Hello Borneo, Welcome to Cat City and a Short Stay at the Palace:
After seven weeks we left the Philippines behind, said goodbye to its aquamarine water and sandy shores and flew south to Borneo. Borneo is the third largest island in the world (behind Greenland and New Guinea, with Britain coming in eighth. And before you question my extensive research, Australia is classified as a “continental landmass” and not an island). This very large island is divided into two, with three-quarters belonging to Indonesia and the top quarter to Malaysia. This was where we were heading.
We flew into Kota Kinabalu on the north west tip, and then had a three hour stopover before flying west to Kuching. It was a lovely sunny day outside and Jo suggested we “go outside into the car park and sunbathe”. I said no, and went and had a coffee and read a book instead, whilst Jo grumbled about having “sunshine FoMo”.
We arrived in Kuching at 3pm. After seven weeks of trikes and tuk-tuks and having 20 men descend on us the second we left any airport or port or bus station, the calm nature of the airport taxi into the centre of town was slightly unnerving. We shook this off as we heading into the centre of Kuching. The word Kuching means “Cat City”, and as both Jo and I are massive cat lovers, we were irrationally excited about entering a city of cats.
Kuching made a good impression straight away – it was clean and organised and generally peaceful, and within half an hour we were at the Mandarin Hotel, a small but satisfactory hotel near the river front. We walked to said river front and had a smoothie and noodles as the sun set over the water, the oriental curves of a silhouetted pagoda making the red and orange sky even more picturesque.
We walked along the river front, past stalls of jewellery and paintings, beyond a man with a guitar and young lovers cuddling on benches, the most relaxed either of us had been in weeks.
We ventured into the hawker’s market to grab another meal, but it stank of fish and was too busy to find a seat. We headed to Chinatown, through the instantly recogniseable red arches, but it was nearly empty. One restaurant was doing a roaring trade, but most of the food was gone, so we carried on walking.
There is a huge Chinese influence in the town, with wood carvings and mystical symbols on every street, and colourful lanterns hanging on every doorway and from lamppost to lamppost. And then there were the cats – there were statues everywhere, on park lawns, in the middle of roundabouts, being sold as tourist trinkets in shop fronts and actually living in the flesh, eating leftovers from rubbish bins and skulking in and out of the shadows.
A new dawn and another beautiful day in Kuching. We were up at 7.30 and ate noodles at a local restaurant on the way to the weekend market. We got lost, but we were in no rush, enjoying the coolness of early morning walk before the heat of the day kicked in.
The market was in full flow by the time we got there, selling anything and everything – mangoes and oranges, chickens and chillies, swordfish and new suits. We walked round, bought some fruit, took some photos and then I got a ‘curry puff’.”Mmm that sounds delicious,” said Jo, clearly envious.
Labels: Borneo, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching