Borneo, Part 4 – Exotic Flowers, Crazy Monkeys and Headhunters

Kuching

After a week in the Mulu jungle we were ready for a few days in a city, and Kuching is a lovely city to unwind in and re-energize yourself. It is located on the Sarawak River at the edge of the South China Sea.  There are vibrant neighborhoods such as New and Old China Towns with interesting old Chinese and colonial architecture, bustling local shops and narrow winding streets. It makes good use of the waterfront with a nice walkway along it with restaurants and shops.

Chinatown, Kuching
Chinatown, Kuching
Taoist Temple Chinatown, Kuching
Taoist Temple Chinatown, Kuching
Colonial Old Court House, Kuching
Colonial Old Court House, Kuching

We haven’t mentioned food in a while because there hadn’t been any worth mentioning, until now. We found a few amazing restaurants here. Many restaurants use local jungle greens and fruits as the main ingredients in their tasty dishes. At one restaurant, the kitchen staff came outside to their garden,  cut a few leaves off of one of the plants and took them back to the kitchen – now that’s fresh!

Kuching waterfront
Kuching waterfront
Kuching Water Taxi
Kuching Water Taxi

After a couple of days wandering around Kuching, it was time to get back to the jungle. We headed to Gunung Gading National Park for 2 days. This park is famous for its Rafflesia flowers. We saw this exotic flower on our own in Kinabalu Park, but in Gunung Gading you have to take a guide to see the flowers. The guide was excellent and we learned a lot more about the plant as well as seeing other insects and reptiles that we would have otherwise missed. Rafflesia is a stemless plant that starts as a small bud on a liana vine and slowly grows over 7 – 9 months. It flowers by opening one petal at a time and then lives for up to 5 days before dying. It has the smell of rotting flesh (also called Corpse Flower) to attract flies who will aid in pollination. After seeing a 3 day old Rafflesia and many buds of all ages, we spent the afternoon hiking in the park. It was typical jungle hiking with slippery root covered trails frequently ascending and descending small hills. We hiked to 3 waterfalls and a viewpoint the South China Sea.

 

A few days later we went to Bako National Park. It’s surrounded by a mangrove forest and is accessible only by boat. We hoped to see proboscis monkeys in the wild, but weren’t expecting too much. That quickly changed when we saw our first proboscis and long-tailed macaque before our boat had finished docking. There were several proboscis monkeys in the trees around our hostel and around the park headquarters. They are such a funny sight with their long noses, protruding bellies and constantly aroused penises.

Proboscis Monkey, Bako National Park
Proboscis Monkey, Bako National Park
Proboscis Monkey, Baku National Park
Proboscis Monkey, Baku National Park

There were also many long-tailed macaques, which are cute at first, but after spending time with them, you realize they are pests. Maggie had 2 encounters with them. Walking from the hostel to the common area with a bag of nuts, a group of 5 macaques charged at her, growling with their teeth exposed, planning on grabbing the nuts! They were out ran this time, but the next day, a cheeky one jumped up on the breakfast tables, grabbed one lady’s piece of toast and Maggie’s can of juice! It was quite remarkable watching it climb over the railing, across the yard and up on to a fence with a canned drink under its arm! Sorry, no photos as it happened so fast. The other funny animal that was abundant in the park was the wild bearded pig.

Long-Tailed Macaque Monkey, Bako National Park
Long-Tailed Macaque Monkey, Bako National Park
Wild Bearded Pig, Bako National Park
Wild Bearded Pig, Bako National Park

While at the park we did 5 hours of trekking through most of the trails in the park. We went to a beautiful beach and to a few look out points and spotted many pitcher plants (also called Monkey Cups).

Telok Pandan Kecil, Bako National Park
Telok Pandan Kecil, Bako National Park
Pitcher Plants (Monkey Cups), Bako National Park
Pitcher Plants (Monkey Cups), Bako National Park

The trekking here was not very enjoyable as the trails were in really poor shape with large mud pools and deep puddles covering many of them.  A wise man once said something like this: ‘The best 2 days in the jungle are your 1st day of wonder, and your last day leaving hell’. We both agreed with this and we were ready to leave the jungle.

Our final trip in Borneo was to visit a Bidayuh longhouse in Annah Rais.  It was quite different from the Penan longhouse we saw earlier. This one was completely made of wood, with bamboo covered floors and was on multiple levels. Headhunted skulls are still displayed in a crate above the fireplace in the warriors’ room.

Skulls in Bidayuh longhouse
Skulls in Bidayuh longhouse
Kitchen in Bidayuh longhouse
Kitchen in Bidayuh longhouse

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