Saturday, February 11, 2017

#25 - Sunday, 12 February 2017 | Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo

It's 3 a.m. Sunday morning. I can't sleep so I may as well type. Then if I can't fall back asleep I'll prepare my camera gear for the day. Our group is meeting for breakfast at 7 and are being picked up at 8 to travel to a nature reserve in search of Orangs. You can call these great apes orangs or orang utans or orangutans, which are derived from Orang Hutan or, literally, "man forest", just please not oh-rang-you-tangs. There is no "g" on the end. There are two species - the Borneo and the Sumatra - and the Bornean orangs are divided into three subspecies. Interestingly, the Borneo species is more often seen on the ground and this is believed to be because there are no tigers here, whereas there are in Sumatra.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Yesterday a contingent of 13 friends from England's west country arrived. My Bristolian second family was just as knackered as I was the previous day, but they checked in midday and we all met in the lobby of the LimeTree Hotel at 1 pm to take a walk around Kuching. Kuching means "cat" and we walked by several cat statues and then walked along the Sarawak riverfront. Kuching is the capital of Sarawak and is located in northwestern Borneo. The island of Borneo is comprised of three different countries; in the north, Sarawak and Sabah states are part of Malaysia, and the tiny country of Brunei sits between them along the north coast of the island, while the southern bulk of the island is the Indonesian Kalimantan. 

Except for me and one couple, our group has all been here before and has favorite places for dinner and drink. Our walk brought us to one of these and I enjoyed cold Tiger beer and a delicious and spicy Tom Yam Laksa. Laksa is spicy noodle soup of Chinese and Malay origin and this one certainly cleared my sinuses and added to the substantial brow sweat due to the heat and humidity. After a half dozen pitchers of Tiger and some local cuisine we continued to tour the area, popping into numerous gift shops with textiles, spices, and other "tat". And speaking of "tat", we eventually walked by Borneo Headhunters Tattoo Shop owned by Mark's dear friend Ernesto. At this point our group splintered, as some of us were eager to say hello to Ernesto and his partner Robin. Eventually all but Mark and I continued back to the hotel. We stayed until Ernesto finished a tattoo and Mark, Ernesto, Robin and I had a coffee and chatted. Mark's tattoos were all done by Ernesto and are traditional hand-tapped work of Iban tribal designs. The Iban people, also known as Sea Dayaks, are mostly native to Sarawak and were once renowned for practicing headhunting and being fierce warriors in pursuit of tribal and territory expansion. I was very interested in getting a tribal snake design and we made an appointment to return Monday night at 9 pm for me to get my first traditional Bornean hand-tapped tattoo.

Mark and I stopped for one more Tiger beer on our walk back to the LimeTree and waited for an afternoon sun shower to pass. Back at the hotel our group had made arrangements to meet on the hotel rooftop for Mark's birthday dinner at the LimeLight Rooftop Lounge. Gifts and cards were exchanged and I brought Mark a Lenser P7.2 flashlight (the Brits call them "torches") for our night wildlife hunting. I had pasta and garlic bread and we all turned in early so they could recover from their own long flights and we would be rested for our orang adventure, which is to be followed by a visit to a traditional Borneo longhouse and a toast of Tuak (Bornean rice wine).

But here I am wide awake several hours before breakfast writing this. I guess I'll get the camera gear ready and then do my best to fall back asleep ...

All the best, M

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