Sunday, April 12, 2009

Kuching Adventures - Wet, Wet, and Wet..

Kuching was...bloody wet. 

It rained from the time I arrived Friday till I left on Sunday and apparently it has been raining like that the whole week! So traipsing and touring around in torrential downpour and drizzle was a first for me. I was so happy and relieved that I decided not to bring any shoes on this trip - only had my flip flops - and what a joy they were to wear in the rain. Shoes would've just get bloody soaked and heavy. The downside was, I didn't bring any socks so my poor toes were a bit chilly at night.

Well, my (mis)adventures -  as usual - started on a wrong foot. Again. Haha.

After reaching KKIA and checking in, I realised I didn't have my handphone with me. Called the office and true enough it was on my table. And I locked my office. And spare key was with me too. Geez. Had to call my brother to turn back and fetch me again from airport to office and back to airport. Boy was he mad. Flight took off on time without any dramas.

Arrived at the Kuching airport 10 minutes ahead of schedule (always a nice surprise from Air Asia) and was greeted by a huge crowd of welcomers including a kompang troop. Hmm, no; I don't think they were there to wait for me. Became a busybody and asked someone and was told that there were waiting for a certain VVIP. Oh, okay. So waited around for a few minutes (my taxi hadn't arrived yet) and managed to snap this pic of the aforementioned person. After all the handshakes and waving, he was swiftly whisked away in a black Merc S350.

Arrival of a certain 'VVIP'
Reached the Pinnacles Lodge just before 7 pm and checked in. The dorm room was very small I thought - not for claustrophobics. Cleanliness was alright. The common bathroom/toilet was also on a wee side. After a quick washup and change, left my stuff there and went out to scout the area and look for dinner. Armed with a city map, I walked out (it was still raining) and found that the block is just opposite Hilton. 

The Pinnacles Lodge, 1st Floor above 7-11

My bed which squeaked and squeaked
Further down, I reached the Waterfront. Not many people were around in the bad weather. I didn't have an umbrella and tried to walk in sheltered parts trying not to get too wet. After a while walking the length of the Waterfront, I got basic bearings of the place and managed to find a place to eat which I had read about somewhere before, called The Junk. Quaint little place choked to the brim with artefacts and stuff. Very cozy I'd say, menu was pricey though. Not feeling meat-y I ordered some pasta and a 555 very sour drink (yummy but strong on the stomach). Next time I'll try the lambshank. Mains are served on HUGE serving plates, portions are also generous so I guess the hefty price tag is acceptable. Sorry food pics too blurry to put up. In the same row I found out there are 2 other outlets belonging to the same owner. One is called The Living Room and the other Bla Bla Bla. I say, Ha Ha Ha. What a name. Apparently food is cooked in The Junk's kitchen and delivered to these two. Nice, tasteful decor combining both modern and ethnic stuff. 

"The Junk"

After dinner I walked along the block again; Kuching has a few trendy cafe's / eateries which looked interesting, shops were mostly closed. I then went around looking at other hostels/lodges - went to Singgahsana Lodge and fell in love with the place. Ms M showed me the dorm and it was nice and spacious and toilets were super clean and dry and airy! I was hooked, so I made up my mind to stay here for the 2nd night. I also bought my Cultural Village ticket + shuttle service there (RM60 + RM20 return) for Saturday morning.

Shaky night shot of the waterfront

Walked along the Waterfront again on my way back and decided to call it a day. Read a magazine, internet wasn't working. Found the bed was very squeaky; move a bit and it squeaked which was kinda annoying. Went to sleep and was woken up at 4 am from the loud sounds from the beating rain against the walls of the building. Yes, it was that heavy.

Woke up to my alarm at 7 am, showered and checked out. Walked to Singgahsana, checked in, left my luggage and went for breakfast at the coffeeshop across the street. Still had an hour to go before the shuttle van arrives so I went to see the Chinese Temple and check out some other lodges/hostel along Carpenter Street.

Singgahsana Lodge

Berambih Lodge at Carpenter St.
MySarawakTravelCafe at Carpenter St.

Hong San Si Temple at Temple St.

At just after 9 am, our shuttle van arrived and took us to SCV - it was about 45 minutes, along the way we could see the swollen rivers. Arrived at SCV and were given our visitor sticker and passport, where you can have it stamped after visiting each of the traditional houses. I went walking with Lindsey, an English lady I befriended on the shuttle bus. 

It was enjoyable even in the rain - we managed to cover all except 3 houses before we headed to the main hall for the cultural performance at 11:30 am. That too was enjoyable although for me I have seen them before. 

My favourite - Rumah Orang Ulu
Iban warrior at the cultural show

With Thomas, Penan warrior

At the Rumah Orang Ulu - fantastic background.

Lindsey trying out the rice grinder at the Chinese Farm House.

Gongs and other artefacts at Iban Longhouse

Bamboo bridge to Bidayuh Longhouse

Wood sculpture by Korean sculptor

The rest of the sculptors at the entrance

Main stage for RWMF in July

Sarawak Cultural Village entrance, taken before leaving.

After the show, I continued my visits while Lindsey decided to have lunch first since she will be there the whole day. I on the other hand decided to take the return shuttle at 1:15 pm after completing my tour. While waiting for the driver I chatted with one of the managers there, he was very helpful and shared useful information about the coming RWMF in July. Reached the city at about 2 pm; the rain didn't get any better in fact it got worse - decided to sleep it out and see how things would turn out in the evening. 

After my nap, I chatted with my dorm mate, Louise from London - who is an avid traveller. She's been to all these wonderful places and is in love with Malaysia. Next time she'll include KK in her map :). It was great chatting for hours exchanging travel stories and experiences. We kept hoping the weather would clear up but it didn't. By early evening she decided to go to the night market in Satok anyway, with one of the lodge staff Ina, since she will be leaving the next day. I decided to stay put and explore the City Centre, determined to locate the cat statue. And I found it despite the rain !!

Cat Statue, next to Grand Margherita Hotel

I also found that Kuching doesn't have big malls in the city centre. I went to three small ones in the same area - Tun Jugah, Sarawak Plaza, and Riverview - I may have gotten the names wrong. The new mall called The Spring is out of city centre, I didn't bother to go since I wasn't in a shopping mood (yeah right, my excuse, I just try to stay away so I don't get tempted!)

On the way back, I braved the rain and wind to get back to the Lodge; made a quick stop at Life Cafe for dinner and back to the lodge for shower and nap. Louise was back from her night market jaunt, not much to see except she managed to try out the durian. We decided to continue chatting upstairs at the rooftop bar and were joined by Bruno and Michel, two Frenchmen who had just arrived that day. 

Wall graffiti encouraged - leave your mark !
The walls are covered with autographs and comments.

The bar. Breakfast is also served here in the morning.

After swapping tales and political opinions (potent topic) we called it a day just before 1 am and went back to retire for the day. I slept soundly in my warm bed. Traffic could be heard outside but I was okay with it. Light sleepers might find it very noisy. As advised in the lodge's website, wear earplugs if you are one :P

Well that's the story so far. Day one verdict : I like Kuching :)

Will be back for RWMF in July! Whoopee-do-dah!

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