Kuching (the capital of the Borneo state of Sarawak) is a nice town with some Chinese shopfronts and a few colonial relics so we had planned to spend a day walking around taking a few snaps, but as often happens, things didn’t go to plan.
We ducked into the Tourist Office to find out some bus times and happened to ask about the rafflesia, the parasitic flower that is native to south-east Asia and is the largest flower in the world. They take nine months to bloom and then start decaying after the second day of flowering and are completely rotten after another three. The staff said today was the last day before it rotted so (along with a friendly Dutch couple who were also in the office) we jumped in a taxi for the two hour journey to Gunung Gading National Park.
After a short walk through some jungle I stumbled across the flower, growing surprisingly on a rock. It was huge, over 60 cm in diameter, completely solid and looked like it was made of plastic. We had expected it to have a rotting smell but I couldn’t detect any odours. Despite travelling over four hours to essentially see a flower I was impressed and glad we went (as Becki had originally been more keen on it than me!).
Next we spent a couple days in Bako National Park, not far from Kuching. To reach it you take a local bus and then a small speedboat (only room for four + driver) along the coast to the park entrance. However, as we were a bit late, the tide was low and the speedboat kept getting sandbanked so we had to get out to push it and then had to walk the last 500 metres across the sand.
Once we arrived at the park we were greeted by loads of long-tailed macaques (a small grey monkey), which were hanging (and jumping) around in the trees. There were signs all around telling you to keep an eye on your belongings as they tend to steal things (and apparently in some Asian countries they are captured and trained to help thieves!). We soon saw them relieve a customer of his can of 7-Up which he left unattended for a few second. The macaque ripped into it and finished the drink off.
We did three walks in the park and saw some nice jungle and coastal scenery and a gorgeous beach carved out of a cliff. We saw lots of proboscis monkeys in the trees. They are by far the funniest animal I have ever seen; huge red noses (the big nose is thought to be used to attract females), massive overhanging bellies and permanent red erections! They are nicknamed the ‘Dutch monkey’ as Indonesians remarked that the Dutch colonists often had a similarly large belly and nose (after drinking too much!).
We also did a night-walk through the jungle where we saw snakes, insects, catfish and the eyes of something cat-like whilst listening to the very loud jungle noises.
And to top it all off, there were several ‘bearded’ pigs hanging around camp looking for scraps: