Out And About Outside Of Kuching

There are a metric fuck tonne of stuff and things to apply liberally to your eyeholes around Kuching and we’d rented a scooter to go and do just that. There are a couple of caves they reckon are about a half hour drive from the city but try telling that to our scooter. It took a lot longer but we arrived at the Wind Cave in one piece and paid our entrance fee. There’s a boardwalk leading to the cave entrance which is really bastard slippery if it’s been raining (spoiler alert: it will have been raining) and the boardwalks continue divided into three passages through the caves and oh my dear sweet lord, I’ve never lost so much fluid through my face in one go before.

Enter the Wind Cave… ideally don’t go looking up with your trap open.
This is flowstone. I’ve no idea how it got there because the information board only told us what it was called.

I mean, it’s hot here in Borneo. Really fucking humid and hot, which isn’t a complaint, merely a statement. But as soon as you enter a cave it’s like every single H20 molecule in your body tries to make a fucking break for it. So clutching our head torches in our hands, because I’ve stopped wearing it on my head on account of being fed up of inhaling insects, we wandered through the Wind Cave’s passage number one in search of cavey stuff. Wind Cave does indeed deliver a plethora of cavey stuff in a relatively compact space. You want stalactites and stalagmites? It’s got them. You’re after fossils? They’re all over that shit. There are clearly visible snail fossils from creatures that lived around 150 million years ago. It’s pretty cool.

Some manner of awesome looking fossil.

Passage two is much like passage one, but as you move into passage three the bat activity intensifies. They sound like squeaky toys. This part was probably my favourite. They have these holes in the ceiling called bell holes and they reckon the bats make them by hanging onto the same spot all the time and eroding the limestone with their breathing and pissing. It’s highly inadvisable to wander around these caves whilst gawping at the ceiling with your trap open, and you do spend a lot of time looking up. Keep your gob shut and thank me later.

Bell holes, caused by bats hanging there night after night and eroding the rock with their various bodily functions. Much like the perfect dent in the sofa where I sit at home.
If you’ve come here for a decent photo of a bat you’ll be disappointed. Those black dots on the wall? Those are bats. That’s your lot.

Eventually, after we’d had our fill of rocks and bats, we wiped the cave sweat off our faces and headed off to the next one, about 8kms up the road, the Fairy Cave. We rocked up and were greeted with a massive concrete tower of steps that we had to get up without taking liquid form. There are 185 good steps up to the cave, then about 100 more crappy uneven steps that make your ankles cringe a bit, then once you’re in the caves properly there are various networks of steps leaving to viewpoints. So yeah. It’s just steps.

A mere fraction of the steps we encountered at the Fairy Cave.

But there’s a massive hole to the right as you enter which lets in enough light for a shit tonne of green plants to grow, and they’re all kind of upright with their leaves facing the hole like they’re worshipping some manner of big sun god or something. It’s pretty amazing, not a single one of my photos do this place justice. It legit looks like pixies and shit would live here. I would go as far as to break out the word “magical” for this one, it’s breathtakingly lovely. We probably spent more time here than at the Wind Cave, trying to take this natural work of absolute art in from every angle. You can head through the back with a torch to check out more rock formations but this place is all about the main cavern and its carpet of green.

This photo doesn’t do this scene justice. It’s pretty magical in real life.

We made it back down the hundreds of steps with our knees intact and took a ride out to Annah Rais Longhouse, a well known Bidayuh longhouse that welcomes visitors for a small fee. I believe you can stay here by prior arrangement but we’d be fine with a quick look around. We were greeted with a few shots of tuak each, which I think is some manner of sweet local rice wine, and had a little wander around. It wasn’t much different to what we’d seen before except more people seemed to speak English and there were cold drinks on sale as well as souvenirs. They’re properly set up for tourism and everyone seems absolutely lovely.

Annah Rais
The skulls at Annah Rais.

They also still have their skulls from their head hunting days hung up in a room they call the panggah and I do love me some skulls. I mean, I’m quite glad they’re no longer in the habit of lopping the heads off people but it’s still really cool to see a genuine part of their history and culture. I’d like to learn more but I think we’d gotten there quite late and everyone seemed to be finishing up for the day. They’re very much on the tourist radar, agencies sell excursions here and people show up in groups so they must have already dealt with a shit tonne of humans and it wouldn’t have been fair to try and rope them into more story telling. I believe though that there always used to be a fire lit underneath the skulls and the skulls were thought to protect the village. Of course, most Bidayuh people are Christian these days.`

A Lithuanian artist called Ernest Zacharevic painted three murals at Annah Rais but I only actually found this out after the fact. Turns out we’d stumbled on two of them without even trying.

We called it a day after that, I don’t think I could have lost any more fluids without starting to resemble a stapled sultana with a bad hair cut, so we retreated to the hostel for a shower and some A/C. The following morning though we were back on the scooter to go see some more orangutans, because we just can’t get enough of the big, ginger apes. The sanctuary here is called Semenggoh Nature Reserve and, like Sepilok, is home to semi-wild orangutans who needed rescue and rehabilitation because humans fucking suck.

This is Sekuluh, the 46 year old “grand old lady” of Semenggoh. She looks like she wants to wipe a bit of dirt off my face with spit on a hanky and knit me a jumper.

It’s very very different to Sepilok. There were already orangutans wandering around well before the advertised feeding time. We were instructed to hang back so we did, then eventually we were beckoned forward to watch an ape sat on the fence, casually eating a banana. Another couple of apes showed up and were handed fruit and boiled eggs and bottles of what looked like milk. Y’know, all those naturally occurring jungle things. When the actual feeding time happened not that many orangutans came so the staff went off into the jungle on motorbikes to try and entice them in. Yeah, it’s very different from Sepilok.

Photo credit: Tarrant and her A5300.

We headed up the road between feedings, they do one between 9am and 10am then another between 3pm and 4pm, to get ourselves some sustenance whilst trying not to get piss wet through in the standard early afternoon downpour, then rode back a little earlier than planned and I’m pretty glad we did. We gathered on the deck by the feeding platforms and a ranger held us back as a large male with the big cheek pads decided he was going to stroll past. The ranger (are they even called rangers? Fuck knows!) told us to keep our distance as the orangutan was unsure where he waned to go at this point, then he headed off down the boardwalk. Majestic as fuck. At least he was until he stacked it off the boardwalk, the fucking numpty.

Edwin, a 21 year old big male orangutan who, as you can see, is all class. Photo credit: Tarrant.

This feeding time was a bit more eventful, a mother even showed up with her littleun. I’m not 100% sure what they’re drinking from the bottle they’re given but they seem gutted when it’s finished, turning it upside-down and gazing at it forlornly, much like I do when I finish a bottle of vodka. So we did what you do at things like these; watched our closest relatives chow down on various food products, some of them questionable (I mean, boiled eggs?), and took more photos than we’d care to sort through until our feet went numb with all the standing. So, it was good, I’m glad we went, we got very close to a lot of orangutans, but if I had to recommend one I’d got with Sepilok in Sabah. It feels more authentic there.

Photo credit: Tarrant

I’m not saying that Semenggoh haven’t done an excellent job in rehabilitating these animals, they still build their nests in the jungle every night, they breed, they don’t always show up for feeding as there’s plenty of food out there, but the focus seemed to be more on our enjoyment as tourists rather than the welfare of the animals. I could have read it completely wrong, we could have just been there on a day that came across like that and I’m not bitching because we got to see a male with massive cheek pads which we both really wanted. Definitely visit. It’s RM10. That roughly translates into nearly fuck all for a whole day of orangutan bothering.

Bonus photo: Just as we were about to leave Annah Rais a family showed up with a shit tonne of sugar cane to use a contraption outside the longhouse. It’s a huge wooden log with handles on a shaped stand that has a hole in it. You insert the sugar cane like so and roll the fuck off bastard log and it literally crushes the juice out of the cane which pours through the hole into a container below. Quite labour intensive but effective! We chatted to them and asked if we could watch and take photos and they were happy for us to do so. I believe they owned a nearby cafe which was, unfortunately, closed when we rode past. Probably because they were all still back at Annah Rais crushing sugar cane.

Near Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia
Stayed at: Quiik Cat

Useful shit to know

Foreigner entrance fees and feeding time information for Sememggoh.
  • We got to Kuching from Kapit by boat via Sibu. Once you’re in Sibu you can take a bus the rest of the way to Kuching if you like but I think it takes a bit longer. Once you’re at the port in Kuching you can take a Grab to your accommodation.
  • You can find boat timetables here.
  • On account of boat timings we stayed in Sibu overnight at the Ban Hin Hotel which is clean, well located and nice enough for a night.
  • There’s not a huge amount to do in Sibu and we largely used the time to apply beer to our faceholes, but there’s a very impressive Chinese Temple you can visit.

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