Friday, June 11, 2010

Backpacking Borneo: Kuching, Sarawak

After spending two nights in Miri, we moved west of Sarawak. A butt numbing sixteen-hour bus ride (for RM70) took us to the colorful city of Kuching.

Our Borneo trip thus far. View Miri-Kuching in a larger map

We arrived at Kuching's regional express bus terminal a little past 4:00 AM and went straight to the coffee shop upstairs to decide on where to go next. We assumed that public transport would be available around 6 or 7 AM (though we weren't able to find any information about it from our guide book nor the internet), so we spent the next couple of hours browsing Lonely Planet and eating our leftover food from a stopover.

Just before 6, we started asking people at the station how to get to the city center and how far it is. A taxi driver told us that there's no public transport going there from the station, and that it's a 5km+ walk.

With not much sleep, we hopped in his cab and asked him to take us to Jalan Tabuan. He dropped us off at Borneo B&B, and asked for a whopping RM23. In Kuching, most of the residents have their own cars, so cabs can dictate their rates as they please to tourists. So make sure you agree on a price before riding - unlike us who never thought of it out of exhaustion. Ridiculous, for a country that has cheap petrol.

Borneo B&B is a family run accommodation. We got there at dawn, and a lady was already manning the reception.

Borneo B&B's homey receiving area.

When asked about vacancies, she said at first they were already full, and that we can come back at check-out time. We told her we came all the way from Miri, and she must have sensed our desperation for a room. She then said that she has one room left but it's downstairs, fronting the street - meaning it can get really noisy. For a cheap RM30 (plus it's air conditioned), we took it.

We slept until midday, had a late lunch, then headed to the Visitor Information Center. 'Kuching' is thought to derive from the Malay word 'kucing', meaning cat. So don't be surprised if all around town you'll see cat figures/sculptures and cat monuments on roundabouts (heck they even have a cat museum).

The Old Court House.

The Visitor Information Center is located in the charming Old Court House (built in 1871). The staff is friendly and very helpful. One of them gave us the number of Bako National Park Office so we could reserve a room as it is often full. On the way back to Borneo B&B, we bought a Malaysian SIM card and was able to secure accommodation the next day.

[South East Asia in Six Weeks Series will resume after the next post, Magalawa Island: The Babymooners.]


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