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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Singapore to Kuching

MALAYSIA | Monday, 3 November 2008 | Views [3230]

Sat 1st Nov - Last night was a bad night for sleep. A raucous crowd outside were still making noise at 4am. Then another bunch who were moving out today were up at 8am or so. I'm flying to Kuching in Borneo Departing from Johor Bahru's Sultan Ismail airport at Senai at 19:55pm. Which means going back into Malaysia just to catch the flight. Will have to check-in at 17:55, so seems like plenty of time to amble from here to there. Had a good morning catching up with posting photos onto the net. Seems to take forever sometimes, and then checked out and headed for the Queen street bus station just before noon. Bus CW2 goes about every 15 minutes and leaves when near to full as possible. Costs only $2.40 to get to the Woodlands checkpoint causeway, and took about 35 minutes as the traffic wasn't too bad. Flew through the Singapore part of immigration control and rejoined the bus to move to the Malaysian immigration part, a short ride along the causeway.

That's when things slowed down dramatically...it was a sea of bodies in about ten queues, and seemed to be running at a snail's pace. It was...it took me an hour to get through. And it was hot and very sticky, so everyone was melting.

On the other side I thought all I needed to do was pick up a bus to the central/main bus terminal and then get an airport express shuttle from there. Not as easy as that. First had to run the gauntlet of dozens of taxi touts  shouting at me that there was no bus going to the airport anymore. At first I didn't know that the main bus terminal was also called 'Larkin', so missed completely some signs with that name on it. Then one guy told me to go back and get bus 170 and change at Larkin, so got the idea. I talked with some taxi drivers and felt that it was going to be worth the 40 ringgits they were asking, so decided on the easy option even though I wasn't pushed for time. Johor Bahru's Senai airport is a fair way, maybe 32km outside of town and took nearly 40 minutes to reach, so worth the fare.

It is a messy place at the moment as they are expanding it, and the taxi driver couldn't go right up to the departure entrance. It was also a mas sof asian folk battling to squeeze into the small entrance doors of the intermediate entrance hall. Police were overstretched trying to marshall the near anarchy..I thought it was hilarious, as I just marched past them all and headed to the main building with the police waving me on!

Not sure what was going on but there was a desk buckling under the weight of a mountain of passports...they must have either been or were going to a convention?

With many hours to kill, I could relax. Change my remaining Singapore dollars to ringgits, and have a nice meal at the Lavendar bistro. In departures there was a Muslim prayer session being held that had to cut short when a flight was called. For my flight, there was a mad scramble when they called it. Seats weren't allocated, so everyone for themselves to get a window seat. As it turned out, the plane was less then half full. Air Asia flight AK5706 Left on time at 19:55 and arrived at Kuching at 21:05. Immigration was so quick and easy, that I was outside getting into the taxi at 9:25pm. 20 minutes from landing to leaving the airport was a record.

No buses running at this time of night, so only choice was to get a taxi. Pre-paid taxi coupon system from booking desk by the arrivals exit costing 23 Ringgits. Booked into the Singgahsana Lodge on Kuching waterfront's Temple road, opposite the swanky Harbour view hotel. It is a nice and comfortable lodge and very clean. The rooftop bar was just what I needed after a long day and got talking to a couple of fellow travellers, who had both come from the north towards the south, opposite to me, but full of useful information. Peckish, so off for a bite to eat. The waterfront is convienient across the road and got a nice Malay meal of Nasi Lemak for 5 ringgits. Time to study the local map and get acclimatised. Another day, another country....

 

Sun 2nd Nov - Last night was a disturbed one. Wasn't in bed until 2am as had been catching up with friends. Went back to my dorm room to find someone asleep in my bed. Was late, so climbed into another bed. At 4am was awoken by someone wanting the bed I was in. Not moving, so they went off in a huff. Apparently, they had a late arrival of a large group and it was a free for all. Woke up this morning not as refreshed as I had hoped. It is a clean place but noisy.

Simple breakfast but at least the coffee was good... Full of caffeine and on with the day. Across the road from the Singgahsana Lodge is the Siew San Teng Tue Pek Kong temple, the oldest temple in Sarawak. Tue Pek Kong is the 'Host, or earth Deity' and is much revered by the chinese. He has a great job spec. for anyone who wants to believe in him...protector of their crops, suppressor of evil spirits, curer of sickness, and help them get rich! If it works, then a guy worth believing in! Many people were burning incense sticks, and so the air was laced with the kind of aroma I have got used to in asian temples.

Kuching waterfront was a relaxed atmosphere today. It is Sunday and so plenty of people around in small groups and enjoying the warm air. Small covered boats zip backwards and forwards across the Sarawak river. They have an oarsman stood on the front with a pair of crossed oars and also a motor once into the main flow. Will go on one to the other side tomorrow. Carrie along the front going west and thought it was a well cared for place, until I reached what the map calls the 'Wet Market'. A desolate carcass of what used to be a thriving fish market, nut now just the broken remains and trash. The pier has been left to fall apart. Not sure of the reason behind the demise, but will try to find out.

Moving inland into the town now and the smart mosque, sat atop a small mound and with an interesting cemetary attached. The graves were short stone stumps, many wrapped with a sash. What caught my attention though, was a traditional Malay style house at the bottom of the mound. Painted in vibrant pink and red colurs with a bright metalled roof, it also doubled as a shop...slightly disappointed by that, but they obviously were making the most of their location.

Stopped off at the tourist information centre on the front and decided to go on the minivan to Semenggoh Wildlife rehabilitation centre at 2pm (25 ringgits). Left enough time to have lunch before going, so had a traditional Nasi Lemak at the lovelt Waterfront café. Coconut cooked rice with an egg on top plus spiced chicken, peanuts and dried fish. An interesting combination, and one that you have to be in the mood for. Food prices aren't horrendous here. Lunch cost 16 ringgits including a drink. Most meals seem to end up in the range upto RM20 max.

A full minivan of mainly german couples, and took only 40 minutes max to get to Semenggoh. The entrance fee of 10 ringgits was included in the price. The main reason for coming here was to see the Orang-Utans, something Borneo is famous for. They live in the jungle but come out for feeding on the morning and afternoon on specially constructed platforms, with viewing areas for the onlookers. Although it in a controlled environment, they were lovely to see. Such gentle animals, each with a real character. There were two viewing areas, with much of the area off limits to visitors. ! It was amusing and frustrating when with the group, to receive instructions from the park ranger...no flash photography...keep your voices down as these animals are timid and easily frightened. What that meant to most of the idiots in the group was...run ahead shouting and flash at everything! Had to break away from numpties like that!

After seeing the Orang-Utans I went off away from the crowd in search of somewhere more private to explore. I managed to find a small unmarked trail, where I found some cool bugs to photograph. An amazingly nervous bright orange centipede that was impossible to photograph due to its speed...a more sedate shiny vermillion beetle and monster ants!

There is also an orchid centre at Semenggoh, but not given the time to see it. This is when it is better to come on your own.

 

Mon 3rd Nov – As I have decided to go to Bako National Park tomorrow and stay overnight in the dormitory, this has to be booked in advance through the Tourist centre on the water front. Costs RM15.75 a night. After that decided to head across the water on one of the little boats for 50 Sen. Picked the wrong landing to cross over to as I thought I could get along from one to another by land. I probably could with a long walk in between. The problem is that they are building a new civic centre and have closed off all walkable land route. Ended up trying to battle my way through a building site,  which at least allowed me close up of the construction work. It was blistering hot today, so it was a bit uncomfortable. After an hour or so messing around and not really seeing much…the Asanta building, which is the formal residence of Sarawak’s governor, is off limits to tourists, so couldn’t get close enough to see it. I gave up and headed back to the boat landing. This is where they have you by the short and curclies…To get back to the other side, unless you’re in a group or other people are waiting, costs a lot more than coming over. They wanted 5 ringgits! Not a chance…a bit if a stitch up really. I bartered and eventually got one to take me back for 2 ringgits. One lives and learns!

 

Not much happened the rest of the day as it was too hot to venture out and the rains started late afternoon, so good opportunity to take a break as tomorrow should be a bit more energetic.

Bye for now boys and girls....

 

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