Everything is bigger in Kuching.
Check out these onde-onde balls for illustration purposes. Refer to accompanying beer can dimensions for comparison. Objectively, peninsular onde-onde balls are appropriately sized.
Not to mention the bananas, which are similarly mammoth.
What was not larger than life, however, was Fairy Cave. I second Trip adviser‘s 4.5 stars review!
Day 1: Fairy Cave
Zel, Gloria (click here for introduction) and I are on an adventure. We set course for Fairy Cave in Bau, approximately 45 minutes from Kuching town. This is achieved by cruising along kampung roads in a borrowed Proton Saga while discussing current events (gossiping). On a slightly related note, I am happy to report that Celcom spots a whiz connection (mostly).
After 45 minutes of technology-dependant navigation, Waze’s automated voice promptly announce, “you have arrive at your destination”. We exit the car to meet what is arguably the perfect setting for a Resident Evil movie.
After purchasing entrance tickets at RM1 each, *cue picture*…
… we face a dilemma. To enter the cave, do we (a) ascend the Resident evil movie set staircase, or (b) YOLO up the following concrete block:
The answer is (c) it’s a secret.
Either way, we reach the entrance of Fairy Cave, where we pause to take a dozen photos each.
Satisfied with our countless number of captured images, we step into the cave. Next, we climb two short flights of stairs, simultaneously intrigued by the sunlight spilling into the cave from an opening up above.
As we hit the final steps, this sight greets us:
Okay, not really. The view that entice us is better.
Here’s one of me pondering the mysteries of the universe:
Writer Joseph Campbell said “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”. I reckon this cave we did enter certainly contained some remarkably treasurable views.
Day 2: Mt Singai
It is 6am. According to reliable sources (the internet, again), sunrise is now. Yet, there is no daylight peeping through the sunroof of our Airbnb shop lot unit. Instead, we wake to the pitter-patter of the falling rain.
Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain, telling us that hiking might not come to pass…
Along with the finale of the hydrologic cycle marks the finale of our Santubong hiking plans, or does it?
Quick googling and a phone call later, we decide- if Mt. Santubong will not come to us, then we must go to Mt. Singai (not to be confused with Moses’ Mt Sinai of the Old Testament, although both are sacred).
Now, the initial ascend of Mt. Singai is a Catholic pilgrimage centre. Pilgrims travel from near and far to pay homage here. There are 14 stations of the cross. Each station mark an event en-route Jesus’ journey to his crucification. At these stations, accompanying boards include a prayer and a hymn.
The uphill climb is paved with wooden steps. Save for the slippery condition of the planks, the mount is easy.
At the end of the 14 stations is a church. I genuinely admire the number of people present here, both old and young. Plant a church on a hill in Petaling Jaya, and the only attendees will be a disoriented crow. Also, the church is bigger than I expected. An entire community resides there, if my perception deceives me not. A church camp is in progress with teenagers scattering around like we did back in the day (I never missed a church camp my entire 11 years of school life- still turned out alcoholic though. Joking, joking. I drink sparingly. Honest!).
From this church, is where the trail begins.
We trade secure wooden planks for mud, the occasional metal ladder, and more mud. The gradient steepens, and tree roots became our lifeline. On a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being stroll-in-the-mall and 10 being omigosh-I-hate-life, I rate this hike a 4. Certain effort is required, but without bawling your respiratory system out.
As far as mountain climbing goes, (sense of adventure and love for workout aside) one vicious motive exist- the view. At dinner the night before, friends promised us scenery from the summit of Mt. Singai.
“There’s a view,” they said.
But that’s alright, because while waiting for the mist to clear (it never did), we shot a documentary on ants.
“Joan the ant marches across the sandy terrain, stray leaves and twigs play no hinderance. Her mission is clear- to acquire that dao sa bao crumb that the humans carelessly littered during their morning hike. Small minded creatures, she thinks of the human beings. So large in stature yet weak and pathetic in the mind, with their patriarchy and gender equality. She smirk at humans’ primitive culture. They repetitively fail to acknowledge the female strength- so apprehensive of women leaders and limiting the feminine role. Humans’ idiocies deserve a chuckle. We female ants patrol, forage, build, and sometimes fight, and nobody blinks twice, certainly not our all sovereign leader- the queen. Joan arrives at the work site. With one might heave, she haul that pau droppings over her head, the 200mg load over her 2mg body.”
Still Day 2: Santubong
We descend Mt Singai to realise that the day is still young. With a bit of speedy driving, we just might manage a short trail at Santubong before sunset at 630pm!
And execute plan, we do. The towering image of Santubong entice us from afar, majestic and seducing.
So we drive. And we drive, and we drive, and we drive… and then we don’t know where to drive. Waze suddenly fails us, and road signs are scarce. Where is the entrance to the park? Tick tock tick tock.
We make random turns and do that thing society presume men hate and women incline towards- ask for directions. “Register dekat office,” we’re told. “Terima kasih,” we reply… but office where?
And then we just stumble upon it. A signboard printed with “Gunung Santubong” stand proudly in view. Excited, we park the car on a stony patch in front of the registration office.
At a desk by the office, we jot our names in a book, just so the rangers know to activate rescue protocol if we fail to emerge from the tropical rain forrest. Next, the helpful guy at reception indicates to an A4 paper beside the log book. Blue or red trail? Blue takes us to the waterfall and back on a circuit loop; red brings us to the summit.
The trails. Due to time constraints, blue trail we choose you!
Time constraints are a bitch, but very real. We decide on the blue route to pay the waterfall a quick visit, then hurry back, all before sunset.
The trail is a 2 on the easy-hard scale (refer to above subsection for grading system). And although the signage en-route to this national park was unclear and practically useless, the trails within the park are very clearly marked. Idiot-proof, really: blue for blue trail, red for red trail.
We follow the blue stickers along the narrow clearing of a trek. After about 20 minutes, we arrive at the impetus of our mission- the coveted waterfall.
Of course I take a selfie. What kind of Gen-Y would I be otherwise?
I love waterfalls! (You may recall from a previous post that my friends and I did NOT trespass to see a waterfall. Click here for context) But the setting sun was making me nervous. 555pm… Time is of the essence if we hope to exit by 630pm.
Manoeuvring across the streaming water in slippers was imprudent and unwise, if my (twice) strayed foot wear was any indication.
But we survived that episode, thank goodness.
AND, we make it out by sunset. In time for a scrumptious seafood dinner.
Day 3: Semenggoh Nature Reserve
The next day, we visited the Semenggoh Nature Reserve Orang-utan rehabilitation centre.
We arrive at feeding time, and good thing we did. This centre is unlike a zoo where animals are exhibited throughout opening time. Here, Orang-utans appear only at feeding time.
The nature of this centre differs greatly from a zoo as well. Here, orphaned or captured (then rescued) Orang-utan younglings are trained to live in the wild. In fact, they have a structure similar to our Malaysian education system that begins with kindergarten, followed by primary, and finally secondary school.
Despite the allocated feeding times, the wardens encourage their charges to be independent and scrounge for food in the wild. But its dry season, so food is scarce. As a result, we expect higher attendance of our our swinging friends during feeding time.
We watch from the viewing area as the warden hand the Orang-utans their breakfast- bananas and bottled milk. These two were more than happy to entertain for a meal:
But not our big man, Anuar. The warden calls his name and urge the crowd to shut up. Orang-utans are shy, he informs us. Our chatter may scare them away.
After much urging and prompting, Anuar finally makes an appearance. He knuckle-walks into sight, his stout frame mighty and strong. If there’s a king of the swingers, the jungle VIP, it’s him.
Suddenly, I made a startling revelation about Orang-utans.
They have a body full of hair, like me.
They are loners and introverts, like me. (Test show I’m nearly equal parts extrovert and introvert, but I’m convinced the introvert is dominant)
They live on a steady diet of bananas, milk and coconuts, like me.
They love climbing, also like me.
Holy moly, the Orang-utan is my spirit animal.
Day 3: Bako National Park
CAUTIONARY TALE ABOUT A CHEATING PIG
“My name is Darius, and I’m a Bornean Bearded Pig. Once upon a time, I had it all- a beautiful wife- Gale; and two gorgeous children- Bonnie and Clyde. And then I screwed up.
I cheated on my wife.
I don’t know if it was personal insecurities or the perception of power I had as a male, but I shagged another she-pig. And the affair persisted for more than a year.
When Gale found out, she divorced me. I thought she won’t. She’s not young anymore and depended on me financially- I used to think that means she’ll never find another man. Turns out she doesn’t need a man. It was sexist and misogynistic of me to assume that she did.
The court granted me supervised visitations. So now I get to see Gale and the kids only once a week.
I waste each day away, depressed, living purely for those weekly visits. I roam about aimlessly.
I wander across the grass field beside Bako’s hostel rooms…
I wander along the beach…
My despondent and dejected state aged me considerably. Now, I look haggard and repulsive. Humans laugh and make fun of me. Two human girls took pity and tried to feed me. They threw me food. But my appearance must’ve frightened them, because one exclaimed loudly, “Zel, don’t throw the food here. Throw there! So he’ll go there!” as they tried to escape my presence.
Finally, it’s time for my weekly family reunion. I could barely hold back the tears at Gale and my kids. Bonnie and Clyde are growing up so fast without me. And Gale is glowing with life. Oh, how I long for her.
I wish with all my heart I never cheated on my wife.”
Day 3 continues: Bako- Teluk Paku
Once again, it’s a race against the sunset. Therefore, we choose the Teluk Paku trail for the following reasons:
1 hour hike- check
Secluded beach- check
Drinking spot- check
P.S.: I rate Teluk Paku a 2 on the hardness scale. Once again, refer above for grading system.
Day 4: Bako Again!- Teluk Pandan Kecil and Besar
We set course at first light. Actually, more like, 15 mins after sunrise. But either way, the sun climbed steadily over the horizon as we climbed steadily towards Teluk Pandan. The uphill effort doesn’t last long, though. Soon, the terrain is flat. Breathing and hiking while talking becomes easy.
The dipterocarp forest gradually transitions into a sea of cliff vegetation. Tall towering trees give way to clear blue skies.
Sigh. The trail is serene and the epitome of tranquility. I’m homesick for that calm brought by nature-soaking. Serendipity!
If the trail was magnificent, the view from Teluk Pandan Kecil is indescribably breathtaking.
The trail ends at a rock overlooking where the sky meets the sea, the sea meets the beach, and the beach meets the jungle. It’s a little pocket knife of my favourite things- the sky, sea, beach and jungle.
Of course we take more pictures than a Marie Claire photoshoot.
After the posing and flashing cameras, we sit down for a hearty breakfast of sky juice, Famous Amos cookies, Pringles and biscuits. Hear me when I say, one has not truly enjoyed a cookie unless done so overlooking the clear blue waters of the South China Sea.
We are in the middle of an important conversation (I’m sure it was important) when Zel suddenly leaps up, shouting “crab!”
I turn around, expecting Sebastian from The Little Mermaid:
Except she really meant “crap”. Instead of an anthropomorphic crab with a Jamaican accent, I see this:
He (monkey) calmly fix us with with an icy stare for approximately 2 seconds before grabbing our Pringles tin. With lightning speed movements, he secures the tin in one arm then turns to flee the scene.
This was clearly a well planned mission. We are left startled and frozen.
When the ice finally thawed, the cue is clear- it is time to leave, if the advancing merry gang of monkeys is any indication. (Fun fact: As a teenager, monkeys once raided my tent during a camping trip and stole my contact lens solution. Yes, it’s personal.)
So we stuff our edibles into bag packs and pace urgently pass a monkey snacking on sour cream and onion Pringles.
Last but not least, I rate the Teluk Pandan trail 2.5 on the hardness scale (at the risk of sounding like a broken record, refer above for grading system).
The view though? 10/10.