Next Adventure: Off to Bario, Sarawak !

Hey, guys! New year, new adventure !

First trip of the year and I’m off again (for work) to Bario, home to the Kelabit, the smallest tribe of indigenous people in Sarawak. They live high up in the mountains where farming is the main source of income. Travel by 4WD from the nearest big city, Miri, is a whopping 11 hours through logging trails and jungles, but thankfully we won’t have to be bumped and bruised coz we’ll be flying in with the rural air service by MASWings.

Credit: Public Domain

I’m quite excited about the trip as it’ll be my first time in Sarawak (visited Sabah last year – read about it here). Also, it sounds kind of rugged – hiking up the mountain, travelling in 4WDs on uneven roads, no water heater, cold weather, mozzies, that sort of stuff. I’m not really a backpacker – I like my creature comforts – so let’s hope I don’t fall sick after. I’m sure the experience will be worth it. 😀

There’s no cell phone reception in Bario so I can also kiss the Internet goodbye for a couple of days. In the meantime, enjoy the scheduled posts and I’ll be back soon! 🙂

Travelogue Penang: Fort Cornwallis, Georgetown

Fort Cornwallis was established in 1786 and was named after the British Governer-General in India, Charles Cornwallis. Although called a fort, it has never engaged in battle. It is the largest and most intact surviving fort in Malaysia and was built by the British East India Company to protect the island from pirates and any possible attacks from the neighbouring state, Kedah. The walls are built with a reddish-brown brick, and there are decorative canons surrounding the perimeter.

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Entrance.

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Sir Francis Light, founder of Penang.

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The fort is divided into several sections, including the main courtyard, some cubby-hole-like structures which used to be prisons, ramparts for canons, and the wall on top where visitors can stroll through. There is also an ammunition room, which was built to be very cooling, to house gunpowder. We hid in there for a few minutes for a brief respite, because the sun was merciless.

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The biggest and nicest cannon within the fort is the Seri Rambai, which has made a long journey to be here. Cast in 1603, the greyish blue cannon was a gift from the Dutch to the Sultan of Johor. While fighting, the Portuguese (who colonised Malaya from 1511 until the Dutch took over) gained possession of Seri Rambai and took it to Java, where it sat for a long time and was later given to Acheh and Kuala Selangor before finally being seized by the British and placed at the fort.

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Fort Cornwallis is not terribly large and there aren’t that many things to do within, but it’s still a nice place to visit, especially if you love history.

Entry is RM10.

FORT CORNWALLIS

Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang

Opening hours: 9AM – 10PM

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While you’re at it: Nearby is the Queen Victoria Clock Tower, built to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. As you can see from the photo, there are local elements to it like the big yellow ‘bulb’ on top which is influenced by Moorish designs and is commonly seen on mosques.

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Travel Blog: Garuda Wisana Kencana Cultural Park, Bali

 

We were supposed to go to the Uluwatu temple after our Padang2 beach excursion, but our guide Toto warned us that there were lots of monkeys and they were known to grab glasses from visitors. (All four of my fam wear spectacles, incidentally.) Mum decided not to go. I was kind of disappointed because I had been really excited to look at Bali’s famous temples. We ended up at GWK Cultural Park instead.

GWK (named after Garuda Wisnu Kencana) is a nice place to visit and well-maintained. The area used to be a limestone quarry which has been turned into a tourist attraction. Upon entry, visitors are greeted by huge statues of various animals seemingly made of copper, such as a rhinoceros, a pouncing tiger, etc.

Entry for all cars requires a fee (they even have a mini toll booth!) and entry for visitors into the park itself cost 400,000 rupiah (for the four of us). A little overpriced, but there were a number of things to explore. It is cheaper for local visitors, and there’s even packages that cover food at the local restaurant.

Elaborately carved statues greet visitors at the entrance to the park.

A wall motif depicting Garuda, a mythical bird-like beast in Hindu and Buddhist culture. Indonesia has long associated the local Javanese eagle as a representation of this bird, and the Garuda is also often used to represent many Indonesian cultural symbols (their football team, their airline, etc.)

We were lucky enough to be in time for a dance performance! Dressed in colourful costumes full of intricate detail, the graceful dancers performed a skit of sorts, with different characters appearing throughout the show. I marvelled at the amount of work their costumes had, and the soft grace the female dancers displayed in each of their movements.

(Left) Rangda – which is said to be an evil, mythical creature with long claws, and (right) is supposed to represent a lion (?) called the Barong, also a mythical beast but representing the good. The body of the lion had to be divided between two performers.

There are three main statues here, namely the above, the 20m high Lord Wisnu statue made of 4,000 tonnes of copper and brass. Nearby is a small spring where visitors can go to get blessed – for a small donation fee, of course.

“The statue of Wisnu is an illustration of the Almighty God in maintaining and caring all life and its being. The god Wisnu is the owner of Amerta in the form of water as the source of fertility , giving wealth and life to the universe.” – GWK website

 

 

Part of the Garuda sculpture, sitting at the Plaza Garuda. It is 18ms high.

The Plaza Garuda faces a huge space of carved limestone pillars and nicely manicured gardens. The space can also be converted into a wedding venue.

ADDRESS: 

Jl. Raya Uluwatu, Ungasan, Kuta Selatan
Badung 80364, Bali-Indonesia
Phone: 62 (361) 700 808

Open daily: 8AM- 10PM

gwkbali.com

Travelogue Bali: From KL to Denpasar

Bali has always been one of my go-to places on the list, so I was quite excited when the family and I finally got to enjoy a brief holiday together to this Indonesian island getaway. Beaches + fantastic art, history and culture, what’s not to like?

The flight from KL to Denpasar, Bali, took three hours.

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Arrival at Ngurah Rai International Airport. Their proud heritage and culture is apparent even before you’ve gotten down from the plane. The airport buildings are designed with strong Balinese influences, as can be seen from the slanting roofs.

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Taking a shuttle bus to the main building. The airport is fairly big. While queueing up for custom clearance, I overheard a traveller saying that a few years back, it didn’t even have air-conditioning

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Met up with our tour guide, Mr Toto. Toto is an elfin-looking guy with a slight build,  a crew cut underneath a cap and chequered shirts. He had a quick smile, friendly eyes and youthful looks belying his 42 years. Mom was like “Psst, he looks like Sudirman” lol. He picked us up in a multipurpose van (rent for three days including vehicle + tour was 1.2 mil rupiah -about RM338)

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First order of the day was of course.. lunch. Toto introduced us to a famous local shop run by an Indonesian Chinese family. It’s called Ayam Tulang Lunak Hayam Wuruk Malioboro, and is famous for fried chicken cooked in a special pressurized way that enables patrons to eat the bones. Whole. Even the big ones, with the dark reddish black bone marrow inside. The chicken was crispy, crunchy and tasty enough, but what really got me was the way the bones crumbled, like they were kerepek or something. Surreal. The manager there told us,“Kalau tak bisa dimakan, usah dibayar” (If you can’t eat it the bones, you don’t need to pay).

The chicken was topped with some fried flour thing, which was tasteless except for salt and pepper. We also ordered a fish which was steamed in various herbs, like serai, lengkuas, tomatoes and onions. The soup was really clear and flavourful.

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Taking in the sights around Denpasar town. It’s amazing how the Balinese celebrate their culture. Religious and cultural elements everywhere, from the shops to the buildings.. even something like McDonalds has carved features. The government buildings look like temples.  Above is a statue at the roundabout near the airport, dubbed the Ksatria Gatot Kaca – which depicts a legendary warrior, Gatot Kaca, on a chariot of horses. The statue is also believed to lend spiritual protection and safety for all incoming and outgoing flights.

More of Bali to come! 🙂