A New Malaysia

What do orangutans, longhouses and foosball have in common?

Your answer might be, “Uh, nothing.”

My answer: They can all be found in Kuching, Malaysian Borneo.

The name of the city, Kuching, is thought to derive from the Malay word kucing, meaning cat

The name of the city, Kuching, is thought to derive from the Malay word kucing, meaning cat

We flew from Penang to Kuching, Borneo a few days ago (our first flight since the plane we took from China to Kuala Lumpur). Borneo is an island consisting of Malaysian Borneo, Brunei and Indonesia (so technically we are still in Malaysia).

In Kuching, we stayed in a cool guesthouse called the Singgahsana Guesthouse, which has a bar in the attic. We played several games of foosball in a row (much longer and more strategic games of pool were soon to come).

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Our first full day in Kuching we explored the city, taking a river boat cruise and visiting a museum about Kuching’s style of clothing and design.

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Then our exploration in the city ended and a day began anew; our touring day, with our guide, James.

First up was an orangutan rehabilitation centre. We saw the cute orangutans climbing up trees and ropes, eating bananas and more! Unfortunately we didn’t see the big male orangutan Ritchie, but we saw quite a few others!

I learned that orangutans in the wild can only be found in Borneo and Sumatra! I feel very lucky to have visited one of the two places in the world that are home to native orangutans! It was incredible to watch the extremely acrobatic apes!

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Next was a crocodile (and fish and bird and lizard) farm. There is an almost indistinguishable difference between alligators and crocodiles; the two species have different snouts and crocodiles are generally bigger.

The most exciting part of the farm was, bar none, the crocodile feeding show, announced by a series of loud, somewhat annoying rings from a bell. When we arrived, dozens of crocodiles were lazily swimming through the water. But once the large chunks of raw pink meat came rolling out, attached to a wire hovering above the crocodiles, quite a few leapt to action (although a lot lay in the same spot, not even attempting to move.)

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And, boy, when crocodiles are motivated they sure can jump! They grabbed the meat with their jaws and pulled forcefully. The meat occasionally escaped their grasp, but often was yanked off the line. For vegetarian Mom, it was somewhat disturbing, but also surprisingly fascinating.

We also visited some longhouses belonging to an indigenous group called the Bidayuh. These people used to be “Head-Hunters.” They believed that the skulls would protect them and bring them good luck. The descendants of the clan have, thankfully, not carried on this cruel and gory tradition.

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Some of the old heads found in the longhouse

Some of the old heads found in the longhouse

The next day, we left Kuching and drove to the Permai Rainforest Resort, a beautiful place with rainforest on one side and the warm South China Sea on the other.

Our cabin at the Permai Rainforest Resort

Our cabin at the Permai Rainforest Resort

While there, we visited the Sarawak cultural centre. A living museum spread across 17 acres of land, it featured traditional homes of the different peoples of Sarawak. We saw a Chinese farmhouse, a Penan hut, a Malay townhouse, and an Iban longhouse. A lot of the houses were similar, although the decor and crafts inside the places were different.

And the sleeping arrangements! Mattresses on the ground, wooden boards with a blanket thrown over them, woven baskets for the baby to sleep in. No TVs or iPads or minivans. And yes, as Mom mentioned in her last post, we did see a Penan hunter at the village, and we got to try out our blowdart skills for the second time (first in Taman Negara!)

Inside a Iban Longhouse

Inside a Iban Longhouse

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One of the best parts of the village: the daily performance of traditional Malaysian dances. I was invited on the stage for one of the dances, with two actors dressed up as tribal warriors with blowdarts. They were hilarious, and it was really fun to be up on stage with them!

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The peek we were able to have into many different people’s lives at the centre was very interesting. Their lives would be so much more difficult than our 21st century day-to-day living, what with technology, cars and lots of grocery stores. It shows how fortunate we are, how the lives we lead are really and truly wonderful, and we can’t deny that, no matter how much we complain or mutter under our breath about how annoying our siblings are or how our jobs are so demanding!

But perhaps we have something to learn from these people about simplifying our hectic lives, spending time with friends and family instead of rushing from one activity to the next, constantly emailing and texting!

Anyways, that’s all for now! More posts from Borneo are soon to come!

(Editorial note from Gloria: Next up, “Cave of Horrors”)

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Categories: Borneo, Kids Only, Malaysia | Leave a comment

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