First impressions of a second time in Borneo

When you think of Borneo, what do you think of?  Rainforests, mountain mists and orangutans? We saw all of these in our second visit here, but the first few hours were very different.

Kuching | Sarawak | Borneo | Malaysia

We flew through huge clouds, over loopy brown tributaries winding their course through jungles to land at Kuching, a riverside town, capital of Sarawak, Malaysia’s largest province in North West Borneo.

I always feel so lucky to travel, moreso to come to a place again, but there is so much in Borneo. It’s part Malaysian, part Indonesian, and a little bit Brunei, and it’s huge, a biodiverse haven, meriting several visits;  infact it’s the world’s third biggest island, you could fit both the UK and Ireland in it with lots of spare room for other mid-size countries.

Now for a brief digression a few words of wisdom and a confession. Life-boss often accuses me of plagiarising her content so I have to add this in. Normal service will resume shortly …

When you pack a suitcase you’re on holiday. When you pack a rucksack you’re on an adventure.


We dropped off our rucksacks at an Air BNB 2km out of the centre (it’s a good idea in Kuching, taxis are very convenient on the Grab app) and made our way to the riverfront. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting; we passed a roundabout, a Seven Eleven, a Mini showroom, took a quick drink served by a South African lad, and walked along perfectly manicured dual carriagways. This was an adventure, but hardly one I was expecting.

The Kuching riverfront is a 900 metres long esplanade, and on Sunday evenings families gather here to enjoy the food stalls and music, to watch performers and the colourful lights of the Darul Hana Musical fountain across the river.

The view on the waterfront in Kuching

There we people-watched. Sarawak is a diverse area, where different races have intermingled for hundreds of years. The Iban (native Dyak of Sarawak), Malays, Chinese and Indians.

I love the considerate and reverential behaviours of people here. People walk slower. Cars obey the speed limit. When you buy something, the seller will return your change or your card with two hands as a sign of respect. Even children behave.

Smiles are ready, stares are rare, selling is never hardsell and conversations always start with a hello.

Heyloons own content (not Life-boss’s)

We found a small food stall down a side-street in Chinatown to join families around plastic tables and chairs enjoying bowls of noodles as traffic jams of shiny cars passed by Carpenter Street at 3mph.

Cafes in Chinatown, Kuching, Sarawak

We took an after-dinner promenade along the riverfront drawn to the loud music where a small crowd gathered around a dance troupe. They were dressed as Transformers; not transformers the electronic components; I mean ‘Transformers robots in disguise’. They enthralled the crowd, especially the children, mesmerising onlookers; occasionally Optimus Prime would stop to remove a piece of plastic armour to have a good scratch. It must get quite steamy and gross in there; it’s quite humid in the evenings.

Street performers on the Waterfront in Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia

Further along a family dressed in superhero onesies body-popped away, the child was doing a figure of eight dressed as Spiderman. I hope he had school the next day, if not he has a great future on Borneos  Got Talent (if it exists).

The world is so familiar now, so connected.

I can’t wait to start exploring.

Next stop in Borneo: to see the Cat Cafe, to see orangutans and then take a boat to hike in the Bako national park.

1 Comment

  1. If I pack my clothes in a suitcase, but my dive gear in a sort of giant rucksack, does it count as a holiday or an adventure? (I’m looking forward to more of your adventure.)


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