Not sure I’m cut out for this

Well this really is overdue, isn’t it? Oops. I’ve just been so busy since I came to Indonesia. Seriously, I’m exhausted.

Lying on the beach (Bali, Gili Islands, right now…), doing meditative yoga (Ubud), and eating fresh seafood (everywhere) really takes it out of you.

Every few days I’ve had to have a massage just to rid myself of the tension that comes with being on the road.

Anyway, must dash. Someone just brought some fresh juice over to me. No rest for the wicked and all that.

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Bali, you’ve got a tough act to follow.

I’ve just arrived in Bali after spending 1 1/2 weeks in Sarawak. I literally had to force myself to leave, or I’d have left myself no time to explore Indonesia. There were still things I wanted to do and I felt so at home there it was hard to tear myself away.

Looking back, I realise I didn’t really know what to expect from Kuching (the city in Sarawak that I based myself in), so it would have been difficult to be disappointed. But in actual fact, it was better than I could have envisaged.

As well as trying a myriad of new things (kayaking, caving, jungle trekking, bee larvae), staying in Kuching has given me an insight into Sarawak culture that I’ve never had as a tourist before.
This is down to the guys at Singgahsana Lodge, where I stayed. When the brother and sister-in-law of one of the receptionists asked me if I wanted to join them for dinner on my first night, I was pretty sure it was out of pity, as I was sitting at the bar on my own like one of those sad old men you avoid in the pub. But then when they invited me to join them and a bunch of friends at Damai beach the following night, I relented and decided I didn’t care if it was pity driving their generosity.

And so, I was introduced into their group of friends, along with Leah, a German tour guide/intern who’d moved to Kuching a couple of weeks earlier.

Through my new Malaysian friends, I learnt things about Sarawak and Malaysia that I’d never have found out on my own.

Like the fact that, according to one government official, wearing v-neck tops indicates that a guy is gay. And if a girl hangs out with other girls a lot, she’s probably a lesbian.

Or that your rates for loans are determined by your ethnic group. (Seriously).

Politics aside, I also found out that they really like to eat innards. That they love to drink. And that a Chinese/Sarawak barbecue is possibly the greatest eating event you can attend. Seriously – they had sweet and sour chicken, pork belly and SUSHI – all home made – amongst the more conventional barbecue fare.

So Bali had better be pretty fucking amazing, or I’m going back.

The Singgahsana Gang

Living with the Village People

 

No, not those village people.

Last week a girl I’d met at the lodge told me about a tour she was doing – a 5.5 hour trek up a mountain and two nights living in a Bidayuh village. There was one space left, so I signed up, although with more than a touch of trepidation as I’d never hiked in my life and Cambridge isn’t really known for its steep ascents. I was pretty confident I was going to die.

The actual hike up the mountain wasn’t as harrowing as I’d thought. But it was still bloody hard work – I didn’t know you could sweat from your shins. The views were incredible and there was excitement with the thin bamboo poles acting as bridges high above the rivers – a little scary, but we all made it in one piece.

During the couple of days we spent there, we got up to climb above the village to watch the sun rise over the clouds below us.

Sunrise

My photos really don’t portray quite how stunning it was. We then hiked to a waterfall and spent the day swimming, God, it was glorious. We actually got goosebumps because we were cold.

We also got to meet some of the prominent village ladies, who wear traditional dress and arm/leg rings to show their beauty. They showed us how to do their traditional dancing, which basically involved shuffling round in a circle with our arms held out.

The Bidayuh people living in the village are soon to be relocated, as a dam being built at the bottom of the mountain will flood, meaning access to the village will be impossible. That sounds awful, right? For generations this tribe has lived in the same village, hunting and growing crops up on the mountainside and their deceased relatives are buried nearby. And now they’re forced to leave and live in a completely new environment.

But when you speak to the people, they’re mostly glad for the change. Anything that want or need has to be carried up the mountain. On our way back down we saw a guy lugging a wooden TV unit up past us. If someone gets sick, or injured, they have to be carried down the mountain. The flying doctors only come for pregnant women about to pop, so if you break your leg or cut open your head you have a 4 hour hike, then a 45 minute drive before you can get to a hospital.

Plus, I imagine they won’t have nosey tourists coming to stay in their village and take photos of their children. That must be a bonus too, although they were too polite to say so.

What did you do this weekend?

I saw some orang-utans, kayaked down the Sarawak river, went in some caves, swam in the Sarawak river, swam in the sea, prepped for tomorrow’s 5.5 hour hike up a mountain to live in a Bidayuh village.

If I knew how to write ‘In your face’ in Malay, I would. But I’m not quite up to that level yet.

Apologies for short post, off to dinner soon where I’m going to eat ostrich meat stuffed with mozzarella. YEAH.

Expect a more detailed post when I’m recovering from the harrowing hiking over the next few days.

The adventure starts here (I hope).

I’m now in Kuching, Borneo after spending a couple of days in the quite-strange Kuala Lumpur. I stayed in Chinatown, which is famous for its night markets and great street food. Chinatown’s very similar to other places in S.E Asia I’ve visited, so I felt fairly comftortable there, practising my ‘no thank you’ and polite yet assertive smile. Mostly though, I slept. And watched TV in my rather lovely upgraded hotel room. I just didn’t feel excited about KL. It was merely a stopover before the real trip began.

When I finally headed away from the dingy but  charming area surrounding my hotel into central KL on my last day there, I was in for a shock. Even though I’d read about KL’s massive shopping malls and seen the skyscrapers in the distance, I wasn’t prepared for the LRT being so like the Parisian Metro system, and then coming out of the station straight into one of the glorious malls which make Westfield look like a shed. I was in absolute backpacker mode, in my Cambodian baggy knee length purple pyjama trousers and an old shirt with paint on it. I felt so self conscious next to all the chic ladies with their Chanel handbags that I nipped into Topshop (yeah I know), and bought a maxi skirt to swap them over with.

Now looking like the other tourists (baaaaa), I took a quick glance at the Petronas Towers, had a massage that involved severe pain, my knuckles being cracked and the woman attempting to sodomise me through a towel, and then I was back to prepare for my flight to Kuching.  

So, here I am. 

I’m going kayaking tomorrow morning, so maybe I’ll feel like I’ve actually got going then. Because so far it’s felt like prep for the real thing.