I’m back, with thanks to Kuching
May 29th, 2006
Well, Kuching was an experience that I wanted to repeat, and I did.
My first visit, in May of 2004, was a bit short of cash, experience, contacts, and about a zillion other things that make nearly five weeks in a place tolerable. Trust me, cash helps. Having people to talk to, without having to decipher or parse every single sentence for meaning, is a great relief. And, having people to answer questions (of which I have hundreds), help me to understand just a little bit more than I otherwise would.
This entry is really to thank all those people in Kuching, Sarawak, who made my time there more than bearable, actually enjoyable. I think it would be presumptuous of me to give their names here, without their direct consent, and so I’ll grant them recognition in other ways.
To my first ‘civilian’ contact upon exiting the brand new Kuching airport, thank you very much. Your hospitality was totally unexpected, a great relief, and a reminder for all of us (I hope) that ’strangers’ are far less dangerous than many would suppose. That time spent on a Friday was great, I’m still glad I went, and I’m still glad I begged off for the second event. Age brings discretion. The laksa was wonderful, but I prefer the kolo mee at Kapit Cafe.
One of my hosts in Kuching is a restaurateur, newly minted, and one who deserves all the respect and support one can give. Again, your hospitality and congeniality, went far beyond that which any ‘tourist’ can ever expect, and probably beyond that which most ‘guests’ actually experience in their host’s home. I can only ask one thing; could you please pass my regards and appreciation on to your neighbours – who, like yourself, went out of their way to provide me with nutritional sustenance, and social contact.
I’ll thank you again for the ‘kari,’ which was delicious, and ensure that you get a picture of the t-shirt in Vancouver!
There were two women, without whom my trip would have been unimaginably different. One, who wrangles words for a living, introduced me to the very best single experience of the trip. On Thursday. And took some great photos, but egads, my youthful svelte (ho ho ho) figure is slipping away. The other, also in her own way a wordsmith, introduced my to the Indonesian border (with help from a friend of hers), conversations about a vast array of topics, and filled me in on ‘bird’s nest’ realities in Sarawak.
To one, thanks very, very, much for the little packet of photos. I’m still very touched. To the other, I’ll make sure there are photos of the travel bag in Vancouver!
These are some of the people I have names for, and whom I can thank by e-mail. There are many however that I cannot thank so easily.
Bing! And all of Bing!’s staff deserve an immense amount of credit for the overall success of my time in Kuching. I spent dozens of hours writing, thinking, recovering in Bing!, a coffee bar that does incredible justice to the owners, and their staff. I can’t thank the staff enough for their positive attitude, their genuine interest in what I was doing, and for a few the opportunity to have thanked them in person. For the rest of the staff, my very best wishes to each of you, during your time at Bing!, and wherever (or whatever) you choose to go on to in the future.
The staff at the Hua Kuok Hotel. A low-cost, locally-focused place, tucked out of the way on Ban Hock Rd, the staff were unfailingly polite, helpful, courteous, professional. And actually made me feel welcome, a situation not always realized in the hospitality industry. I have no idea if anyone at the hotel even has e-mail at home, so if anyone in Kuching cares to forward this information I’d be grateful.
And there are un-named, un-recognized, others that made the trip great. The guys sitting outside of endless shops on Padungan, happy to say ‘hello,’ even if that is as far as their English went. The people in the ‘bun’ shop on Padungan (a few doors east of Lorong 11) who appreciated my love of their ‘red bean bun,’ dressed in green. Damn they were good. The guy who cooks kolo mee at the Kapit Cafe. Even if the cafe servers made me feel ever so slightly unwelcome with their service…
The barber down by the Brooke Shipyards, the ’spice guy,’ Mogen, just up the road. Madame Han at ‘Black Bean’ coffee. The old lady selling slices of fruit outside the temple, who was always happy to see me, and always gave excellent value. The fellow at Cyber City – more than once opened the doors early, because I was sitting outside.
Undoubtedly there are dozens of other small characters in this play, some I will recall, and regret not having mentioned here.
I’d also like to thank the vast majority of taxi drivers – who gave excellent service, didn’t gouge (even when the meter wasn’t turned on, actually I never once had a ride when the meter ‘was’ turned on), and were helpful and courteous. There was one driver who exercised one of the oldest ‘taxi’ scams in the book – the ‘I’m terribly sorry, but I haven’t change’ trip. But, rather than get into a fit, I just let him know that I knew it was a scam, and paid. Twenty years from now, who cares.
These people, each and every one, reflect some portion of the fabric of their city. And now, having involved me in the warp and weft of their daily lives, have built me into their city – as they are now a part of the city I live in.
To all of you, a gracious ‘thank you.’