A Travellerspoint blog

December 2012

The joy and magic of flying

View 2012/13 Myanmar, Malaysia & Philippines on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_13571233064865.jpgTaking the boat back to the apartment.
After an early breakfast, I taxied out to Supadio International Airport. I had to wait briefly for check-in to open even though it was 90 minutes prior to the flight. We were delayed for about half hour.

The flight was very empty despite the zero-fare promotion which I was lucky enough to snatch. The joy and magic of flying is knowing that the 45 minute flight replaces 9 hours on a bus!

I caught a taxi to town to see my family GP to check on my ear blockage. It had not cleared despite using the antiseptic oil drops from the pharmacy. As it turned out, there was no wax blockage or any obstruction to the outer ear. There was some irritation to the inner ear and some mucus and some non-antibiotic medication was given.

After grabbing a quick lunch and popping my medication, I crossed the Sarawak River by boat back to my apartment.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Lazy day

View 2012/13 Myanmar, Malaysia & Philippines on alexchan's travel map.

After a great buffet breakfast at the hotel, I ventured out. Nothing much was open being a Sunday morning. I found Carrefour and spent some time in there. I believe supermarkets offer an interesting insight into local life.

I lazed in my room for much of the day, enjoying its cool comfort. I was particularly content with doing that when I could see the lightning and hear the downpour and thunder in the afternoon.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Borneo's Kiling Fields

View 2012/13 Myanmar, Malaysia & Philippines on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_13571227702419.jpgWandering minstrels entertain me during breakfast with "Have you ever seen the rain?"
Being normally an extremely heavy sleeper, I was surprised to have slept lightly through the night. I wandered out and found few choices for breakfast. With a long and rough day anticipated, I passed on the satay and opted for a selection of cakes.

After breakfast, I investigated options for getting to Mandor where some 20,000 people were massacred by the Japanese during WWII. From the different bus routings indicated in the Lonely Planet and a good map, I gathered that I should be able to take any bus bound for Nanga Pinoh, Sintang or Ngabang.

I found the bus station and managed to buy a seat to Mandor on the bus bound for Nanga Pinoh. I had enough time to go back to my room to gather my stuff and a 15 minute lie down.

I was wet from the heat and humidity before we boarded, so I was pleased to be in a seat by the door where I could dry off (and stretch my legs out).large_5550_13571227725020.jpgMy bus to Mandor which continued to Nanga Pinoh.Seating was extremely tight. The ride to Mandor took 3h30 including a lunch stop.

I arrived into Mandor and walked to the site of Borneo’s killing field. The gateway took me to large memorial which was locked. There was also a small glassed shed with pictures of those who were killed. A path led to the 10 mass graves which have been concreted and roofed over. Here lies the remains those killed by the Japanese for plotting against them (or suspected of). This is also one of those times when people from different racial backgrounds put aside their differences against a greater external enemy; a lot of the portraits of the dead were Chinese (the usual target of the Japanese during their reign of terror in SE Asia).

I walked back to the main road and in no time I was back on a bus, this time bound for Pontianak.large_5550_13571227722034.jpgThe back of the bus ... errr, there is no back to this bus.The whole thing by local buses from Singakawang to Mandor then Pontianak was very easy, except for the cramped hot conditions.

The bus ride took 3 hours including window repair and a petrol stop at a very crowded station where we had to queue. During the wait, an old couple on the bus unloaded their bike from the roof and rode off as we were close enough to the city. As a nice surprise, the bus terminated in the centre of town rather than Batu Layang on the opposite bank outside of town (which saved me a taxi ride at a rip-off price). I walked into the swanky Santika Hotel dripping in sweat and couldn’t wait to hop into the shower.

For those of you who think that my travels are glamorous and hedonistic, today’s definitely wasn’t it. Travel isn’t all about beauty and pleasure; it’s also about seeing hard reality … including the ones that make me appreciate what I have in life.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Far-flung Chinese outpost

View 2012/13 Myanmar, Malaysia & Philippines on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_13571222937258.jpgSingkawang township at dusk.
My travel (pronounced truffle) picked me up at 1300 for the 3 hour (USD7) journey north to Singkawang. With a lunch stop and traffic, it took 4 hours. The scenery comprised forests, rice paddies, coconut groves, Kerala-like canals, homes surrounded by black water canals with people swimming and washing in them, and the brown sea as we neared Singkawang.

I was my first pleasant travel experience as more often, the Toyota Kijang would be packed to the brim making it less comfortable than a bus. Today I had the front seat and there was only one other passenger.

I got dropped off in the centre of town and found a cheap USD11 hotel with air-con, squat toilet and a tank-and-scoop bathroom. Immediately, the receptionist offered me girls. Seeing no success, he offered me gems (with a big sample on his finger).large_5550_13571222932261.jpgSingkawang mosque.Even though Singkawang is more Chinese (Hakka) than Pontianak, I wasn’t offered pork or dogs this time; only girls and gems.

There was enough daylight for me to wander around town briefly. I grabbed dinner in a restaurant; the stove was in the middle of the dining hall and was fuelled by charcoal. Takeaways were wrapped in big oval leaves, the ones that preceded plastic-and-newspaper in Malaysia before being replaced by styrofoam boxes.

The owner was rather chatty. We got talking and he said that his feel was that Indonesians were more patriotic than Malaysians. I agreed with him only to discover that he was referring to Indonesian Chinese’s patriotism to mainland China. Ooops!

Dinner was cheap at USD2 for a mixed vege with meat and seafood. A big beer was expensive at USD3.

I retired early again. There wasn’t much to do for nightlife here. Actually, Singkawang wasn’t so much of a destination in itself. It was an insight into a far-flung Chinese outpost, a glimpse of what Kuching was 40 years ago (or could still be if Sukarno had won the war). Plus the ride through the countryside was nice.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Life by the river

View 2012/13 Myanmar, Malaysia & Philippines on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_13571214282834.jpgAt the wharf in Pontianak.
I woke at 0400; the result of retiring too early last night and the early wakeup yesterday. I popped half a sleeping pill and that took me back into dreamland till 0700.

I enquired with the hotel about onward travel to Singkawang. As the bus station here is out-of-town (which requires a separate bus or taxi), a normally a door-to-door service works out cheaper, faster and more convenient. The earliest one they could find for me was at 1300.

So the morning was spent sightseeing across the river on the Siantan side of town. I took the boat across the Kapuas (Borneo's longest river) and visited the Sultan’s palace. He is still in residence but with Indonesia being a republic, he doesn’t have power or much dough; the place is rather run down.

I continued to the mosque and the village adjoining afterwards. In contrast to the centre of Pontianak [Pontianak-travel-guide-869006] which was very Chinese, this side is very Malay. Unlike much of Indonesia which I’ve visited, people do identify themselves as Malay (in other places, they’re proud to be from other races which in Malaysia have become assimilated into Malay culture, eg. Minang, Bugis, Acehnese).


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)