17 November 2010, Kuching, Malaysian Borneo
We took a water taxi ride up the Sungai Brunei
Dear Friends and Family,
Just wanted to let you know that we arrived safely in Kuching, after a fast 3‑day passage from Kuala Belait, at the western end of Brunei. We caught what was predicted to be a good weather window, with lots of northerly winds. Reality was a delightful first day, then a vicious squall in the middle of the night, followed by headwinds that continued until we rounded a peninsula and headed south for our final 90 miles to Kuching. But it was so nice to have Vamp sailing with us, knowing that we could call them easily on the radio any time we wanted.
The last time we visited Kuching we anchored north and a bit west of town, at the mouth of the Santubong River (we love these names!) But that had an inconvenient 45‑minute drive to town, so this time we motored 7 miles up the Sarawak River to tie up at a tiny marina just east of Kuching. After a beautiful sunrise we entered the river just before high tide, to avoid the current. It was fun to see all the marine activities along the river as we wound up its meandering length.
Rachel at the viewpoint, Brunei Forest Preserve
Backing up a bit, our few days in Brunei were delightful. This time we were determined to see more than the pumps at the petrol stations! So we took the 45‑minute bus ride into the city, Bandar Seri Bagawan (locally known as BSB) where we walked the riverfront and ogled at the modern buildings and beautiful mosques. People were very friendly, and several times young men passed us on the street, saying, "Welcome to Brunei!" BSB spreads out over miles of land but is known as the "jungle city", and rightly so. It is the greenest, most park- and forest-filled city we've seen in ages. The low population density of Brunei helps: the whole country is 10 times the size of Singapore, with 10% the population. Apparently 30,000 people live in the compact over-the-water stilt villages across from downtown, and otherwise there are only a couple other towns in the whole country.
Carmel, Kim and Rach, on her 22nd, on Vamp
One morning we dinghied to the little yacht club at 5:30am, hitched to the nearest bus terminal, and took the first morning bus into town. From there, we climbed aboard an enclosed, high-speed river boat for a 45‑minute trip up the Sungai (River) Brunei. Lonely Planet describes the trip as "better than an amusement park ride, when riding on the roof" but we weren't allowed up there. Probably wise as the boat careened around corners at high speed, first one way then the other. At the jungle town of Bangar we found a taxi willing to take us to a forest preserve where we undertook a 2‑hour hike up the jungle trails to a lookout over the forests of Brunei, Brunei Bay, and into eastern Sarawak, Malaysia! Fantastic! A cheap local lunch of noodles and chicken, with cold fresh lime juice topped off the day. With more time we would have loved to travel deeper inland in Brunei to its one national park, but we need to leave something for the next visit!
We're now in Kuching, the capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. We like this town with its gentrified riverfront, old colonial buildings and intriguing back streets where shops sell all kinds of wild and wonderful food, drink, trinkets, fabrics, clothes, and car parts! Tomorrow is Rachel's 22nd birthday, and we've planned a trip to Semenggoh Orangutan Sanctuary to see some more orange tree-dwelling Orangutans. We'll probably stay here until the weekend before making our next 3 day jump across to Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia.
Fair Winds and Calm Seas -- Jon and Sue Hacking
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