them into patterns that are used to decorate a large variety of household objects as well as in clothing and other ornamentation.

Kuching day 5

I bought myself a beaded necklace, and a scarf that was printed in traditional designs including bamboo shoots and jungle ferns.  We have barely scratched the textile and handcraft surface in Sarawak; we just ran out of time!  Other places that could be visited include the Tun Jungah Foundation and Tanoti Crafts.

Kuching day 5

Kuching day 5

Kuching day 5

We found a late lunch at Indah cafe.  Home made vegan ice-cream in my iced coffee, a smoothie bowl full of scrumptious fruits, soba noodles, banana nutella crepe, french toast, ribena spider, and a drink of kedondong juice.  Everything was delicious, and we had a great conversation with the owner (who had been to school in Melbourne and lived there for many years before returning to Kuching).

Kuching day 5

Kuching day 5

Kuching day 5

Kuching day 5

Unsurprisingly, it rained again.  Not that a bit of rain was a deterrent for Stella.  Although if there is lightning, you do need to get out of the pool!  We were lucky – there wasn’t any.

Kuching day 5

Kuching day 5

Kuching day 5

Kuching day 5

Kuching day 5

Kuching day 5

An unexpected highlight of the evening was the Darul Hana Musical Fountain.  The rain had stopped again, and the air was quite still.  The fountain was opened in late 2018, and really did put on quite a show!  Still photos don’t really capture it – but there are a couple of videos on youtube if you want to take a look.  The show goes for around fifteen minutes, and is a combination of lights, projections, water sprays, and extremely loud music. Combining the elements of music, water and lights to create an amazing sight at night, the beautifully decorated fountain features a nine-foot wall measuring 80 metres in length. Operated using modern technology, it has hundreds of nozzles that shoot water 25 metres upwards.

Kuching day 5

Kuching day 5

Kuching day 5

Apparently the fountain cost RM31million to build, and the project is not without controversy.

Borneo 2020 · family

Tuesday in Kuching

We spent the last day of 2019 kayaking down a rapidly rising river in the drenching rain!

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

On average December is the 3rd wettest month of the year in Kuching with around 20.6 inches of rain!  I reckon that all of those inches and maybe more fell on us yesterday.  But what’s a bit of rain when you’ve got an outdoor activity planned?  Our guides seemed to think that the weather was cold with all that rain coming down, but it seemed okay to us.  After a safety briefing, we headed off down a tributary of the Semadang River (the Upper Sarawak River).

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Our guides were monitoring the water levels and volume in the river the whole time.  See the gap in the riverbank in the photo above?  We watched and heard a tree slide into the river at that point, creating some magificent waves.  We moved quickly downstream, covering around 6km in around 45 minutes.  Apparently this is MUCH faster than usual.

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Floating down the river with us was a variety of fruit (that’s durian in the earlier photo) and plenty of bamboo (along with stray thongs and plastic bottles).  We were drenched, but excited and full of adrenaline.  So much fun!

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

We pulled over for a rest at a village along the way.  A risk assessment of our intended destination indicated that the water level was rising too quickly at our intended destination for us to be able to land safely, so we needed to finish paddling where we were.  It was essentially a case of flash flooding.  As much as we’d have liked to continue on, safety always comes first.  We explored the little village that we’d stopped at, examining the variety of fruiting plants that were growing in the gardens there (wing beans, oil palm, bananas, pineapples, coconuts, and soursop among others).  Eventually we drove back to Semadang Kayaking‘s base, where we were able to shower and change into dry clothes, and were treated to a delicious lunch.

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

The drive back to Kuching city took a little over an hour, driving through pointy mountains, winding valleys, past roadside cemeteries and churches, then through villages and housing subdivisions, past shopping malls (they’re everywhere), back into the centre of the city.  I have finally remembered to google the geology of Sarawak, and discovered this: the base of rocks that underlie Borneo, an island in Southeast Asia, was formed by the arc-continent collisionscontinent–continent collisions and subduction–accretion due to convergence between the Asian, India–Australia, and Philippine Sea-Pacific plates over the last 400 million years. The active geological processes of Borneo are mild as all of the volcanoes are extinct. The geological forces shaping SE Asia today are from three plate boundaries: the collisional zone in Sulawesi southeast of Borneo, the Java-Sumatra subduction boundary and the India-Eurasia continental collision.

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

We giggle every time we pass a Petronus, always thinking of Harry Potter!  Sarawak actually specialises in the export of oil and gas, along with timber and palm oil.  Manufacturing and tourism are also significant industries.  The Sarawak government has this interesting article on the quality of life in Sarawak, clearly aimed at foreigners.

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

We were back at our accommodation mid-afternoon, so took off through the local streets again.  It’s very hit and miss as to what shops/businesses will be open; I can’t seem to work out any logic about the opening days/hours.  I love the way that the coffin shop sits between a framer and a cafe, directly across from a pepper and honey wholesaler, right near the waffle shop and massage business.

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Much of what we did in our afternoon and early evening wanderings involved food and drink.  We enjoyed excellent Sarawak coffee at Black Bean Cafe, admired and wondered at the ingredients going in to dishes at a variety of hawker’s stands, then eventually settled ourself down in a cafe to dine on local dishes.

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

That’s Kampua Mee on the left and Kolok Mee on the right.  We figure that ‘mee’ just means ‘noodles’.  According to my Sarawak food guide, Kolok mee is light yellow egg noodles stirred with pork lard, soy sauce and black vinegar, topped with slices of bargequed and minced pork.  Kampua mee uses slightly straighter and thicker noodles and onion oil instead of vinegar in the coating.  It’s accompanied with a bowl of clear sop.  And it’s SO yummy.  Even the girls ate it!

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Dan enjoyed another bowl of Sarawak laksa, this one slightly different to the one he’d had for breakfast the day before (they were out of prawns).  We also ordered rice topped with omelette, holding the customary chilli in the hope that the kids would eat more of it that way!  This type of street food comes at bargain prices – it was 27 ringit for four dishes and two drinks, which translates to around A$10. We also had a chat with the cafe staff.  Our 70 year old waiter used to be an income tax accountant, but he likes to help out his friend the cook who owns the cafe, and used to be a librarian!  Lots of interesting locals.

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

The girls and I headed back to the Marian to rest and read, while Dan enjoyed a sake in the little Japanese bar nearby then checked out the entertainment that was being planned for the evening along the waterfront.  There were huge stages set up with performers, the trees were all decorated in sparkling lights, but the rain continued to pour down.  So disappointing for the New Year’s Eve celebrations along the waterfront!  There were very few people willing to brave the weather at this stage.

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

Kuching day 4 Tuesday NYE

We did what we usually do on New Year’s Eve – we were in bed before 10.00pm!  But we certainly were wide awake when the clock clicked over to midnight.  There were MASSES of loud fireworks set off along the waterfront, which is only about 200 metres from where we are staying!  We could hear, feel and smell them.  I eventually got out of bed and watched them from the window, with spectacular colour and plenty of smoke.  Most were going off from ground level (we are used to fireworks being sent from the tops of buildings in Melbourne) and I’m actually rather glad that we weren’t any closer!  There was a sustained ten minute light show, and the rain even held off for the hour before and after midnight.

Unsurprisingly, the rest of my family are still in bed.  Today will be a day of rest, a visit to the laundromat, and definitely more food.  It’s chill time!  Happy New Year to all.

Borneo 2020 · family

Monday in Kuching

My only qualm when I write these blog posts is about how ignorant I must often sound.  I sometimes try to put myself in the shoes of a local who might be reading what I write, who could be cringing at every second sentence!  So my apologies in advance for any misinformation or misinterpretation that I might spread.  I’m just a tourist relying on the power of Google!   Some people have asked me to share a map of where (in the world) we actually are – so here are some maps to give you a little more context.

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

My summary: Borneo is a very large island – the third largest in the world – ‘owned’ by three separate countries: Indonesia (down the bottom, the state of Kalimantan), Brunei (tiny country up the top) and Malaysia (the two states of Sarawak and Sabah). As per Wikipedia: The island is politically divided among three countries: Malaysia and Brunei in the north, and Indonesia to the south.[1] Approximately 73% of the island is Indonesian territory. In the north, the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak make up about 26% of the island. Additionally, the Malaysian federal territory of Labuan is situated on a small island just off the coast of Borneo. The sovereign state of Brunei, located on the north coast, comprises about 1% of Borneo’s land area. A little more than half of the island is in the Northern Hemisphere including Brunei and the Malaysian portion, while the Indonesian portion spans both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Borneo is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world.

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

We began our day with a general wander, osstensibly in search of Sarawak laksa for Dan to eat for breakfast (laksa isn’t my thing, and the girls are sticking with the toast and/or milo cornflakes at the hotel).  As always, I enjoyed examining the variety of building architecture and checking out the wares that were on offer in the shophouses.

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

We came across kek lapis, also known as Sarawak layer cake.  This is a local speciality, along with protected naming.  Wikipedia has more information: Sarawakian modern layered cakes can be divided into two categories: cakes with ordinary layers and cakes with patterns, motifs, or shapes. All must have at least two colours. The cake can be baked in an oven or microwave. The batter uses butter or vegetable oil, milk and eggs, and requires a strong arm or electric mixer to be properly prepared. The baked cake has a high, firm texture and the layers are fastened together with jam or a similarly sticky sweet substance. More detailed cakes often require special moulds to maintain the perfect layer thickness.

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

The cake was delicious!  We decided on red velvet cake and chocolate chip cake.  Some are arranged into spectacular patterns, with the layers cut and stacked at angles.  Very fancy!  Then it was time to continue on along the waterfront.

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Yes, I found fabric!  I bought a few pieces from Fabriko, all in cotton, each chosen by a different member of my family to be turned into something eventually.  We chose local designs and motifs, printed with modern colours and inks.  There are lots of ‘batiks’ for sale in the tourist shops and markets that aren’t actually batik, but are printed, as well as lots of ‘ikat’ that is also printed.  However this shop appears to have an excellent range across styles and price points.

Kuching day 3 Monday

We found Dan his laksa!  Sarawak laksa is also well known and a highly regarded speciality.  I found this information about it: The origins of Sarawak laksa are not set in stone, but according to Edgar Ong in an article in Flavours magazine, the local legend is that a Chinese Teochew immigrant from Guangzhou named Goh Lik Teck first began peddling his noodle dish along Kuching’s Carpenter Street in 1945.  The dish was only made up of six ingredients, which is how it got its name – the Hokkien term for six sounds like “lak” and “sa” is slang for vermicelli. An alternative tale is one derived from the co-mingling of the Chinese and Malay cultures, which allegedly led to the term laksa from the conjoining of the words “lak” which meant “spicy” locally, and “sa”, which in colloquial Hokkien means to grab whatever is available – which often meant vermicelli, as it was a pantry staple.

Dan said that it was delicious – the best laksa he’s ever had!  He couldn’t detect coconut milk, and the flavours were ‘exquisitely balanced in terms of spiciness and saltiness’.  From there were proceeded to the Chinese History Museum (with an unfortunate slip on wet tiles for me on the way, resulting in a very bruised hip/shoulder/arm and bleeding elbow and a cracked phone screen.  I’m okay, just sore).  The museum shares information about the different local dialect groups, explaining where they were originally from in China and the trades and employment and locations that they settled in.  Exhibits include the early trade routes, initial migration from various regions of China, geographical distribution, the early pioneers, traditional trading activities, the formation of trade and community associations, political history and the involvement of the Chinese community in modern, multi-racial Sarawak.

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

At this stage it had been raining since before dawn, and our original thought of a short boat trip on the Sarawak River wasn’t very appealing.  We went on a cat statue hunt instead.

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

But then we found the Upside Down House!  The photos really do tell the story.  Lots of family fun on a rainy day!

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

2019-12-30 13.12.16

In the afternoon we headed to the Sarawak Cultural Village.  This is described as Sarawak’s Living Museum. There are replica buildings representing every major ethnic group in Sarawak mainly the Bidayuh, Iban, Orang Ulu, Penan, Melanau, Malay & Chinese. All buildings are staffed with members of the ethnic groups in traditional costume and carrying out traditional activities. We had a guide with us who was able to provide us with more information about each building and the community who normally lived in it.  You can read more about each type of building here.

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

In the Chinese house we were shown the pepper vine and tools that are used in harvesting and processing.  Pepper is an extremely important local product.  The vines are trained to grow up stakes of ironwood, then are harvested by hand when ripe.  Black pepper is left out in the sun to dry, and white pepper has the black skins removed by hand.

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

The processing of bird’s nests used for bird’s nest soup was also explained.  After harvesting, the swift nests are soaked in water and the fluff and feathers separated from the saliva strands by hand.  Extremely labour intensive – and extremely expensive to buy!

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

The Malay house was very appealing with dark timbers, plenty of ventilation and pretty floral curtains.  There was also a cheeky macaque helping herself to leftover rice in a pot – then sneakily stealing some biscuits from the maker!

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

The tall house was definitely tall!  On very high stilts, with multiple storeys.  Check out those steps carved into a log.  You’d certainly get very fit running up and down!  Multiple families live in this style of building.

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

This gentleman had a number of carved knives on display.  He also told us about a wood that acted as a deterrent to snakes and scorpions – it smelled a little like lemongrass when sanded.  I need to google this!

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

This house was also shared by a number of families.  Once again, it was very tall and spacious.  With those stairs!

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Dan had a ball trying to use a blow pipe accurately.  It takes a very strong puff from deep in the diaphragm to get the dart moving fast enough to cover a decent distance!

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

Kuching day 3 Monday

I’ve run out of time today to properly caption the photos that we took at the cultural village.  It was definitely worth going to – I feel that we learned a great deal about the ethinic communities that live in Sarawak.  I encourage you to have a read of the Wikipedia page about the demographics of Sarawak.  The original communities are still the majority of the population.

Borneo 2020 · family

Sunday in Kuching

You’ve probably worked out by now that I am the organiser in my family.  I organise our lives, I organise our holidays.  So it was a little unusual that I let yesterday pretty much evolve.  I had a vague idea of what we might do and what direction we might walk in, then we just let whatever happened, happen.

Kuching day 2 Sunday  Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

The day started off with rain – just like it’s pouring down as I type, in fact!  Maybe pre-sunrise drenching is typical here.  We’d all had the usual rotten sleep that is to be expected on your first night somewhere new.  The rest of the family slept in quite late, then with a little prompting from me eventually got up and dressed and we headed out the door.

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Directly across from our hotel is the Hong San Si Temple.  This is a Chinese/Taoist temple and is a historical building that dates back to 1848 (with renovations, unsurprisingly).  It was extremely beautiful and detailed inside.  I never know quite where to look when there is so much intricacy to admire!  We noticed that some sections of roof were open with carved stone troughs on the floor beneath.  When we took a look inside there were turtles!

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

We’ve noticed a number of magnificent murals around Kuching.  They can be spotted on walls up high, down laneways, pretty much anywhere that there would have been a previously blank canvas.  And there’s no graffiti that we’ve spotted.  They add wonderful atmosphere.

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Our wanderings took us down Jalan Carpenter, a heritage street lined with a mixture of  small shops and traders and coffee shops – most of which were closed as it was Sunday.  We did however happen upon another Chinese temple, Hiang Tiang Siang Ti Temple.  It was a larger temple than the one we’d visited earlier, with fish instead of turtles, and was buzzing with activity.  A kind gentleman informed us that we should return at 6pm that evening, as there was going to be a huge street parade!  It was the annual birthday celebration for Kong Teck Choon Ong, the main temple deity!

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

With that knowledge, we continued on our travels.  All of a sudden the Textile Museum was in front of us!  It was open, it was free, it was destiny!  In we went.  Now for my regular blog readers who are mostly here for the sewing and the textiles, I’m afraid that there were no photos permitted inside.  Although the building itself is pretty old and decaying, the exhibition was terrific and showed a comprehensive history of the textiles of the area, particularly those of the original Bornean inhabitants and the ethnic communities of Sarawak.  Different types of weaving and regularly used motifs were explained, and there were some wonderful examples of beadwork.  Definitely worth a visit.

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Right beside the textile museum was a modern shopping complex!  We headed inside, and saw pretty much the same shops we frequent at Norflanz.  Clare turns 17 in a little over a week, and we’d promised her a watch for her birthday.  There was a Swatch shop right in front of us, so we contributed to the Kuching economy before heading up to the food court.  Once again this was a fun way to look at similarities and differences.  Same concept that we’re familiar with in Australia, but the food stalls mostly served local dishes, each with it’s own speciality.

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Next stop was India Street.  More textiles!  An open air market that actually has a high roof to protect it from the frequent rains.  We also found one of Kuching’s famous cat statues.  The word ‘kuching’ also means cat, and the city makes the most of that connection.  We were greatly amused to see our daughters were also a tourist attraction when a family group asked to have a photo with them.  I’ve actually been a little surprised that there are so few tourists of caucasian appearance here.  We have been very grateful for the wide use of English; it’s made interactions quite simple thus far.  English and Malay are actually the two official languages of Sarawak, and Chinese is also commonly spoken.

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

 

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

We’d planned to walk across the Darul Hana Bridge that connects the two sides of the river, and compliments the State Legislative Assembly Complex building, but it was closed in anticipation of New Year’s Eve celebrations.  I suspect that it will be a central focus for fireworks!  I have a feeling that we’re going to have lots of fun watching the NYE celebrations tomorrow night.  So a wander along the waterfront it was.  There are a number of boat cruises that you can take up and down the river, which we’ll do at some stage.  We noticed a number of copper plaques set into the paving, all part of a History Walk.  We’ll need to return and do the walk properly.  It describes the history of the area, with one plaque pre-19th century, then the next going through the changes from being part of the Sultanate of Brunei, through rebellion, to rule by English rajahs under the Sultanate of Bruei, to occupation by the Japanese during WWII, colonisation by the British, then finally independence as part of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963.

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

It was time to wander back to the hotel and chill a little.  The girls and I stopped for waffles and liquid nitrogen ice-cream on the way back – Dan chose to have a foot massage instead!  The boutique beside our hotel sells superb handcrafts, including all these repurposed fan covers that are now wonderful bowls or wall decorations!

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

After a rest Clare and I went on another wander to become more familiar with the area.  We went past St Thomas’s Cathedral, which was rapidly filling with people attending a Christmas carol service.  It is an Anglican cathedral.  The first Anglican church in Kuching was erected in 1851, and the present cathedral was completed in 1954. We also had terrific views of our accommodation from the street, and found a little Japanese bar down with an alleyway beside it – so atmospheric.  Every time we venture out there is more to see.

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

By now it was time to return to Jalan Carpenter in readiness for the street parade.  And what a parade it was!  Huge numbers of floats, one so large that people had to manually pick up and move some of the parked cars flanking the road further out of the way.  So much sound, so much colour, so many people marching, everyone laughing, and finally so many extremely loud firecrackers!  Firecrackers are generally illegal in Australia, so it was quite a novelty for the girls to see and hear them going off.

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

Kuching day 2 Sunday

And now it’s Monday morning.  The tropical downpour is pouring down.  What will we get up to today?