Monday 13 June 2016

Kuching Touchdown

From the aircraft window, the Sarawak River looks like a twisting serpent, all u-bends and muddy water, doubling back on itself as it meanders downstream to Kuching and the South China Sea. 

     Imagine tilting that river out of its horizontal plane and into the vertical. It would be the perfect downhill ride on the tandem with long straights, tight curves and a road that lasts forever.

      As we descend to the airport, sunlight glints golden off the weirdly umbrella shaped roof of Sarawak's new State Assembly building, we see a jumble of shop houses crammed near the waterfront and then suddenly what looks like mangroves as we skim low over the water.

Assembling the tandem in the air conditioned comfort of the terminal at Kuching airport.

     Sarawak may be one of Malaysia's Federated States, but for some inexplicable reason visitors - "foreigners" as the sign says - still have to go through immigration even if they have already entered Malaysia somewhere else. We get new stamps in our passports and push our boxed-up tandem on a trolley out into the airport terminal's public area.

      We find a quiet spot tucked fairly well out of sight between an escalator and a glass exterior wall, and spend the next couple of hours putting the bike together and repacking our panniers. Throughout the process we are watched by a man outside, he never takes his eyes off us. Towards the end, we are joined by two neatly dressed middle aged men who want to know what we are up to. Tentatively one asks what we are going to do with our now discarded bike boxes, and before we know it he and the boxes have gone. To what purpose we have not a clue.

         We step outside into the afternoon heat but somehow the 10 km ride into town is not as bad as we feared. The moment we start cycling we create our own breeze. We wobble a bit. We are out of practice but know it will get better in the days ahead.

Lunching at the Royal Selangor Golf Course, Kuala Lumpur. On the left Suku, Judy centre and Annabel right. The surroundings were superb, and for golfers there are two 18-hole courses. If that doesn't provide enough exercise, there is always the Olympic size pool and at least two smaller ones.

Curry laksa with a chilled coconut each. Who wants to go cycling?

        We have a plan, of sorts. As always it's a bit loose, but that's cycling. We figure on a few days here in Kuching, then we will start pedalling our way north east up to Brunei and into Sabah - a distance of around 1,200 km. From Kota Kinabalu, Sabah's state capital, we will fly back to mainland Malaysia and cycle the east coast. 

The Elusive Narelle
Our first full day in Kuching has seen us on a mission - a small, pleasant one. Our Kuala Lumpur friends, Suku and Annabel, are in the business of importing gorgeously beautiful textiles, rugs and furniture from exotic places - particularly India and Turkey.

Some of these items have been snapped up to refurbish Kuching's old courthouse which is being redeveloped as a tourism complex with a bar, restaurant and reading room. An Australian businesswoman called Narelle is behind the ambitious project. She is a friend of our friends, and our mission is to report back on progress.

"You must go and have a look," Annabel told Judy.

Kuching's old courthouse - refurbished and turned into a smart tourist centre. We spy furniture from our friends - the rug and the white stool and much more out of shot.

So we do. Unfortunately Narelle is nowhere to be seen. She is on Langkawi Island, no doubt attending to another business enterprise she has there. However, the staff say we are welcome to take photos. Judy pulls out her phone and busies herself taking pictures while I just enjoy the air conditioned cool. We relax with English breakfast tea and cake, then stroll up the road to the Sarawak Museum to pore over the exhibits of very dead snakes, orang utans and proboscis monkeys.

We have no desire to encounter live snakes during the ride ahead, but would love to come across some monkeys and who knows, we might even see a real live orang utan.



  1. Good to see that you're on the go again. Reading your posts is a real travelogue! I've been awaiting your arrival and start of the journey ( awaiting from here in France, of course!) having listened to your descriptions when we were together in April. May you have a great time. Love, Helen x

  2. Awesome dad, great start! So excited to hear how it all goes.


Express a view here.