I have found my new favorite city in Malaysia.
It’s got caves and bats. There are steep rainforest hikes and huge amounts of cheap seafood. None of these things I care for in particular, but put them all together and through some kind of crazy adventure-math, it adds up to a fantastic city of outdoor fun.
Loyal readers will know I am less than sporty. As a matter of fact, I am the polar opposite of sporty. I have the amazing ability to be on the DL for injuries as wide ranging as bowlers’ elbow and Wii-exhaustion. As the internet informed me today, “my idea of roughing it is reading my book in an uncomfortable chair.” True. (I didn’t exactly know how to quote an internet poster I stumbled across on a pic dump site. Does one need to use quotes? Sadly, there were no references in my 7th edition MLA Handbook to point me in the right direction. Again, bookish. Not sporty.)
But Kuching, an all-around outdoors-y town is now the top of my Malaysia list.
The first full day we were in town, we decided to check out some local caves, with the help of a storytelling taxi driver named Edward. Edward, as far as we could tell, is a kingpin in the region. While we were with him, he got several calls trying to persuade him to be the director of the taxi driver association and he was summoned to his village for a meeting about building a long house in hopes of encouraging tourism to their part of the island. He’s in search of a gong for said longhouse and can retell the history of the island, from the original tribes to the white rajas to today’s present day politics in which Kuching has two mayors, splitting the town in half but creating a healthy competition that keeps it clean and safe. He’s got a lot of pans in the fire. Edward has info and he’ll share it with you, doling it out as appropriate. (Sorry, no orangutan stories on Saturday since those are for Monday morning on the way to the reserve. Patience, my friends. Let’s talk about coconuts and crocodiles instead.)
Edward took us to two caves: Fairy Cave and Windy Cave. Neither was appropriately named. Fairy Cave, while gorgeous, had neither fairies nor anything resembling them, but it did have beautiful cliff faces covered in moss and ivy and a natural skylight from which streamed mote-filled light. At times, we were the only people in the entire cave. It was amazing! (It was also a bit death defying, when it came to climbing down the narrow staircase, in the dark, under a low overhang, to get back out of the cave after our explorations.) And Windy Cave was not so windy. It should have been called Batty Cave. I’ve honestly never seen so many bats in one place in my life. Hundreds. Thousands. Maybe even hundreds of thousands. When we walked into the cavern entrance, it was the pitch blackness that struck first, but rather the sound: high-pitched squeaks- everywhere. It was incredibly loud as the little critters used their echolocation to find their way around the kilometer long cave. With flashlights (torches, in local parlance) in hand, we ventured forth, avoiding piles of guano on the walkway and making sure to keep our mouths closed when we looked up. There were big bats, medium bats and baby bats. It was a regular Goldilocks story in there! (That sound you hear in the video? BATS!)
Oh, and it was a wee bit sweaty as well. Imagine heat, humidity and an enclosed space. And the thing is, I’m not a sweaty person. Or at least, I didn’t think I was. But after climbing the stairs to the entrance of Fairy Cave, which sits halfway up a mountainside and then going in to discover much more climbing in my future, it was more than glistening going on. Then, Windy Cave had less wind than its name would imply, creating a rather stifling environment, great for creatures of the night, but not as conducive to this girl from the desert of southern Idaho. The advantage to my double-layered tank tops for the day was the inside one could soak up the sweat while I used the outside one to wipe my forehead.
It may not be pretty, but all the dripping was worth the sights.
On the way back to town, Edward informed us we should eat dinner at TopSpot, a huge outdoor hawker stall arena set up on the top of a parking garage. It may not sound glamorous, but it was actually a pretty cool venue and Thad ate his weight in seafood, which means it was a win for him! Dinner and icy cold pineapple juice under the warm Malaysian sky was a pretty perfect end to our first day in Kuching.
Stay tuned for day two, in which I (remember: non-athletic, pretty wimpy and definitely not outdoorsy me- hiking in a humid rainforest where half of the living things want to kill you) go hiking in a rainforest..