Monday, May 23, 2016

Bagel and the Slug: Show us yer monkeys - Kuching and beyond

What does Borneo mean to you?

Does the word alone conjure up images of swathes of virgin rainforest? Head-hunting tribespeople? Wildlife on steroids? Most likely all of these things.

Well, surprise! Kuching is none of these things.

Surprising, yes. But disappointing? Not in the slightest.

Despite its not-so-Borneo-esque appearance, Kuching definitely won us over with its exciting food scene, hiddledy-piggledy rows of old chinese shophouses and some of the friendliest, most welcoming people we’ve met whilst travelling.

Oh and the cats. All those cats.

The literal translation of Kuching in Malay is ‘cat’ and residents of the town have certainly taken this to heart, covering the whole city in delightful cat statues and honouring their feline namesakes with an entire museum.

I mean, I think some people might call this kitsch. But only like… really, really generously.

Strangely, it wasn’t the cats we’d come for (I know, shock). We were here for them primates innit, or to ‘do the monkeys’ as it is known locally, at Semengoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.

The centre cares for rescued orangutans –  animals who have for example been kept as pets or injured by poachers – and teaches them to adapt and live again in the wild.

They have a huge expanse of wild rainforest in which to roam and play and just generally be orangutans, but food is still left out by the rangers twice a day outside of fruiting season.
The orangutans can come for food if they wish – or not! – so it’s definitely no show or zoo.

In fact, it’s not even guaranteed that you’ll see one on your visit.

However, luckily for us, we came face to face with five of the handsome ginger beasts.

A really incredible experience to meet those so similarly afflicted as myself.

Having spent our first couple of nights in a hostel which was in fact closed (yeah, odd experience), we decided to relocate across town to Marco Polo’s Guesthouse run by Sam and Georgette – a Malaysian couple who quickly rose through the rankings to become ‘Our Favourite Malaysians Ever’ (move over, Heung).

Situated on the lively Padungan Street it also gave us a chance to explore a different area of town, although we did miss our neon 7-Eleven nightlight terribly…