I guess I have been pretty lucky when it comes to taking flights. As a student, the only airline that I have ever had experience with was with MAS, Malaysia Airlines. Then when I was traveling for work, the company’s travel policy meant that I was only allowed to take SQ, Singapore Airlines. Not once have I ever had to experience flying with a budget airlines.
This all changed in 2012, when I took an AirAsia flight for the first time in my life. The second time has not happened yet as of today by the way. I took that flight to Kuching, Sarawak, to attend the wedding of my then housemates.
I’m not going to tell you about how that flight went. I am actually going to tell you about Kuching.
I’m sure most of you already know this, but for some of the jakuns who have never been to Sarawak/Sabah before, the first thing you need to know is that although both that Borneo states are part of Malaysia, you do need your passport for entry even if you are flying in from some other states in Malaysia. Even if you are a Malaysian. You will be issued an entry pass which is basically a piece of paper, stapled to a page on your passport. DO NOT lose that piece of paper, because it will be taken away when you leave.
Okay. Now… shall we start of with the food? But… I have already written about food for three consecutive days. Maybe we should take a break from food. Maybe not you, but I certainly want that break. So maybe this time I should start off with the sightseeing parts.
Actually, we did not even do a lot of sightseeing. We were there for a few days, but most of the time was spent helping out with the wedding stuff, and also attending the wedding. This will probably be a short and boring post…
Cheng Ho Memorial Park
Well, that’s actually my name for this park. I think the actual name of this park is 马中友谊公园 Malaysia-China Friendship Park. This park is suitable located in the suitably named Taman Sahabat (Friendship neighborhood). It is very close to the apartments where we were staying in, so we got to drop by here for a quick walkabout.
You guys know Cheng Ho, right? Laksamana (Admiral) Cheng Ho? He is that legendary Chinese admiral who sailed the southern seas on seven epic voyages, making it as far as Africa. He is China’s equivalent of Columbus, I guess.
Back in those days, a few hundred years ago, Ming dynasty China was a very strong naval power in this region that got everyone cowering in fear. Being China’s protectorate meant no one would dare mess with you. And Cheng Ho was the admiral that represented imperial China when he frequently docked at our shores, so he is pretty famous here.
Truth be told, I was actually quite confused as to why there is a big Cheng Ho statue here. Our history lessons were always teaching us about how Cheng Ho was instrumental in helping turn the Malacca Sultanate into a major Southeast Asian powerhouse. I never knew Cheng Ho was famous in Borneo too.
Anyway, the park is actually quite huge, with statues and verandas and whatnot. But we didn’t stay for very long, because it began raining shortly after we arrived. So we quickly left.
Another place we visited was the Kuching Waterfront. There is a long strip of pedestrian walkway here overlooking the Sarawak River, with shops and restaurants nearby.
There are a few historical buildings here, but I wasn’t paying attention when my friend was explaining to us. They’re mostly relics from the colonial British era, when Sarawak was ruled by the White Rajahs, the Brooke family.
You can also take boat rides from here. There are a few ways to do it. The more well to do tourists would usually take a cruise, which will set you back RM 60. But the cheapest way to feel this river is to take one of those small, man powered boats. You see, there are lots of such boats along the riverfront. They have been around for many years, ferrying passengers across the river and back. It used to be for practical purposes, now it is more of a tourism thing. Each trip costs RM 0.30 per person, so most people would take a trip across, and another trip back. All in all, RM 0.60. Yes, 60 cents.
To put things in perspective, you can take 100 back and forth boat trips with the money you spend on a river cruise with one of em’ big ferries.
There’s a few buildings of interest across the river. There’s a museum, there’s the state legislative hall, and then there’s this, the Astana.
The Astana was built by the second White Rajah, Charles Brooke, back in 1870, as a wedding gift for his wife. Today, it is the official residence of the Yang di-Pertua Negeri, the governor of Sarawak.
This means, if you go there today, you will be able to find that notorious pek moh (White Eyebrow), infamous for his “30 years as chief minister, if you use your brain, it is very easy to get very rich” speech…
Anyway, here’s another waterfront photo for you.
I actually liked this waterfront area very much. I thought it was a very nice and peaceful place to hangout on a stressful day… until I paid closer scrutiny to my surroundings.
Sigh… rubbish galore in the river. Reminds me that I am in a country with first world infrastructure but third world mentality. 🙁
And… that’s about all the sightseeing that I managed to get on this trip. Not a lot, but there’s nothing much I can do. Most of our time were spent on the wedding, and I can hardly blog about my friend’s wedding, can I?