Xia's Journey

Kuching Re-Loaded

on November 11, 2012

26 to 29 Oct 2012 Kuching

To : 26 Oct 2012, Fri, 5.35pm, Air Asia AK6676

Return : 29 Oct 2012, Mon, 4.10pm, Air Asia AK1771

Costs (Flight) : S$150 without baggage / S$180 with baggage

Costs (Package;- Hotel + Day Trips) : S$350

Accommodation : Ariva Service Apartment

26 Oct 2012, Fri

Seizing the opportunity of a long weekend during the Hari Raya holidays, mum suggested for a get-away. We were only one month away and all fares had sky-rocketed by then. We had a few options ranging from Bangkok to Bali to Kuching. We decided on the latter. I was elated. I could go visit my good old’ friends in Kuching again! I held it in as hard as I could, as I wanted to give my friends a surprise when I arrive.

I did up the bookings on Air Asia, costing about S$150 without baggage allowance and $180 with baggage allowance for my parents. We also took on an accommodation and day trip package from 5-Stars tour agency, costing S$350 each.Came 26 Oct, Fri, my brother and the three kiddos came by at about 3pm and sent us off to the airport. We arrived at the airport and did our check-in before we headed to the eatery for some snacks.


Seeing Mama and Yeye off…

As we were nearing the departure gates, my niece and nephew looked at us longingly and wanted to join us on our trip.

Then my niece exclaimed, “I don’t have clothes.” But it didn’t occur to her that she didn’t have her passport with her, rather than her clothes..!! Girls will always be girls. Haahaa… : )


We wanna go too…. : (


Beautiful Take-off

Arrives in Kuching

We touched down Kuching at about 7pm. When we arrived at the airport, I took a picture of a “Kuching Bag” at the souvenir shop and texted William when we arrived at Ariva, the service apartment that we were staying at.

William had a big surprise and asked if I was in Kuching and called Justin immediately.

Justin wasted no time in calling me.

He had the biggest surprise ever.

Dinner at Bukit Mata Seafood Centre

It was almost 9pm by the time we dropped our bags and headed over to the Bukit Mata Seafood Centre at the top of the multi-storey carpark for dinner. This seafood centre was just behind the service apartment that we were staying. Justin and his friends brought Darren and I here in our previous trip and this place brought back great memories for me as I stepped into this food centre once again.

As we were ordering our dinner from No. 25, I remembered that the ferns were a specialty in Kuching and ordered a plate of it as well.

Although I very much disliked garlic sauce, the ferns went down really well and it was so yummy.

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Dinner on First Night – No. 25

We had satay and my mum commented that the ketupat was so good that it melted in her mouth!

My family members enjoyed the meal tremendously and couldn’t stop complimenting the food.

After dinner, my parents went back to the apartment and were knocked out whilst sis and I made our way down to the riverfront to try shooting the riverfront at night.
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Soup, Ferns, Satay and more…!! ; D

27 Oct 2012, Sat

Our tour guide, Richard came by to pick us up at 9am and off we went.

Semonggok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre / Semonggoh Widllife Centre

22 km away from Kuching lies the Semonggok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre or commonly known as the Semonggoh Widllife Centre.

The entrance fee to Semenggoh was at RM 3 (adult) and RM 1.50 (child). Although the opening hours are 8 am to 12 pm and 2 pm to 4.15 pm, the feeding times are only from 9.00 to 9.30 am and 3 pm to 3.30 pm.


Getting up-close to the orang-utans at the Semonggok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre

It is quite a popular tourist location and many tour operators organise day trips here.

For those that do not use a tour operator, they are able to catch a STC bus No. 6 which stops outside the gate.

It costs RM 2 one-way and it’s a 20-minute walk from the main entrance to the feeding area. However, I’m not too sure where could they catch the STC Bus No. 6 though.


Waiting eagerly for the feeding time

Apart from Orangutans, this 653-hectare tropical rainforest centre is home to many other animals such as Sun bears, bearcats, wild monkeys, eagles, hornbills, gibbons and even porcupines.

As the name suggests, many came for the orang-utans than anything else.

Here, the orang utans were released into the wild after rehabilitation to roam within the thick jungles of this well-managed rehabilitation centre.


Watcha you looking at… ; p

During meal times, these fantastic timekeepers will appear from the nearby jungle and descend from the trees to feast on their well-prepared meals.

It provides visitors with the unique experience of being up close to these quick, massive giants. After their sumptuous meal, they will play and swing sluggishly along the hanging vines and branches before disappearing back into the jungle again.


Close Range

For over 30 years, this center train young rescued orphaned Orang Utans from captivity on how to survive in the wild.

The success of this programme has left the surrounding forest reserve with a thriving population of healthy adolescent and young adult Orang Utans, who are now breeding in the wild.

The programme has been transferred to Matang Wildlife Centre, but Semenggoh is still home to its successful graduates, semi-wild Orang Utans and their babies, whom spend most of their time roaming the forest but frequently come back to the Centre for a free meal.


I Love Mummy

During the fruiting season in the forest, some or even most of them may not come back to have meals. This in itself is a good sign as rehabilitation was meant to promote independence, self-reliant adult orang utans, and not seeing any orang utans at feeding time shows that the programme has been pretty successful.

We were given a briefing at the entrance of the rainforest, and were instructed to follow their instructions carefully. We waited eagerly for the giants to come out of hiding and feast on their breakfasts. One by one came down slowly and strolled to the attendants for their meals. We got shots, really close-up shots of them. One even came down right where we stood as we made way for her to pass through. She was less than 2 meters away. Everyone was clicking away frantically, trying to pose “with” her.

Just when we were happily engrossed in the firing, we heard loud shouts for us to scram out of the forest as fast as we could. One of the heavy-weight grandpa was charging his way down at us!! It was a stampede for everyone to flee out of the forest.

I envisioned getting a shot of a “motion pic” on slow shutter with ‘ghostly figurines’ fleeing the rainforest.I adjusted my DSLR as quickly as I could; down the shutter speed, up the ISO and aperture etc.

Unfortunately, with my very limited technical skills, I needed to trial and error a couple of times before I could get my settings right.


My ‘failed’ motion pic of tourists fleeing the forest

By the time I did so, the crowd was gone and when I looked around, there was no one else in sight. I was at the end of the pack. The orang-utan was just meters behind me!

Thankfully, by now, he had simmered down and was just strolling in his stride.

I made my way out quickly, back to my very angry tour guide and anxious, worried family members. My tour guide was hopping mad and complained to my sis about me, “Your Sis…!! I told her to run, and she still does not run. Still taking pictures! Its very dangerous. The orang-utans are very fast and strong”, and he continued rambling non-stop. Haahaa… ; p

We got back to the entrance of the visitor centre and saw exhibits of tourists and attendants being attacked and mutilated by the orang-utans.

Many of them sustained serious injuries and had to be stitched up.

These giants were indeed fast and furious!


Seriously injured and Mutilated by the Orang-Utans

It was then a no-wonder that my tour guide was so hopping mad when I took my own sweet time strolling out of the rainforest. It was dangerous indeed and not withstanding that he would have a hard time submitting a report on why his tour group met with mishap under his chaperon.

With all the fuss and dashing around, we got ready to leave the rainforest. Felt kinda ‘cheated’ as we spent less than one hour here at the forest and half the time, we were running in and out of the forest.  Haahaa… ; )

Annah Rais Bidayuh Longhouse

We headed for Annah Rais Bidayuh Longhouse – the authentic long house where the Bidayuhs, the second largest ethnic group in Sarawak stayed in.

The long house was made mainly of bamboo and there is a “Head House” or ‘Baruk’ situated in the middle of the longhouse.


The long house being made of bamboo structures

This is the most unique and important structure of the long house as they use it as a fort to protect the whole village from being attacked by enemies.

Inside the ‘Baruk’, there are real human skulls hanging around the fire place and also their sacred war drum.

As this is a living quarters of the Bidayuhs, these villagers went about their daily routine like rice pounding and winnowing, basket and mat weaving, bamboo carving, etc.

Many were not very welcoming and declined pictures.

When we asked why were they so resistant to pictures, we were told that, the villagers believed their soul would be captured if they had their pictures taken.

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Head House – with the heads…!! Eeeeeekkss…

I caught sight of this very interesting villager and got a stolen shot of him first before I asked for his permission to get a straight-on picture of him.

True enough, he declined photography.


A stolen shot

We took a 45mins tour around the long house and left soon after as many were not very inviting and since photography was very much a no-no. It was such a damper.

Although this was a real living quarters of the Bidayuhs and more authentic, it was to a photographers ire. Previously, when we did Sarawak Cultural Village, although it was very much more ‘touristy’, it was a photographers’ paradise with the many cam-whoring opportunities with the exhibits and all. Personally, having done both, I would very much recommend the latter.

We got back to the city and had lunch at a food centre. Had their infamous Sarawak Laksa and I could still scent the fragrance and taste of laksa sauce with lime in my mouth as I pen this blog.

Three Layer Teh-C-Peng

Had a go at their 3-layer tea as well, which was a spin-off from their Teh-C-Peng (commonly known as ice-tea in Singapore and Malaysia).

In most Kuch­ing food centres, order­ing for ‘Teh-C-Peng’ meant the three layer ver­sion. However, there are also places where ‘Teh-C-Peng’ referred to the nor­mal iced milk tea.

As such, it was best to dictate that you would prefer the “Three-Layer Teh-C-Peng” or “Teh-C-Peng Special” to avoid any miscommunication.


Kuching Laksa & the special 3-Layer Tea

A typical “Three-Lay­er Teh-C-Peng “ is made up of (top-to-bottom) tea, evap­o­rated milk and Gula Melaka (Palm sugar) syrup.

Somehow, I think our “Three-layer Teh-C-Peng” was a little extension from its original version. It was made from a layer of tea at the top, a layer of evaporated milk in the middle and a layer of wheat­grass syrup (the green­ish layer at the bottom).

I have not tried other “Three-layer Teh-C-Peng” before and could not make a good comparison.

To my opinion, the “Three-layer Teh-C-Peng” was unique for its layers of colours and when mixed, it produces a sweet-smelling fragrance which was intoxicating and when it goes into the mouth, you could feel a blend of the wheatgrass and tea ~ as like flavoured tea to put it simply. Nice…!! I liked it a lot ; D


Our first try at the 3-Layer Tea

We ended the lunch and got our tour guide to drop us off at the waterfront. Mum, Dad and Sis went shopping by the little souvenir shops along the waterfront, whilst I went to grab some shots at the waterfront.

Kuching Waterfront

The weather was gorgeous with blue skies and fluffy clouds. I was shooting at the waterfront and remembered the ingenious shot that Darren took of the “Monster Eating the Parliament Building” two years ago and decided to give it a twist by using my Fish-Eye lens to capture the same scene.

The Fish Eye lens had a wider perspective and gave the picture a more intense and exaggerated version as compared to the original picture from Darren. It felt like the whole building was being chewed on.

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same same but DiffereNt

I went around the city and continued playing with my Fish Eye lens on other fore and backgrounds.

Visited the old post office, the Sabati Women’s Museum, the big tree etc.

I would have loved to stay on to shoot the sunset but alas, I had to rush back to meet up my family for dinner as the tour package included a seafood dinner at the Bukit Mata Seafood Centre we had on the first night.

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Gorgeous Day for Shooting


This time round, we had the Butter Crabs, Prawns, Steamed Garoupa, Ferns in Sambal sauce, etc. We ate till we burst.

It was a seafood paradise. The seafood was fresh, cheap and good.

How much I missed the seafood now that we hardly have such a good, sumptuous (and cheap!) seafood meal in Singapore.


Happy, Contented Faces

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Sumptous dinner on Night 2


Cleaned out…

We took a stroll around the city before we got back to our service apartment. It was 9pm.

My parents were washing up and hitting the sheets whilst I was getting ready to go “chiong-ing” with my friends.

The Junk

Justin, William and their friends came by at 9.30pm to pick me up and off we went to “The Junk” for some food and drinks. We had wanted to come this café the last time round, but we didn’t get to and settled for “Bla Bla Bla” instead.

Located in an old Chinese shophouse built in the early 1900’s, The Junk is situated in Kuching’s oldest street; Wayang Street.The interior is beautifully restored and houses paraphernalia of antique items collected over the years which includes old grandfather clocks, bird cages and rattan chicken coops – all personal collections of the owner cum chef George Ling who runs the restaurant with his wife Roselyn.


Paraphernalia of antique items

It was a very cozy and great place to chill out with a couple of friends.

We ordered a pizza and some drinks which took forever to arrive. But I guess it was very much a common phenomenon of under-staffing especially so on a weekend night.


Justin got hooked on Fishy

It was pretty dark in there and I had to pump up my ISO to 1600 in order to avoid any handshake blur.

Justin got hooked on my Fish Eye Lens whilst shooting the interior of this restaurant.


We love fishy…


Catching up at The Junk

As the restaurant was to close at 11pm, we decided to head over to ‘Full House Cafe’ at Hills Shopping Mall which was directly across from my service apartment.

We contemplated between Station 1 cafe and Full House and we settled for the latter instead. Both of them had live bands.

Station 1 was playing mainly Mandarin medleys whilst Full House was more on channel 5 with lots of my favourite sentimental pieces.

Full House Lifestyle Store and Cafe

When I passed by Full House on the first night, I was deeply impressed by the white furnishings and settings of the café.

Inspired by the Korean drama series of the same name, its concept is a white-themed Victorian house with romantic French-design accents complete with a living room, dining room, bedroom, kitchen, garden and even a bathroom.


This car is not a display item. It has a road license which could run on the streets.

The white décor exudes a calming effect and creates a serene, warm, subdued and inviting environment for diners.

It aims to provide a ‘home-away-from-home’ relaxed atmosphere where one can dine in comfort with family and friends.

I was glad that we got a chance to come by here on the second night.


Sugar Over-dose… But how to resist these sweeties..?? Ok… I’ll jes have one… One tiny little one…. ; D

I love their menu which replicated a comic storybook.

We ordered a drink and I could not resist ordering one of these slices of mini cakes.

They were so pretty and so interesting. I would have very much loved to order one slice each, but I was way over the limit with the calories in-take.


Even the menu is awesome…!!

We spent the night catching up and making plans for our next trip to Lego Land in Johor.


Music and Frens at Full House

28 Oct 2012, Sun


Sisters; Yan Ping and Yan Ling came by to pick us up for breakfast whilst Justin and William went direct to the food centre to ‘chope’ place. The sisters drove us around the area and showed us lots of pretty bungalows. The amount these people paid for the bungalows were even lower than what we pay for a 5-room HDB flat in Singapore !

We got down to their local fare breakfast, and had the three-layer tea once again, wan-ton noodles and lots of savouries.

I could not get my mind off the ‘you tiao with condensed milk’.

It was simple and nothing extraordinary but it was so delicious.

The condensed milk sweetened up the you tiao and distracted us from how much oil existed in the you tiao.


You Tiao with condensed milk… ! Super Nice-licious… ; )

We headed on to grab some Kueh Lapis cakes as Kuching had one of the more interesting Kueh Lapis cakes around. I suggested going back to the shop across the river bank, but Justin and William suggested otherwise.

Kueh Lapis

Jaws Dropping, Salivary Glands drooling Kueh Lapis shop. Image from website.

And indeed, here, this shop, ‘Kek Lapis Sarawak, Dayang Salhah‘, has such a huge variety of Kueh Lapis cakes that had my jaws dropping and my salivary glands drooling non-stop. There were Oreo and Cheese, Cuppicino, Prune, Horlicks, Watermelon, Blueberry etc etc. There were about 20 varieties in this shop!
We headed to the Sarawak museum and enroute, we stopped at a pottery factory.

Upon arriving at the Sarawak Museum, my parents and sis went around the museum whilst Justin, William and I camwhored outside the museum.

Justin experimented with continuous burst, panning etc.

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Pottery Factory & Museum

We got back to our hotel at 2pm, freshened up and awaited for Richard to pick us up at 3.30pm for the Santubong Wildlife Cruise.

Santubong Wildlife Cruise

As the activity titled, “cruise”, I was expecting it to be a slow, romantic cruise in the waters as we try to catch glimpses of wildlife as the sun goes down. Armed with my DSLR and tripod, off we went to the Sarawak Boat Club to board the cruise.

I had imagined it to be like Harbourfront Cruise Centre with a big terminal and huge luxury liners.

When we arrived, we only saw a small pier with a docking platform. There were no other passengers nor cruise ships. It was just us and two cruise guides.

Our cruise guides were friendly, helpful and all smiles. We don on our life jackets happily and were transferred to a speed boat (not ‘cruise’ as I had imagined!)


Our two very helpful and friendly cruise guides

The cruise took us along the many branches of the Santubong and Salak River Delta systems as they join the South China Sea.

We had our eyes peeled on the waters on the look-out for the Irrawaddy dolphins.

The Irrawaddy dolphin inhabits rivers, estuaries and shallow coastal areas. The Santubong area is one of the best places in Sarawak to view this unusual looking marine mammal.


Cruising along

Occasionally they are seen playing in the open waters.

Visitors will need a keen eye and lots of luck to spot these dolphins.

Unfortunately, luck was not very much with us for that day and we did not get to see any of them.

On hindsight, we caught some crocodiles, proboscis monkeys and an awe-inspiring sunset during the 2-hours cruise.

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The awesome sunset made up for everything else

We arrived back in Kuching at about 7.30pm, and Justin and William came by at about 8pm to pick us up for dinner.

We had a deep fried fish, and the ferns in red wine.

This was our third rendition of the ferns. We have had it in garlic sauce on the first night, sambal sauce on the second night and red wine on the third. No matter which version was it, I liked them just as much!


Our last sumptous dinner for this Kuching trip. Paid RM 100 for this… ; D


Thanks guyz for hosting us these couple of dayz

After dinner, Yan Ping brought my parents and sis back to the service apartment whilst the rest of us headed for a short drinking session as it was my last night in Kuching.

It might be another couple of months or maybe a year before we might get to meet up again. Thank you guyz for the kind hospitality!


Cheerz to these wonderful friends for such an awesome time

29 Oct 2012, Mon

After breakfast, I went around the town on my own for some last shots at the red wall before heading for the airport to fly back SG.


The nice red wall


Lovely memories of yesterday


Goodbye Kuching. Hope to see you again soon… ; )


All smiles to return home


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