Saturday, November 14, 2015

On My List: Forest Forays and Food Fest in Kuching, Borneo

Arriving in to Kuching in the early afternoon, we immediately noticed the haze wasn’t as bad as Singapore (hooray!).

We checked in to our hostel, Singghasana Lodge, decorated in a typical Sarawakan style with some great spaces for socialising including a rooftop bar, and headed out to find lunch.

Our walk took us along the south bank of the river with views over to the grand, golden-roofed State Assembly that looks a bit like an ornate circus big top.

We passed a number of street art paintings and Chinese temples as we headed down the lanterned main street through historic Chinatown and stopped to sample banana fritters from a street vendor that were perfectly crisp on the outside and a soft messy goo within – absolute culinary heaven!

We continued to the open-air market for lunch and ordered fresh pau – steamed pork buns that were so fluffy it was like eating clouds – and Sarawakan laksa, a five-spiced take on what is possibly my favourite Malaysian dish.

After our hectic day in Singapore, we spent the afternoon relaxing at the hostel before going to Junk, a very cool restaurant/bar that had a ceiling cluttered with eclectic ‘junk’ ranging from a mix of Chinese lanterns to musical instruments and old tennis racquets.

The food, like the decor, was a fusion of East and West, and I enjoyed a delicious fish and chips with an Asian twist.

The following morning we visited Semeggoh Nature Reserve, one of the best places in the world to see semi-wild orang-utans.

We were joined by Adam and Gemma, a lovely English couple who had just started teaching in KL and who entertained us with their tales of international school life in Malaysia.

Arriving at the reserve, we witnessed with mixed emotions a live chicken being devoured by a big Estuarine crocodile and were then briefed on the orang-utans of which there are 27 in the reserve.

Left to roam freely in the forest, the reserve had two areas where food such as bananas and coconuts was made available to the orang-utans that wanted it twice daily and during these times visitors could observe.

Sightings were therefore never guaranteed, but there was a good chance of seeing them.

We walked through the jungle to a feeding site and waited scanning the trees for movement.

Soon, a rustling in the trees grew louder and we held our breathe as we got the first glimpses of a female with a baby clinging to her underside, swinging from one tree to the next and down ropes to the wooden platform.

Close behind was a massive male, known as Edwin, that was at least twice the size of the female and looked decidedly like the honey monster with it’s massive, hairy body.

Along with this, his wide face with huge cheeks and beard made his powerfulness truly palpable.

We watched enthralled by their dexterous antics as they swung with easy in near silence, using all four limbs equally in their leisurely acrobatics, so that at points they were hanging upside down and in positions contortionists would be proud of.

We were overwhelmed by what majestic creatures they were and admired their strength and intelligence as one effortlessly cracked open a coconut against a tree to drink the juice.

Walking back towards the HQ, we came across three more orang-utans feeding and playing in the trees, including the wise-looking Grand Old Lady that was no more than a few metres from the path.

As they swung off back in to the jungle, we felt privileged to have experienced their presence and on an absolute high.