The impromptu Kuching trip

So, I’m now in Kuching with Nanny Wen, having been invited quite last minute to accompany her on this 2D1N trip.

I hardly had time to prepare for it, so all I did was throw together a few things and then I was out the door.

Going to Kuching

We had to buy air tickets at the airport at 8 am. Wen was supposed to buy them the night before, but she showed up only after the sales counter had closed.

We took AirAsia because it has the only flight to Kuching today. As budget airlines go, I prefer JetStar. It seems to be cheaper and it’s more comfortable.

For hotel, Nanny Wen booked Tune Hotel. Its a no-frills budget hotel where you pay for only what you use. We had to bring our own towels and soap.

Tune Hotel

Even the aircon is chargeable.

The bill comes to RM106.95 after service and taxes. Pretty decent for a double bed, I suppose.

Nanny Wen plonked herself on the bed the moment we arrived, to get her Blackberry connected.

Tune Hotel

That was when we realised that the RM12 we paid for wireless access only allowed one machine to access. We had to pay another RM12 for the other person.

Anyway, it’s fine. We’re both now happily stuck to our respective laptops after a tiring day of shopping.

Our shopping

We didn’t think we’d actually end up buying stuff.

We took a cab to The Spring, currently Kuching’s biggest shopping mall, because we’ve been to Kuching before and have already seen all the touristy stuff.

I guess I tend to buy more stuff when I’m overseas because I feel more relaxed and in the mood.

Shopping in Kuching

In Singapore, I’m always plagued by the feeling that I should be going home to work and I don’t have time to shop.

Before The Spring, we went to this tiny mall called Tun Jugah because it’s a few minutes’ walk from our hotel. But the mall is CMI. It has three floors and like 6-8 stores on each floor.

The only store of interest was FILA because I needed a pair of black sneakers. I saw three things I liked but they didn’t have my size boohoo.

But Nanny Wen bought something and she kept blaming me for dragging her into the store.

Nanny Wen buying shoes

Lunch was Sarawak Laksa and Kuching Kolo Mee. We just walked into a coffee shop randomly and it was nice!

Kuching Kolo Mee

Dinner was silly. We decided to eat in our room so we ordered takeaway from nearby hawker stalls.

Nanny Wen and her dinner

Sheylara and her dinner

I have this funny smile cos I have food in my mouth.

Feeling nice and cosy now. We went for a massage after shopping, before coming back with our dinner.

I think we were quite brave. There was a dodgy-looking building behind our hotel which has only one shop open at the time we went (around 6 pm).

Massage parlour

It was a massage parlour called Eroma. I forgot to take a photo at the shopfront but it’s all curtained up so you can’t see the inside of it. But Nanny Wen was dying for a massage so we went in.

We had spent most our money on shopping so we only had enough left for a 30-minute massage each. It was pretty awesome, actually.

My masseur’s phone rang halfway through the session and she actually picked it up and started talking. Then she kiap-ed her phone to her shoulder and continued to massage me while she talked, wtf.

She was speaking in Malay so I didn’t know what she said. Luckily the phone call only lasted a minute or so.

But her massaging skills are great so I forgive her.

It’s now two hours after the massage and I am beginning to feel the aches kicking in again after hunching over my laptop for the last two hours. Doh.

Sheylara on laptop

So, I’m going to stop here and probably go take a shower and then go to bed. I’m so sleepy. Only slept three hours last night!

And Wen is forcing me to upload my blog now so she can read it. She’s such a tyrant.

If there are any typos in this post, it’s her fault!

Sheylara and Nanny Wen

Princesses in the jungle

When Kenny Sia met up with Nanny Wen and me after our 10km jungle/mountain race, which was advertised as a “Nature Challenge”, but should have been named “Suicide Mission” instead, he couldn’t stop laughing his ass off.

Thanks to her jungle tweets.

Nanny Wen's tweet

Nanny Wen's tweet

Nanny Wen's tweet

He laughed till he was red in the face. He was incredulous. “Didn’t you girls know what you had signed up for?”

No. The answer is no. I had asked and asked and researched. But no one could tell me and there was nothing on the Internet which told us what was in the trail and what to prepare for.

I mean, I had a more realistic expectation of the challenge than Nanny Wen did, but the actual experience far exceeded my wildest imaginations.

Kenny was dying of amusement.

Kenny Sia, Sheylara and Nanny Wen

But he was also very proud of us because he said our trail is more raw and challenging than Mount Kinabalu, which he had climbed.

He called us princesses in the jungle because he had an image of us as city princesses with nice clothes and makeup, so it really amused him to imagine us roughing it out in a perilous jungle.

Anyway, I can’t blog about my jungle experience yet because I’m waiting for photos. I didn’t bring my camera for the race and I’m glad I didn’t, even though I wish I had.

So, today, I’ll talk about some random stuff that we did in Kuching.

First photo taken upon landing:

Sheylara and Nanny Wen

We were hosted at Four Points Hotel by Sheraton, which is only minutes away from the airport.

That was our first and last taste of city princess treatment. We shared a nice big room with a nice big bathroom that featured a rainforest shower (which didn’t work or I am too retarded to make it work).

Four Points Hotel

Nice, funky stuff in the room.

Four Points Hotel

Dinner was the hotel’s continental buffet. It was truly welcome because I was starving!

Sheylara and Nanny Wen

I only managed to take two photos of the food before I was stopped by a waitress.

Food

The restaurant has a no-photo policy. Which was just as well, since that meant I could get on with the food.

After a filling dinner, Kenny took us out to dinner.

That wasn’t a typo. We had two dinners that night.

But first, we made a brief stop at The Spring, which is Kuching’s biggest mall. (Kuching only has two malls, according to our tour guide.)

The Spring, Kuching

It was raining and I took this photo from inside Kenny’s car.

We spent about 15 minutes in there, enough time for Nanny Wen to buy a cheap towel and for us to give the mall a once-over, and then we headed off to a hawker centre.

This was our after-dinner dinner:

After-dinner dinner

For three people.

Kenny Sia, Sheylara and Nanny Wen

Everything was so good!

I feel bad that Kenny always pays for our meals when we visit Kuching, but he refuses to let us pay, claiming that he is always pampered and not allowed to pay when he comes to Singapore, so fair’s fair.

The yellow drink is freaking awesome. It’s like a mango milk concoction with lychee. I need someone to make me that in Singapore!!

Nanny Wen does really sillly things. She bought a cheap towel at The Spring to use during the trip, right? We were going to stay in a longhouse on our second night and we assumed towels wouldn’t be provided. (We were wrong, but we still used our own towels.)

On our last day in Kuching, I spotted something on her towel which I hadn’t seen earlier.

Nanny Wen's towel

Haha…

It’s the freaking price tag. She used the towel for three days with the price tag still attached.

Nanny Wen's towel

I wonder if she even realised it was there.

Our pilgrimage to the famous kucing in Kuching:

Kuching, Cat City

On our last day, Kenny took us out for breakfast. We had Sarawak laksa and soft-boiled eggs and kaya toast.

Sheylara and Nanny Wen at breakfast

The eggs were so huge!!! And the toast was so nice!!! It’s a little different from the kaya toast in Singapore. It’s a lot more, I dunno, organic and authentic than the commercial Ya Kun variety. I mean, Ya Kun is nice and all, but eating the ones in Kuching fills me with nice, happy feelings.

Kenny Sia's thumb, with eggs

I ate a LOT of toast. I had Kenny order a second set after I finished the first set and my laksa.

Sarawak laksa

I’m gonna miss the food again!

By the way, I skipped two days of events because they’re kinda long so I’ll blog about them another day.

Yay! Kenny just commented on an earlier post!


Kenny Sia's comment

See, I wasn’t lying. He can’t stop laughing!!! He’s still laughing two days later!

Okay, look forward to my mountain race post! Nanny Wen just told me that her colleagues asked her how come when she told them the story it doesn’t sound treacherous at all.

Hopefully, I’ll get some photos that can give you an idea.

If not, I’ll go back there again one day and take photos.

Haha.

Plurk

Must-try Sarawak Laksa and Kuching Kolo Mee

I shall be supremely evil today and tempt you with food that you can’t get in Singapore.

Heh.

Sarawak laksa

This is a very fine specimen of Sarawak Laksa which I had the chance to try when I was in Kuching a few months ago.

It’s so awesome my tummy salivates even when I think about it now.

I mean, seriously, I would fly to Kuching just to eat this again.

Malcolm, our unofficial guide, brought us to this place called Tiang’s Cafe, which is a humble but extremely famous coffee shop.

Tiang's Cafe

It’s famous for its Sarawak Laksa, among other things.

Sarawak laksa

Ahhhhhh drool.

Barrett Tan, the owner, produces his own laksa paste, a secret recipe handed down by his father. The paste is even manufactured commercially.

We were given some packets to take home! (Unfortunately, I don’t cook, so I gave them to my dad and the Goonfather’s mum.)

Sarawak laksa paste

Barrett’s a really friendly fella.

He served us so much food that we couldn’t finish everything. Here’s a picture of him (right) talking to Malcolm:

Barrett Tan

They’re good friends, apparently!

Besides the Sarawak Laksa, another must-try is the Kolo Mee.

Kolo Mee

The ingredients come in such generous portions and the taste is totally to-die-for. I really wish I had a bigger stomach that day.

Another favourite is the prawn mee, but I think that one is an acquired taste. The prawn paste flavour is so strong that the soup becomes bitter. I don’t like so much.

Prawn Mee

But it sure looks appetising, nevertheless.

Barrett even surprised us with Kueh Lapis (called Kek Lapis in Sarawak).

Kek Lapis

That was really too much! Dessert at breakfast? I was totally bursting by then but I managed to take a few bites. It was buttery, moist, soft, awwwww.

Well, there you go. How’s that for a Sunday morning post? =P

If you ever have the chance to visit Kuching, you MUST at all cost visit Tiang’s Cafe and try the Sarawak Laksa, if not the Kolo Mee. Bring a very empty stomach.

It’s, like, about RM4 (S$1.65) per bowl so you can afford to order everything to try!

Here’s Barrett’s website if you want to find out more about Sarawak Laksa and his famous secret laksa paste.

Tiang’s Cafe
No 22, Lot 2354,
Block 10 KCLD,
Jln Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce,
93150 Kuching

Kuching – Sarawak laksa with Kenny Sia

March 1, 2009. First day in Kuching, Sarawak. Media trip.

It was almost 11 am by the time we were done being welcomed and then taken to our hotel to check in.

Riverside Majestic

There was a bit of a confusion at the hotel, though. The staff was unable to check us in for some reason, so we left all our luggages in a holding room and went out for breakfast.

Kenny Sia, being born and bred in Kuching, was our appointed guide for the day.

Our first stop: Chong Choon Cafe, Kenny’s favourite Sarawak laksa outlet.

Kenny Sia

You can get a bowl of Sarawak laksa there for RM3.50 (SGD1.45 or USD0.95). That’s freaking awesome, considering what you get:

Sarawak laksa

Maybe what we had was the RM4.50 version (I’m not sure) but, still!!

Sarawak laksa

Sarawak laksa is unlike any other laksa you know, so it’s best to eat it without any kind of expectation.

Without comparing it to anything, it is good. I can’t really describe the taste. (Mostly because I’m starting to forget, after almost three weeks.) I remember more clearly that I want to eat it again.

The soup is kinda sweet and salty at the same time (and mildly sour if you squeeze in lime juice, as Kenny recommends), with a hint of coconut fragrance.

Kenny actually performed a demo of squeezing in the lime and stirring the laksa up. I wish I had videotaped it. It was pretty funny.

To top that off, we had the Teh C Special, another Sarawak specialty.

Sarawak laksa

The bottom layer is gula melaka (palm sugar), middle layer evaporated milk and top layer tea.

You have to stir it up before drinking it.

Note that the middle mug is a regular-size mug, which means that the left mug is a giant mug.

The drink rocks. It seems easy to make, so I don’t know why nobody’s selling this in Singapore.

Breakfast done, Kenny took us to the Kuching Courthouse.

Kuching Courthouse
Photo of Javad taking a photo of the Kuching Courthouse.

It was built ages ago by James Brooke, the first foreigner to rule Sarawak after inheriting it as a reward for quelling a rebellion.

This guy in the stone, Charles Brooke, is his nephew, who took over rule after him.

Charles Brooke

Okay, end of history lesson. It’s not a courthouse anymore. It’s just a heritage building now. More photos!

Kenny Sia and Sheylara

Actually, that’s all. I don’t really like to take touristy photos cos, like, it’s lame.

So we put a spin on the regular tourist snapshot.

At the Kuching Waterfront, we took a series of group photos striking different poses depending on whose camera it was taken with.

On my camera, cutesy poses:

Group photo

Introductions!

From left: Juraida (High Comm of M’sia), Javad (Gadget3), Soh (SPH), Lili (Women’s Weekly), Me, Wai Kit (NTUC), Nicholas (Tourism M’sia).

On Kenny’s camera, we were supposed to do outlandish, crazy poses but I think everyone was tired of posing or out of ideas by then.

Group photo

Here’s a picture of Kenny trying to flag down a boat to take us across the river:

Kuching River

Haha.

A boat cometh:

Kuching River

There are tons of boats plying the Kuching River to take locals to and fro. There are villagers living across the river, as you will see in a while.

Kuching River

It’s a rather interesting blend. On one side of the river, you have city skysrapers. On the other side, kampong huts dot the landscape.

I think the eclectic mix contributes a lot to the overall charm of Kuching.

Kuching River

Anyway, we got on the boat and I started to camwhore while everyone was pre-occupied with taking postcard photos.

Sheylara

The Kuching Waterfront is one giant postcard. Even though the water is somewhat murky, there is a rather sublime peace about the place that makes you want to sit there all afternoon and gaze off into the horizon.

Kuching River

There’s the kampong I was talking about.

Kuching River

I wonder what it’s like living in one of those huts.

Inside the boat:

Kuching River

Another touristy photo:

Sheylara

On the other side of the river, we ran into a pair of newly-weds in pretty wedding threads! Awwwwww.

Kuching couple

Kenny wanted to show us the Astana (the equivalent of our Istana) but we weren’t allowed to go in.

The Astana, Kuching

It’s also called Fort Margherita. Charles Brooke had built it for his wife, Margaret, as a bridal gift in 1870. Isn’t that sweet? I doubt anyone would build me so much as a tent, nevermind a whole mansion.

Maybe a Lego one.

We walked around a bit while Kenny gave us history lessons, and then we took the boat back to the city side of the river.

Within walking distance is Main Bazaar, the heart of Kuching. It houses a long row of Chinese-style shophouses, most of them touting souvenirs.

Main Bazaar

Outside the main shops, you can see many stalls hawking stuff that no one in our group dared or cared to buy.

The highlight: A product called Gambir Sarawak Asli.

Gambir Sarawak Asli

It’s little pieces of tree bark from the gambir tree, traditionally used to sooth toothaches and today used as an aphrodisiac.

I don’t get how an anesthetic could become an aphrodisiac, though. Aren’t the two somewhat contradictory?

Other dodgy looking wares:

Main Bazaar stall

We were also introduced to the Kuching version of kueh lapis, called kek lapis there. It’s very colourful and comes in all sorts of flavours. I think they’re all home-made because no two stalls featured the exact same pattern-flavour combinations.

Kek lapis

I will talk more about the cake in my later posts. What caught my eye then was the kueh lapis seller, a very young girl.

Kek lapis seller

She’s cute!

Kek lapis seller

Kenny found a replica of a tribal weapon that I later learned was a blowpipe, and he made me pose with it.

Sheylara holding blowpipe

Well, at least it wasn’t touristy.

Sheylara holding blowpipe

One remarkable thing about Kuching city is that it’s really quiet. It was a Sunday afternoon and there were hardly any people around.

I think Kenny said something about the locals preferring to stay indoors or, if they have to go out, preferring to drive than walk, which also explains why the streets are pretty clean.

Kuching city

I like that. The lack of crowds adds to the appeal of the place.

We followed our bazaar tour with a quick visit to the oldest Chinese temple in Kuching.

Tua Pek Kong Temple

And then it was lunch time. Barely two hours after breakfast!

We didn’t have a choice, though. Kenny was only given about four or five hours to take us around and we wanted to try as many local delicacies as possible.

Next up: Kuching kolo mee. Aaaaaaaah!!

But I’ll leave that for next time because this entry has gotten too long and I’m getting sleepy.

To be continued…