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Kalimantan to Sarawak


The 9pm departure time though convenient enough was baffling in that to eke out the route for the Malaysian border, pit stops and progress were intentionally convoluted. Why not just leave later? With the darkness still revealing unexpectedly dramatic topography and tropical vegetation, I quietly dismayed at not having realised this particular leg of my trip during daylight, it was a road trip which I had anticipated for years. There was something perverse about crossing an international frontier on the island of Borneo which surely in a sane world should have been one homogenous mass. It was also my first real appreciation of Borneo's character and doomed to be my only impression of its West. To match the Malaysian bus I promptly put my clock forward an hour in anticipation of another time zone change now 8 hours ahead of GMT again, and though we still arrived early for the border opening the Indonesians had at least found the resolve to co-operate with an early kick off at 5am to match the Malaysians standard 6. Entikong proved to be another remarkably civilised crossing even if the queues were long, and soon I was being whittled past more palm trees into an immediately perceptibly more affluent environ of wider delineated roads, pristine signage and manicured roundabouts. Though I had entertained prolonged enquiries from the border official I perceived it to be more out of idle curiosity at a crossing singularly devoid of other foreigners, it was almost an indulgence to have this mini adventure all to myself as it were. Another unexpected variation once in Malaysia was the materialisation of Karst scenery akin to the peninsular mainland, until sleep finally robbed me of any further initial impressions of what was now the state of Sarawak before reaching Kuching's bus terminal. A lone tout was too polite and respectably dressed to be intimidating after the typical balshiness of Indonesia and the general vibe emanating from sweetly pastel painted buildings, shiny modern cars and a perceptible prevalance of order perhaps surprised me in the realisation that be it Borneo or not, I had still advanced the 30 years or so which Malaysia held over her neighbour. After walking past the taxi rank incredibly uncontested, a palpable absence of surprised expressions and "Hello misters" affirmed that I had just arrived in a different land indeed. With the locals symptomatically opting for costlier taxis, it was another disorientating search for the elusive city bus, but my compass and guesswork got me into central Kuching easily enough, immediately marvelling at its prettified orderliness. I had long understood Kuching (meaning "City of Cats") to be considered one of the most aesthetically pleasing cities in all of South East Asia, and though perhaps not what I had expected it to be so it proved nonetheless. My search for a bed took me directly through the main shopping heart which proved to be a full on Chinatown of undeniable character, and the 2 story merchant houses, garish temples and clan houses immediately reminded me of Georgetown on Penang. I turned up at Kuching's sole backpacker orientated hostelry to promptly resist the renewed convention of a dormitory in favour of more space and privacy, and though it was still comparable to what I had paid on average in Indonesia, long forgotten indulgences such as a flushing sit down toilet and gushing conventional shower qualified it immediately.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Malaysia

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