Kuching, Lundu, Sarawak

Exploring West Sarawak

When we do not work…

or play beach-volleyball…

or enjoy the view…

or chillout at the campfire…

    

   

… we use our time to explore the surroundings.

   
One fine day a carpenter from Scotland named Dave who volunteers at Matang Wildlife Centre (22km west of Kuching) comes to finish work on some doors, handles, locks etc. Konrad, Karla, Leon, Joy and me borrow his car and decide to hike for an hour to the most beautiful waterfall in this region. What is shown on the photos is a mere fraction of what there is to see; there are trails following the river up up up to more than ten waterfalls, each more beautiful than the previous, providing spectacular views over the entire rainforest with semingly endless variations of green. Indescribable.

   

Refreshing pool at the end of the hike

   

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Kuching, Sarawak

Men of the forest

Before Joy takes her leave from Kuching and flies to KL we rent a scooter for a day and visit Semenggoh Wildlife Centre  It is located about 20km south of Kuching-la. At 3 p.m. the orangutans get bananas, pineapples, coconuts and sweet potatoes. Some of them come out to get food. Others don’t. We are lucky to experience the effortless smooth movements of these amazing creatures.

   

They branchiate (swing from branch to branch) and are many times stronger than human creatures.

Cute baby orangutan clinging to mama

   

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Burma, Mawlamyine

Some impressions of Pa-Auk Tawya Monastery

I went out searching for liberation in the forest, but that turned out to be crazy, because the truth is within oneself.

(Ajahn Buddhadāsa)

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Dark grey boulders, lush green landscapes, and a big blue sky

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Oh how I love to walk in nature and explore hiking trails!

Today I spotted many many animals. A frog sat on my left flipflop when I returned from the upper dhamma hall. A cock wandered around just outside my kuti. A squirrel came down from the forest to where I was practising walking meditation in the afternoon. A spider rested in its web’s centre. A bird flew right above me into the tree tops. An ant tried to crawl in between my toes and I wouldn’t let it. Four cute puppies licked my hands like their mommy’s tits and I’d let them. A butterfly stroked the earlobe of a man walking in front of me. A cat sat next to a nun having lunch. A mosquito found its way into my mosquito net cell. So many animals… and as for the humans, they’re spitting coughing burping farting chatting like there’s no tomorrow. Which in fact there is not – it’s always today.

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Foundation for another building, maybe a new dhamma hall?!

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Joey (Manila) and some bearded guy

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*chirp chirp chirp*

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Sunset from a hill near Pa-Auk Tawya Monastery

Days go by really fast here.

Two substantial meals per day. Eight hours meditation per day. A walk uphill to watch the sunset. Some chanting. Sound sleep. Some say: ‘If you want to live a spiritual life all you need to do is to go to bed early and get up early.’

That’s it? Maybe it is. It’s a good start for sure.

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Burma, Mawlamyine

Traveller mind, Tranquil mind

Now I have stayed at Pa-Auk Forest Monastery in the south of Mawlamyine. It was good. Good to settle down after some months of being on the move. Meditation schedule was as usual. Not too tight but tight enough.

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Noble silence was not taken too seriously. Many monks from China, Vietnam, Thailand, and also westerners. All in all about 400 people there in the woods. Staying in kutis (huts) and practicing ānāpānasati and/or four-elements bhāvana at the Dhammavihārī Sīma, the upper meditation hall.

After some days my roommates (from Myanmar and Germany) left and I had this relatively big and, what’s more important: silent place all for myself for the remaining 10 or 11 days. Upstairs one local monk’s residence.

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Sharing

Jungle Trekking Tour

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Mekong river at Huay Xai

After some nights at the border (HuayXai) I decide to leave my French friends one morning and head to Muang Sing. It is a small village near the Chinese border. Not much going on there.

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Muang Sing. Good place to do nothing at all.

I do not feel like renting a motor cycle at the moment to go north to the hills and do some trekking on my own. So the next morning I go to Luang Namtha. I meet the Canadian couple again. Like me, they find it hard to decide if it’s better to go trekking with or without a guide.

I rent a bicycle to explore the area and go to the waterfall (4 km from town).

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On the way to the waterfall … riding bicycle

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Lao road Lao truck Lao dog

I spend the afternoon there and meet two French guys. (In Laos, I meet many French folks in general…)

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Together we book a tour in the evening. So next day we start in the morning. The group consists of 6 people.

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We visit Lanten on Day 1 and a Khmmu tribe the next day. Sometimes we are greeted in a very friendly way, sometimes we are eyed suspiciously, sometimes regarded with indifference as just another bunch of passersby. The guides joking and explaining plants and animals on the way. Freshwater creeks to bathe in. Cooking with bamboo poles. Campfires at night. Simple and great food. Sleeping in the jungle with sounds of (rather big) animals in the darkness. Three days go by quickly. What stays with me are innumerable magic moments when nature reveals its beauty and its merciless way to the human heart mind.

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Getting provisions for the trek at Luangnamtha market, 9 a.m.

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Trail at noon

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Laughing with Lanten village children

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The next day. After spending the night in a Lanten village we venture deeper into the thicket of Lao jungle

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Swinging swinging so much phun

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Prepare tasty meals in a very simple way

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Mister Mii, a colourful guide

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Refreshment

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Where we spend the second night…

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“Sweaty business” someone muttered

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Nam Tha … nam means H2O and Tha means Tha haha

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Khmmu village

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Revising the cycle of life and death with Khmmu children

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Lunch and swim at Nam Tha before heading back to town after three days in the Lao jungle

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yeah that’s me in my element over there

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Pai, Thailand

SynchroniCity

This post is rather lengthy. Take your time. ไม่ดอ้งรีบ. You Are in Pai. Also known as Synchronicity although it rather resembles a town really.

On the way to Pai the minivan I am sitting in unfortunately hits a dog’s rear. A short rumble occurs which means the poor animal probably gets smashed under the left front wheel. This incident reminds me of the dog who was hit at Krabi when I hitchhiked to Khao Sok National Park. It was also hit at the tail end and then tried to reach the side of the road, crawling, whining desperately… my heart shivering. Mirror neurones firing away. I know how my butt hurts after three hours of sitting in a local bus, but this… well I have to accept the fact I can’t help the poor lad that is most probably expelled from the gene pool soon.

Ten minutes after arrival in the town of Pai I already found a place to put up my tent at a camp ground near Roots Bar. It’s hot. With the help of an Australian youngster named Theo it’s all set up in another couple minutes. Very helpful. Never before have I arrived somewhere and found a place to stay as easy and quick. For a week I stay here. Then I move to the other riverside.

It is hard to describe what happens here, and somehow I don’t want to… next to doing nothing for hours on end, here are some things I have done in and around this lovely town. Play table tennis. Share three delicious cakes with two lovely ladies at Witching Well. Enjoy bonfire at Roots Bar.

At the Pai Circus School I spend one afternoon at the pool and participate in a workshop. I get some advice on slacklining, learn to swing staff in the hot afternoon sun and spin fire in the evening. Bruises on right elbow and blisters on fingers say it was worth it. No photos of this afternoon. I was simply too immersed in learning a new skill. Sun sets over Pai. Kygo music enchants. Foot massage for a Brazilian girl. Read a good book about Burma. In a word: happy! And disillusioned by what’s going on in the neighbouring country. Life’s not a fairy tale.

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Swimming pool at Pai circus school (100฿ just to get in not worth it, there are better places to get wet)

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Preparation for fire-spinning this evening

When I wake up a nice lady and a cute puppy await me. At breakfast we meet Aron, a cool Californian.

Scootering Joy and me to the white Buddha uphill with a great view. On our way downstairs we give some bananas to the people working on the concrete staircase.

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White pink and blue buddhas 😉

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Bungalows and meditation hall at Open Mind Centre

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Sunset at Pai Canyon

In the evening we listen to Undercover Hippy (www.undercoverhippy.com) at Art in Chai. It’s open mic night and everyone is invited to share some story some poem or whatever. It’s like poetry slam but without the competitive touch to it. I like it. Chocolate brownie, too, hihi!

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Refreshing bath at a waterfall with a slide. Friendly people all around. Local children and travellers alike.

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On the way up to the waterfall we pass by a bar with pool table and pétanque area. Ganesh Bar it’s called. Good พัดไทย. Good mood.

In the evening when we arrive at Roots Bar (also campground, my resting place) I decide to get a bamboo tattoo. Oh yes. Sweet pain.

Morning yoga at Open Mind Centre.

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เนิบเนิบเป็นคนติดดิน …

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In the afternoon we eat some chocolate salty balls – put’em inya mouth n suck’em – in the shade at Earth Tone opposite Maeyen temple.

Helping Amanda, a canadian friend in need after a a scooter accident, to find a new place to stay, far away from all the noise, to cure her mind and body at Baan Din Doi Lisu (House Earth Hill Lisu) and Open Mind Centre. Lisu is a tribe living in the hills near Pai.

So many people here who come and have no clue how to ride a scooter. Or they are driving drunk. Breaking in curves. Not knowing how to deal with sand pitches. Let alone for the psychology of dealing with a highway cop patrol.

After sunset we settle down at the bonfire. The atmosphere has changed since friends left and some weirdo kids arrive. Conducting interviews instead of talking to one another from the heart. Hard to take. So after a couple days of big chill out the decision to move to the other riverside comes easy.

A tenant staying here for a longer period of time is the man from down under. With his attire and beard he looks like a twenty-sthg but he shows me his passport to prove he’s actually 18. Well, he has Greek roots he tells me… and also about his tattoo ideas on both arms. He had one made that reads ‘koi pen koi pai yim samme chun thon heng lisu’… meaning ‘slowly slowly always smiling the way of the lisu’).

Breakfast at vegan restaurant near the police station. Highly recommended. At the back their is a shrine room. Inside the restaurant no smoke no alcohol. Probly Buddhist proprietors. 35฿ for a proper meal. Excellent quality. I share black sesame which I got from Tom & Tim at Nan.

I go to pick up Amanda Dawn at Baan Din Doi Lisu. Half an hour by scooter.

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Bungalows (300฿)

We check out the waterfall together. Take a plunge in the fresh water basins. Some cows pasturing there, too.

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Ok, I won’t be afraid of you if you’re not afraid of me, ok?!

In the evening we pass by the Indiana cottage. Meet Leo (Bavaria) and Peter (Austria) there. And then Sarah, the ladyboy transcender we met on the first day in Pai, asks about our whereabouts and invites us to stay for free. After the strange atmosphere yesterday evening at the campfire she doesn’t have to ask twice. So the next thing to do is to move the tent and backpacks over there. With joy that’s done in about half an hour. We get a mattress and blankets from Sarah who’s in charge at Indiana cottage. Kind of. Funny guyle.

It is getting more and more difficult to keep up and write a diary. To keep track on what has happened.

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Joyce (Amsterdam) and me strolling the streets of Pai

With happy joy who cried last night we explore House of Pork (a veggie café, as you might have guessed) and a guy shows me how to juggle with four balls.

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We go to Om Garden with friends and have a great salad. Crawford, a slightly famous Scot (google Cambodia naked bike police chase) provides me with fresh coffee and serves it with a just-woke-up-ten-minutes-ago smile.

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Writing postcards at John’s exquisite & extensive bookshop in walking street

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Mr. Brown and Mr. White

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Delicious food at Om Garden Café

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Opening up the tent in the morning… dog gazing at me in … well.. almost lotus posture. Magic moment.

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My resting place at Indiana cottage (the tent I bought in Sukhothai for 700฿)

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Wake up bath in the Pai river

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A big smile and a great chai in the evening

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Dinner: bananas, chai and the best raw spring rolls ever!

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One evening we discover some kittens crying… we get a ladder and get them down from the attic…

Days are going by in a peculiar fashion. Not to do anything when you don’t know what to do is the best thing you can do. And it’s so easy to do exactly that around here. It makes it so much easier to decide on the things actually worth doing. I will give you some examples:

Afternoon I attended Muay Thai training. Exhausting
Indian dinner with a nice British couple at Bebe Spice. Marvellous.
Bonfire with Crawford, Demian, Joy and many others. Relaxing.
Fire-spinning performance by Demian. Incredible.

And then…
after what seems like a month – or completely beyond any time frame, for that matter – I take a bus to Chiang Mai … and on to Chiang Rai. Joy joins me. She has even let a train ticket go void cuz she wanted to spend some more days with me.

At the bus station I reencounter a couple I had met at Pai Canyon.

Joy and I arrive in the evening. At a Reggae Bar we get advice where to check in.

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Malaysia

Gorgeous Georgetown

So many cultures. So many varieties of food to choose from. So many places to check out. Such an amazing time we have here!

Time flies when you are happy.

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Tibetan Temple on Love Lane, Georgetown

After having explored on foot and by bike, I think it is a good idea to expand the horizon and check out the surrounding areas as well. Therefore, on Wednesday I rent a scooter to get around. No driver’s licence, no problem. Don’t get caught, that’s all. ‘You know how to drive? – Yessidosir. – Alright then.’

Move confidently into their midst.

Twenty minutes after leaving the bike dealer, I turn into Armenian Street and check out the Malaysian executive force. Neat. Tidy. Environmentally friendly. But with temperatures above 30, they gotta have a thorough sweat m8!

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The three men in black are police on bikes

I can’t possibly tell everything I see on my way. Let me just say it’s an intense day with a soaked T-shirt and pond-like roads at times. Hot and humid and a lot of road covered. Getting lost and getting an overview of the city in the process of finding my way again.

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Easy traffic on Carnarvon Road (chinese name: swampy road)

I drive around. I get lost somewhere in the south of the Penang island, in Jelutong. U-turn. Get lost again somewhere again. Trying to find my way. Woah man, so many three-lane jalan sehala, meaning one-ways. It’s confusing.

I rediscover the very temple we had seen when we went along with the bicycles the other day. It is up on a hill with a nice view. It starts to rain heavily in the afternoon. I spend the time walking mindfully at the adjacent gazebo until the temple opens at 4.30 p.m.

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A Hindu Temple with a very long name attached to it 😉

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Inside the Hindu temple

Is there still enough time to go to the Kebun bunga, the botanic garden? Sure there is. I mean, actually that was my initial intention, and the reason I rented a motosikal in the first place. Waterfall Road is just five minutes from the temple.

Immediately I feel at home here. I walk. Slowly I explore a gorge. And a Japanese garden, a herbal garden, orchid garden, a turtle lake, and a rainforest trail. Ahhhh…

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A formal garden

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Monkey island

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Imagine the sound, the smell, the humid air…

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Before I leave, i turn around and take this picture at Waterfall Road, the entrance to the botanic garden (taman botani)

After having returned the motosikal, I find my friends – like, naturally, telepathically informed – at Kassim Mustafa’s having dinner. Goes without saying I join in with a delicious roti banana and a fresh coconut. I sleep like a baby when I finally get home to Hotel Noble.

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