Saturday, December 11, 2010

Just Back from Kuching

A perfect city for a waterfront stroll.
 This week we traveled to Kuching, in Malaysian Borneo, to renew our visas (two more months!) and discovered a curious city with quite a feline temperament.  Wild and tame, lush and metropolitan, it's peculiarities left us feeling batted back and forth between pleasant surprises and a few frustrating, but ultimately laughable, disappointments.
Not a perfect city for a mouse.

    Kuching ("cat" in the local language) sits on the bank of the Sarawak River, about 10 km before it empties into the South China Sea, on the northwest coast of Borneo.  It's long been a commercial center, with Chinese, Indian, Arabic, and European traders setting up shop to trade with Malau locally and indegenous Dayak farther upstream.  It still carries the feel of a jumping-off point to the interior, which was once only penetrable by boat, was full of giant crocodiles, and where men measured their worth with their collection of heads.  Nowadays the many tour companies advertise with testimonials that boast of exotic adventures, and  also vouch for their clients' safe return.  
Our breakfast view.  Something for everyone.
  You wouldn't guess that deforestation is destroying human and environmental health upstream.  The city prizes its parks and waterfront, and massive, epiphyte-laden trees flank its high-rise hotels and banks and shopping malls.  Always a melting pot, white skin was even added to the mix in the 1800s when James Brooke was 'invited' to come be king of Sarawak, and help the Sultan of Brunei fend off the Dutch, Chinese, and pirates.  Now mosques (both Arabic and Indian), churches, and Buddhist temples harmoniously coexist among old English colonial buildings, business plazas and parks.
A fist-full of ATM rejections.
    Still, rafts of refuse in the river and the gaunt faces of boatmen suggest that the prosperity that pushed up the hotels hasn't spread equally.  Our own debacles with ATMs and inconsistencies between Eastern and Western banks hinted at underlying political differences.  And as amazed as we were with the diversity of cuisine, what we hoped to be our most fantastic meal was served with a good soaking of palm oil.  

    When the whirlwind trip came to an end, we were glad to return home to Sukadana.  With all the wonders that a new place can provide, the peculiarities and little annoyances made us ready to get back to familiarity.  It's nice to be back in a place where we've not only become intimately involved with the people, but where we can also participate in meaningful change.  


  1. look how happy jacquelyn is to be around so many cats!

  2. meow! great to see you blogging again. keep the updates coming.

  3. Hello from Georgia where the snow is finally melting. Take care. Tyler D