Well after a lot of planning and organising we finally made it!! Kuching was the first stop (well after Sydney our departure point and a lengthy transit in Singapore!) of our 30 day Malaysian Borneo trip. 2 adults and 5 boys under 12......
I do tend to waffle on a bit sometimes but i'll try to keep this focused. We arrived late to the airport where we unfortunately found most things closed ie. money changers and phone outlets. Luckily my friend I was travelling with had changed some money prior to leaving and the sim card can wait. Having researched heaps here on TA I knew we had to get a teksi voucher before getting into a teksi. RM26 per vehicle. Now wasn't this a scary ride!?!? Oh my, was thinking the holiday was going to be over before it even started - crazy teksi ride, ran at least one red light, barely missed colliding with other vehicles on more than one occasion. But nevertheless we made it :-)
We stayed 7 nights in the Grand Margherita, it was fine, we were quite happy with our rooms. We had adjoining rooms that overlooked the pool with a river view. Beds were rock hard but we all crashed this night (& every night as it turned out).
Bit excited to get out and wander around town. this first day we planned on wandering, absorbing and working out the rest of the week's schedule. Hilarious, we didn't get 10metres from the hotel before the boys starting whinging about how hot it was and how desperately they needed a drink!!! A tip for those like me not too concerned by technicalities of life - when leaving a nice air conditioned hotel room into the humidity and heat make sure your camera lens isn't fogged up before taking photos!! lol, trust me. The river front was quiet this time of day, but has a welcome feel to it. We found a tourist office who we thought might be able to tell us about the tides this week at Bako (so we could pick the best day to go), alas twas not to be. The lady there did point us in the direction of the forestry office and another tourist office.
found a bank - don't worry there are plenty of banks and ATMs around Kuching, you won't be without cash for long. Went to both the forestry and tourism office still with no luck about tides - never mind, we'll just take our chances. We also found the Merdaka Plaza (shopping centre/mall), Time to feed and water those boys at the food court. Found a Tune Talk shop and purchased a sim card and phone credit to use on our stay - I think it was all up about RM50
Food court here was great, we also learnt something about orders of indian food. The breads come with curry sauce to dip the bread in - yum!! So just the naan becomes a meal! Coffee shops are scarce but we found a starbucks here (not a big fan at the best of times, but when you need coffee...) so thought we'd have a coffee for the grown ups. eeewwww seems that fresh milk is not common in this neck of the woods and coffee is made with long life milk, not pleasant.
Stocked up with essentials water, snacks, beers, fruit in the supermarket - evermore - in the basement level of centre.
Pool time. oh & lucky for us there was a delicious cocktail menu :-) This became a bit of an afternoon ritual during our week here. Afternoon pool time and a cocktail for the mums, the hotel staff thought this was pretty funny?! (for those who are interested cocktails were about RM23 ea)
Our first evening in town we hit the James Brook, this is an open air restaurant on the river walk, set in a lovely garden area. 5 fussy boys not up for adventurous eating chose from the 'western menu' which most restaurants seem to cater to. The veg curry here was devine and at RM15 not bad value. Our day of orientation wasn't complete, on the way back tonight we found a shopping centre with a supermarket right next door to our hotel!! much more convenient than the merdaka plaza. If you are thinking of staying at the grand margherita it is very central & handy to most places.
Next day we hit the Cultural Village. The bus leaves from the Grand Margherita so that's handy! We bought our tickets for the village from the little travel agent inside the grand margherita as apparently the adult tickets are cheaper this way. Seems the bus will pick you up from different places anyways we did 2 other stops for other passengers. The cultural village itself is set in lush tropical grounds, opposite the beach and under the Santubong mountain, makes for quite a setting. If we didn't have the kids i'm not sure I would come here? is fine for the kids and demonstrates the different ways of life, but..? The show was great and held not outside in a makeshift theatre as I 'd imagined but in an air conditioned, plush seat theatre. I did enjoy the show I thought this was quite well done. After we had wandered the village we went across the road in search of sustenance (there is a restaurant in the village but we passed). There is a big pub where you can normally sit outside and overlook the beach unfortunately it was closed this day so we went to the food court. Yum roti pancakes with different flavours eg chocolate or cheese or meats. Rotis all round thanks!! RM4 or less each. More feral cats with half or no tails here too. We were just beginning to realise the city of cats is literally the city of cats!!!
Oh we made it back in time for a swim & a cocktail....
We ate at the round restaurant just virtually next to the grand margherita, at the end of the river walk, looks over the river. Was OK but nothing flash, prices were probably on par with james brook
Bako, bako, bako!!!!!!!!!!!!!! bit excited. We decided on the 8am rapid bus (trying not to wear the boys out in the first 5 days - we are here for 30). The trip was much quicker to bako than I thought only took about 35mins. Adult fare RM3.50 kids RM2.50. On arrival at the boat ramp it felt very chaotic. There is one little desk where you have to pay for your park tickets and boat ride. Seemed to be a lot of people pushing and talking and reaching over others. If you are one person or even 2 to share the price you need to hook up with others to make a larger group - I think it is 5 per boat. We had a couple ask to join us, we were a group of 7 plus them made 9. The boat is RM47 each way. We also decided to hire a guide, we knew he would spot more than us and recommend the best trail(s) to take. This was RM100 his name Buyang.
ha ha needn't have worried about the tides, we were so lucky. The boat was able to go right up the stairs at the jetty - no wading for us. Perfect! Before we got to the HQ our guide was already on the lookout for wildlife, he knows where to look. One thing we didn't have to look for was the bearded pigs, one just wandered right by us, even gave one of the boys a snout up the bottom - oops!! While we were getting briefed by the map, one of the boys spotted a brown back snake on the pole, we got distracted then and didn't really hear the brief, my bad. We saw some amazing wildlife just around the park hq - you don't need to go on a lengthy walk if you are looking to see wildlife it's all right there. In a tree just out the front of the office there was a family of silverleaf monkey, including a little orange baby. so close. Then 3 mins later as we started on this trail hiding up high in a tree a proboscis! we back tracked to the 'naughty monkey' (macaques) area. Guess what? another proboscis. Not long after we see 2 flying lemur! By this stage even our guide was impressed with what we had seen! Next a green pit viper, curled up and hiding behind some bigger leaves. gorgeous. While we were admiring this viper apparently this other guide had seen the flying lemur fly! by the time we got there had stopped, but got a much closer look. As we were heading out to our trail we saw another pit viper this time just hanging at the end of a tree branch. A tip from Buyang the longer trails that go further inland are less likely to have much wildlife mostly the wildlife will be closer to the coast. All we saw on our trail was an extremely large green centipede and a black squirrel. Our trail ended at a beautiful beach, stunning. Felt like we had walked about 8km turned out it was 0.8km hahaha. Buyang organised for the boat to pick us up here, take us round to the sea stacks than out. wow, gorgeous.
We made good time and hopped on a bus back to Kuching. funny ride lots of school kids and they just kept looking at us, not sure if we were in their seats (boys took the back row), or because we are all western? all fair? or so BIG (we're all tall) (according to the bus driver) lots of giggles. This bus trip took longer and made a lot more stops. Still made it back to the hotel in time for a swim & you guessed it - cocktail :-)
Top Spot tonight, again very close to Grand Margherita, just across the road and up al little. We were early. Talk about sensory overload, there is so much going on here. As you walk along looking at each display the staff are following you and asking what you want, take their menu etc. I just wanted to run away. Kids were freaked out a bit by it too. we ended up ordering from the first or second one, the lady had us sorted. Food from one person, drinks from another. Nothing plain everything has a sauce. Kids picked and not real happy here. Adults great, had some delish fish and prawns and tried some miding. Top spot that Top Spot.
No alarm and a little sleep in is in order for this next day. The plan is to seek out Black Bean coffee shop. I loved just wandering around the back streets, Kuching has a lot of character and charm. Found Apply Laundry that was recommended on FB too, time to get some clean clothes! Finally found Black Bean as we were just about to give up. Is at the end (or the beginning) of the road, there is a chinese temple just on the corner from it. Best coffee, tiny shop with only 3 tables, but all sat and enjoyed. If you're a coffee drinker this is the place in Kuching to get your fix. Dropped into deli café for lunch. Kids bought some souvenirs. Relaxing by the pool - aaahhhh
Lyn's Tandoor for dinner - great choice. Love indian, kids were happy too. The owner chatted to us quite a bit, he even gave the kids some dahl to try and they all did!!
Next day we booked through Ivy at Borneo Trek & Kayak Adventure which I had researched prior and had contact details with me. They were great. we combined the kayaking with a visit to semenggoh. We nearly cried when we saw our first orang-utans. totally amazing experience. mum & toddler were the stars walking straight past the crowds not particularly phased at all. The only thing I would say about semenggoh is the disregard by some tourists and guides of the experience. They tell you and there are signs up to be silent, the orang-utans don't like the noise. All I could hear was people talking and I think some of the guides were the worst offenders. sssshhhhhh people sssshhhhhh. Didn't get to stay as long as we would have liked as had to get back for bus to kayaking. Well organised fun day. Pretty funny too. Beautiful scenery, great lunch in a little village, wandered around the village. Back in the kayaks and off we go, 12km of kayaking. Bit slow when 10year old paddle partner decides he might just kick back and let mum do all the work!! no wonder we were at the end of the pack :-) Great day though everybody loved it. Bonus is the guides take all the photos and drop off a disc at the end of the day with loads of photos. only negative is my youngest broke out in some weird body rash after this, not sure if coincidence of timing, rubbing from life jacket? something in the water? didn't affect him any other way. Back to James Brook for dinner - laksa mmmmm
last day in Kuching, sadly :-( chill out day, sleep in, pool, packing. Something we've been pondering doing all week a venture to the other side of the river for dinner. Hopped in one of the little boats that ferry people across - I think it was Rm5 or RM2 each? I can't remember plus the drivers couldn't speak English and our malay isn't so great (ok non existent) we may have overpaid but were happy to. Was just like an outdoor food court with some stalls looking a little dodgier than others. there was even a couple of stalls doing western food - kids are set. I just got some grilled squid. nothing to rave about but am glad we came over is very different to the main side. checked out the layer cake too - is a big shop with loads of varieties. Big mosque over this side too. great view looking back over to the main side as well
Next stop Mulu