Saturday, July 29, 2006

River Cruise

The department had a brilliant idea this year and arranged a river cruise for our annual party with families. A river cruise includes a meal, a tour up and down the river as well as a cultural show.

Kuching is described as "without a doubt the most pleasant and interesting city in Borneo and one of the most attractive cities in South East Asia" by the Lonely Planet. This I can attest to. The river cruise is one of the many day attractions available.

The South Bank is now a destination on its own with a Chinese pagoda, towering palm trees, playgrounds for children, green spaces and ornate light posts along the harbour. The walk along the harbour has been paved and landscaped to provide a lively promenade at the water edge right in the center of the city.
We stroll over to the pier from our hotel where we will be staying overnight.

The river boat sets off in the early evening from the south bank of the Sungai Sarawak River. We have the whole lower deck to ourselves where we are provided with a sumptuous buffet dinner of crab, prawn, fish and chicken accompanied by spicy fiddleheads, okra and bitter gourd. There seems to be plenty of variety to satisfy the children as well as the gourmets in our group. The dinner is followed by huge platters of fresh pineapple, musk melon, winter melon, mangoapples and rambutan.

Speeches are given, departmental roles passed on, gifts bestowed and farewells are made to those leaving. A beloved professor, who has been instrumental in setting up the medical school as well as the department and in establishing the Master's program in Public Health is leaving so there is a mood of appreciation as well as of loss. After the meal we join others on the upper deck of the cruise ship to watch the river sights as we move slowly downstream and then up.

The original government house of James Brooke, called the Istana, on the north shore can be seen etched against the sky. The single remaining building of Fort Marguerita sits straight and proud on the south bank. Further downriver the magestic golden tops of the green and white minarets of the riverside mosque towers above the bank.

Tampangs, local river taxis ply back and forth on the river. You can take one of the regular commuter tampangs across, in fact many people commute that way, for 30 sens (about 0.10 USD). It is undoubtedly among the cheapest water transport in the world. We have done it just for the boat ride. It costs slighty more to make a short tour of the harbour but again is well worth it.

Boats of different sizes, shapes and purposes are tied up along the river. There is activity at the Brooke Dockworks.
As we head upriver we reach the Prime Ministers home almost at the mouth. This is where we turn around.

Later as darkness falls we are treated to a cultural display with Iban, Malay and Bidayuh dances. The dancers are very good at getting audience participation and have most of the group up and moving at some time in the night.

We return to the dock late but with the South bank so well lighted we feel secure walking home.
Most of our group spend the rest of the night shopping.

Malaysians hold some kind of record for recreational shopping even in South East Asia and my friends are no exceptions. Amazingly according to polsters, 15% of Malaysians spend time in recreational shopping or maybe it is that Malaysians spend 15% of their time recreational shopping? Recreational shopping is shopping without intent to buy. The malls of course have responded to this and are full of things to do and see.

When I ask my colleagues what they did at the shopping mall, they say they contributed to the recreational shopping statistic as they met up with all the others in the group. Of course shopping malls are air conditioned so that may account for part of the attraction. But whether you want to shop recreationally or not, Kuching has one fine river cruise waiting for you.

Photos: Promenade on South Bank; tampangs; mosque; cultural show and sunset over PM's house.



Blogger TheTundraPA said...

What an interesting post! The river cruise sounds fabulous, as does the food. How far upriver is Kuching from the South China Sea? And wow! It is such a major city! I had no idea...

Your blog is looking great. Keep up the good work!

4:26 PM  
Blogger Gawain said...

Thanks for your kind comment on my blog. What I would really appreciate is a link back! (That's really does wonders to your traffic and ranking and therefore searchability). This does not mean you should link to everyone in creation, but when you see something good, do!

btw, how long have you been in Sarawak, and are you Malaysian originally?

I have thought of visting Sarawak for ages -- I have to leave Thailand on a visa run every 3 months, and Kuching would make an easy destination. So I am glad to see articles and photos about it!

9:01 PM  
Blogger Intelinurse2B said...

The pictures in your blog are beautiful. Borneo seems so exotic, the pictures are both surprising and well taken.

I found you through my fav Alaskan PA, Tundra Medicine Dreams. I will be back often.

7:14 AM  
Blogger Borneo Breezes said...

TundraPA -
Thanks for your encouragement. I haven't been to the mouth so I am not sure. It is more than a hour by road to spots opposite.

Gawain -
I think I am loving comments even if it takes me a while to figure out how to reply. But what I need to learn how to do is to weave them into a conversation as you do.

Intelinurse2b -
Good to have you drop by. Yes,there has been a spurt of traffic since our favourite Alaskan blogger welcomed me.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi prof k, I like reading this article, its interesting even for me as a sarawakian, nice to see anohter different view of sarawak from a visitor like yourself being published online in your blog. Can i point out something? the house that we saw up river does not belong to the prime minister, but to the chief minister of sarawak... he he he... when are you coming back again? keep up the great work...

9:08 PM  

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