We stayed in Kuching for about 1 week during the xmas holiday last year. Despite the harsh weather (it was the rainy season), we did plenty of things to enjoy ourselves, other than visiting the town and eating sea food :D
* Learning about the culture in Sarawak Cultural Village
Going to the Sarawak Cultural Village is a good way to know about the different tribes that are living on that part of Borneo island. It’s not too far away from Kuching, and you can rent a taxi for half a day (or an entire day) for a good price. There is no public transport to go over there, but I’ve heard that a shuttle is going there at certain periods of the year.
Over there, you can find good examples of traditional longhouses from several tribal groups with the appropriate utensils and artefacts : longhouses of the Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu, a Melanau tall-house and a Chinese farm house for example. There are also various activities you can participate in, such as blowgun shooting ! This was very nice even if we sucked at it.
At the end of the visit, we assisted to a wonderful traditional dance show for 45 minutes. You can go there with or without a guide, it’s up to you.
* Gunung Gading National Park
It was raining a lot that day, and we were the only one in the park. Some paths were closed due to the bad weather so we didn’t have the opportunity to hike to the waterfall. But it is a well-known and recommended track, one of the highlights of the park ! Instead, we did an interpretation trail about the biology of rafflesia, the biggest flower of the world. That was very interesting, we saw some rafflesia buds, but no flowers. The picture you see is taken from a poster inside the exhibit ;-) This plant is fascinating, it takes up to 9 months to grow and only flowers during a few days !After that that we had lunch to a beach nearby….
* Saying hi to the orang utans
The organ utans are native to the rainforest of Borneo and Sumatra. They are very intelligent great apes that can create sleeping nests each night from branches and leaves. It’s an endangered species due to habitat destruction and pet trades. In Borneo, there are several rehabilitating centres for orang utans, including the one very close to Kuching, the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre. The centre will take care of wild animals which have either been found injured in the forest, orphaned, or were previously kept as illegal pets. It is possible to visit the centre, with a small entrance fee, and have a chance to see semi-wild orang utans.
Going to the wildlife centre can be disappointing during winter, because it is the fruit season. So the orang utans can find food by themselves in the forest and won’t really come to the feeding stations. It can therefore be tricky to spot some in the trees. Better to go in the morning to increase your chances.
We managed to see a mother and his baby and it was so cute ! It was raining so much that day it was tricky to take good shot, but I was glad to be able to see some ! Don’t be disappointed if you don’t see any during the rainy season, but any other time of the year, the chances are higher !
There is also very nice vegetation over there.
* Visiting Annah Rais longhouse
Ana Rais longhouse is one of the oldest Bidayuh longhouses. The Bidayuh tribe is the second largest ethnic group in Sarawak, is located about 60km from Kuching.
I still have mix feelings about this longhouse. It’s a traditional longhouse, but there is not so much to see over there. With time, the place lost the typical atmosphere . The longhouse complex isn’t built completely from traditional materials, the people don’t wear traditional dress, and most of the houses have a TV satellite dish, it is very disturbing.
I think it’s much better to try to learn the culture by visiting the Sarawak village instead of this one, but it gives you the opportunity to visit a longhouse where people are sill living in it. Visit Ana Rais longhouse if you want to see how the Bidayuh people live and maintain their culture in the 21st century.. but don’t expect authenticity.
And … last but not least….
* A kayaking tour on a local river
A kayaking tour on a local river can be of a lifetime experience ! Believe me ! Since it was raining all the time, the level of the river was so high that the spiders were stuck in the trees and couldn’t really move from one place to another. And since the current was so strong, our kayak was occasionally bumping into the trees and all the spiders were falling… into the kayak…. yes, that scary !!!
If you are afraid of spiders (like me), please, think carefully before doing it during the rainy season. I was traumatized after this experience. My legs were trembling and I was screaming each time a spider was crawling on me. My boyfriend was trying to kill them on my back before I could see them, but at one point, we hit a big and huge tree and there were too many of them in the kayak.
Our guide took photo with a shitty camera but at least we have some souvenirs :-)
In the middle of the trip, we stopped in a village for a meal and a little walk and we learned about the medicinal plants that you can find over there.