23.1 C
Brunei
Saturday, February 4, 2023
23.1 C
Brunei
Saturday, February 4, 2023
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    Beautiful sights, delicious food

    Lyna Mohammad

    From digging into the authentic taste of laksa Sarawak and kolo mee to treating myself to generous servings of seafood and the ever popular kek lapis Sarawak, to name just a few, how can one not say that Kuching, the capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, is a food haven?

    Of course, this was not the only reason for my recent trip to the city, which was the first since my last visit way before the pandemic, perhaps more than 10 years ago. This time, it was more about filling in my Borneo travel bucket list for this year and to see for myself how much the beautiful city has transformed over the years.

    In that regard, one obvious sight for me was the number of big shopping malls that have sprung up around the city.

    Despite arriving in the city at almost close to midnight as our flight arrived in the evening, I still wanted to go out and go food hunting as I purposely skipped my dinner before leaving Brunei and was anxious to try out popular local dishes there that had been much talked about by my friends who visited the city recently.

    Taking a Grab ride from the hotel, my travel companions and I reached the city just before the clock struck midnight and of course almost all the shops or eateries there were closed.

    Nevertheless, we still asked the driver to drop us off at the waterfront area and tried to find our way, hoping we’d be lucky enough to find a food stall that was open.

    A view of Mount Santubong from a swimming pool. PHOTOS: LYNA MOHAMAD
    A bowl of laksa
    One of the restaurants visited during the trip
    ABOVE & BELOW: Historic sites during the trip; and a monument in the city

    ABOVE & BELOW: Seafood dishes; and one of the cafes with a list full of menus on display

    A few minutes after walking along the waterfront, luck was indeed on our side as we found a couple of stalls that were still open for business and we wasted no time to pick our food and drink items before the final call for orders.

    Each of us ordered food and drink items that are not available back home to get the feel of being in Kuching, by having something that was authentic.

    After a session of filling our hunger pangs and trying out each other’s food, we called it a night as our travel itinerary for our five-day stay was very much packed.

    While the initial plan was to visit the various tourist attractions there, the unexpected wet weather almost every day made us re-organise our itinerary to making visits to just a few places on the list. This included the legendary Gunung Santubong or Mount Santubong, which took us almost an hour drive to the village.

    Known for its challenging trail and adventurous experience, the mountain is more than 30 kilometres from the city, hence the drive took us a bit of time. However, we were treated to the refreshing sight of the greenery and villages we passed by.

    Mount Santubong rises from the depths of the South China Sea, at a height of 810 metres and from certain angles, the outline resembles the mien of a woman with her face facing towards the sky.

    I was told that, as is believed by the local elders residing around the villages of Santubong, the folklore tells of a celestial princess named Puteri Santubong, who was struck down in a fit of anger by her jealous sister, Puteri Sejinjang.

    The story also mentioned that her slain body transformed into a mountain formation, with parts of Puteri Sejinjang that were hit in retaliation were scattered, and thus became known as Gunung Sejinjang.

    Back to the hiking activities there, I must say that with the sheer rock surfaces and extremely steep and vertical slopes, it is not exactly a beginner’s climb, regardless of how active in hiking one might be back in Brunei.

    I have heard some say that Mount Kinabalu may be much higher than Santubong, but the trails and structure of the mountain is nothing like Kinabalu, especially with the aluminium ladders to climb and tree roots as your stepping stones.

    One thing to take note of is that Santubong is open from 7am, though it has a cut-off time by noon as the park authority is concerned for the safety of hikers because the way down may take as long as climbing up, considering the challenging trails that hikers need to take on the way down.

    The park is also closed for hiking activities if there is a strong wind or heavy rain coming.

    When we arrived at the foot of Mount Santubong, we were greeted with disappointing news; the park had closed early as they received a warning from the weather department that strong winds would occur and no one was allowed to climb up by that time. However, we managed to get a brief peek into the area after the entrance and then we drove down for a quick tea time at Cove 55.

    Although everyone was disappointed upon leaving the mountain, it didn’t take long before we were all cheered up again as we were treated to the very beautiful sight of Cove 55 and, on top of that, a mesmerising full view of Mount Santubong.

    After enjoying our high tea bites at the small restaurant, we decided to take a tour of the premises before heading back to the city for dinner. Every part of the property is beautiful and a few metres walk ahead to the coast there are a few units of villas on the waters with Mount Santubong looking down to the tranquil garden and infinity pool.

    On our way back to the city, we decided to drop by the Cultural Village on the list but made a brief stop at Makam Sultan Tengah, a memorial mausoleum also located in Santubong.

    Sultan Tengah or Sultan Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah ibni Sultan Muhammad Hassan of Sarawak was a prince of Brunei and the first and only ruler of the Sultanate of Sarawak.

    We had the opportunity to recite prayers on our brief visit before continuing our ride back to the city, and with it being our second night here, our minds were set to get dropped off at a popular Top Spot Seafood, where we enjoyed our favourite meals from the sea to our hearts’ content after a whole day of sightseeing activities.

    The remaining few days of our stay were filled with mall-hoping and food-tasting sessions and we got to really try out most of the much talked about authentic and signature Sarawakian dishes.

    During this trip, I had the opportunity to meet an old friend and his wife who run a homestay in Kuching called Merdeka House at their residence in Jalan Merdeka, Kampung Lintang, which can be reached conveniently by a few minutes’ boat ride from the waterfront and a few minutes’ walk.

    Upon hearing of my presence in the city, the couple insisted on taking us out for dinner and the next day took us for a drive to Kampong Telaga Air.

    The village is a seaside Malay settlement located only 30 minutes from the city and a great place to hang out especially during weekends as it is one of the happening spots on the outskirts of Kuching.

    It’s not the typical tourist experience but rather a heart-warming place offering delightful moments to cherish in a village atmosphere. The couple took us for lunch at the popular seafood stalls there with servings of fresh catches from the sea and local cuisine including signature Sarawakian dishes and appetisers.

    We enjoyed every bit of the fresh seafood items, right up to scooping the very last spoonful of the delicious soup, and of course the traditional appetisers served at one of the stalls for a cheap price.

    The trip there concluded our Sarawakian food extravaganza as it was time for us to leave this yet another beautiful place on Borneo island.

    Boarding the flight back home to Brunei, my travel partners and I left Kuching with a memorable experience from our stay after indulging in days of amazing and delicious Sarawakian food.

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