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Monday, June 22, 2009

Kuching, Sarawak - Day 1

Our Kuching trip was planned last year, Aug08 at a friend's funeral. AirAsia was having a zero fare promotion and the aunties wanted to go somewhere. Later I check the website and managed to book all 6 of us at RM170 per person. We paid RM160 the airport taxes, admin fees and fuel surcharge and the additional RM10 was for the baggage charges. The 6 of us included my parents, Aunt Annie, Aunt Chris, Esther and I.

Early this year Esther thought it would be good to bring Sze-En along. When Aunt Chris heard that Sze-En was going, she thought of Brian, her grandson and wanted to bring him along too. We okayed it and Esther proceed to book his flight ticket. His ticket cost about RM288. This was Brian's first time on the plane and we were all so excited for him.

Our flight was scheduled to leave for Kuching at 7.10am. This means that we had to be at the airport by 5.30am which also means that we had to get up as early as 3.15am.

Uncle Guru and Mtc was kind enough to wake up early to fetch the 8 of us to the airport. We pre-checked in online the day before and what we did as soon as we arrived at the airport was to get our boarding passes verified and checked in our luggages.

Then we proceed to Gate P11 (that's where we were supposed to board the plane) and looked around for something to eat. I saw a "snack attack" food cart (the same food they served in the AirAsia flights) and to my surprise they were priced much lower than what we would have paid on the plane. The nasi lemak (and other main meals) were priced at RM5.50 and they have added in a free cold drink to lure us (who were still half-asleep at 6am in the morning) to buy from them. FYI, the nasi lemak on the plane cost RM9 WITHOUT the free drink.

Esther bought the nasi lemak set and I took the spaghetti set. Esther took a bite of the nasi lemak and scrunched her face. It tasted like yesterday's food, she said. I tried her nasi lemak and had to agree with her. We didn't finish the nasi lemak. My spaghetti didn't taste as good, and with the help of Sze-En (who loves spaghetti as long as it is not spicy), we managed to finish most of it.

Since it was Brian's first plane ride, we let him sit near the window. Sze-En did not particularly enjoy her plane ride because she gets air-sickness especially when the plane takes off or land. This is her third time flying and what she does was to prepare herself mentally and try to sleep during the entire plane ride.
Sze-En is now quite tall and she assumes that Brian will let her rest her legs on his lap, but no. After a while he kept pushing her legs down till Esther had to tell Sze-En to either curl or cross her legs.

The plan ride lasted for 1 hour and 45 minutes. We were asked to fill in a health declaration form each and deposited them to the airport personnel as we were about to enter the building. At the immigration counter we were given a slip which states our personal details and a clause stating that we could only be in this State for ninety days. I felt like I was a foreigner. :(

A few days ago I checked in the internet for our transportation in Kuching. There were certain tourist places I wanted to visit and I also wanted to know the cost of visiting those places and how to get there. As I was surfing, I stumbled upon Tune Hotel's airport transfer in Kuching. It cost only RM20 per saloon car and was operated by Golden System Car Rental & Tour S/B. When I clicked into their website, a blank page appeared. Thinking that there was something wrong with my laptop, I gave Esther the link and asked her to check the website. Same thing. A blank page appeared.

I didn't bother much about it because I knew that the other taxis cost RM22 per car.

After collecting all our luggages, we went to the taxi/tour agency counter. I saw a booth operated by Golden System Car Rental & Tour and immediately went there and asked for the price of a taxi to Tune Hotel. She said it was RM8 per person. I told her that the (Tune Hotel, Kuching) website I went to said that it was RM20 per car. She kept insisting that it was RM8 per person. After a while she said that the lowest price she could offer was RM25 per car. She asked whether we did a pre book online. I said no because we couldn't even enter the agency's website. She said that we could have send an email to them. I told her again that we tried to go into the agency's website but the page was blank. After arguing for a while, I gave up. I went to the normal taxi counter and book 2 cars for RM44 (RM22 per car).

We arrived at Tune Hotel 15 minutes later but couldn't check in yet because the check in time was 12pm and it was only 9.30am at that time. We kept our luggages at Tune Hotel (RM1 per luggage) and book 2 taxis to take us to the Sarawak Cultural Village. The aunties, my mom and Brian managed to retain the same taxi driver who took them to the hotel. He then called a fellow taxi driver to take the rest of us and off we we went to get our tickets for the Cultural Village. The first taxi driver said he knows of a tour agency who could offer at a lower price. It cost RM60 per adult (Children below 12 - RM30) at the entrance of the Cultural Village and only RM45 (Children below 12 - RM28) here at the Borneo Exploration Tours & Travel.

Some 45 minutes later, we found ourselves at the Sarawak Cultural Village.I found this place more interesting than Mini Malaysia. The Sarawak Cultural Village had 7 authentic ethnic houses built around a man-made lake.

We spent about 3 hours here. What did we do there? We saw the cultural show which lasted about 45 minutes, we checked out all 7 houses, we posed/took lots of pictures and we had lunch there. Was it value for our money? I would say, if you have never been there before, you should go. My parents and aunties did complained that it was hot and humid and they decided to skip visiting most of the ethnic houses.

Since the Damai beach was very near the Cultural Village, the taxi drivers took us to the Damai Puri Resort and Spa to have a "look-see, look-see" of the beautiful beach. It was so much nicer than our polluted and dirty Port Dickson.

Our next destination was the Cat Museum. Fearing that we would never see a cat in Kuching (the Malay word for cat is kucing) , we agreed to see some stilled cats. :) We spent about 40-45 minutes here.

After that, the taxi drivers took us back to our hotel. We checked in, showered and go ready to go for dinner.

Everyone who knew that we were going to Kuching said that we should go to Topspot Seafood for dinner. It was walking distance to our hotel, so we did a little exercise (by walking to our destination lah) before we had dinner.

There were many seafood stalls here and we didn't know which ones were good. We chose the one nearest to the entrance. I think it was called Lung Leong Seafood.

We had a good variety of dishes. We called 6 dishes, but I only took 5 pictures of 5 of them because the last dish, steamed fish, came so late that I forgot to take a picture of it. The food was good. The dishes here came out pretty fast (except for the last dish) despite the place being jam-packed with people having dinner too. The meal cost RM125 (USD36 or EURO 25). It was so cheap.

And the barley drink here cost a bomb. RM2.20 (about USD 0.60 or EURO 0.45) for a glass of barley drink. Aunt Chris said it was worth it because it tasted so good. In Seremban we could order a glass of barley for only RM 1.00, but the taste was more of sugar than of barley.

After dinner, some of us wanted to walk along the waterfront. It was only a few minutes walk from our hotel. We ended up not going because most of us were very tired. It was only 8.30pm, but we had a long day.

While Aunt Annie was bathing, I saw a cockroach coming out from underneath the bed. I screamed, not because I was scared, but because I was so surprised to see one in a 2-month old hotel. Quickly I hit it hard with my sandals.

After that I kept my bags closed and made sure there weren't any food packets left open. I slept with the fear of cockroaches running up and down underneath the bed.

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