Saturday, July 5, 2008

Kuching - Day 7 - So, where are we staying?

(By Jim)

We woke up more rested than we expected from our night at the Singgahsana. Barbara and I called around and found that the Harbour View, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn are booked up. The Hilton has rooms, so we decide to head over there. But first, some breakfast. We didn’t want to have breakfast in the lodge, so we head across the street to Green Hill Corner, which is one of the ubiquitous food courts where various cart/stalls with various dishes are set up. We’re looking around at the various things available, fried noodles, coffee, and we get to one of the carts and the woman cooking there says "Laksa?" Yes, yes we do want laksa. Sarawak Laksa is a local specialty, coconut milk with spices, rice noodles, chicken, shrimp, cilantro and green onion and bean sprouts. It’s a joy for breakfast. [And you can’t get the mix, so far as I know, in the US. Unless you order a lot from Barretts.]
Laksa soup
Jim happy with a belly full of laksa
After this, we head over to the Hilton. They didn’t have any regular rooms, but they did have their Executive Level rooms with a river view for $150, which includes breakfast in the morning and cocktails in the afternoon. It was expensive, but it made Barbara happy, and it didn’t make me unhappy. Turns out, it made me happy too. Comfy bed, big room, gorgeous view, nice bathroom, and free drinks. What’s not to like?

Big roomNice bath
Beautiful river view

Decamping from the Singgahsana wasn’t a problem, but sort of messed up our Kuching schedule. Instead of going to see the orangutans or Sarawak Cultural Village, we ended up spending the day in town shopping. So, I decided to make my trip to Bako National Park on Sunday a day trip and Barbara can visit some local craft places that day instead of coming with me for an overnighter. Turns out, this was a good idea because the jungle trek wouldn’t have been to her liking and the “rustic” accommodations at Bako would have really made her unhappy.

I spent the afternoon doing things like toting laundry over to a place (Spot Free maybe?) near the Grand Continental hotel. The City Laundry across from the Hilton wasn’t open on Saturday, but this place did it all in 4 hours. They also charged by the piece, not by the pound, but it ended up costing around RM60 (less than US$20) for a suitcase full of laundry. This seemed to be the going rate in Kuching, as I later had another suitcase full done at the City Laundry for the same price. Melaka was much cheaper; around RM20 for the same amount.

On the way over, I noticed a bar called "The Cottage" that advertised Kilkenny beer on tap. Since I hadn’t had that since we were in Ireland in 2003, I made note to take Barbara back there another night.

After drinks in the Executive Lounge, we wanted to check out the Sunday Market, which gets started on Saturday afternoon along Jalan Satok. We taxied over there from the hotel, then walked around a little. I was a little hungry, and we decided to stop for some satay on sticks.

Then, more market strolling. They had all kinds of souveniers, fish, meat, and vegetables you could want. I chatted with the fish merchants, and looked at what looked like some of the prettiest king mackerel I’ve ever seen. I would have bought one if I only had a kitchen to cook it in.
Outside the shops, there was a band playing. To me, the music sounds like the Del Shannon tune "Runaway".

Barbara did find something to buy; a bundle of fresh orchid stems for RM4 (US$1.25). Barbara put them in a water glass in the room, and they brightened it up. When we left, we gave them to the woman at the Executive Club registration desk.
After this, we decided it was finally time for dinner. We took a taxi over to the Top Spot, a parking garage with a seafood food court on the roof. We let ourselves get taken to a table by one of the many roving waitresses for each of the food stalls. This was probably a mistake, as we were sort of captive there without having seen the rest of the places. For new folks, don’t do this, take a look at all of the fish displays before going. That night, we had kankong with spicy sauce, and two fish, one with a black bean sauce and one fried. It was good, but wasn’t as good as it could be if you know better what you’re wanting. We came back twice after this, but went to a different stall. I’ll tell you more about that when we get to Monday. We enjoyed our dinner, and shared it with a lame cat who was hanging out up there. Then we slowly walked back to the hotel.
Tomorrow, Jim goes to Bako and Barbara goes looking for local crafts.

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