Kuching Day 4 – the docks area

I’ve taken to setting my alarm at 6am as a snooze button to the mosque across the river that goes off at 5am. This gives me a little more writing time before the others get up at 8.30-9.00. By the time the tea is made, the selection of cakes laid out and fruit peeled and diced, the sun is nearly up and I can just about see the keyboard without turning on the balcony light. The outline of a dark cloud is looming above so we might get a storm after the heat of yesterday. Just on sunrise the fishing boats chug past out to sea for the day and the birds start diving for morsels on the banks. Such a wonderful trip so far!

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Laura woke to some distressing family news and decided not to join us on the morning walk while she dealt with messages and international phone calls. Simon and I decided to stay close to the flat so we could return quickly if necessary. We headed off “like giraffe’s let out from the zoo for the day” as Laura describes us – gracefully weaving our way down the street, heads bobbing above everyone else. I was keen to explore all the sides streets that go down to the river from the main road outside our door. And of course, finding breakfast was a key task.

What a morning – so fascinating. At the end of each no thru road is a small jetty, many with boats tied alongside, or with fishing equipment scattered about or fishing industry sheds calmly going about their day’s business. First, we saw the back end of the Ice Factory where huge blocks of ice were sawn into slightly smaller chunks, loaded on to a truck and driven off. It was only later when we walked down the next road we saw the front end of the factory, which spans the whole block along the river. The truck load of ice was fed into a crusher, one block at time and used to fill sacks then quickly carted off to their destination. Another chute pumped crushed ice directly into the holds of the waiting fishing boats. Fit young blokes in gumboots were hauling and sliding these blocks of ice that would have weighed more than themselves, all the while water dripping everywhere as the ice melted under the hot sun.

We came across multiple boats tied alongside a run-down jetty, old men sitting intently mending nets, kids cleaning teeth over the side, cats lazing in the sun soaking up the fishy smells all around. A small market displayed the days catch right on the water’s edge, locals driving in to select the freshest prawns, crabs, and wide variety of small and large fish. Numerous food stalls and fancy fish restaurants lined the streets to feed the workers during the day and the late-night beer swilling tourists in the evenings. And all this virtually on our doorstep.

The Pender’s never pass a café or food stall without checking what’s cooking. Blessed with long legs. good constitution and amazing digestive powers there is never a time that is not suitable for snacking or sitting down to a hearty feed. After an hour’s walk around the docks we finally chose a Muslim padang restaurant with beautifully shiny silver vessels full of curry and a help yourself serving system. We ladled our plates high with fish in tamarind, eggs in chilli jam, many varieties of veg curries and some black iced coffees to wash it all down. A magnificent feast and we can totally recommend the City Station restaurant, which seems to be attached to the City Station Inn – so lucky guests who have this facility at their doorstep! (Meal for two with coffees less than AUD$10)

By now Laura had partially solved her problems and was almost ready for a walk but wasn’t in a rush so Simon and I continued on a mission to find a couple of places (food stops of course) that I’d read about, and to find me a map of Kuching and Sarawak. It’s all very well using google maps – such a wonderful tool, but I like to have the hard copy laid out in front of me in full, to plan a days’ walk and see what options are available for deeper exploring away from the city square. Of course, the tourist information centre was closed but a stationary store across the road proved fruitful and at great expense (AUD$6) a beautiful map was obtained covering the city on one side and the whole state on the other. Time to get my highlighter out!

The eating establishments I was on the lookout for were somewhere up behind the Hilton Hotel so we trudged up the short but steep hill alongside multi coloured shops and footpath constructions. In front of us at the top of the hill was a most magnificent bright red temple and a very colourful building opposite. Photo opportunities abounded on this little corner, trying not to get run over stepping out into the middle of heavy traffic to get a better shot. Don’t miss this spot if you’re thinking of a visit. Heading up around the corner I spied in the distance the place I was looking for -Warung Nusantara which has good reviews for roti canai. As were about the cross the road I spied some action down below us. It was mid-day, lunch time for office workers, and they were filing out of surrounding high rises towards a series of food courts in a dead-end alley. Follow the crowds I always say. So we did. Aah – the food on display looked amazingly tasty, if only we were hungry, but our massive breakfast had us beat. Asking about opening hours this was only a 9-5 Mon-Fri establishment so must mark this one down for the next visit.

Right – across to Warung Nusantra to check their menu. A fabulous display of dishes to help yourself to, a massive pot of rendang for you meat eaters who like that sort of thing, and a roti bar that operates 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Oh man – we’ll be back. It difficult to find places open all day so this one gets a big tick of approval and we start planning when we’ll bring Laura back here.

After a full morning of activities, we hot-footed it back to the flat, stopping via Chinatown to pick up a fresh warm steamed bun for Laura’s breakfast. Poor love – she’d only managed to find dried cuttlefish in the fridge in the way of savoury treats back home. A rest, some downloading of photos, posting on social media (as is mandatory these days) and a quick tidy up of the flat filled in a few hours as the heat of the dissipated and we felt strong enough to venture out for a late lunch.

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It was Laura’s choice and she suggested the Indonesia café a few blocks away – good decision. Sarai Minang looked a bit flasher than the places we usually frequent but it passed the test of no walls (open front) and no air-con and we feasted on a lovely spread ordering far more than we needed. A group of resident cats helped polish off the small morsels we left. They spotted us a mile off and moved in from the streets as soon as dishes were placed on the table!

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The afternoon was still quite hot today after the lovely overcast weather of previous days so we opted for a shopping centre/ department store experience in air-conditioned comfort. An hour or two later we emerged from the Riverside store armed with handbags, sheet sets, shoe racks, tooth paste and who knows what else. We contemplated taking our shopping bags back to the flat but were close to the promenade and the promise of the Friday Night Market we’d read signs for called us over. It was just on sunset and even though the market was a bit of a fizzer it was lovely out and a great spot for people watching. We even saw some whities like ourselves for the first time on the trip.

Feet sore, limbs aching, shopping bags getting heavier and bladders filling we walked as far as we could along the river bank back to the flat. We’d decided after our huge breakfast and lunches that dinner was not required and perhaps a beer might suffice next door at the Petanak Market. Divesting ourselves of baggage we hopped across to the market and of course sat down to a selection of dishes selected from various stall around – just to help the beer go down of course. And while we were there planned tomorrow’s nights’ dinner at the same place from the fascinating cabinet of things on sticks to smother with satay sauce.

Close to bedtime at 9.15 we staggered down the stairs, stopping at the new cake stall that had set up since we’d arrived. I never seen such a fabulous array of keuh in one place. Oh, what to choose to compliment the fridge full I had already back home. Foot weary and emotionally drained for some, our lounge room was a welcome place to drop, sit, drink camomile tea and try out our sticky cakes before collapsing into bed. So much more to do and see and eat tomorrow.

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 While writing this morning at 7am gentle rain began falling but my balcony table is sheltered. By 8 the sky had cleared and it looks like a cool day ahead. Magic.

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