Sunday, July 12, 2009

Holding the Fort at Fort Margherita

Early Saturday morning after a mee kolok breakfast, I decided to take the sampan (perahu tambang) across Sungai Sarawak since I did not manage to do so on the previous trip due to the heavy rain and floods.

Boarding the sampan.

Boat fare was 40 sen per way. You just place your fare on the boat deck where the tuan bot is standing and take your own change, if any. I was surprised that the sampan had a small engine, I thought it was all manual labour ;) No wonder it took less than 5 minutes to reach the other side.

View from inside the sampan.

Alighted at the Kampung Boyan jetty, and walked through the quaint village towards the Fort. It was a short uphill walk, almost got lost once I was on the hill itself as there was no signage to indicate the direction and I missed the turn. I should have trusted my instincts and turned left once I reached the top.

Take the left at Kg Boyan.

The fort is named after Ranee Margaret, the wife of Charles Brooke. It sits regally on a squat hill slope overlooking the mighty triver; an all-white, smallish building built in 1880 to guard the river from pirates then. Reminds of White Castle - remember this fastfood outlet? My favourite in the early 90's back in college.

"White Castle"

The Fort is actually used as a Police and Prison museum, however currently they are carrying out major upgrading works around the fort, maybe ready in a few month's time. So there's no exhibition at all and the rooms are all empty. Too bad this was not made known to tourists, I guess some people would be disappointed to come all the way here and not see anything.

I like old buildings so it was fine with me.

What I liked about the Fort?

The courtyard with cannons.

The view from the roof is beautiful. Although only three floors high up a narrow spiral staircase, looking out to the Kuching skyline on a breezy morning was an experience for me.

Up the spiral staircase.

The door on the rooftop.

Next door is the State Legislative Assembly Hall, also a work-in-progress.

After soaking in the views I went downstairs and the caretaker told me to go have a look at the tengkorak if I dared to. I went, huh, tengkorak? He said, ya, kalau kamu tidak takut tengok, boleh pergi. Kalau takut tengok, jangan pergi.

So, of course I went.

It's located in the outer courtyard where the cannons are. The room with the skull is in the far corner, marked with an image of a white skull on the door.

Ledge leading to the skull room.

As I walked on the wooden ledge towards the room, I suddenly got the jitters. The closer I got to the closed door, the more scaredy cat I became.

This usually spells danger, no?

I hesitated in front of the door, took a deep breath, opened it....

.......looked inside, snapped a picture and closed the door as fast as I could.

Yes, ada tengkorak inside the bakul rotan.

Jeepers creepers. I broke into a small sprint as fast as my legs can take me, away from that door.

Spent some more minutes walking around and taking pictures before calling it a day.

All in all it was a short visit. Recommended and worthwhile only if you like old buildings, and have time to spare in Kuching. Hopefully once the upgrading works are completed it will be a more worthwhile visit.

In the meantime, just experience the sampan ride and enjoy the views :)

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