Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Kuching Part 4 - Kuching Town

Getting in to Kuching itself took longer than we thought. It looks like a quietist sort of town but the traffic can be worse than it at first appears. What was refreshing is the lack of aggression though and one indicator of this is the fact we only heard a horn sound after a day or so.

After breakfast, we drove in, found some parking by the river, bought and set out some parking coupons and wandered off. Now a quick word about the coupon parking system in Kuching: It’s relatively cheap at 20 cents for your first half-hour, another 50 cents for the next half-hour, and 80 cents for every subsequent half-hour. I like this tariff - it encourages you to do what you need to do quickly and then move on, freeing up the space for someone else.

We wandered around the Sungei Santubong riverfront along Jalan Gambir and Jalan Main Bazaar and gazed across at the umbrella-shaped roof of the State Assembly building with some wonder. This is quite a striking building visible from many points along the riverfront and indeed kept popping up in the background of quite a few of the pictures I took.

The State Assembly Building was in many shots.

 Here's an HDR shot of the State Assembly building.

  Here's another from an altogether more interesting angle.

I have no idea what this was but it now houses some shop or other.

This was a very interesting wall with a fable carved onto it. 

I’ve said before that I don’t care for a lot of modern architecture. I do believe a lot of old architectural knowledge has been lost or at least eschewed in favour of a starker aesthetic. If nothing else, I believe the colonials knew how to build buildings that maximised comfort in the tropics and we no longer care for that same efficiency.

The old Courthouse in Kuching is one example of what we’ve lost. High ceilings, wide verandahs, deep roof overhangs, all contribute to a cool environment where the afternoon tropical heat is kept at bay. The courtyards also add an element of lushness and greenery which further reduce the buildup of humidity and discomfort which I find now so common in the glass and steel developments we seem to love so much nowadays.

Wide verandahs act as a buffer against the afternoon heat. 

The shops - in this case a tour agent - housed in this Tourism building are suitably understated and keep very much to the character of the architecture.

Enjoying a mid-morning break at the Magna Carta Cafe.

The loo is tucked away and named The Privy Chamber...

We spent a pleasant hour or so walking along the corridors and enjoying a cup of tea (or coffee as it were for the two ladies) in the legal-themed cafe/bar, then eventually headed out once again. The streets in this part of Kuching were for the most part narrow channels through which Kuchingites (is that what they’re called?) and tourists ambled or drove slowly. They were a blend of old and new shops of varying trades. Old tinsmiths worked next door to backpacker-inn hoteliers who were in turn neighbours to kueh lapis shops selling their confections next to fruit and vegetable shops who displayed their produce alongside colourful textiles from the merchant in the next shop lot and all punctuated by Kayu Gambir and mobile phone top-up stalls in the corridors.

Along Jalan Jalan Ewe Hai or Jalan Carpenter, the streets perpendicular to Jalan Main Bazaar, we found a proper Kolo Mee shop and sat down for something more authentic than the ones we’ve been getting in Singapore. Although the dish looked plain, it turned out to be very delicious indeed. There’s something in the oil and clear sauces that belie the wondrous flavours that tickle your taste buds. In my usual fashion I had an order with most of everything and finished just about every last scarp of the liver, meat balls, char siew and whatnots that was in the bowl.

Yes, that's seafood sold next to fabrics.

There's that building again...

 Here's an HDR shot of the State Assembly building.
A number of B&Bs and hostels in town, not all of them successful.

Very good.

Note the name...

It's very good indeed.

Have I said it's very good?

A bit more wandering around and we eventually settled on one particular Kueh Lapis stall which we conveniently found just before a short and heavy downpour. Safely sheltered, Sharon took her time to choose and in that most Sarawakian of ways, the shop supervisor was friendly, patient and helpful.
We found our way back to the car and set off for Semenggoh and Orang Utans… more in the next part.

Forever Falls - a day trip to Selama in Perak

Fishing in Oil Palm Estates It seems this part of Perak is all about waterfalls. We’d seen signboards for so many in our recent travel...