Monday 6 February 2012
I slept surprisingly well considering the 8 hour time difference. Even managing to get up to catch a 7.15am bus to Semenggoh.
Semenggoh is the location of the orang-utan wildlife centre. It was set up in 1975 to care for wild orang-utans which were found injured in the forest, orphaned, or previously kept as illegal pets. They have so far been successful, with successful breeding and some have been rereleased into surrounding national parks. The orang-utans are semi-wild, free to come and go as they please – there are no barriers to their movement.
As we paid our 3MR (about 60p) entrance fee, we were warned that being fruiting season, orang-utan spottings were rare and they hadn’t been seen the previous day. It was a nice 20 minute walk all the same, into the forest area where they leave out food for the orang-utans. We were there a bit early (at 8am – feeding is at 9am!), but only after a few minutes of waiting, two turned up!
It was a grandmother and a baby. They hung out in the trees, then came down to the platform to pick up some fruits, hung out on the ropes, then scurried back up into the tree tops to snack! The baby one was really cute!
I visited the orang-utans in Sepilok 14 months ago. I had been told Semenggoh was much quieter – not the case today! Bus loads of Asian tourists started to arrive about 9am. There were probably about 200 people there! It’s a National Holiday today (Prophet Muhammed’s birthday), so maybe that’s why. After 9am, they opened the path to the ‘real’ feeding station, but sadly no more orang-utans arrived (probably too much noise!). I was pleased with the two though!
The next bus wasn’t due until 11am, so a few hours to kill – went for a walk down some of the jungle hiking trails. Not such a great plan in flip flops, didn’t see much, but beat walking down the road.
After arriving back in the town, I went to explore. The waterfront was recently redeveloped at a cost of £200k per 10m of walkway that’s a lot of money considering the walkway is about one kilometre long! It provided a nice view of the Astana (Sarawak’s governor’s house), the Sarawak state assembly building (a pretty triangular dome shaped, gold building) and the various riverside villages. There are several markets running along the river. At one, a few funfair games were being played – the most popular being a soda can betting game! You bet your soda cans on a coloured square, 6 different colour balls are let out down a board dotted with pins, whichever falls out first is the winning colour. You win more soda cans if you get the colour right – some people were betting whole crates of the stuff! Funny to watch.
After a nasi campur (rice with a mixture of chicken, pork and egg) lunch at the famous hawker market, off to find all the cat statues! There are 3 main ones, with the largest being all dressed up for Chinese new year – cute!! Even the drain covers have an obligatory cat engraved in!
One of the guys who works at the hostel mentioned that the other side of the river (at Kampong Boyan) is good for sunset and dinner, so off in a small little boat – I actually thought we we’re going to capsize – to check it out. Sarawak laksa is a local specialty, its a spin on normal Laksa which is a coconut-noodle-prawn-curry-soup, it was delicious! The sunset was great too.
Kuching has a large Chinese population (almost 40% of the population! Thats more than the Malays) and today is the final day of the 15-day Chinese new year celebrations, known as the Lantern Festival. As such, a firework display was in order! The streets and temples were filled with thousands upon thousands of red lanterns and songs were playing loudly from the temples.