Sunday, 5 April 2015


The alarm goes at 5.30 and Simon and I get up and try to encourage the boy out of bed – no mean feat. Our phone rings just after 6 to tell us our driver has arrived but our pick up isn’t due till 6.45 and we are in no mood to be rushed. We’re in the restaurant for the start of breakfast at 6.30 and outside on time. We haven’t gone very far before I realise that I haven’t seen my eyemask, so we’ve left it behind. Luckily I have a spare.

Getting to the airport is much easier than leaving it and we are there well before our 10am flight. The domestic terminal has few facilities but we find a café where I enjoy a decent coffee – my first since arriving. It certainly helps wake me up. We board on time but wait a while to be cleared for take-off.

Arriving at Kuching, we’re immediately aware that it feels hotter but less humid than KL. We are met in arrivals by a smiley man with a sign with all our names on. His name is Mas and he will be our driver for our entire stay here. He’s quite chatty and gives us plenty of information during the brief drive to Kuching, then offers to show us round the town briefly before dropping us at the hotel. Kuching apparently had two mayors, one for the north which is predominantly Malay and another for the south which is mostly Chinese. The administrative buildings are most on the other side of the river from our hotel, the Lime Tree. The waterside is the oldest part of town, lined with shophouses which are motly closed today, being Sunday.

Our hotel is just back from the river’s edge at the eastern end of the town and we’re impressed with our family suite – we have a large double room with a generous bathroom and seating area. It’s on the corner of the building and has curved windows all along one side, overlooking the river a block away. Alex’s room has a double bed and his own shower room, with a connecting door. We drop our bags and walk along the waterfront looking for somewhere to eat. I had spotted a picturesque place by the river during Mas’s mini-tour, just along the waterfront. It has a colonial feel and a half-British, half-Malay menu and we choose a table close to a fan for the breeze. The food is excellent and very reasonably priced – I can imagine dropping in here for sundowners.
We walk across the road to the Chinese temple – the pedestrian crossing actually seem to work here and the little green man does cartoon running. We find ourselves in the back room of the temple where a priest is making some kind of offerings.  At the front of the temple there are some fantastic carvings of priests astride tigers, some gaudily painted and others left natural. Returning to the main bazaar we carry on to Little India, which is undergoing some kind of civil engineering project, laying pipes that we hope are drains (the open sewers can get a bit smelly). At the far end we see a shopping mall and go in to enjoy the aircon. We buy Alex a pair of lightweight trainers at Bata as he’s finding his deck shoes uncomfortable and we have a lot of walking to do tomorrow.
Carrying on along the waterfront we reach the site of a new pedestrian bridge across the river which claims it will be ready by late 2015. We’re pretty sure it won’t. Opposite is the Astana, the old governor’s residence and next to it the State Legislative Assembly Hall, an impressive modern building in a distinctive style reminiscent of a lily bud. On our side of the river is an old fort and across the road the former court house now used as a tourism office.
We stroll back towards our hotel, discovering that although the pedestrian crossings are effective there aren’t many of them and crossing the roads is a bit of a mission. The locals just wait for a gap in one lane of traffic and then dash across, dodging between the cars in the others. Although the driving here is generally considerate and patient – they hardly ever use their horns – they give no concessions to pedestrians. Kuching is called “cat city” and there are statues of cats everywhere. The shophouses along the Main Bazaar being mostly closed means we can walk in the shade under the covered area where normally they would display goods. The few shops that are open are mainly selling food – fish both fresh and dried, herbs and spices and many things we don’t recognise. Even in the shade it’s extremely hot and humid; it’s a relief to get back to our air conditioned rooms.
After a shower we go up to the 5th floor bar which has a covered terrace. It begins to rain while we are considering dinner options and we spend a while watching the lightning. The rain shows no sign of stopping so we use Tripadvisor to find the nearest restaurant that looks decent; we pick a Filipino one two streets back and make a dash for it through the rain. Based on Tripadvisor recommendations we try the pig face appetiser which tastes fine but we leave quite a lot of chewy and crunchy bits. The main course is more appetising and we eat well for well under £20; Simon goes to leave a tip but the proprietor tells him he doesn’t need to because service is included!
It’s still raining when we go back to the hotel and when we arrive I discover I’ve left my glasses. I have spares, so we can leave it till tomorrow to retrieve them.

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