Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Day 9 - Kuching and Orangutans!

Monday morning we headed over to Green Hill Corner for a breakfast of laksa. We'd had some the other day and liked it so much that we had to go back one more time before we left Kuching. A spicy rich coconut milk based broth with noodles, chicken and shrimp. This video of Green Hill Corner shows Jim reading the local paper as we enjoyed our breakfast.

After we ate, we headed over to the tailor shop to pick up Jim's shirts. They were beautiful! So much so that I asked if I could get one made as well. The tailor walked us next door to a ladies' tailor and asked her if it were possible to make me a shirt and have it ready by Wednesday morning before we left. She said yes, so we looked over some of the material selections that the men's tailor brought over from his shop. I picked out a brick red version of the red Dayak material that Jim used for one of his shirts. Then I had to get measured, left a deposit and we took Jim's new shirts back to the hotel.

After dropping them off, we asked the doorman for a cab to take us to Semengoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to see orangutans. Our cab driver was Mr. Bong, a very nice fellow who inquired about what we had seen so far in Kuching. We told him of our ventures and that we were going to go to the Sarawak Cultural Village tomorrow, our last day in Kuching. He offered to meet us at the hotel the next morning and drive us there and back. The price was right so we said sure.

The drive to the Center took about 20 minutes. And unlike the less expensive local bus, the cabs go all the way into the center whereas the bus drops you off at the front gates and you then have to walk about 2 miles to get to the actual center itself. I don't know about you, but I was very glad we paid the money for the cab. The hike in would have done me in for the day.

Once at the visitors center, we paid our fee and waiting with about 2 dozen other people to walk into the jungle to see the orangutans. These are semi-wild and will come to the feeding platforms during the year when food is more difficult to find on their own. There are no cages, this is open ground and the orangutans can come and go as they please.This chart shows the orangutans that frequent the center.

After a 10 minute walk we came up on a small clearing with some small stadium type benches. This little green snail was sitting on the edge of the railing. About 30 yards away was the feeding platform already laden with fresh fruit like pineapples, bananas, and durian (a favorite of the orangutans).
Within minutes, a female with two babies arrived for breakfast. They quickly went to town on the fruit. The babies stuck around a little bit then got full and began to play in the trees above us. Water would rain down on us when they jumped from branch to branch overhead. Mom had her fill a few minutes later and retreated to the trees overhead with her youngsters just as a young orangutan showed up. This one was happily enjoying his meal when he suddenly stopped and scampered up into the trees. The park guide pointed out some movement in the distant trees behind the feeding platform and soon we could hear the crashing of branches. Then we saw him. A huge male orangutan! He was amazing! Long read fur went from his shoulders down to the ground, arms as big as tree limbs and a face only another orangutan could love. Here are a couple of videos of him enjoying his meal.

He took his time devouring what was left of the fruit on the feeding platform while the younger one kept a watchful eye out for his departure. After close to 10 -15 minutes the big male decided he had eaten his fill and got up to leave. The younger one picked up on this right away and cautiously glided down from the trees on the vines and ropes and was back on the platform to pick over the remains. He was still leery of the big guy coming back and was grabbing hand- and foot-fuls of fruit and heading back up to the safety of the trees to eat his fruit as you can see in this picture and video.

Thus the morning feeding was over and we all walked back to the visitors center spotting some pretty orchids along the way. I picked up a few things to bring back to a fellow manager who was working at my library in my absence and something for my supervisor. And for Miss Sophie, I got a stuffed orangutan.

Jim and I found Mr. Bong waiting on us and climbed into the cab for the ride home. Mr. Bong turned the A/C on full blast which felt heavenly. Once back at the hotel, we confirmed his pick up time the next morning and we headed into the hotel to drop off our things and head back out to walk around.

Jim and I wanted to go back to a couple of shops that sold material. We wanted to bring some back home and have more shirts made. We bought three brightly colored fabrics and began a search for some lunch but changed our mind when we realized it was getting later in the afternoon than we realized and didn't want to spoil our dinner. Some snacks in the lounge back at the hotel would be good and not fill us up. Plus we could shower and freshen up a little.

For dinner, we headed back to Top Spot. This is a nice little video I took of it.

Only this time we knew to go right to a vendor to pick out food rather than have someone else do it for us at their place. The place that was most recommended was ABC Seafood and for good reason. It not only had the largest selection, it was by far the busiest place there. Once we looked over the choices, we found one of the ABC tables that was partially under an awning. I sat at the table while Jim picked out dinner. The two large shrimp on the plate would soon be ours. A few minutes later, two Tiger beers arrived. Jim had a grin on his face. I knew that this meant he'd found something good for dinner. And indeed he did. First to show up was squid rings, battered, fried, very tender and very tasty. Joining it were grilled freshwater prawns. Two of them, big enough to scare us had they not been grilled, dead, and delicioius.Then our main course showed up, pomfret steamed with scallions and ginger. And to round out the meal, miden, a jungle vegetable that resembles fiddle head ferns. But what also arrived was the rain. While part of our table was under the awning, it soon became apparent that the rain would invade and we were moved to another table. Dry again, we finished our wonderful meal. And thankfully, the rain had stopped just in time for us to head back to the hotel.

On the way, Jim mentioned he had seen a sign outside a bar for Kilkenny beer on tap. And as I mentioned in one of the Singapore posts, this was a beer Jim could not find back home. The chance to have one or two more frosty pints could not be passed up so we stopped at the bar which was named The Cottage. We notice a gentleman and two woman sitting at one of the outdoor tables as we walked up. It was a little dark so I didn't notice at first that the man's voice welcoming us to the bar didn't come from the sole man sitting at the table. It was one of the women! Yes, boys and girls, we had wandered into a transvestite bar in Kuching. While not something we'd planned on, we decided to go with the flow and have a drink. It turns out we were the only ones there besides the trio outside who were actually the staff. Guess things don't pick up until later in the evening. The bar was dark and resembled an English pub and actually very nice (not that I've been to any English or transvestite pubs before). Jim got his Kilkenny and I ordered some fru-fru drink that had amaretto and Kahlua in it. Both drinks were a bit pricey so we decided to settle up our tab at one drink each and continue on to the hotel. We made one last stop at a gelato shop across the street from the hotel for some dessert.

Back at the hotel, we both stayed up for a short while before going to sleep and getting ready for the Sarawak Cultural Village the next day.

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