What’s a Proboscis Monkey? Since they’re only found in Borneo, you probably haven’t seen them before, so I’ll start with some photography from my trip to Bako National Park, in the Sarawak region of Malaysia in Borneo (full post on proboscis monkeys can be found here). Like my orangutan encounter the day before (including baby orangutans!), I was just steps away from these rare creatures, giving me plenty of opportunity to observe and photograph. I did plenty of both!
Bornean Orangutans and baby orangutans
I’m still buzzing from being just steps away from a couple of orangutans in the Sarawak region of Malaysia, western Borneo (semi-wild). Humans are close relatives, sharing more than 95% of DNA with humans, and you could tell. They’re rare and were fascinating to watch.Orangutans are about four times stronger than humans, so this is the closest I’d want to be
I actually saw orang-utans twice earlier in my trip, but they were so far away that it just looked like shadowy ape-like figure in the tree with a slightly reddish/brown color. It was exciting at the time, but turned out to be just an appetizer for this experience.Orangutan infants often cling to their mothers for the first 2-4 years
I went to Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, a temporary home for various endangered wildlife of Sarawak, especially orang-utans that were rescued from captivity. There’s no bars or cages – the orangutans come and go as they please, and they help train them with basic skills that they would have learned with the goal of re-initroducing them into the wild. Visitors can have a chance to see them at twice daily feeding times. Since I already saw that earlier in my trip, I’ll skip to the good part.
Eat with your hands in Asia
Eat with your hands in Asia for meals like the locals – but be prepared! There may not be napkins, or even soap. Here’s what you need to know to stay clean and safe when eating with your hands in Asia.
[squeemish warning – you may find this post to be disturbing, on par with the post on airline bacteria]
Paradox: The more likely a culture is to eat meals with their hands in Asia, the less likely to find napkins on the table… or even soap in the bathrooms. Disturbing!
Mailbag: After a few posts raving about the fun of choosing your own fresh fish at a market and eating street food, I’ve been asked a bunch of related questions about the quality of food, safety of eating street food, cleanliness of restaurants, and even if the “Three Seashells” method was used (best line from the movie, Demolition Man). This post is for you! So yes, after traveling around KL and all around Malaysian Borneo, I had to make a few mental adjustments and preparations.
Here are a few observations:
I definitely ate my way around Malaysia, especially KL and Kuching (in Sarawak, western Malaysian Borneo). I tried all kinds of new dishes – in Sarawak notable new dishes for me included Laksa, Manok pansoh, Kolok Mee, and more.
I loved their seafood markets – for one of they took over the roofdeck of a parking garage and turned it into a fish market, setting up a dozen mini-restaurant vendors like a food court in a mall. Fresh, cheap, and yummy!
Kuching might have been my favorite city in Malaysia, and served as my home base for the Sarawak region of Malaysian Borneo (west of Brunei, population 600,000). It’s perhaps the most multi-cultural city in Borneo. While cities aren’t generally a big highlight for me, after such limited selection in little towns and rest stops in my transportation, I was excited to get to Borneo’s culinary capital. Kuching also served as an excellent jumping off point for my days in Sarawak, which feature Semenggoh Wildlife Rehab Centre and Bako National Park.
Below are photos from our attempts to see the Niah Caves in Niah/Malaysian Borneo, 2011. Click SL for slideshow, FS for full screen.
Imagine sitting on a 5-hour bus ride to see an attraction, only to find out upon arrival that they’re are closed due to flooding. And has been for a few days. They suggested I “try back in a week or so.” Ahhh!
The attraction I’m referring to are the Niah Caves, supposedly the most impressive of Malaysia’s natural wonders. We were in Brunei, ultimately headed to Kuching on the northwest region of Borneo, so instead of taking a 45min flight, we took a 5-hour bus ride to Junction, a small town near Niah, and would have another 15 hour bus ride afterward to get to Kuhcing. It’s quite a bit of effort but people told me it’s worth it! We negotiated into our hotel price (that’s right, in Asia hotel prices are often negotiable) a shuttle from Junction to Niah, 45 minutes away. Our “shuttle” turned out to be space in the back of a flatbead truck, as part of the driver’s errands. We checked the Niah website and called ahead to check the hours so we could get there when it opens, but upon arrival they said not only is it closed, but it’s been closed due to flooding for 3 days. Ahhh! They apologized and said they were thinking of updating their website to tell people. But they didn’t. Thanks Malaysia.