Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

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December 10th, Kuching, Malaysia – The contrasts between Indonesia and Malaysia are noticeable as soon as you cross the border. The first difference you see is that the roads are wider with better pavement, signage and frequent, intelligible distance markers. As you enter populated areas you clearly see that the villages and cities are cleaner with a huge improvement in sewage systems and general hygiene. Also, though it is a difficult to be sure, I am fairly certain the grass is greener. Finally, the most striking difference was what we saw immediately upon exiting the bus at 7:30am in Kuching; for the first time since running into our old Italian friend on our last day in Yogya, we saw Westerners and they were here in droves. The bus ride itself was quite enjoyable. Every night about a half dozen companies do the ~9 hour run from Pontianak to Kuching, returning during the day. Some of the companies have multiple classes of buses; as the only two earning a decent wage we were the only ones able to afford the <$5 upgrade to the higher class bus. This gave us the entire luxury bus to ourselves with fully reclinable seats and leg rests; best nights sleep in a while until we reached the border. All the buses converge at the border around its opening time of 6am leaving dozens of people to crowd the gate waiting for it to open. Luckily, as our bus only had two people, once we made it cleanly through customs we were on our way while the other buses had to wait for their stragglers. Kuching itself is great city, clearly deserving of its reputation as one of the best in Asia. The layout is well designed for walking with some nice pedestrian malls and a promenade along the river while the city is kept clean by sweepers throughout the day (the popcorn Karen dropped all over the place was completely swept up when we returned a couple of hours later). The high-rise five star hotels dot the city skyline south of the Sarawak river with more traditional looking villages lining the northern river bank and traditional boats ferrying people across day and night. The city also has a wide variety world-class cuisine across all price ranges; a welcome respite from the rice and noodles of Indonesia. The hostel (Fairview Hostel) we are staying in is located in an old colonial house surrounded by beautiful gardens and run by a real nice couple (Annie and Eric) with a real homey feeling to it. All in all, Kuching has been a great choice to relax some after coming from Indonesia (a location which the many travelers here like to ask us about but very few plan on visiting). In the middle of our stay here we spent a night in the nearby jungle at Bako national park. Unlike our previous jungle experience here we slept in an enclosed four walls with a fan and attached bathroom, clearly this was luxury. As expected the trails here were for the most part wide, cleared and very well marked while the wildlife was fairly abundant and easily spotted in the less dense and lower canopied forest. We even saw several dozen, across two harems with young and some poor lone males, of the prize attraction of this park, the oddly-nosed proboscis monkey. From here our next destination is still undecided; all we know is it will include jungle, rivers and indigenous longhouses somewhere in the interior of Borneo. proboscis
bearded pig

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