17.03.2013 - 19.03.2013
I love the idea that Ed was 'born in Borneo' even though he only moved to Australia when he was only 2 years old! Kuching is the capital of Sarawak and is on the banks of the Sarawak River on the northwestern part of the island of Borneo. Arriving late on Saturday night, we are met by Ed’s dad, ‘Pa’.
We cab it back to his city pad where we are staying. Over the next few days we will visit the grandparents and those relatives who couldn’t make it to Sydney for the wedding.
We are up bright and early for breakfast at ABC cafe, a local breakfast place and very popular with the locals. The menu is rice porridge, noodles and my favourite Malaysian food: Popia. These delicious little pancake rolls are sold all over Malaysia as snacks, filled with vegetables and tofu, chicken or prawns. A chilled glass of kopi peng - iced White coffee (sweetened) is the happy ending.
We go with the aunts to do some shopping and check out Plaza Merdeka, the city’s latest and glossiest shopping centre and the project of Ed’s uncle who we will see this afternoon. After a quick but tasty lunch of yum-cha style dumplings and fried seafood snacks, we are driven to Ed’s Grandma on his mother’s side, along with Aunts and cousins.
Grandma lives just a few minutes We arrive with bags of fruit and are served tea. Photos are shown as blessings and gifts are exchanged. We have a great time catching up but all too soon it’s time to say goodbye and make our way back home. Soon it will be dinner time and the aunts and uncles have special dinner plans for us. They take us to their favorite open air market which is flooded with locals. I am the only white person there. We devour plates and plates of noodles, chicken and other delicious and spicy dishes. Later we go back to Uncles and drink red wine. We fall into bed exhausted and over-full but happy.
The next day we will do an informal Ceremony for Grandad and wear traditional wedding outfits. The aunts pick us up early for a breakfast of Sarawak prawn laksa – just the thing you need before you pour yourself into a cheongsam! We go to Golden Arch cafe, reputedly the best laksa and kolo mee in town. Ed was in food heaven!
My cheongsam was made in Kuching on a previous trip. Happily it still fits in spite of endless gourmandizing. We got to Kuching's best Bridal Boutique for a quick glam over...
Grandad is 96 (in Chinese years) and a Malaysian Datuk. His home is set upon acres of landscaped gardens. The interior is simple, yet elegant, decked out in the finest silks, artifacts, art and carpets. The sitting room is all set up for a Tea Ceremony. We sit on the antique sofa and each hold one of Granddads’ hands as we sip the tea. He talks in Teochew (pronounced Dio-chu) to Ed who speaks back in Hokkien. I look on and try to follow the conversation but it’s hopeless. I feel so lame that I can’t contribute. Lip reading doesn’t work either since Grandad doesn’t see so well anymore. I sit back and try to read the body language to decipher what’s going on.
After the Tea Ceremony we head into town with Granddad and his entourage for lunch at Heritage, the best Chinese Restaurant in the heart of Kuching City. A swoop of waiters to deliver each dish. We feast on a banquet of Shark Fin soup (naughty but nice), Butter Prawns, spicy pork and various vegetable and tofu dishes, there’s just time for a quick rest and change before we head off for a traditional Malaysian dinner with Ed’s mum side of the family. I’m trying to restrain myself from pigging out which is hard because it seems impolite. These people take their food seriously. Not eating is not on. Silently I wonder how the freak I will cope with more food without exploding! Somehow I manage. Dinner is course after course of mind-bending deliciousness. Fish-head Currry, Wasabi Prawns, pork ribs and loads of other special dishes. What an extraordinary treat. By the time we leave Kuching we will surely be a stone heavier!
After dinner there’s time for a quick bar hop around the local area. It's not easy finding local bars but there are a couple of decent ones on the main drag with good music. When they fail us, we head to the Riverside Bar which is quiet but it’s nice to sit and catch up with the goss over a glass of red.
All too soon it is time to leave Kuching. Family obligations have made this trip speed by and there has been no time for sightseeing. We will have to wait until next time to visit the Kuching Caves and the Semenggok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre. Then we will take those x-rated Orang-utan pics we promised. Watch this space Jenny, Mel and Ange!