Kuching – Malaysian Borneo
As much as I enjoyed Kuala Lumpur, I was probably there for one day too long. By the last day I felt like I had got a feel for the place and seen what I’d wanted to. This gave me the advantage of having a day to chill out and figure out what to do next.
I had a few options but the obvious choice was get somewhere in Borneo because a) it sounds cool, b) its legit jungle and how often am I likely to experience that? It’s got something that the other countries on my trip haven’t got. I had a few comments from people when I mentioned the idea often along the lines of ‘Do you realise you’ll have to walk loads!?’. I must admit, when considering travelling to Borneo, the least of my concerns was my ability to be successfully mobile on two legs. I’ve done it for a while and I think I have it sussed, although I appreciated their concern.
Borneo, as you may or may not know, is not small. It’s the largest island in Asia, split into three countries. Two cool countries, Malaysia and Indonesia, and one not-cool country Brunei (Sit down Brunei, nobody cares).
Travelling from Kuala Lumpur it was obviously better for me to take an internal flight, saving money that way. As much as I’d love to visit Indonesia, my enthusiasm translates poorly into either money or time. So that’s one for the future.
As mentioned, what I really wanted to see was jungle. And Malaysian Borneo is great for that. I decided to go to the western precinct of Sarawak, to the provincial capital of Kuching. The alternative, heading further east to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, was, I felt, a little too far in the wrong direction considering I’m going to Cambodia after. Also, many people had vouched for Kuching as a place to stay if the weather freaked out and I couldn’t leave the town.
I landed pretty early in the morning of the 9th. It felt like a massive relief just to get out of Kuala Lumpur I have to admit. The time there was pretty frantic; the place is relentlessly busy and quite expensive. That’s fine, but I was ready to go somewhere a little quieter. A little more Malaysian.
If ‘Malyasian’ can be understood as ‘Wet’ then I certainly got what I asked for. It has rained almost constantly since I arrived, to a greater or lesser extent. Usually to the greatest extent. I find the further towards the equator I travel rain keeps upping it’s game. I thought I’d seen the rainiest rain that ever rained during typhoons in China. Here it’s more like some ridiculous vertical river. Not all the time, but for a good hour or two each day after which it reverts to merely torrential downpour.
I woke up early on the first full day with the intention of going straight to the big one, to Baku National Park. However, there was an absolute thunderbastard of a storm raging so I decided to save that for the next day. Instead, I went to the nearby Orangutan Sanctuary. This serves as a place to rehabilitate Orangutans before reintroducing them to the wild. So, for example, if an Orangutan is orphaned, develops a crippling World of Warcraft addiction or turns to crystal meth there is a wonderful group of volunteers who support them through the process of becoming jungle-competent again.
I don’t expect to see much. Most of the time, according to the guide, the animals are no-shows during the rainy season. The place is not an enclosure, they’re wild animals. However, it had been a couple of days since the sanctuary had seen a particular group, one which had a baby which may have a severe case of the banana-pangs by that point, and so they knew they were due for a visit.
Sure enough, as we are walking down the road from the carpark to the sanctuary proper, an Orangutan tumbles clumsily out of the overgrowth into the road, followed by another slightly more dignified specimen.
Well. There we go. Orangutans. These two plodded awkwardly down the road to the feeding area, mother and baby also in tow.
As they were wild there’s no chance of going up too close to them. They will only approach the one volunteer that they recognise as ‘That one with the food’. I can’t say enough about how captivating they were to watch. Reams have been written about how astonishingly human they seem, how much character they have and others have explicated the details much better than I could hope to. But, in the silence, they were genuinely fascinating and I left feeling very fortunate to have seen them, especially considering the all-pervasive meteorological onslaught.