Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Great Adventure: Malaysia and Thailand (Part 2)

Borneo, Malaysia
January 9-17

My first stop on the island of Borneo was Kuching, a city which in the local language means "City of Cats". Kuching is in the southern corner of the Malay state, Sarawak. Malaysian Borneo has two large states, Sabbah and Sarawak. I only had a week on Borneo so I only traveled around Sarawak. My goal coming to Sarawak was mainly to get in touch with some nature and hike in the rainforest. Definitely got to cross those off my bucketlist!
Picture of a river snaking through Sarawak. (Taken from the plane)
A.K.A. Cat City

Cat images filled the city, from statues at street intersections to the coverse of some of the manholes. My impression of Kuching was that it was a pretty quiet city, however I was there during the rainy season and there were not many tourists. It was a bit of a shock coming from bustling KL to sleepy Kuching. The first day I only saw a handful of westerners. In the following days I met more locals and some really fun European travelers.

A colorful housing community around Kuching



This is the largest mosque in Kuching.
A few of the neat things to see in Kuching were the pink mosque, the area by the river, and the Chinese temple. I didn't go to the temple, but it was hard not to spot the mosque. To me it looked like a mix between Aladdin's palace and a barbie dream house. Seriously, who came up with that color scheme? Kuching also has a few museums with exhibitions on local art, Sarawak history, and even death customs from a variety of Asian cultures. 

After an hour long rainstorm on my first day I took the opportunity to take a walk along Kuching's river front. I loved the walkability of the city and the natural beauty of the tropical climate hugging the edges of the city. From my hostel it took about twenty minutes to walk towards the river-front area. The riverfront area had a great view of an old fort, a few fancy government buildings, and some riverhouses. A few people fished off to the side of an old market. The city was almost so quiet it was a little eerie.



Day 2 in Sarawak I left the city to begin my trek in Bako National Park. The park is on an island a short bus and boat ride away. 

Bako National Park

Within a few minutes of docking on the island, I saw a troop of proboscis monkeys! It was really exciting to see this type of monkey, which is native to the island. Apparently I was pretty lucky to see them because they don't always hang out around the shore and base camp. The first afternoon I was there, I went on a little hike by myself to a mangrove swamp. There were a lot of crabs; on the ground, in the trees, everywhere. I also spotted a monitor lizard! Didn't get great shots of them. After over an hour of hiking I had to turn back because the ground was too marshy to continue, and the sun was going down.

Proboscis Monkey- named for the big nose

These wild boars like to hang around the cafeteria and dorms.
The monitor lizard, camo works well with the tree roots.

That night I took a night tour. About 8 visitors were accompanied by a guide, who led us around the forest of Borneo at night. It was amazing how easily he could spot wildlife.  Then again, he definitely knew what to look for. We got to see quite a few creepy crawlers (like a spider as big as your hand!) and some really cool reptiles/amphibians.  At one point it started raining so we went into a cave, where cave birds flew around. One ran into the back of my head. :(  Later, we walked out again and the guide showed us some mushrooms and other fungus that glowed in the dark!

Poisonous snake alert! Green Viper

Some type of tree gecko

A stick bug

A loud little frog

The next day we had a torrential downpour. My roommates and I had planned to hike to Tajor Waterfall, but with all the rain the couple from Spain decided to rest around the dorm and cafeteria. Lia, a girl from England who had been traveling the world for almost a year, and I decided we would brave the rain. When the clouds parted for longer than 10 minutes, we packed our cameras and set out. It turned out to be one of the funniest, most soggy adventures ever! We hadn't gone more than 45 minutes before the rain started again. I managed to get a few pictures from the peak of one of the mountains on the island. My bag got totally soaked, and we were lucky she had a plastic bag to protect cameras/wallets.

The ocean during low tide
Top of the "mountain" The ground had really weird patterns

We hiked through the pouring rain, wading through what turned into rivers, clambering up muddy banks, and trudging through foliage. Someplaces the path was hard to find, sometimes we thought we would have to turn back before finding Tajor Waterfall. In the end, we made it to the top, took a quick picture and a breather, and walked back. The whole hike was about five hours, and right when we arrived back at base camp the boat had arrived to take us back to mainland Borneo! Bako National Park was so worth the trip, and I would love to do it again! There are a lot of trails there with a variety of flora and fauna. I only got a taste of Bako, but it was memorable!

Lia and I made it to the waterfall!

Right at the top. The river was swollen with rainwater

Semengoh Wildlife Preserve

Well, with a rainforest trek checked off my bucketlist, the next thing to do in the Kuching area was go to Semengoh Wildlife Preserve to hopefully see orangutans! January and February isn't a great time to see orangutans at Semengoh because there is plenty of ripe fruit on the trees. They don't need to rely on the fruits provided by the wildlife center. Luckily, I got to see Richie (the dominant male orangutan at Semengoh) and his boo, Selina. Later on that day I spotted another smaller male!

He's a really big guy! (Richie)
Selina eating a jackfruit

We were lucky that he was lazy today


Orangutans are pretty dangerous animals. Look how big the "small" male is compared to the human! Earlier that year one of the females had ripped a man's finger off and bit his leg because he got between her and her baby. We were not allowed to walk around the trails at Semengoh becuase of this incident.  Most of the orangutans here were rescued. They are nutured back to health and then taught how to support themselves on their own. Some of them don't even know what types of food to eat by themselves!

Lia and I decided to travel throughout Sarawak, Malaysia together, so the night before we left we had a karaoke outing with our friends from the hostel. Even the owner of the hostel came out with us for a few songs! The next morning, we headed north!

America, Germany, Germany
Denmark, Me, Finland

England, Germany, Me

So long Kuching! A cool statue of a hornbill in Kuching.

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