Out of our almost-three-weeks in Borneo, we spent 8 days in Kuching and the surrounding areas. The city itself is smashing – nice river (see below), rad buildings, cheap vegan chinese food – but the ample opportunities for day (or two) trips are what really make the place.
After a couple of days orangutan-spotting and wandering in Kuching, we headed to Bako National Park, an easily accessible park just out of Kuching.
We stayed at the in-park hostel for a couple of nights, hiked our butts off, and hung out with these wang-nosed weirdos.
Catch the red number 1 bus from Kuching (it leaves from the main bus stop, near the Mosque, and stops a few times along Main Bazaar. First bus at 7am, last bus back at 5:30pm) to Bako Bazaar. Price: 3.50 MYR ($1.20USD) one way. Time: 45mins
From there, you’ll need to catch a boat to the park. Price: 94MYR ($31USD) return for four (the maximum allowed in one boat), 70.50MYR ($23.50USD) for two*. Time: 20mins.
(*sorting out the boat is a little more complicated than it needs to be; you need to book your return trip when you leave, so if you decide to/not to stay at the park, or change your mind about times, it gets a bit messy. They will try to help you find someone who is staying as many nights as you to team up and half the cost.)
On our first day, we did a few short trails:
Paku Beach: Short, easyish, and mighty popular. The beach was pretty, but absolutely crawling with people. Distance: 1.5km Time: 1 hour return
Pandan Besar: A short, steep climb, followed by some lovely flat stuff, then downhill to a cliff, overlooking a pretty wee beach. Distance: 1.9km Time: 1 1/4 hours return.
Ulu Assam: Short and steep again! The viewpoint at the end is nice enough. Distance: 1.3km Time: 1hr return.
On the second day, we went for one biggy:
Big Loop: The big loop is actually kind of a combination of other trails. Start at the Lintang trail, turn off and follow the Tajor trail to a beautiful waterfall. After a swim (do it!) in the red water (it’s clean but full of tanins) there you have the option of a short, steep side trip to a secluded beach (again, do it!). From there, follow the Bukit Keruing trail through some fairly rugged, rooty jungle. Then onto the Ulu Serait trail and back to the Lintang for a nice, downhill finish. Luckily, the abundant signage and spray-painted trees make this trail much easier to follow than I’ve made it out to be. Distance: 13.5km Time: 5 1/2 hours (including a 1/2 hour swim stop at Tajor Waterfall and the 20min side trip to Tajor Beach)
As soon as we arrived at the park, we came across a couple of wang-nosed weirdos (more formally known as proboscis monkeys) jumping around on the dormitory roofs. While we never saw them quite so active again, we did regularly spot them in the trees around the park headquarters.
We also saw…
Millions of marauding macaques (and I mean marauding. Those guys are sneaky):
Plenty of placid pigs:
Lots of lovely langurs:
The food at the park cafeteria was… adequate. Not the best we’ve had, but plentiful and cheap (especially considering the monopoly the place has). Rice, limp, old fries, noodles, a couple of vege dishes, curry, etc. For breakfast, they did have baked beans, which I, for one, was rather excited about. The staff members were also happy to give us hot water for our cup ramen. The ones that the monkeys didn’t swipe from our table when we turned our backs, that is… Price: pay per scoop. We paid about 7MYR ($2.30USD) each per meal.
There are a couple of accommodation options near the Park Headquarters; 3-bedroom chalets, 2-bedroom lodges, 4-bedroom hostels, and a camping ground. We went for the hostel option. Although securing our room on arrival was a little trickier than expected (hotel guy said it would be fine to show up on the day, jetty guy said it would be okay to go straight to the park and ask there, park lady said she couldn’t take bookings without checking with jetty guy, blah, blah blah) we ended up with a 4-room dorm to ourselves for 42.40 MYR ($14USD) a night.
Reading Tripadvisor reviews would lead you to believe that the park accommodation is (and I quote) ‘very very bad, Never ever.’ We thought it was completely fine– basic, but clean, and in an absolutely unbeatable location.
Bako was fantastic. Accessible, relatively cheap, beautiful. We’ve had mixed experiences with jungles, but Bako (as Ahimsa said) redeemed them for us. Go there! The wang-nosed weirdos are waiting.