OK, so it's almost exactly 2 months since we were actually in Sarawak, but I hate not finishing things, so much as I'd like to give this blog up as a bad job, I can't. Lucky I've kept a diary...
We spent 3 weeks in Borneo in total, about half of that time in Sarawak (the southern part of Malaysian Borneo), mainly going from one national park to another, doing lots of trekking, and (see the photo) looking at orangutans! We started in Kuching, a really lovely riverfront colonial town, with one of the best hostels I've ever stayed in (until Singapore at least). Nearby was Semenggoh wildlife sanctuary, with some incredibly cute baby orangutans drinking milk from bottles! We did a reasonably perilous trek in Bako national park, near Kuching, and a much less perilous one in Similajau park, near Bintulu town. After Kuching, the towns got a bit rubbish actually, so it was lucky really that we were only there for the national parks!
We also went to the Niah Caves, the oldest caves in Malaysia, the main draw of which are the ancient cave paintings on some of the walls. Accompanied by a lonely Austrian, we headed into the caves with only one working headtorch, into territory inhabited by cannibalistic grasshoppers and bat droppings EVERYWHERE. It was completely pitch black for a large part of it, so we must have looked pretty hilarious clutching on to one another (the handrails were also covered in bat poo) for dear life! We stayed there overnight, must have been the only tourists in the whole place, and got taken back to Miri, to the b****iest hostel owner EVER, by a really interesting cab driver. He was born in a longhouse in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and got a scholarship to study journalism at Lincoln University in New Zealand. He covered the destruction of rainforests in Malaysia (they've got pretty bad problems there with logging for palm oil plantations), and was censored by the government in 2000. He now writes about birds nest hunters - a big trade in Malaysia is in nests made from the saliva of swiftlets collected from caves - makes for an excellent soup or dessert, apparently. Haven't yet found anyone who likes it, but they sell for stupid amounts of money. Seems to be the way with all national delicacies, like durian in particular. Made the mistake of trying some in a pancake in Kuching; someone's compared it to eating trifle in a public lavatory, and they're not too far off, except that that doesn't even come close to describing quite how disgusting it tastes. Not even the pancake could hide the flavour.
Sarawak was actually a lot less of a hassle than I'd been expecting - we really noticed the difference moving from Indonesia to Malaysia in the tourism industry. The Malaysia, truly Asia adverts don't lie, it really is an amazing country, so geared up to tourists without being overrun by them at all! But there are good guides to all the main areas, transport runs pretty efficiently, and weirdest of all, people weren't out to scam us at every turn! We even had people asking what price we paid for something, and then agreeing that we'd actually got a good price..unheard of in Indonesia, where we'd had to haggle for everything from market purchases to hostel rooms. And the food was good too - lots of Chinese and Indian influence to break up the monotony of the fried rice with overcooked egg for decoration. The language is almost exactly the same as Indonesia (and also Singapore and Brunei), so by this point we were getting to grips with the basics (especially food!) - I really miss that, now that we're moving to a new country roughly every fortnight!