For the last ten days or so we have been based in Kuching, a city in the Malaysia side of Borneo. It couldn't be more different to Vietnam if it tried. For a start, it is just unbelievably humid - I guess that's what being an island on the Equator covered in tropical rainforest will do. In Vietnam there was a distinct tourist trail (or gringo trail as a Spaniard put it), and we kept bumping into the same people heading from North to South. But over here, there seems to be a lot less backpackers and the city seems very quiet. Most shops shut around five, whereas in Vietnam, they stayed open until late, and there isn't much nightlife to speak of. So we've caught up on the lack of sleep that we've been dragging around! We did meet some Canadians who we beat at pool though (or rather Maz beat them, I think I managed to pot one ball). So our stay here has been pretty much filled with doing treks and seeing wildlife.
There isn't very much to say about Kuching itself. It's a sleepy town with a pretty waterfront covered in food stalls which sell Laksa, a local dish of noodles and seafood which is really tasty. Near our hostel there is the Main Bazar, a row of shops selling wooden artefacts, bags, bracelets, and general touristy stuff. We went to the weekend market last Sunday, and tried a sort of pancake covered in penuts, chocolate and butter (so delicious!). We also bought lots of tropical fruit - apparantly Kuching is home to the best pinneapples in the world - I've developed a bit of a fixation on dragon fruit!
On our first day, we tagged along with a group of English medics to Gudung Guning national park, to see the Rafflesia, which is the world's largest flower. This flower only blooms for 5 days a year - so we were really lucky to spot one. The female flower emits a really strong stench to attract flies - so the one we saw must have been male. We hiked on to a beautiful waterfall in the middle of the jungle, which felt great after walking.
After that we spent a few days in Bako national park, where you can rent a cabin and stay overnight. We did some more trekking through the rainforest here, and it was so hot. Our first hike ended in a pretty beach with deserted shores and clear blue water. We spent quite awhile there, soaking up the sun. That night we went on a night trek to try and spot some wildlife. We saw a snake, a flying lemur, a giant spider, a kingfisher and a tiny little fluffy bird which was sitting under a leaf. The rainforest looks completely different at night with the moon shining on the palm trees. The next day we went on a really long trek with our Spanish roommate, who was a bit of a hippy and preferred to walk barefoot so that he could "feel the earth beneath his feet". He still went faster than us despite the many roots and rocks in the way. Not to mention potential scorpions. We hiked all the way up to another waterfall and natural pool where little fish nibbled at our toes. The water was a strange orange colour because of the wood, so swimming in it was a bit like swimming in Irn-Bru.
We went on another overnight trip to a secluded island, where we were supposed to see some turtles. On the boat trip to the island, we spotted lots of dolphins, which was pretty amazing. We did some snorkeling which was distinctly less impressive than the guide had made out. We did spot a few pretty yellow and black stripy fish, but that was it. Hardly the Great Barrier Reef. The island itself was beautful, with white sand and turquoise waters. Unfortunately though, there was a huge thunderstorm that night, and we didn't spot any turtles, which was a bit of a dissapointment. Although we did meet some fun Canadians on that trip!
We have a couple more days here in Kuching. Today we are off to an Orang Utang Sanctuary, and then tomorrow we're going to visit the Wind and Fairy Caves, before flying off to the other side of Borneo, to Kota Kinabalu.