Monday, 6 April 2015

A very exciting day

We awake to exciting news – Tash and Steve have got engaged! To tell the truth, Simon and I already knew because Steve had followed tradition and asked for Simon’s approval, but we tell Alex over breakfast. It’s a smaller hotel and so a less extensive breakfast but still a reasonable choice including familiar items as well as curry, laksa (a kind of noodle soup) and coconut jam. Mas picks us up – he will be our guide for the entire stay – and drives us to Semengohh, reminding us on the way that because the Orang Utan have been released to the wild sightings are not guaranteed. But we are barely out of the minibus when we hear that the oldest Orang, Soduku, has been sighted and we spend a while watching her food on bananas. The rangers leave food on the feeding platforms twice a day, at 9 and 3, to try and tempt the Orang to the viewing areas but if there’s plenty of fruit in the forest they don’t bother to come.

We watch her for a while as she enjoys her bananas, peeling them with her feet and as she dangles from the ropes. We’re given an introductory talk but I can’t pay attention when there’s such a big distraction behind me. Eventually, the rangers indicate that it’s time to move to another viewing area where a mother and baby have been sighted. When we arrive they are on the way down the ropes to the feeding platform. The mum grabs a bunch of bananas and moves away from the platform, sharing the bananas with her baby as they hang on. When they leave the platform it’s invaded by squirrels – there seem to be about three different types, in various colours – who run down the ropes while the female Orang observes them with apparent disdain.

We have plenty of time to watch them; it’s almost 10 when they return to the forest. Somebody spots a bright green snake on a branch and Alex studies a massive trail of ants running up and down a tree beside us. We find a small lizard, too. We’re delighted to have seen wild Orangs at our first attempt, it takes the pressure of for our subsequent destinations.

We’re driven back to the hotel and make a brief trip to the nearest supermarket to buy some beer, snacks and sodawater to go with the limes that are sold in the hotel. We’ve decided to take the river taxi across to the other part of North Kuching for lunch. It’s a short journey in a traditional boat and we arrive in a very different place to the rest of Kuching. Here, people live in traditional Malay houses, raised up on stilts. We spot a couple of them that claim to be cafés but are clearly closed; there’s also a water vending machine.

We walk to the right first and the houses give way to a large car park with covered food courts at either end and a mosque and a cake shop on the side furthest from the river. It could be a potential lunch spot but only a couple of the kiosks are open and they don’t look that appetising – especially the one called “Cat delicacies” – we hope it refers to Cat City rather than an ingredient. We think our best chance of finding a restaurant lies between the two ferry points, so Simon leads us along the walkway on stilts that has been constructed to avoid the overgrown path along the river. We reach the end, right next to the xxxx building but there’s no way of getting ashore. We’re really hot and hungry by now so we decide to take the ferry back across and find one of the restaurants I’d identifed on Tripadvisor as good options for lunch.

It takes us ages to find our first choice, Borneo Delight, but it’s closed. So is the second option, and by now we’re all desperate to sit down in a cool place. I hear music, follow it to a door and find an ‘/gratefully below a ceiling fan and order. My rice wine – a local delicacy - tastes like sweet sherry but has a disconcerting worm-like residue. The food is fine, though, until Alex’s onion rings arrive and he discovers they have been made with sweet batter and taste like onion doughnuts. They are duly taken off the bill.

We’ve arranged to Skype Tash when it reaches a sensible time so we head back to the Lime Tree. It’s lovely to hear from her and share her excitement. The boys are happy to chill in the air conditioned bedroom after but I can’t stay in when there’s an exotic place to explore so I go back out for a wander. When I get back I realise I have quite badly sunburned shoulders, really annoying when I used factor 50 suncream – Simon thinks the straps of my backpack rubbed it off.

We spend the early evening in the rooftop bar where Alex enjoys a complimentary lime and soda and Simon and I have two-for-one Tiger beers. The lime theming of the hotel is taken to extremes, but apart from the lack of a swimming pool it’s more or less ideal. We have all done a lot of walking today and we don’t want to venture too far, so we go to the Hong Kong Noodle House which Mas had told us was popular. The service is a bit slow and they have run out of a couple of things we planned to order but three meals, a soft drink and two beers comes to less than £10 including tip.

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