Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tokyo, Japan: backpacking in the land of the rising sun

Today, I begin a tour of Japan. Here I'm waiting for the train at the airport to go to Tokyo.
This bazaar in Ueno is full of cute eateries.
There are hardly any tourists in this bazaar. I joined a group of locals at their table for dinner and sake.
A bottle of sake. The locals helped me to order the food as the menu was in Japanese.
A packed train station.

Believe it or not, the weather is very cool, reminding me of winter in Shenzhen but this is the end of May.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lundu in Sarawak: Gunung Gading National Park

To see the Rafflesia, I went to the small town of Lundu, 3 hours from Kuching.

Astro (satellite) TV is a boon to the remote town of Lundu.

Lundu's sluggish river.

Motor workshop by the river.

Lundu's best hotel for 58 ringgit. The owner, Mr Ang, gave me a lift to the National Park.
Mountain stream in park.

Swinging in Gunung Gading National Park
                                 Temple's  guardian.

Tua Pek Kong Temple in Lundu.

The sleepy town of Lundu with Gunung Gading National Park looming outside town. The peak is an easy 900m climb.
Quiet and unhurried life in Lundu.May suit some.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Stories from Sarawak

The cat is Kuching's mascot

I had a chat with a Kuching lady in a private van to Pasar which is the transport hub,

Our conversation turned to the visit of PM Najib in Sibu where he was trying to drum up support for his ruling party, BN, in a bye-election.

She said, "People here are angry with BN. They take our resources and develop Semenanjong (West Malaysia). Public service in Sarawak is so poor. When you ask them when will my IC  be ready they will say not yet.

The dyak come down all the way to town for their IC, and they say not ready."

I said, "Why can't you telephone the department instead of going to the office?"

She said, "When you telephone them they don't jawab. Not like in Singapore, There the schools make ICs for the whole class. No need for parents to go to the IC department."

(BN, despite promising millions of ringgit to Sibu, lost the bye-election.)

BTW, I learned that when you're in Sabah or Sarawak don't announce that you're from Semenanjong. They won't welcome you.

Say you're from Singapore. Don't say you've not been warned. LOL

This is the reaction from Sarawakians if you say you're from Semenanjong!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

On the hunt for the Rafflesia in Sarawak

On this fouth visit to Borneo I was lucky to see the Rafflesia flower, the largest flower in the world. Perhaps, it has something to do with the fact that May is my birthday month. It can grow up to 1 metre in diameter, but the one I saw was only about 50 cm.

This one was already 4 days' old and decaying but surprisingly there was no odour. Flies were already buzzing around it.

Being parasitic, the Rafflesia attaches itself to a vine.

The vine it attaches itself to leads up to the trees.
A Rafflesia bud.
A close-up of the inner recesses of the flower.

The Rafflesia is not only "exceedingly rare" but also highly endangered.

Gunung Gading, near the small town of Lundu in Sarawak, is home to the Rafflesia.

How to get there

First get to Pasar (market) in Kuching where there are buses/private vans that go to the Terminal (lost-distance bus terminal) for the three-hour bus ride to Lundu.(10 ringgit). Bus leaves 4 times daily with the first one at 8am. I missed the first one and had to wait for the next one at 11.

Once at Lundu, private "cabs" will take you to Gunung Gading for 5 ringgit each (15 minutes)

It's advisable to stay the night at Lundu. Tell you where Lundu "Hilton" is in my next post.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Trekking in Bako National Park: Senior citizen shows the way

Senior citizen George from Singapore, in his mid 60s, tackled the trail with aplomb. He did not put a single foot wrong throughout the strenuous 4-hour trek, and emerged without a single scratch. Well done, George!

A friend asked, "Won't you get lost?" The trails are all colour coded but if you're colour blind then, yes, it's possible to get lost. But be like Boy Scouts: be prepared.

 Remember Jim Thompson, the silk king who vanished in the Cameron Highlands
in 1967? Till today the case remains unresolved. Hey, am I frightening you? LOL

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bako National Park, Sarawak Part 3 (final)

Canteen: reasonably priced food and drinks. Beer drinkers will rejoice.

Storm brewing at Bako.

In the evening what better way to while away the time than...
to watch the sunset?

Western backpackers clambering on board for the return trip.
Boatman Anuar: "Sometimes backpackers cheat me by claiming they've paid the fare."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bako National Park, Sarawak, Part 2 of 3

My purpose in going to Bako was to trek and  to see some wildlife particularly the proboscis monkeys which thrive here.

A 15-minute boat ride was all it took to reach Bako. As it was low tide, we had to get off some way from the beach and wade in the water (wear slippers).

Bako beach

                               Four hours later, I'd not have the energy to smile for the camera.

                               The easy part but it gets tough as the trail climbs and dips endlessly for four hours.

I was on the lookout for croc. None : (

The varied terrain.

Scorching hot. Sweat was pouring off my limbs like a leaky pipe.

One misstep will send you tumbling into the stream. Hot, hot!

A glorious view from the hilltop.

Don't be a hero. Bring food, snacks and two big bottles of water. Heat stroke is a possibility so consider a hat/cap or umbrella.

I was disappointed in not being able to spot any wildlife. But Bako is rich in birdlife, and I was delighted to spot some birds I'd never seen before.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sarawak: Bako National Park, Part 1 of 3

Jetty: Boats to Bako. 9 ringgit  per person or 47 ringgit to charter a whole boat.

Once again the lure of the Land of the Hornbill (Sarawak) proved irresistible.  This time it was Bako National Park, and the chance to see the largest flower in the world, the Rafflesia.

The good thing about Bako National Park is that it's easily reached from Kuching.

                                Boat speeding towards Bako. It takes 15 minutes across open sea to reach Bako.

Welcome to Bako

                                Canteen at Bako. Has satellite TV!

Most people stay at Bako. Cheap dorms and rooms available but no air-conditioning. Mine was a semi-d with attached toilet (52.50 ringgit) but even with a fan the room was warm at night, and I had a fitful sleep.

How to get to Bako from Kuching

Hourly bus leaves from Pasar (market) area starting from 8am. Takes about an hour to reach the jetty. Fare: 3 ringgit.