Saturday, March 17, 2012

Busy days in Borneo

While we hear very little about Borneo from a tourism perspective, once we started looking at what destinations combine well with visiting Singapore, we discovered that Borneo, an island inhabited by three countries (Malaysia, Brunei, & Indonesia), had some very appealing options. In fact we had planned 3 full days of touring and scheduled an additional  free day.  Good thing because we decided to add a day of caving. Yep, caving.  

As planned, our first day in Kuching & area included a half-day at the Sarawak Cultural Village, a complex which displays 9 ethnic homes & a folk dance/customs performance including blow dart skills) combined with an afternoon city exploration. Kuching spans a river and includes multiple gorgeous chinese temples.  

Day two, we combined a visit to the Semonggoh Orang Utan Sanctuary followed by Kayaking trip followed by an evening visit to Anna Rais longhouse (a real Bidayuh longhouse community which offers a glimpse into authentic current day life and, as in Italy, we discovered that many locals have a professional life in the city but return to their village on weekends.). The day started with a downpour in the city but we were assured the tour would be fine, as it was.

A happy Orangutan

Mom & Baby on way to lunch

Dragon Fruit (and other fruits for Dessert)
Pat & Bill on way to lunch after "parking" kayaks
Yep, it's Heads in the "Head House "

Winnowing Rice at the Long House
Day three: Bako National Park, renowned for its biodiversity, is home to 3 types of apes (proboscis & silver leaf monkeys, macaques), the bearded wild boar, and the flying lemur, all of which appeared for us shortly upon our arrival.  (The trick is to arrive early before the numbers of visitors drove them away from the beach.)  The massive pitcher plants were the most impressive of the varied plant life.  In fact, we've noted that Malaysians are very proud of their pitcher plants, with numerous fountains, street lights and monuments featuring them.  On our boat trip back to the Park HQ we sighted a crocodile on the riverbank.  

Day four was the unplanned caving adventure.  There are many caves in the area. A few of which are well-known, one reputed to be the world's largest, another where a 37000 year old skull was found.  Our guide is the local expert and has personally explored and documented about 400 caves.  Ours was a mild adventure.  In the first cave, there were some tight space and some challenging climbs.  We spotted many swifts (three types, one of which is valued for its nests) and several types of bat, all of which stayed away from us.  The second cave was a river exploration, wading and floating through an underground stream that sparkles (when a light is shown through it) and is roughly 85 degrees (it feels cool when you first get in but never chills you.)  A lovely activity for a warm, humid climate. 

Aside from the above, March 14 (day two) is the "saint-day" of a significant Chinese diety.  As in San Miguel this warranted a colorful procession. And quite coincidentally we ate dinner in a restaurant overlooking the start of the procession and returned to our hotel room to overlook the end of the parade.

Food: Aside from eating twice at the great Italian Fusion restaurant (Junk), which gives new meaning to the term "junk food", we had to check out the local speciality, medin (the small, young fern frond available year round has a sweet delicate taste unlike the slightly bitter "fiddleheads" of Maine) and a traditional Malaysian Seafood Restaurant (where you go to the counter and personally select the fish and shellfish you want, along with companion veggies and then confer with the staff on cooking technique. The fried prawns were amazing. The grilled seabass, was a bit too "steamed" for our taste...while allegedly grilled, it was grilled covered and occasionally the cover was removed and the fish doused with broth.)

We stayed at a great property, the Batik Hotel. Aside from being lovely & comfortable, they couldn't have taken better care of us, arranging our tours, advising us on dining, Jackie, the owner, personally selects all the tours that she recommends. Their slogan, "Classy, Chic, Cosy" pretty much says it all.  If interested, check it out at:

For more re activities in Kuching, see,, 

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