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Getting around

Part 7: Kuching, Semenggoh

25-26.6: Munich -> Dubai -> KL
27.6: KL
28.6: KL
29.6: KL -> Miri
30.6: Miri -> Mulu
1.7: Mulu -> Camp 5
2.7: Pinnacles
3.7: Camp 5 -> Miri -> Kuching
4.7: Kuching -> Singapore
5.7: Singapore
6.7: Singapore
7.7: Singapore -> KL
8.7: KL -> Merang
9.7: Merang -> Lang Tengah
10.7: Lang Tengah
11.7: Lang Tengah -> Kuala Terengganu -> Pulau Kapas
12.7: Pulau Kapas -> KL -> Teluk Intan

13.7: Teluk Intan
14.7: Teluk Intan, Ipoh, Kuala Kangsar, Taiping
15.7: Teluk Intan -> KL -> Kuching
16.7: Kuching, Kubah NP, Matang wildlife reserve
17.7: Semenggoh, Kuching wetlands NP, Kota Kinabalu
18.7: Kota Kinabalu -> Labuan
19.7: Labuan -> Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei)
20.7: Ulu Temburong NP -> BSB
21.7: BSB -> Seria -> Tasek Merimbun -> KL
22.7: KL
23.7: KL
24.7: KL -> Dubai
25.7: Dubai -> Munich

15.7: Teluk Intan -> Kuala Lumpur -> Kuching
Kuching Waterfront Lodge, Kuching. RM 90 for a small but nice and comfortable room with attached bathroom (shower). No window, but opening on top from which the light enters. A/C, TV, phone, table and chair and a place where to hang the clothes. The bathroom is clean and modern. Best shower (in a budget place) I've had so far.

Weather: overcast in the morning, then a mix of overcast and sunny

I sleep long, getting up after 9am. Around 11am I drive with Shirley and Natasha into town, where I have a late breakfast in the Old Town White Coffee restaurant. While there I download my emails. Brief discussion with Shirley. I decide that I'll fly today (evening) to Kuching, that is if I manage to get a plane ticket.

We buy a bus ticket (RM 14), then go back home to pack my stuff. At 1pm the bus to KL leaves to the KL Jalan Duta station. Once there I take a taxi (RM 14.20, coupon system) to the KL Sentral station hoping to get a plane ticket at the Airasia office there. Not a chance, huge queue of people. Would have probably had to wait 1:30 hours or more judging by the queue numbers.

So I take the next KLIA Express train to KLIA. This leaves at 3:40pm and arrives in KLIA at 4:10pm. Then I get to the bus station and this time there is no bus waiting for me, I have to wait. The bus (RM 2.50) only leaves at 4:40pm.

At 5pm I manage to be at the LCCT terminal and for a couple of minutes I hope of being able to catch the 5:40pm flight. Not chance, there is again a huge queue of people wanting to buy Airasia tickets and I only get the plane ticket at 6pm for the 7:40pm flight. Cost is RM419 + RM 45 for the 3kg above 15kg for my luggage. I probably would have spent less had I flown with Malaysian Airlines.

After this there is half an hour of queue at the check in counter and finally at 6:40pm I can go to the airport restaurant for some dinner. This has been a quite inefficient way of travelling today - I left Teluk Intan at 1pm and will only arrive in Kuching at 9:30pm.

The flight leaves with a delay of 10 minutes and lands at 9:40pm. At the airport in Kuching I book the hotel and take a taxi to it.

16.7: Kuching -> Kubah national park -> Matang wildlife reserve -> Kuching
Kuching Waterfront Lodge, Kuching.
Weather: mostly sunny in the morning, gradual clouds build-up, intermittent rain starting from 2pm. Many hours of rain in Kuching until 6pm. Not too hot.

I leave the hotel at 9:20am and walk to the CPH Travel travel agency. There I learn, sigh, that just an hour ago, at 8:30am, a group left for the Talang-Satang tour, the one which visits the turtle protection area. No such tour tomorrow, because there are no people going tomorrow. Had I arrived just one hour earlier I could have done this full-day tour (RM 230).

But it is possible to do the tour tomorrow to the Kuching Wetlands park, where it is possible to spot the Irrawaddy dolphins if you are lucky. I leave for the moment the travel agency giving them my contact details and asking them to contact me should somebody show up wishing to do the Talang-Satang tour.

Since it looks that I'll spend two days in Kuching and there is no particular time pressure I take it easy and slowly walk back to the hotel where I confirm the two nights. Then I check flights and connections over the Internet. I end up fixing the last part of my holiday, visiting Labuan and Brunei after leaving Kuching. I book the Airasia flight to Kota Kinabalu, to avoid entering into the 24h no-book window.

It's 11 something am when I leave the hotel again and head to the tourist information centre to ask how to get back from Kubah NP. They mention something of park vans making the way back to Kuching. Another option is to ask the taxi driver to wait.

I walk back to the main street where I flag down a taxi. For RM 50 he'll bring me to the Kubah NP. It's not a too long trip and at 11:50am we are there.

The Kubah NP is supposed to have nice rainforest and to be home to a large number of species of palms. After registering at the park HQ the local staff, a guy, tells me what I can do. The nicest thing in this park is apparently a waterfall. Going there and coming back takes three hours (1.5 to go + 1.5 to come back).

I ask about the Matang wildlife reserve which should be nearby and the park staff tells me that it is quite far away. But for RM 20 he can drive me there, wait for me and bring me to the bus station. But I have to be back from the waterfall trail by 3pm.

So I start walking towards the waterfall. I first walk up along a road for half an hour. Then I take a trail to the left and start descending. In the meantime, at 2pm it starts raining, which does not make things easier because everything gets very slippery and I'm just wearing rubber slippers.

I manage to reach this waterfall ahead of time, even making a few photo stops along the way. Quite a challenge to balance when holding an umbrella when walking down  a steep trail. The waterfall is beautiful and would have looked even better in a sunny blue sky.

On the way back to the park HQ at one point I slip when walking down a staircase. I make a nice sky dive and am lucky that I just hurt a bit the left arm. Some blood coming out, but never mind, it could have been much worse

I'm back at the park HQ by 2:50pm, then drive with the park HQ staff to the Matang wildlife reserve. This is supposed to be a place where animals are prepared for a life in the wild. In reality I only see animals in cages. After half an hour there I get back to the car and we start driving back to Kuching, arriving there before 5pm. I give RM 50 to the guy for driving me around.

In the evening I relax and book all remaining flights and hotels in Brunei and Dubai. I also buy a ticket for the trip to Semenggoh tomorrow for RM 35.

17.7: Kuching -> Semenggoh -> Kuching wetlands national park -> Kota Kinabalu
Hotel Full Hua, Kota Kinabalu. RM 90 for a small but recently renovated and stylish room with attached bathroom (shower). The room has adjustable A/C, TV, phone, a cupboard for the clothes, small table + chair, no window. WLAN is available, but does not work (only in the lobby). No breakfast. Centrally located in the Kampung Air area of KK.

Weather: overcast in the early morning. The sky opens up after 9am, then closes again and finally opens up after 11am. Just a little bit rain in Kuching in the evening.

I'm ready by 7:45am for the trip to Semenggoh. At 8am the minibus arrives and starts picking up people for the trip. We arrive to Semenggoh at 8:45am, i.e. the minibus trip has taken a bit over half an hour.

My last visit to Semenggoh took place over 10 years ago, in April 2000. It appears that the Semenggoh centre has changed a lot in the meantime. It has been professionalised and the number of tourists has gone up since the last time I visited. Back then there were perhaps two dozen tourists waiting for the orang utans and no orang utans showed up.

This time around 10-12 orang-utans gather around the feeding platforms, including a mother with a baby. The not so good news is that also the number of tourists has gone up. Huge crowd of at least 100 people, cramped in the small space of the viewing zone. Looks like Semenggoh people have been very successful in marketing the centre. Or perhaps April is low season while July is high season.

Shortly after 10am we drive back towards Kuching, arriving before 11am. I then walk to the office of the CPH Travel tour agency to pay the afternoon tour to the Kuching Wetlands national park (RM 160).

Once there I ask what time we are back from the tour. 8:30pm, which is ok, because it leaves enough time to arrive to the airport. The girl in the travel agency is not so sure that we will be back by 8:30pm. Some discussion, we conclude that I will talk to the drivers and boatmen, so that they bring me back to the hotel by 8:30pm.

After that it is 11 something am. I get back to the hotel and check out, leaving my bags there. Then I get out, have some lunch and explore a bit the city.

I take one of those boats which cross the river (40 cents). On the other side of the Sarawak river there is not much to see, actually there is nothing worth mentioning.

At 2:30pm I'm back in the hotel. I pull out the computer, check my emails and read the news. I also check in online with Airasia and book the hotel in Dubai for July 24.

The driver of CPH tours arrives a bit late at 4:25pm. We drive to a jetty near the Santubong peninsula (arriving shortly before 5pm), where I'll do the tour to the Kuching Wetlands NP together with four other travellers. The idea is to take some photos of the Irrawaddy dolphins which supposedly live here.

The driver tells me that this tour can also be done in the morning and that actually the morning is the better time to see dolphins.

The tour turns out to be a disappointment, because we see no dolphins. The only wildlife worth mentioning are some proboscis monkeys far away on the trees. Thinking about it, it's no surprise that we see no dolphins, because there is a huge traffic of boats in this area.

The boat trip lasts a bit over two hours - we leave at 5:15pm and are back at 7:30pm. The tour guide is a bit desperate because no dolphins show up and spends a lot of time and effort to locate at least some proboscis monkeys. It is really dark at 7:30pm when we finally are back in the car.

The tour guide then drives to Kuching and drops me at the Hotel at 8:05pm. The hotel staff calls a taxi for me, which arrives 10 minutes later. At 8:35pm we arrive at the airport.

The plane leaves with a small delay of 10 minutes for KK. The only reason actually I'm flying to KK is that there are no direct flights between Kuching and Labuan or Kuching and Brunei. I have a connecting flight to Labuan tomorrow.

The plane lands at 11:20pm. Things then happen fast: I retrieve the luggage, call the hotel to book a room and get into a taxi (RM 30, limousine) to the hotel.

Copyright 2010 Alfred Molon