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Sarawak Survival Skills

INDONESIA | Wednesday, 6 August 2008 | Views [716]

Wow! Where to start? Due to a lack of internet, or any kind of comfort for that matter over the last two weeks, I haven't been able to sit down and do a proper entry into this thing, so I will try to sum up the latest adventures with as great of detail as I can.

Alright, I'm not so sure where my last blog left off, so I'll start with the day I left Denpasar and flew to Kuching, Sarawak (Malaysia). Needless to say I was quite nervous on the plane ride there as I had no contacts, plans, or a great grasp of the Malaysian language. Upon arriving, it started to pour down raining and I had a rather emo moment as I had dinner alone and watched the rain come crashing down around me. The only thing that cheered me up was the fact that Ricky Martin's 'La Vida Loca' came on and I found some comfort in having at least SOMETHING in English going on around me. I don't know quite how to explain it, other than sometimes here I feel like quite the freak show as people will stop and stare as I walk down the street, eat food, actually anything really... as they must think that western women must do things differently... but I'm sure they are sad to come to the realization that that I love to scarf down nasi goreng (rice) as much as they do. Anyway, moving on. After feeling like a lost puppy in the rain walking around Kuching city, I decided to head into a pub close to where I was staying and ended up having quite the eventful evening. Within minutes of walking in, I had a free pitcher of Tiger beer slopped down in front of me and ended up making some very good friends who made the rest of my week quite a breeze with the inside information and hot spots they shared. The first night in Sarawak definitely was on the opposite end of the spectrum from the earlier part of the day and I ended up partying it up with the "Headhunters" band.

The next day I met a German lad who showed me around town and since it was Sunday took me to see the famous Sunday Market. For anyone that has read about Kuching, you may know this to be the place of a few unlucky peoples untimely demise, as some have fallen off the waterfront in the crocodile infested waters below. I always thought the news was exaggerated when I read about the different traumatic events, but the waterfront is actually quite scary as you can see the crocs tearing apart any unfortunate animals that fall in. Aside from trying a variety of tasty (and not so tasty) foods at the Sunday Market, I split up with my new German friend and headed to Little India where I ended up buying some Pau (a puffy chicken filled dough - had to explain in words really) and a jacket, because as I quickly found out, Kuching only varies between the two extremes of unbearable heat and pouring rain. I spent most of Sunday just walking around asking the different vendors what their top picks were and pulling a complete Andrew Zimmer haha, trying anything from beef foot to bird's nest, chicken heart to shark eyes, these people will seriously take any animal/part and hunker down.

The next day, I woke up early and after much walking around, discovered that I could get transport for about $7 USD to the Sarawak Cultural Village, instead of the $60 USD that the different tour businesses were trying to peddle. The Cultural Village was amazing as I got to meet and interview a variety of tribes, most famous being the Iban Headhunters of course, who I found to be quite warm and friendly haha, despite what the history books have noted. However, every house still proudly displays a net full of human skulls over the door with a fire forever burning underneath to trap the wretched souls and not allow them onto the next lifetime. On top of the spooky stuff, I got to not only spectate but participate in a few musical performances, and so getting a great amount of ethnomusicology information that has only boosted my ambition to continue on with my ethnomusic studies. After walking around for most of the day and finding some transport back into Kuching, I walked around until I could find the most unusual looking restaurant in town, sat down, and in my finest Malaysian asked for the chef's choice. A few minutes later out comes a big pot of duck feather/peanut shop, with an even bigger bowl of nasi topped with fresh duck meat. I'd never had duck before, so I didn't know what to expect.. but amazing! I ended up ordering more duck meat and would recommend that anyone else try the famous duck peanut soup of Malaysia if you ever have the chance. The only thing more famous than duck at this particular joint was cucumber juice, and the owner obligated me into drinking about four of five glasses haha, so I certainly met my cucumber quota that day. The rest of the day was spent down on the waterfront, interviewing different people about their past time and how their particular religion fits into that (Kuching is a mix of Islam, Christianity, Taoist, Hindus, and a ton of smaller "black magic" sects). I ended up meeting a lad named Zul and so was able to get a great night city tour of all of the sites and kitties. Oh ya, I should have mentioned earlier. In Malaysian, "kuching" means cat and the city is named so because there are GIGANTIC cats on just about every corner; with a few cat monuments in important city centers and intersections.

On Tuesday, I put myself on a local bus to Damai Beach, and wow wow.. incredible. The beach off the South China Sea and out of the amazing beaches I've seen in Africa and Asia, this had to be on top. The softest, most powder-like white sand I've ever seen, with warm water, cool breeze. Total Corona commercial, if they ever spread business into Southeast Asia, haha. I spent most of the day at the beach and afterwards, tried skype-ing home, but had little luck of anyone being awake with the sixteen hour time difference. After visiting the Chinese Museum, I headed back to my spot, because of all things, I had a date in Kuching to get ready for. Believe it or not ladies and gentleman, apparently I can still catch boys sans makeup/brushed hair/decent clothes. We went to the James Brooks Cafe (the white raja for those that remember their history books) and tried a variety of local food, which as you may know from reading, has got to the be the hottest food on the planet. Afterwards, we went to the Piccadilli Pub (Ozzie owned obviously) and I was treated to watching Korean business man after man go up and shine as a karaoke master, talk about headache! And of course the top song they all want to sing? Shania Twain's "I Feel Like A Woman", naturally!

The following day, I went walkabout and ended up scoring the jackpot. I was simply walking around a Hindu Temple when all of a sudden, the high priest asks me the basics (where I'm from, what I do, yadda yadda)... about twenty minutes later, I'm sitting behind the Temple in lotus position with about a dozen men enjoying fresh thosai, idli, and roti canai.. which I can only translate as a savory pastry (pancake looking) with warm curry with a side of cold, sweet, milk tea. Jesus, you'd think these people knew me. Had to be the perfect combination of ingredients I like and if I ever end up on death row, would be my choice of last supper! Not only were the men of the Hindu Temple nice enough to feed me, but they let me hang out there all day... doing casual interviews as we prepared the offerings (apparently Krishna has a sweet tooth, because we cut up a ton of bananas, plums, honey combs, etc) for worship as they were currently in the season of the Aadipooram Festival, which is a ten day holiday asking for protection of certain people on certain days (one day being police day, the next being student day, etc). After a long, successful day at the Temple, I had a smile plastered on my face on the way home and felt like a fat and happy kid as I picked up a Boba Tea along the way. Talk about the best day of my professional, better yet, personal life. And following such a religious experience, I stepped into a Malaysian Parlour (accidentally the happy ending type), but they pointed me in the right direction and down the street was the 'regular' massage parlour and I ended up getting candles stuck into my ears, lit, and then the girl walked out without any kind of word, so I simply lay there wondering what happens when my hair catches fire. Luckily, they have the timing down and after about fifteen minutes, the girl returned, blew out the candles, and pulled them out of my ears. Apparently the procedure is done to draw all toxins out of the body/soul, but none of that was explained to me until after I was sat down and had wax shoved in my ear haha. I don't know if it actually did anything, but at least I know that my ears are fire-retardant.

I really didn't want to leave Kuching, I absolutely adore Malaysia, but I had to head back to Denpasar to attend a Birthday party. I spent my last day in Sarawak visiting a few more museums and having my last fill of chicken curry before I snagged a taxi to the airport and headed back to Denpasar. But of course, travelling in Asia is hit or miss. My flight was postponed for a few hours but thankfully I got hooked up with a free meal ticket, so I got to hang out with the pilots in the secret cafeteria, which made me feel very VIP, hah. The rest of Thursday was spent with a cold Bintang in hand,once I got back to Denpasar, and it's safe to say that the birthday activities were quite exciting!

The next day I think I slept in for the first time getting here, since I was wrecked tired from walking from sun up to sun down everyday in Kuching, but after that I got up on my bicycle and went for a nice long, penance type ride through the mangroves to the opposite beach and back. What we'd call a life changing bike ride haha. The rest of Friday was quite fun, it's funny to say this but the people I've met in Sanur have become like family to me, and even after only a few days away, we had a great time catching up. I'm honestly a little worried about how homesick I'm going to get when I leave here. Sad to say, but I really haven't missed the states since leaving, aside from my family of course, I haven't really longingly thought about anyone. Maybe moving here next year will be a breeze after all. Anyway, back to Friday. Friday night I was invited to a beach party in Sanur and well, had a great time. Can't really go into too much detail, but drinks were drank and fun was had by all, haha... we'll leave it at that.

I think I will also leave the blog at that. Saturday and Sunday were mostly spent interviewing and tooling around town on the bike as usual. But on Monday, I had the bright idea to hop a bus from Denpasar to Yogyakarta. And I guess the cliff hanger for the next blog will be that the bus ride here was fifteen hours. no toilet. no stops. no food. and above all, no english speakers. Alright, well I gotta go here, about to catch a Javanese performance tonight, but I'll update the whole Yogyakarta adventure when I get back to Denpasar!




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