First a little geography.... Indonesia is made up of over 17,500 islands and I am on the biggest one. I am on the island of Borneo, which is the third largest island on the planet (after Greenland and New Guinea, which is also an island partly in Indonesia). Borneo is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia (the provinces of Sarawak and Saba) and the sultanate of Brunei. The Indonesian portion is referred to as Kalimantan and has 4 provinces (North, South, East and West Kalimantan).
|Sarawak State House in Kuching|
After our trip to Tajung Puting, I flew back toward Sukadana with my friends, and I stayed on the plane to go on to Pontianak, on the equator. There I caught a night bus to the Malaysian border. The bus was a large, long-distance bus with huge comfortable seats. I paid $29 for the 11 hour trip and there were 6 other people on the bus... apparently it is the super luxury version. No matter how nice the bus, it couldn't make a pleasant ride out of Indonesia's non-existent road system. As the bus swayed from side to side like a drunk with lead shoes, then dropped precipitously into the massive craters left in the decaying asphalt... well, let's be honest, the road was more dirt that asphalt, so maybe the bus was just climbing onto asphalt relevant buttes... I marveled at the driver's nonchalance.
|Indonesia truck stop|
It was Tuesday morning, and my plan was to meet Erica from ASRI (also on a visa run) late Tuesday night. So, I got our room at the appointed guesthouse and got the remaining hours of sleep that I needed before venturing out to check out Kuching.
|View from the riverfront walkway|
After a few hours of exploring, I landed at a Lebanese restaurant on the river walkway. I can't tell you the joy of having raw vegetables after months of cooked, fried and steamed one. The ice cold Tiger beer was also a treat.
Erica arrive that night and we awoke early in the morning to trek out to the very inconveniently located Consulate of the Republic of Indonesia. I had read online that Wednesday, the day after Eid al Adhar, was also a holiday in Malaysia, but both Erica and I had been assured repeatedly that this was not the case. So we arrived at the Consulate bright and early to discover that it was indeed a holiday, though perhaps only for Indonesians in Malaysia.... So the rest of the day was spent trying to run errands and indulge in things that were not available anywhere within driving distance of Sukadana.
|Kaiten sushi... so yummy|
|Wine and Cheese|
The next day was more successful in that the Consulate was open... oh boy was it open! We pushed our way through crowds and waited to leave our passports. After much confusion that included my number never being called, we were told to come back in 6 hours to pick up our visas. Erica, being brilliant and goal-oriented, had read online about a water park with an Olympic size lap pool within walking distance of the Consulate. After a brief stop at a food court to get lunch from astonished Malaysians, we found our own private pool. It was BEAUTIFUL. For about $2 each, we spent 5 hours lounging and swimming laps at a sparkling clean, yet nearly deserted pool. It is hard to put that kind of luxury into words.
The last day in Malaysia, we headed out to Bako National Park. Malaysia national parks are lightyears ahead of their Indonesian counterparts in terms of infrastructure, services, safety and management. Bako is reached by taking a city bus to a boat launch and then chartering a boat out to the park entrance. The trails are clear and well-marked so we wandered through rainforest, open grassland, and beach ecosystems for several hours... In Sukadana, we are not allowed on the trails of the national park without hiring a guide. The trails are confusing and there are no maps. It was so exciting to be on trails again!
|One of the beautiful views in Bako|
|Not interesting trails|
|Ghosty trees in Bako|
|Sukadana from the ocean on the speedboat|