The flight to Kuching/Borneo is leaving quite early in the morning. To make it on time and save the money for a cab we decide to spend the night at Penang airport. The second floor seems to be just in use for offices and we can find a quiet corner where we put our mattresses and prepare for some hours of rest before departure. Nobody seems to care about us “camping” there and surprisingly we really get some sleep.
The flight to Kuching doesn’t take long and after arriving in Kuching Seven is picked up by Kripa, devotee at the local Hare Krishna Temple. Cause we planned to split up for some days, I take the local bus to the city centre and start looking for a place to stay. I end up at a nice guesthouse, called “beds”, in Kuchings Chinese area and take a dorm bed for some nights. It really doesn’t take long to get in contact with the stuff and other travellers, like Judy from US. While talking about our travel experiences and further plans and preparing my bed in the dorm time is passing fast. The day started early and I didn’t have any proper food so far, so I decide to check out the restaurants around. Most of them serve Malaysian and Chinese inspired food and again it gets really hard to find vegetarian options. After more than one hour of starving I buy a Chinese cookie to get some energy. It’s kind of a huge sweet butter egg one and very delicious, but maybe not the healthiest thing to get. But for now there is no other option. After buying some fruits and things for daily business the day is almost over and I spend the evening together with other travellers at the guesthouse sharing stories and recommendations.
The next day is all about checking out Kuching. Okay, I slept quite long, took my time to enjoy coffee and breakfast so it’s almost midday when I start walking waterfront and visiting the mosque. On the way to the local weekend market I get totally lost inside a living area and like many times before my orientation is a mess. Thank god, Google maps is working and leading me back to the city centre after getting an impression how locals are living in Kuching. Back at the guesthouse I start doing some research and plan the next days.
Before Seven is going for a ten days meditation retreat we meet to spend the day together just chilling in the city. We will meet again for the Rainforest World Music Festival.
The next days are filled with things to explore. First I go on a trip to Bako National Park together with Erik, from France and Basha from Poland. Trekking the day, taking a bath in a waterfall, going on a night walk and spending the night in a wiggly tent. To fit into the common stereotype Basha and I have problems to set up our tend and we need Erik to help us preparing our sleeping place for the night. But still, there seems to be something wrong with the tent, it looks quite shaky….but even after 4 hours rain in the night we stay almost completely dry. After a small trek in the morning we take the boat back to the bus stop and back to Kuching.
Further plans include riding along the coastline and up a river into remoter parts. Bascha is joining and we take the ferry to Sibu, Borneos most “Chinese” city. It really turns out to be like that. Restaurants serve mostly Chinese dishes, shops and markets sell Chinese goods and the Indian or even Malay population seems almost not to exist here. Also the atmosphere feels different and foreigners seem to be a rare attraction. Dorms or backpacker places are not available and some rooms are in unbelievable conditions. While sitting at the local food court drinking Te Tarik and walking the streets and market places Basha and I are quite interesting to the local people. Some seem to be suspiciously, some just surprised having foreigners around. The afternoon and evening hours I go for a walk on my own and pass a place, where two people are giving a street concert. The singer is amazing and I stop for a while. Again as the only foreigner I’m attracting attention and local press is asking me for an interview. Before realizing what’s happening I am already focus of interest and need to answer some questions about my stay in Sibu. The interview is going to be published in the “Borneo Talk Magazine’s” October edition. I expect the photo they took of me to be horrible, cause I was badly sunburned after the ferry trip that morning. Let’s see in October! J
Basha is heading on to Miri the next day and I need to change my plans spontaneously. Going up the river is not that easy like expected and it seems not to be manageable to be back in time to meet Seven again. So I stay the day in Sibu and join the Borneo cultural festival. At the end it’s not the best place to get an impression about local culture and tradition. I really didn’t expect it to be like that. The most important part seems to be the food, that doesn’t differ a lot from what you regularly get. It’s just more expensive. Anyway, it’s interesting to see how they celebrate something like that.
I take the bus along the Borneo highway the next day passing a mountain range along the borderline to Kalimantan, Indonesia. A beautiful area. The bus is stopping at a small village and I get in contact with the locals. They show me the fruits they sell and I give it a try. It’s sour, extremely sour and my face after checking out the taste seems quite entertaining. Everybody is laughing and smiling. Two women show me their place and I get the local headgear for sun protection to try it on. The bus driver is calling for me, cause I totally forgot about the time.
The next days I go for a day trek in Kubah National Park and check out the caves around Bau. For transportation I started to use hitchhiking. It turns out to be an amazing possibility to get in contact with the locals. It never takes me more than 5 minutes until somebody is picking me up. That’s how I learn about things like Malaysian oil industry and nature destruction. All these people are so helpful and nice and they always insisted to bring me directly to the place I wanted to go to. Just amazing!
After two weeks I meet Seven again who finished the mediation retreat meanwhile and we move together to Hare Krishna Kuching. We are going to stay here for the next week and the Rainforest World Music Festival.
Travelling alone is different. I had an amazing time and met so many nice people on my way….and of course, in the beginning there have been some worries about handling everything alone. But it has been no problem. Surprisingly I am even more adventurous and less careful when I’m on my own….