My first stop was Kuching, Sarawak Malaysia which is on the island of Borneo. Generally when people plan trips to Malaysia this area is overlooked, and it's definitely not the first stop along their trek. Hence the reason that many of the people I met in my first week were dumbfounded as to how I wound up in this small, rural city. Upon arriving I was met by Richard, my first CS host, at the airport where we proceeded to the mall so I could get a Malaysian SIM card for my phone. He also treated me to a sushi dinner before dropping me off at the yoga studio, my home for the next weak.
I definitely got lucky with this CS host - Richard is one of the most generous, adventurous and kind people I have met during my travels. Not only did he allow me to live in his yoga studio and take part in the classes for free, he also took it upon himself to play tour guide, driving me to various destinations and ensuring I always got enough to eat. Staying with Richard, his friends and family definitely made my visit to Kuching a unique and unforgettable experience.
For my first day in Kuching Richard picked me up, along with another yoga teacher Sue, before meeting his wife Betty for breakfast. Of course, being in Malaysia I had to eat as the locals do so my day started with a steaming bowl of Sarawak Laksa a local favorite, and understandably so. Everyone at the table was concerned I wouldn't be able to stomach it, "It's spicy, are you sure you're okay?" but then Richard told them I've been living in South Korea and their fears quickly disappeared "Oh, you eat Kimchi? You'll have no problem then" and they were right, there wasn't a dish in Malaysia that torched my taste buds...hats off for trying though. After breakfast Richard dropped me off at the waterfront so I could explore the city by foot. I stopped at the visitors info center, grabbed a map and went out to explore the city.
That evening I wanted to make it back to the studio in time for Sue's yoga class at 6:30, Richard warned me that taking a cab around that time would only result in me paying to sit in traffic. My option were to either go back super early, wait until after the class, or walk...i'm sure you all know what I picked. Thanks to google maps, and Richards Ipad (oh yeah, did I mention he let me borrow his Ipad while I was there!) I had no problem finding my way. About an hour later, a bit sweaty and after hearing countless "Hello! Hi! Beautiful!" remarks from the locals, I arrived back at the studio, a quick change and it was time for yoga. Glad I made it because after class Sue invited me to join her, her husband and friend that was visiting from Indonesia for dinner. I'm telling you, these people are awesome!
The next day Richard advised me that he'd be picking me up around 10 o'clock so that we could head north to the Santobong area. The plan was to do some hiking and maybe kayaking at Damai beach but the weather wasn't as cooperative, the waves were way to huge to go out and the threat of rain diminished our hopes of a good hike. Instead Richards recommend I visit the Sarawak culture village to get a taste of what Malaysia is really like, despite the steep price (60RM ~ $20) it was well worth it including a cultural dance performance and tours through traditional Malaysian houses. The village covers 17.5 acres and includes 7 authentic houses of various native tribes: Bidayuh, Iban, Penan, Orang Ulu, Melanau, Malay and Chinese
After the village we went to join Sue and her friend at the beach. Relaxing near the shore we sat for a while and did a bit of impromptu yoga, then despite the cloudy skies and threat of rain we decided that the waves looked good for playing. We quickly changed, stored our dry clothes in the car and headed for the beach. There really wasn't much of a beach more like a few rocks and a patch of sand, but we made due - and had a great time playing in the rain and waves while the rest of the crowd ran for shelter. It was great to be stared at while with a few locals, proves that it's not always just the stupid foreigners who do crazy things attracting attention of others.
That night I got the chance to meet Richards daughter and the second yoga teacher, Alvin who treated us all to a challenging class. Maybe it was the fact that it was about 80+ degrees in the studio but I was actually sweating in this class. I know my mom can appreciate this, but for those of you that don't know - I don't sweat. I've actually hiked with numerous people in Taiwan, Korean and now Malaysia who've commented on the little amount of sweat I produce while they're usually dripping from head to toe - but this night Alivin made me sweat. It may sound silly but I was actually excited as a bead of sweat rolled down my forehead and dropped to the floor as I balanced in half moon pose. It was turning out to be a great start to my vacation.
I got lucky picking this as my first major, solo=backpacking trip. The locals that welcomed me into their homes and taught me about their culture fueled my fire for travel. The food is diverse and delicious, as is the country itself. With heavy influences from both China and India there is a lot on offer.