A beach in Bako National Park
Fingers crossed the weather will continue to be good. It didn't really rain during the day yesterday and I was hoping this would continue because we were finally headed to Bako National Park, one of the main National Parks of Borneo. Interestingly, it faces the South China Sea.
Chong Choon Cafe
The other thing we were finally going to do was to hit up one of the famous institutions for Sarawak Laksa, Chong Choon Cafe. We were lazy and short of time so we took a Grab there.
The cafe didn't really look like a cafe, it looked more like a food centre as the seating was kind of open air and there were a handful of food stalls. We were of course, here for the Laksa stall, but there were stalls selling other things such as thick toast, beverages (of course) and curry mee.
A went to order two bowls of laksa. If it was as good as it's supposed to be, I'm not sharing! He also went to order a Kaya and butter toast. He came back and we switched - I went to order drinks: yet ANOTHER 3 layer tea and a Milo-C. The former is so prettyyyy:
As with the Premier 101 food centre, I simply ordered and told them my table number and they would turn up with the goods when they were ready and we would pay only then.
The laksa took some time to arrive. A had already finished his share of the Kaya toast (which, was of course yummy. The bread was a little thicker, which made it better actually). The laksa was quite good; I was pretty happy with it. It was way better than the one at Lau Ya Keng Food Court (consumed on the first day) in that it had better flavour. It was very different to the one we had in Singapore, absolutely a case of apples and oranges. This Sarawak Laksa was a little sour and very fragrant, most likely from an abundance of spices in it. There was very little coconut milk, so it was more watery than the Singapore one, which made it somewhat similar to all the laksas I've had back home in Sydney.
Ultimately, it was better than any laksa I've had in Sydney. Just like the one in Singapore. Unlike the one in Singapore, this one was soooo cheap at MYR 7. It had a decent amount of chicken and prawns in it too. 9/10 #ipinions
Bako National Park
Getting to Bako
We were short on time so we ordered another Grab to take us to Bako National Park Terminal. It was a 30 min drive and the guy was happy to talk to us a little. He unfortunately did not wear his seatbelt so his car would beep every now and then.
We were visiting Bako as it was supposed to be quite nice; it has rainforest, rugged coastline and beaches. It is also home to the funny looking Proboscis monkey.
To get to the National Park, we had to drive to a point just south of the national park, where the Tabo River meets the South China Sea, to board a boat which took us to the Bako jetty, which is in the northern part of the park.
The Grab driver got out of the car to guide us through the ticket buying process and at the end of that, he asked us if we needed a ride. We politely declined, as we planned to take the public bus back.
Here, we bled money a little - it cost MYR 20 per person each way for a shared boat (40 return, so 80 for both of us) and another 20 each for park entrance. Pop, there went MYR 120 (AUD 41.26)!!! There goes my budget!
As we were taking a shared boat, we had to wait around for the boat to fill up. But we didn't have to wait long. In the end, they allowed us to set off with only 5 passengers (with only 3 of us returning on the same day).
The boat was actually a largeish speedboat and it was quite clean looking. The trip took about 20 minutes. It was quite a pleasant boat ride. It was low tide and the water was quite tame. We could see lots of mangroves.
Upon approach to the National Park Headquarters, I spotted some monkeys in the trees above a cliff. Yay, wildlife!
As it was low tide, we could not disembark too close to the shore. We had to take our shoes off and jump in to shin high water and walk to shore. There were lots of little crabs on the beach scuttling around. The boat guy asked when he should come back and I told him 3pm.
We walked towards Park HQ to sign in (we had a form we had to give them) and to get a map. At the entrance were two monkeys, one with an injured eye. They didn't seem to be scared of humans at all.
After signing in, a park staff member gave us a map and suggested which paths we should take. Route #3 should allow us to see some Proboscis Monkeys. He also suggested #6 so we could see some sea stacks.
We set off to find the trail for route #3. To get to the start of the trail, we had to walk on a boardwalk which took us over mangroves. We immediately saw a couple of Proboscis Monkeys here but unfortunately they were mostly obscured by the foliage of the tree they were sitting on. I did get a good enough view to see their funny noses and to note that they looked smaller than I imagined them to be. I wanted to linger to see them better but A wanted to move on as it was quite hot under the sun and surely we would see more on the trail, like the park man said.
The trail was all through rainforest. It was very humid and muggy and kind of unpleasant. It made hiking quite an experience. The trail was full of overgrown tree roots and was slightly muddy. There were some stairs to assist every now and then, but they really cheaped out on the wood so each step was just piece of wood that was quite thin and not very wide.
It was suggested it would take 1 hour to do the trail one way. I think we took around 45-50 minutes. The end of the trail was a cove with a small beach, surrounded by dense trees. We were not the only people around and all of us were looking for the Proboscis Monkeys. Unfortunately no one could spot them. The beach was in kind of a sorry state, there was lots and lots of rubbish that had washed ashore, most of which was plastic.
I'm on a boat (again)
A small family of foreigners had hired a guide, who asked me if I wanted to join them in hiring a boat. The guide initially spoke to me in Malay! A and I thought about it and decided that it would be a good idea to get a boat to take us to the end of Route #6, which was the next cove over and we would hike back to HQ from there. This way would we not need to double back on both routes and our journey would look more like a loop.
A went back to the foreigners and told them we would be happy to share a boat with them, only if they took a small detour and dumped us at the end of Route 6. But it seemed they had changed their minds. A decided to keep hustling and ask the other people that were on the beach. There were 3 others, including one older man (in his late 60s, I'd imagine) and they were all happy to do what we were proposing. The boat man wanted 35 ringgit, so the more people we got the better. With the 5 of us, that would mean 7 ringgit per head, which was much more affordable. The older guy decided to go and ask another (oldish, 50s?) guy that was hanging around at the edge of the beach. He too was thrilled at the prospect of getting a boat to save some time.
The boatman was happy to take us all. I walked to the boat with the other 2 people, a couple from Georgia, USA. They had just spent the year teaching English in Suzhou, China. They were in Boreno for a short holiday before jetting to Melbourne to house-sit.
The boat ride didn't take too long. Along the way, we saw the sea stacks marked on the map. There was actually no way you could see them from the end of the #6 trail, so it was probably a good thing that we took the boat!!
Disembarking off the boat, we all went our separate ways. An old guy went in for a dip whilst the other old guy sat on the nice sand. We wanted to push on and try to see more Proboscis monkeys, but I wasn't counting on it. The Americans felt the same and we made our way back on to the trail. Our first real challenge appeared - we basically had to scale a bunch of large rocks to get up to the top of a cliff. It was pretty uncomfortable; I wasn't in my best shoes and the humidity was killer.
At the top of the cliff was a really nice view. Here, we split with the Americans as they wanted to take loads of pictures.
(Best viewed on desktop and in full screen mode)
The trail was alright here, there was a nice boardwalk, which was nice and flat. A found a heart shaped leaf.
The boardwalk ended and we got into a denser entanglement consisting of tree roots everywhere. The water was red for some reason (yes it was this bright red):
The tree roots were all twisted and grown all over and you really had to watch your step:
Back at Park HQ
After an hour or so, we were back at Park HQ. You could tell because there were lots of monkeys hanging around (but no Proboscis monkeys). It was really hot and we had a little time to spare so we decided to head into the cafe which sold ice creams. They weren't the best looking (bit cheapy) but they weren't too expensive so we decided to take a punt. One ice cream on a stick for the both of us. We walked at a leisurely pace, licking our ice creams, to the jetty where the original boat man would be waiting for us. Two monkeys appeared roughly 20 meters in front of us. I thought nothing of this, it seemed monkeys were so used to humans and they clearly liked hanging around Park HQ. Well, I didn't think of WHY they liked hanging around Park HQ at that very second, now DID I???
They came at us at full speed. It took me a split second to realise they were actually coming for us. Another monkey appeared on the side.
I spun around, ice cream still in hand, and ran. What the hell was I thinking???
I was no match for the monkey, which leaped at me, I think, but I felt its grubby little hand grab the heel of my shoe. I started screaming bloody murder.
Wild monkeys are known to pass you fucking RABIES if they bite you, what THE HELL WERE WE DOING?!?!?!??! Mind you, I had no idea what was up with A as I ran away screaming, looking after my damn self.
Luckily, yes, luckily, it stupidly lucky of us, the monkeys backed off. My screaming must've done it. I later read that making noise is NOT THE ANSWER. GIVE THEM YOUR BLOODY FOOD.
To be clear, I had never encountered a wild monkey before. I live in Sydney for crying out loud. I had no idea what they wanted. Yes, I was unprepared. I was lucky and learnt a HUGE lesson. Later, A said he KNEW THAT THE MONKEYS WANTED OUR FOOD but he didn't chuck his ice cream at them. Omg he is legit crazy. Had I known, I would've given it to them without batting an eyelid.
We got to the jetty in one piece, ice creams finished. The same boat man was waiting for us. We hopped in to get back to town.
At the boat terminal, it seemed we missed the public bus back to Kuching, and the bus came every hour or so. Grab didn't seem to be working (there were no Grabs in the area). But our luck had not run out yet; there were a couple of English girls standing quite close to us and I could over hear what they were saying. It seemed they were in the same predicament as us. I spoke to them and said, “hey, we should car pool”. We found a guy who would drive us in a van but he wanted at least another person before we could go. Time to hustle again! But it didn't take long, we pounced on a solo tourist who had just gotten off a boat, carrying a massive backpack. He was Irish and was happy to join us. So for 10 ringgit each, we all got a ride back to Kuching. Yay!
We chatted with the other 3 on the ride back, it was good to socialise and swap stories. The Irish guy had just come from Kota Kinabalu, in Sabah state. He said it was amazing. Sigh, KK had popped up during my research but it was “too far” according to A. Bullshit :( Well, next time. I'm sure I'd be back in Borneo, I've enjoyed our few days so far.
Ais Krim Bergula Apong
We got back to our accommodation, had showers because we were filthy from the hiking and humidity. Then we ducked out for a quick snack, yes ANOTHER ice cream! I found a place nearby that seemed really popular and it looked cheap so why not. Turns out it was in a hawker market and yet another food centre. The hawker market stank like a tip, it was not nice. But we prevailed.
Ais Krim Bergula Apong is supposedly the pioneer of gula apong ice cream. Gula apong is another type of palm sugar. We have been eating mostly gula melaka (via three layer tea :P), but gula apong was not that different. So basically, the guy gives you a serve of soft serve, plops on some gula apong and you can pick toppings if you wish. We picked corn flakes on a medium bowl to share (MYR 4.80).
Well, it was ok. Lacked milk fat in the ice cream and was far too icy. It's ok, I can't expect too much from countries where dairy is virtually non existent. 5/10 #ipinions
Rumah Asap Tabuan Dayak
For dinner we went out to Rumah Asap Tabuan Dayak, which was a very smokey bbq food centre. It was not halal and served pork. Our Grab driver was too posh for this place as he said it smelt bad and other grab drivers wouldn't wanna pick up from that place. But let's be real, it was because it stank of pork.
The food centre was a pretty crude one, there was basically around 5 stalls under a large metal roof. But it was nice to dine ~alfesco in this way. There was a cover band playing on one end, and lots of beer being poured nearby. Haha it really wasn't halal.
200 grams of 3 layer pork (MYR 12), which was really just roast pork. It was ok, unforunately I have had much better.
Paku Pakis or “Fake” Miden, as A liked to call it. They were out of Miden, so we got this for MYR6 which was not as nice as real Miden. It was chewier.
And I also ordered a fried chicken rice. It was a huge plate for MYR 7. Came with 2 pieces of chicken. Sadly it was raw in the middle and I had to send it back. It came back the 2nd time a lot darker but yet still raw in the middle. Thankfully, after much peaceful discussion we got a refund. I wasn't able to eat much of either anyway. But it was VERY frustrating. I think the oil they were using to deep fry was not at the correct temperature.
For drinks, I got a chrysanthemum honey tea and A got yet another 3 layer tea with lots of Pandan. It's a slippery slope, drinking 3 layer tea every day!!
We left after and I was pretty disappointed with the experience. 5/10 #ipinions
RJ Ayam Bakar
I was still kinda hungry and felt like fried chicken so we went some place else, this time closer to our accommodation. I got the ayam penyet. It was ok, a bit underwhelming but at least it was cooked. 6/10 #ipinions
We got yet another round of drinks (DIABETESSSS) - A tried Sirap Bandung (rose water with condensed milk) for the first time and LOVED it. I liked the fact that it was a bright pink drink but I did not care for rose water (I think it smells like toiletries), so I left A‘s drink alone and happily sipped on my Teh Tarik.
We walked back to our accommodation, it was a good 15 min walk to help us utilise (to be honest- hardly any) the energy we gained from ALL that sugar we had consumed via drinks. There were lots of people out and about just chilling and socialising. Kids were playing with their friends. Children were whizzing around on small toy electric scooters, hell, even teenagers were too.
The Darul Hana bridge and Parliament were both lit up nicely, with the bridge changing colours every few seconds:
And I enjoyed these Hornbill light decorations hung over main street: