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Welcome to sailing yacht Alishan

Read more about the adventures and boat-projects on board of Alishan


Borneo, here we are!

Loving all the wildlife around us, we couldn’t wait to see this part of the world. Kuching, our port of entry, the capital of Sarawak and known as the City of Cats. Kuching means cat in Malay, and that in itself already sounds enticing. This widely spread-out city, is built around a big river with the same name. It used to be possible for yachts to sail up this river and anchor right downtown, but increasing traffic demanded more roads and more bridges. Now we all gather at the entrance of the river at Santubong, about 30 km away. Not very convenient with little public transportation, but the wetlands on one side and the mountain of Santubong on the other make a nice scenery.

Houses on stilts and many pot plants in the colorful village of Santubong.

The village nearby has a few small shops, one or two eateries and friendly people. The people of a private house with a jetty let us use their landing and water and we could have our laundry done for 2RM a kg. There were Irrawaddy dolphins and life crocs (not the shoes) swimming up and down the river and providing daily excitement. All in all not a bad place for a few weeks.

Santubong in the rain.

Market ware: Layercake in unappetizing colors and intricate patterns next to the tools for negotiating the jungle and its produce.

Shopping near the waterfront of Kuching.

Except for clearing in and out, we seldom went in town. Just once or twice to go to the colorful weekend market, where the best layer cake (picture left) was sold amongst many other things like handicrafts, clothing, traditional knives and tools and of course the usual fruits and veggies. And to see the textile museum, a dark little place, but ok. Another time we visited the cat museum. Which was just a collection of pictures and statues with a few stories, not bad, but only good for cat-lovers.

The imposant building on the left houses the cat museum, on the right a painting by a local artist. Cats are highly regarded, but the average street spec. looks like any other, with the usually knotted tail and slit eyes.

Killing a cat in Kuching however, can get you a fine of RM300 (60 euro)

And that is a lot of money here!

It wasn’t only sightseeing, we had work to do onboard. The dirty fuel tank that had caused us problems on the trip from Johor had to be cleaned and new fuel filters were needed. Jaap walked all over Kuching, but couldn’t find any for our Yanmar. The answer to this problem came from Anne-Marie, a friend in Langkawi. This busy lady, the manager of Dev’s Adventure tours, was about to go on a well deserved holiday but managed to get hold of some and send them to us within a few days. Thank you Anne-Marie. How could we possibly stay out of trouble without helpful people like you!

Downtown Kuching, view of the pink Kuching Mosque

Materials in all bright colors for the muslim ladies on the left and the new government building on the right.

Other yachts came sailing in. Many were part of a rally, others came for the Rainforest Music Festival, most did both. We certainly wanted to hang around for this 3 day festival of ethnic music where skilled musicians from many countries played various traditional instruments and held workshops and jam sessions. We saw 7 groups performing and listened to traditional Borneo music, played on the sapi, a string instrument made of bamboo, Indonesion gamelan, Korean drums, (very good!) Chinese chamber music, like Japanese goto, French gypsy band Poum Tchack and the topper: The Saint Nicholas Orchestra from Poland. Wonderful!

Batik artist at the Rainforest Music Festival.

The stages were set up in the cultural village, an interesting place worth visiting anytime. There were many food stalls serving local dishes and good handicraft exhibitions. Even the weather provided the right rainforest feeling, but we were not discouraged and huddled under raincoats and umbrellas.

Somehow through the grapevine one Dutch physical therapist heard about the other and so we met Caroline from Terneuzen and her family: Husband Chris, a local M.D. and kids Tim, Kim and Didier. They took us out in their spare free time, to see caves and some remote kampongs or longhouses.

A longhouse consists of many houses lined up under one long roof, all facing a communal room, like a covered veranda. Traditionally they are built along rivers and occupied by the river people: the Iban tribe. In the old head-hunters days there were 2 major tribes, the land- and the sea dayaks. The Iban are descendents from the first one and are little farmers who grow rice, vegetables and fruit. Very peaceful, but a collection of skulls in an old storage room speak of different times.

The long communal veranda is where people meet to socialize and do their jobs.

Simuti Longhouse looks more like a kampong (village) on top of a mountain. Deep in the interior, near the border of Indonesia it doesn’t have a big river and access is only by very windy dirt road and after that many many steps leading up. Caroline and Chris needed to go there for health screenings, since older people could not come down to the road anymore and the Flying Doctors had stopped their services due to lack of finances.

The many steps down, too many for the elderly.

This was a very nice opportunity for us to see the interior of Sarawak. We climbed the steps. Not all, as a road up is under construction and leads halfway. We walked the bamboo paths, a bit wobbly for sea-legs, and ventured out in the jungle towards Kalimantan. The children were familiar with the place and the people with their presence. We didn’t seem to be disturbing anyone.

People going about their work (harvesting rice, making tools, drying tapioca, gathering vegetables AND hauling it all up hill, barefoot, in huge baskets like the lady on the right.

Awesome basketry and even more awesome loads.

Walkways and platforms of bamboo keep everything free of dust and sandflies.

Another Dutchman, Jan from Otterloo and his wife and daughter came along as well, his wife being from this area and they too came and went like family friends. How wonderful it was to be with them! What we saw was so special. People doing their daily jobs as usual, a bit shy and not eagerly posing for the camera, as in the Annah Rais Longhouse, where we stopped on the way back and which is set-up for tourists, with a parking lot for tour busses and a ticket counter.

Left: Indonesia, just down the hill.

Right: Skulls in a cupboard at Anna Rias get a lot of tourists’ attention.

And here we all are: Jaap in the middle and from there clockwise: Caroline, Timothy, Kimberly, Didier, Tanja, Jan, Linda and Chris.

Another day Caroline picked us up to go to Bau, a small rural town where Chris has his clinic. From there it was not far to the Fairy and Windy caves, one an enormous chamber in a limestone formation, the other a tunnel-type, where swallows and bats fly in and out when you come at the end of the day. Both were very special, even for Jaap who doesn’t like narrow caves much.

We (mainly Marijke and the kids) found all sorts of cave-dwelling creatures and small skeletons, thinking up stories of imaginary ghosts amongst the many limestone shapes and structures.

Left : A swiftlet on a nest, not edible, lucky for her. Right: A cave cricket.

Bats, bats and more bats. Oh, they stink!

And that was another great day. Thank you so much for showing us this.

Last, but not least: the Sarawak orang-utangs. About 35 km From Kuching is the Semenggoh National Park that holds a sanctuary for the biggest primates of Borneo: The orang utangs. Here the animals live in their natural surrounding, primary jungle, look for food, build their nests and be themselves, with the option to come to the station where food is laid out everyday in case they need it. The pockets of jungle untouched by loggers aren’t always big enough to provide fruit for them all year round.

The big alpha male that dominates the area is known to come in regularly, more to show off his muscular power to some baby-carrying females who like to hang around this take-away outlet, I think. The day we were there he didn’t show up. Too bad, but then the mothers were more relaxed and had ample time to play with their young ones.

This one clinging to Mum is only 4 months old.

Some teenagers were there too, male and female, not old enough yet to be sexually active and take part in the game of dominance.

We saw about 8 apes in the morning, went for a hike afterwards and hung around for the afternoon feeding session, but none showed up for that and the fruit was taken by cheeky squirrels and flower-peckers.

At the end of the day Jan and Linda came to collect us with their car, take us to their house for a meal and drop us of at Santubong. Thank you!

Too bad we didn’t see any dolphins that night Jan and his ladies came to visit. But look at the evening sky!

All you friends at Kuching made our time quite special. Chris and Caroline, we admire you for what you’re doing, the time you spend helping the locals, your care and energy that is literally getting people back on their feet. Keep it up, but take care!!! We hope to see you during your holiday in Sabah.

Farewell Kuching

Wildlife around Kuching

Kuching Wildlife

The mudskippers of Santubong

Chased by a Dog-faced Watersnake and bright blue crabs.

Butterflies and dragonflies everywhere

Pitcher Plants found in the bush at the edge of the jungle

Other critters

And some birds of course.

Black-headed Munia

Olive-backed Sunbird at its nest with chicks

Swifts nesting under a house

Ashy Tailorbird

Never saw so many Wood Swallows

Two different Drongos acting like a pair?!

A raptor hovering over Semenggoh.