Thursday, April 6, 2006

Kuching 14-12-2005

Hello all.The last few days have been a bit of a non-event, but maybe everything is after our stay at Uncle Tan's. So I'll just write a bit of a run down over where we've been and what we have (and haven't) been doing.OK, so after our time in Brunei when we did almost nothing, our hotel lady organised for us to travel in a newspaper car to Miri, the first big town in Sarawak over the border. By newspaper car, I mean a nice plush car driven by a Chinese man called Richard which delivers newspapers to Brunei very early in the morning and then takes travellers back in the empty car afterwards, making a bit of extra cash on the side. It was about a dollar more than the bus would have cost and took 2.5 hours instead of 6 hours (and half a dozen bus changes), no contest really as to which one to choose! Miri was just another town, the only thing of note about it was that our windowless room turned out to be very very dusty, had a red light over the beds and two very suspiciously placed holes in the walls aimed towards the beds which we presume were peep holes and promptly plugged up with paper. There was also a line of ants in the bathroom and the TV was controlled from somewhere else as the channel kept changing unexpectedly! All this we could deal with OK as we got there in the afternoon and left before 6am in the morning but it was still all a little bit sordid. On the way to Sibu an woman ripped D off over the price of drinks, the old quote one price for the drinks and then say 'not enough money!'. Mildly irritating. Next town we wizzed through was Sibu which also had not a whole lot of note about it. Both Sibu and Miri have things to see outside the town but we just didn't have the time to spare. So Sibu, what's to tell about Sibu? They had a big fountain that verged on tasteful (apart from the coloured lights ), a big statue of a swan with all the 12 Chinese zodiac signs in life size concrete arranged around it. There was an enormous covered market with live chickens and ducks wrapped in newspaper with the heads and feet sticking out either end. We ate some very ordinary satays (and they were expensive considering they were crap). There was a nice Chinese temple on the water front where we rested for a while waiting for our boat. Then there was our hotel room... or rather the midnight entertainment there (nothing to note about the actual room, it was a drastic improvement over the previous one). We were woken around midnight by the sound of a man shouting. Actually shouting would be putting it mildly, ranting and raving would be more accurate description. He was screaming what could only be abuse and obscenities (I would have loved to know what he was actually saying, maybe it was just 'I've lost my keys and can't get in') and thumping with all his might on some of the doors. He paced up and down the corridor screaming, pausing only to bang on the doors again or spit loudly on the floor. After a while he went outside where we could still hear him yelling and spitting and then he was back inside again. We could hear other people talking to him through the doors but this had no effect except to make him more irate. Then he was back outside again and the manager closed and locked the metal gate across the stairs so instead of banging on the doors, he was now rattling the gate like some enraged beast. After a while though the gates were unlocked (why I do not understand) and again he was back pacing the hallway. This time his friends (?) yelled back ('shut up man!') making for quite a racket. In Australia you would have called the police by now to take him away for a night in the cells to cool off (sober up? come down?), maybe things work differently here.Then he was gone and we went back to sleep. In the morning we were talking and we realised a couple of things that our drowsy minds had not, one: that its' very unusual for anyone here to make such a fuss (they shout a lot, but not like this, presumably he was drunk or high), and two: that we'd lain there in the middle of the night just wishing he'd be quiet and go away, no surprise, no shock at all, no nothing but amusement.So yep, that was Sibu The boat ride to Kuching was OK, lots of people threw up noisily but I had the mini-disk on and the ear plugs in so that was tolerable. Intermittently we could smell the bathroom which was not so tolerable. And totally intolerable was the movies we watched. Never in my life have I seen such violence on screen, we watched Combat Soldier, I couldn't hear any dialogue, just gunshots. A man was blown apart and then most awful was the scene of a woman getting raped. After that I stared out the window or at my knees. Can someone please explain to me how in this country (and other Asian countries) swearing, nudity and sex are absolutely not on but hideously graphic violence is perfectly OK? I realise in Australia we are shielded from a lot of that on our screens but this was way overboard. The boat was full of children, granted most of them were completely ignoring the TVs but for the couple who weren't I wouldn't want to be their parents trying to explain the rape scene. How in the hell are we supposed to make our planet a more peaceful one if this crap gets shown all over the world? It was an American movie, not that that makes a whole lot of difference. The whole thing made me so mad.Sorry, launched into a bit of a diatribe there. Does anyone want to defend a pro-violence stance here? Go on, I dare you.OK so after all that we were finally in Kuching, meaning 'cat'. To illustrate the point there are numerous cat statues scattered around the city, some funny blobby concrete ones with wire whiskers and some more classy sleek brass ones. The souvenir shops are filled with catty paraphernalia, key rings, door stops, earrings, wooden statues and assorted trinkets. There's quite a lot of very cool wooden and brass bits and pieces too making me lament the size of my bag and the cost of postage home.We finally found a cafe selling fruit salad some of you will be happy to hear, we had our most expensive meal ever there but the fruit salad made it completely worth it, we scoffed a huge plate of pineapple, melon and papaya, dipping pieces into a dish of sugar and salt with toothpicks. We've also found a couple of vegetarian places and have managed to go two whole entire days without meat so far, a nice change.We walked for ages to find an orchid garden which turned out to be closed and in the middle of a construction site. We seem to have a knack of choosing places to visit a long walk away which are closed. We got caught in a rainstorm out the front and waited out the rain under a pavilion with the construction workers, one of which was quite young but had hardly any teeth. We also visited a couple of museums, including an Islamic one with some ancient pieces (including a 3000 year old bowl) and some beautiful art. We've made trips across the river in tambangs (little covered boats) sponsored by Lipton and painted in lurid yellows. Tomorrow we fly to Western M'sia and Kuala Lumpur, don't really know what to expect, will it be the same or different to Borneo?Well for someone who hasn't done a whole lot recently I sure had a lot to say! Hope it didn't get too boring.

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