Have a few friends from university who hail from various places in Borneo, mainly Kuching in Sarawak, and that is where my friend from "semenanjung" (peninsular) malaysia and I decided to visit in this trip.
Funny enough, my friend from Seremban has never visited East Malaysia and this too would be her first time to Borneo Island.
The trip starts in Singapore where my friend took the opportunity to visit Singapore- brought her to the usual places: gardens by the bay, MBS, orchard road, vivocity etc. Boring stuff...
The flight tickets were amazingly cheap...ryanair cheap. Our Airasia flight SIN-KCH was S$45 each (£23) and KCH-KUL was 98RM each (£20) making the total return trip about S$85 or £42.50. (I tend to think in terms of pound sterling nowadays)
Of course, not as cheap as those dirt cheap £20 return fares from Stansted to Wroclaw, but very reasonable for the 1h20 SIN-KCH and 1h40 KCH-KUL. Never knew until this trip that Singapore is actually nearer to Kuching than Kuala Lumpur.
Interestingly enough, my Peninsular Malaysian friend got a chop at the Kuching Airport. (Needless to say, I of course as a Singapore citizen got chopped) Apparently, Sabah and Sarawak have their own immigration clearance and Malaysians from the peninsular have to get chopped at border controls. This is not reciprocated; i.e. Sarawakians who go to the peninsular do not have to get a entry chop, just their NRIC will do. I am not sure about Sabah, but this is the special case for Sarawak.
Again, the amount I spent this trip was very low, extremely low in fact, due to the very favourable exchange rate of Singapore dollars to Malaysian Ringgit (S$1=2.5RM) and I had free acommodation and transport thanks to our Kuching friends who graciously brought us around.
Including air tickets and souvenirs, I barely spent 500RM in four days. (S$200, £100)
Kolok Mee... The noodles were handmade, QQ and very filling. A simple, hearty dish. only 2.50RM.
First stop on the itinerary was Jong's crocodile farm, a zoo of sorts whose main attraction are the crocodiles and the crocodile feeding show. They also have a hodgepodge of other animals in the farm.
Admission was quite interesting, it was 10RM for Sarawakian adults and 16RM for foreigners. Foreigners including Peninsular Malaysians. They do this by checking the Malaysian ID cards...Their NRIC incorporates their state of birth I believe. The Sarawak code is 13 if I'm not wrong.
Anyway, we were just in time for crocodile feeding!
We then went to one of the malls in Kuching and I realised one important distinction between Western style toilets and Kuching public toilets. Many of the public toilets in Kuching had... no TP. Just a hose. Found that out the hard way when I had to rush to the loo and had to get my friend to buy tissue packs from Guardian.
Aug 7, 12, 11:37 am
Our next stop was the Sarawak Cultural Festival, a food fest held outdoors in the city centre where there were at least 100 stalls selling food and drinks of all shapes, sizes and smells.
Unfortunately, this was to be a bad decision. Barely 15 minutes after finding a parking lot (very difficult!!) it started to pour. Not the British kind of "rain" but the proper tropical rain. Really, really, really heavy rain. We hid out in the few places with shelter for about 45m till the rain subsided, then ran to the car and drove away. Quite a pity for there was alot of food (albeit overpriced for Sarawak standards).
We then made our way to this place called TopSpot food court, sixth floor of a building where they had lots of seafood stalls.
No pictures unfortunately but suffice to say the food was really good and really cheap.
Aug 7, 12, 11:38 am
Having planned what to do the next day, we decided to book a chalet room in a town slightly outside of Kuching, at the seaside. Decided to enjoy the day at the beach and at the resort.
Sarawakian Laksa. Big portion for 5.5RM. It's similar to Singapore laksa except I think they don't incorporate any curry inside and they use less coconut milk. Instead of using the thick rice noodles, they use the thin rice noodles which I prefer. Healthier methinks. And very tasty.
Second stop was the Sarawak Cultural Village at Damai, the town we were going to stay in that night.
Admission this time was split into three tiers:
1.) Sarawakian adults/students (cheapest) 20RM/15RM
2.) Other Malaysian adults/students 30RM
3.) Foreigners 60RM
With four other Malaysian friends, the three with Sarawak ICs bought the 20RM tickets. My friend mentioned my peninsular friend and I were both from "semenanjung", and we got the 30RM tickets. phew! My lack of knowledge of Bahasa Melayu could have cost me 30RM. Thankfully, I didn't have to open my mouth. The benefits of having local friends :biggrin:
traditional Iban longhouse, where many families live under the same roof but shared the same Western approximations of the "living room", "dining room" and "kitchen" if you will. Their "bedrooms" are separate, having privacy from each other.
No pictures of the resort as we spent most of our time at the beach and I didnt bring my camera out for fear of it getting stolen. The beach is very nice, kind of muddy closer to shore but further away, very nice.
It was also cheap. The resort is very weird. We booked the smallest room at 241RM a night. Max number of occupants technically was 2, however, they provided 2 queen size beds. Thus, 5 of us squeezed into the room. It wasn't actually a squeeze infact. The room was pretty big! Had a balcony too. The price includes buffet breakfast for two. The breakfast was above average. Overall, very very pleased with our stay. Highly recommended. The resort is called Damai Beach Resort. After splitting the 241RM, we realized that our daily rents back in England was more expensive that what we paid to stay in the resort!
Aug 7, 12, 11:38 am
Having had a very enjoyable day and night playing taboo and "big 2", we went back to Kuching proper. Visited the Sarawak Parliament and the Cat museum that was there. Quite boring.
Samples of the Kek Lapis. Very good. but fattening. Very reasonable, a 25cm by 5cm cake for 10RM to 15RM depending on the flavour. That would get you two puny slices from Bengawan Solo in Singapore.
Headed off for lunch at an award winning restaurant called "the Dyak". Dayak people are a native people to Sarawak. Highly recommended both by my local friends and tripadvisor. The food is really good. Very reasonable, 100RM for 5 people including drinks. Good service. You might notice that their servers have lots of tattoos. Don't think that's a rebel thing ala western style but just their Dayak culture to have tattoos. Their tattoos are of those tribal style kind.
Alcoholic Ice Cream with the Dayak's own liquor. Slightly too strong for my liking.
Aug 7, 12, 11:39 am
Hard to fathom the past three days passed so quickly!! It had been lots of fun.
Our flight back to KUL was at 19h10 that night. Hence, we had 3/4 day to explore Kuching further.
Our first stop early this morning was to the Nature Reserve to observe Orang Utan feeding at 9AM. This nature reserve is off from Kuching central, and we had to wake up at 7.30AM and set off not long after 8.15AM to reach there at 9.
but...look at the parking fine! 0.53RM! how cheap is that! it's an instant S$6 fine in Singapore for the equivalent infraction. My friend said he fully expected to get a summons but didn't bother to go tear another 20c coupon as it was too hot and he was too lazy :tongue:
Our last stop before leaving Kuching was Bazaar Ramadan, where Malays set up food stalls and sell yummy Malay food, mostly for takeaway for other Muslims to bring home and "Buka Puasa" (Break Fast)
Keropok Lekor- a fried hard thing made of flour and minced fish then deep fried. Have never seen this in Singapore- my only recollection of Keropok Lekor was the dry and cold ones at Malaysia Hall in London...but these are in a totally different league. Fresh from the deep fryer, they were crisp and hot, while not having too fishy a smell. Very good. Bad for the arteries though. Cheap as well, 6 for 1RM. Malaysia Hall sells them at 2 for a quid. total ripoffs :angryfire:
By this time it was late afternoon and my friend and I had to return to pack our stuff and take quick showers before leaving Borneo.
My last image of Kuching...the kuching central bus station. East Malaysia as far as I know has no train system.
And with this, we left with a heavy heart...kuching had been very fun indeed. And then onto our next adventure in Kuala Lumpur....
Aug 7, 12, 11:42 am
We arrived in LCC Terminal in KL at 8.50pm. My friend stays in Seremban and this is where we'd be heading to KL from everyday.
It would be a short three days in peninsular Malaysia. We would take the KTM Komuter from Seremban railway station to wherever we went. The KTM Komuter is quite efficient, though likely to be pretty expensive for those who make the commute to work everyday from the outskirts of KL. It was 6RM single trip from Seremban to KL Central, imagine spending 12RM on transport everyday!
Day 1 was spent in the Bukit Bintang area (translation: Star Hill). Went shopping and a buffet lunch at Jogoya Buffet Restaurant. Was 78RM++ per person but they had a promotion of 30% off on Fridays. Worked out to be 67RM nett per person (S$26, £13) Food quality was very good for a buffet. The selection was enormous. Kushin Bo standard at Sakae Sushi prices. :biggrin:
Day two was spent in Mid Valley Megamall, a huge mall in Kuala Lumpur. More shopping was done and I managed to get two Banana Republic collared tees for only 80RM (S$32, £16). :biggrin:
Aug 7, 12, 11:42 am
before I knew it...my time in Malaysia (both East and West) came to an end and I had to make my way back to Singapore.
I made a fatal mistake by going back on a Sunday afternoon from Kuala Lumpur, ie reaching Johor Bahru customs at night. The jam was so bad, even on a coach, that I vow never to return on a Sunday night by land ever again. Either fly or go back on a weekday.
With that, my trip report is finished. It was a very enjoyable week in our northern neighbour, not least that I could spend in a way that I never can in expensive Singapore or England, the great company I had and the fun activities we enjoyed together.