The Land of the White Rajas…

It’s been a long time, far too long in fact. I haven’t blogged in months, two to be exact, and work is to blame. College kids have, for generations, swore that as soon as they graduated and had no homework to do ever again, they would have so much more time to do everything else they had ever wanted to do, ever.  I can say now that this is a long-perpetuated fallacy and that anyone in college should stay there as long as possible. That aside, let’s continue!

So, work got crazy and I didn’t blog. The cliffnotes of those two months include going to Koh Tao, twice, and getting both Basic and Advanced Adventurer certified with SSI so that I can now dive up to 100 feet down. In fact, I enjoyed SCUBA diving so much I am thinking about becoming a dive master, but that story is for another day.

The real good stuff starts about a week ago. My first semester of teaching ended last Monday and so that night I went with my friends Rich and Cole to Koh Tao (This is the second of the two times that I mentioned earlier). It was the first part of an elaborate travel plan that I’m following for the next month. We spent one week in Koh Tao (Details might follow, might not, we’ll see how tired I get here) and got back to Bangkok on Friday. Saturday was a day of packing and cleaning, and Sunday I left with Rich for Borneo.

Borneo, for those who are now reaching for a map, is just east of Peinsular Malaysia, south of the Phillipines, and is generally situated in what can be called both Southeast Asia or the South Pacific. It’s one of the largest islands in the world and is composed of the Sultanate of Brunei (Country), Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) and Indonesia (No idea on the provinces here, but it’s one of Indonesia’s many island holdings). Our trip (Fully outlined at http://dickmarks.com/?p=241 ) brought us first to the Malaysian city of Kuching.

Getting here wasn’t easy. We left Bangkok at 10AM on Sunday, got to Kuala Lumpur at 1:30 local time ( 1.5 hour flight time, there’s an hour time change in there), chatted with an Australian couple for an hour or so (hello Neil and Freida!) checked back in for our flight to Kuching, got on the plane a little after 5PM and landed around 7PM. It was dark when we landed but the taxi took us downtown to Kuching where  we stopped at a hostel listed in our Lonley Planet book as a decent place to stay. The owner wasn’t around but we talked to two very nice girls sitting at the computer in the lobby (from England) and they seemed lukewarm about the place. Hearing that the owner wouldn’t be back for another 10 minutes, we decided to walk around and see if anything else presented itself. Thankfully, within 5 minutes we had found a new place in a better location with much less expensive prices – in fact it was brand new!

After settling in, Rich and I went to grab a bite to eat on the Kuching river walk. It went from right in front of our hotel all the way down past a Hilton hotel at the far end. We walked the whole way and ended up getting food from a sidewalk stand near the Hilton for all of $3 USD. It was delicious. Then we went back to the hotel and got to bed with no trouble at all.

This morning we woke up around 10:30AM local time. This was about my normal time but it was a bit early for Rich (9:30AM thailand time). We took long, hot showers, got clean, and headed out with our cameras to explore the city. It was dead when we came in last night and it was nice to see people out and about. With no real plan, we walked towards the Sarawak national museum and wandered around there for an hour or so. Then we made our way to the Divisional Mosque (it was pink!) to take some pictures and see inside a mosque for the first time. It was rather uneventful, people were sleeping and praying and good times were had by all.

As we walked towards the waterfront that would bring us back to our hotel, Rich bummed a cigarette off of a local guy that was relaxing on a bench. He proceeded to chat with the guy and get a recommendation for a local place for us to have lunch. We found the place without much difficulty and sat down to a nice lunch of chicken and rice with an added bonus of roti and curry sauce.

While dining, we struck up a conversation with a man who sat right next to us. Kayrol (pronounced Carol) was quite friendly and spoke good enough English that we chatted with him most of our lunch time. Our meeting ended with an exchange of phone numbers and the idea that we could get together later to have dinner. We didn’t think much of it at the time.

After lunch, we finished our walk, found a place that made business cards (Rich had wanted a calling card for a while. These were a good price and so he bought 100 of them for $10), and made it back to our hotel to use the internet and check out this Kayrol character that had given us his facebook page and told us we could have dinner with his family if we called him later. Agreeing that he looked like he was a real person and not some fake persona created online and manifested during our lunch hour, we met him and went to a local place for dinner.

Dinner was, as meals often are in Malaysia, amazing. Kayrol dazzled us with crazy stories, interesting questions, and big smiles as we met his friends at the local restaurant and we talked everything from politics, to girls to what to do tomorrow! He was exceedingly friendly and willing to go out of his way to accomodate us and show us around, which of course came off like he was going to feed us then leave us stanaded in the middle of a jungle with nothing in our pockets except our empty palms. Yet, he did nothing more than treat us to  dinner, make sure we got back to our place safely, and bid us farewell for the night.  Crazy.

Rich and I ended up having a celebratory drink after surviving our first full day in Borneo, and I just got back to the hotel while he stays out a bit longer and does what Rich does best – socialize.

A few more comments on Kuching so far:

  • The city has an amazing array of antiques and wood craftsmen making it a necessity that I come back here one day to furnish my house
  • The arts here are wild and beautiful
  • The city has more than 20 ‘local’ dishes, at least according to the locals
  • Everything closes at 5:30pm. Not a few places, not half the places, almost every single place is closed by then. The exception seems to be a few food stalls and hostels that cater to tourists and wanderers

For now, I’m exhausted and it’s time for me to go to bed. Tomorrow is either an orangutan center or a trek through the forest, who knows! Anyway, the people in Kuching are obscenely  nice and it’s made for an amazing trip so far.