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Further City Forays


Waking just too late for the intended early bus out to Semenggoh Wildlife Park, Plan B involved a more sedate pace in traipsing Jalan MacDougall and onwards through the blistering heat in search of a more unusual diversion, the Planetarium. Upon arrival I was surprised to find it deserted however and tracking down the caretaker revealed that it was closed for renovation, he was almost distraught in his apologies and did not want to let me go off disappointed. I guessed they didnt actually get too many tourists frequenting it after all. Eventually managing to escape, as a vague compensation I was at least able to mount the adjacent Civic Centre watchtower, a very tall and elaborate design which afforded fine vistas of the whole city and Sarawak River, before completing a loop back towards the centre which found me passing the state museum.

It was to here that I had intentionally returned in order to investigate a mystery which had only belatedly dawned on me, that throughout my pursuit of the entire heritage trail around Kuching there had been barely a mention of the fundamentally important Brooke dynasty, certainly there was somewhat bafflingly no related artifacts on display at the museum. I could recall having come across artifacts related to the histories of Sarawak and Sabah at the National History Museum in K.L. but had paid them short shrift at the time in the expectation of later more thorough insight. Now here I was looking for that history but none was to be found. No statues around town, not a single potrait on display. Enquiring as to their whereabouts had me informed that they had been placed in storage for preservation, a lame excuse which rang less and less true the more I contemplated it. It was upon later relating my perplexion to Jeremy an older English guy and resident of Sabah I had had for company the last couple of nights that he immediately sussed what was gradually dawning on me. Sarawak was in denial of its own history, a situation which could be considered something of a scandal. My realisation of this had come too late for me to assume any action over it, but considering the unique and fascinating nature of Sarawak's past it merited further investigation we agreed. Over the coming weeks Jeremy was to keep in touch as to what he had managed to deduce, and ended up sweet talking the museum security staff and contacting the Borneo Post in this vain. He also managed to track down the Brooke family mausoleum situated close to the Palace across the river, just one more attraction and point of note to which there had been singularly no reference around town.

Leaving it at that, I then checked out the post office, perhaps Kuching's grandest colonial vestige with a view to sending stuff home, inside it was contrastingly small but orderly as required. That was only after I had strolled around the Textile Museum across the road however, really a sidetrack pursued just for the sake of completeness. Ostensibly uninspiring, the presentations of traditional dress and collection of old black and white photos transpired to be a better introduction to indiginous culture than the Ethnographic Museum had been, and a single map and storyboard revealed a history of Sarawak which included facts hitherto undisclosed. It was only here and now that I found my first reference to the mysterious Langkasuka Kingdom which purportedly had ruled over an expanse of the Thai-Malay border region from the first to the 10th centuries AD. The Sriwijaya Empire which had incorporated nearby land in western Kalimantan was dated here as early as the 5th century until its 14th century demise, and the Majapahit Kingdom was revealed to have conquered the vast majority of the present day Indonesian and Malaysian lands from the 13th century, obviously in opposition. The less extant Melaka Kingdom of the 15th and 16th centuries also got a mention. This one simple representation was enough to justify my whimsical visit, and served to illustrate that in trying to piece together a jigsaw of complex scattered pieces, dark corners could sometimes reveal hidden gems. You could read books about it very succinctly, but it would only stay with you if you had tangibly seen it, touched it, tasted it I mused. I had often thought back to the National Museum of Cyprus visited almost a year before and how I had marvelled at the unexpected warrior statues of a hitherto unknown tomb, I knew I would always remember them better than any history could have ever related.

I resisted the choresome investigation it would have been to interpret the local artistry of weaving, but in the passing gleaned passable insights into the fact that much of the intricate patternwork served to resemble local flora such as ferns and bamboo, also that the cloth had to be prepared in a carefully concocted bath of ginger, lime and salt. The women would perfuse it into the cloth with their feet and then quench the resulting burning with a paddle in the river! That served to illustrate an intelligent industrious nature which had somehow discovered inspired unlikely solutions to seemingly inconsequential problems.

From there, a long hot sweaty walk failed to reveal the FAX airline office, discovering instead another of the many cat statues favoured for the cities roundabouts, I did finally get the remainder of my photos burnt to DVD surprisingly efficiently however, even if it was pricey. I was now well wary of wasting further days to Kuching's chill out factor but still had a number of practicalities to attend to. Even the supposedly simple tasks of picking up small bottles of DEET and surgical spirit had proved fruitless, and I couldnt give prospect to tackling the jungle without them. I rounded off the day with more frustrating time on the net, sometimes mimicing 2 steps forwards and 1 step back, at other times the even more crushing contrary. Just as well the beer was cheap!

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Malaysia

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