Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cat Wanders World: Wildlife, Forts and Cultural Villages in Kuching, Malaysian Borneo

Once again I was forced to fly through KL in order to have the absolute pleasure of flying with Malaysian Airlines (I say that without sarcasm, their seats are roomy and you always get fed). I’m not sure whether it was the meal on the plane or the fast food fish and chips I had in the airport that caused my upset stomach but I was certainly glad of the thunderstorm created delay to my flight! Flight was delayed by about an hour and despite it only lasting 1hr 10 minutes the crew pegged it up the aisle to give us a full meal!

I stayed at Quiikcat hostel and the owner’s very friendly niece came to pick me up from the airport. I slept like a log and when I woke up everyone in my room had checked out. I had free tea and toast with jam for breakfast, both of which were available all day every day. I looked at a few tour places but every single one charges you double the price if you are alone and I couldn’t join any group tours as it was low season so there was no one else wanting to go!

It was incredibly humid and prone to sudden heavy downpours so I went for a stroll along the riverfront and then went on a fruitless search for hair bobbles. I had lunch at Pizza Hut because you got mushroom soup, a personal margherita, chicken sticks and a drink for 17.95RM (just over £3). I walked past one of the cat statues too. I ended up being the only non-Chinese person to visit the Chinese History Museum as it was free and rain was threatening. I found it pretty interesting especially the bit where you could play examples of what people from different parts of China would say!

Next day I went to the National History Museum or at least I think I did. There were 3 museums next to each other and this was the only one open. It had lots about the history of Sarawak and the different tribes that lived there. It also had all about the different mythologies in a cool animated video at the start, my favourite being that the world is on top of a buffalo that is balancing on a flat fish.

The Dayak couldn’t mourn their dead without a skull so there was a lot of head hunting but when the Brooke dynasty took over and banned it they had rental skulls so they could still do it without offing anyone. When the Brooke dynasty officially ceded to the British Government there was a big kick off so the British put out Circular No 9. This meant that if you worked for the government and wanted to keep your job you had to agree to cessation.

There is an entire book of resignations and the circumstances under which they were rehired (or not rehired in the case of the ringleader in the Customs department!). The anti-cessation movement fell apart when a teenager assassinated the British Governor and the remaining member of the Brooke dynasty who had been leading the campaign then said that they had to stop because he wouldn’t condone violence. It was really interesting to learn about!

In the afternoon I took a cab out to the Sarawak Orangutan Sanctuary and my driver was really tickled that my name is Cat, I’m staying in a cat themed hostel and Kuching is actually the Malay word for cat. He told me all about how he’d been moored off the Isle of Man in a storm and about working for Cambridge English, which was deeply interesting. It’s a bit of a trek from the entrance to the actual sanctuary especially when it is incredibly humid but I was greeted by Mina the orangutan in an Instagram ready pose. She was later joined by her son who was dropping banana all over the place.

We were told he liked to pee on visitors but luckily he didn’t do that when I was there! I was a bit confused by the random crocodile they seemed to be keeping at the back of the sanctuary as it wasn’t clear whether this was permanent or because she had laid eggs and was guarding them. This sanctuary certainly felt a lot more tourist orientated than the one in Sabah and to be honest I didn’t like it as much for that reason. I got the bus back for 4RM but ended up in Starbucks because it was pouring down. I was not impressed by the cake or the service and was absolutely gobsmacked at the price for a hazelnut hot chocolate and a cake – 28RM (£5+)!!!