Here’s little piece I put together to summarise our trip in February. I remember sitting on the balcony talking to my sister-in-law about what the theme should be if I wrote a piece to submit to The Oz. It dawned on me as I flew out – it just had to be about the river
“We struck gold with an Airbnb apartment beside the Sarawak River in Kuching recently. The 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo 10 floors up in a modern block was spacious and airy. But best of all it had a very private balcony that looked out over the gently flowing tidal river, giving insight into local activities based on and around this life giving source.
We soon got to know the low chugging engine of the small commercial fishing boats as they headed out to sea each morning; the putt-putt of tiny dinghies used for transport and river fishing; the daily rushing of waves and loud commentary of the tourist cruise boat.
My room opened on to the balcony so no need for air-conditioning as the breeze kept me cool with the door left wide open all night. My pre-dawn alarms were the roosters in the village across the river and the 5am call to prayer from the large mosque on the opposite bank. This was my signal to brew tea, start up the lap-top and begin writing in those sacred hours before my companions woke, as the sun slowly rose and the residents of the river stirred for the day.
The relaxed city of Kuching owes its existence to the river and the industries it brings – agriculture, fishing, tourism, and transport. The promenade along its banks in the town centre draws local families for evening picnics and hotel visitors to stroll and take in the view. The city’s restaurants and hawkers stalls serve regional produce, with many dishes based on seafood sourced nearby. Small fish markets under canvas on the run down jetties sell all manner of fish – large and small, prawns and crabs. The ice factory on the banks fills the holds of the fishing boats as they prepare for their day’s journey.
Satok weekend market vendors’ proudly display their produce – grown, raised or caught on the surrounding countryside and waterways. Small stacks of intricately displayed fruit, vegetables and herbs are eye catching, fish precisely lined up in rows, cooked snacks offered for tasting, and the freshest tofu and noodles bagged ready for home cooking. Stall holders in this multicultural district are welcoming, happy to explain newly discovered items and indulge our curiosity and need for endless photos.
I could happily spend the rest of my days in Kuching, Sarawak – as long as I had that balcony with a view of the river.”