What’s it all about?

This week is all about Kuching, known as the ‘Cat City’. I’ll be exploring some local landmarks as well as witnessing the largest flower in the world! Come along on my journey as I trek through the rainforest and work up a sweat in the National Parks. I’ll also be mentioning how I got on teaching here. Did I finally make some money after being unable to teach in Mabul? Read on to find out more!

Kuching: Getting there

After a morning of diving, we left Mabul, and within a couple of hours we were back on dry land in Semporna. Here, I was pleased to have some internet and to catch up on my emails. As I mentioned last week, the internet here wasn’t great and definitely not strong enough to use for teaching.

Following a good night’s sleep in Semporna we had a lay in, leaving Semporna at around lunchtime to head to Kuching. I love afternoon flights, as I always feel like everything instantly becomes so much more laid back. Plus, this gave me even more time to catch up on my work and emails! It’s also surprising how just a few days of not keeping up with work can lead to so many lose ends to tie up and emails to respond to!

The Airport in Semporna was really small! But, on the plus, the WIFI was pretty good! As the flight was only short, I took this as another opportunity to continue catching up on my work. Then after the hour flight, we landed and were soon heading onto another plane for our second flight. The second flight was only 2 hours but it seemed even quicker than the previous flight.

Kuching: Cat City – What’s it like to work here?  

With a culmination of travelling to Mabul, then to Semporna and then flights to Kuching, it meant that I had lost almost a week’s worth of work! I had to catch up. As it seemed far more built up than it did in Semporna with lots more buildings and a much more urban feel, I had high hopes for there being a good WIFI connection in Kuching. The first thing I did in our new hotel apartment was to run a speed test. I was in luck! The download speed was above 20 Mbps and the upload above 5 Mbps.

Feeling good in the warmth and having a nice glow to my skin, I had to take a picture so I could put a face to this IQBar blog. Being very warm, the pictures turned out alright but then I realised I had my shoulders out and that this would not look professional. One thing that is always important to remember, is that you need to have appropriate dress when teaching online, even when you’re travelling. There’s no excuse. As the majority of IQBar’s students are from China, it is best to ensure that you cover your shoulders. I always make sure I have ‘work’ clothes set aside. Even if it’s warm, plan appropriate clothes. I tend to opt for a t-shirt, so that way I’m covered and comfortable but not sweltering!

Kuching: Cat City – What’s it like here?  

Though it’s busier in Kuching it doesn’t feel overwhelming. There are lots of things to do in the area too. One of the first places I opted to visit was the Orchid Garden along the river. On the way I couldn’t believe just how many cat ornaments were there. It’s no wonder that this place is known as the Cat City.

The orchid garden was small but so cute. There were plenty of pretty lovely red and pink flowers on the trees and it felt really laid back. As the gardens were free to enter, I appreciated them even more! Also, the smell here is enchanting! I really wanted to bottle it and keep it with me forever! I couldn’t believe the variety of orchids in here. Such a vast selection of colours and sizes. One even had a leopard print patterning. There were also some amazing tree stumps that had plants growing out of them. I thought it was so cool to see orchids growing off the bits of wood.

After an afternoon of exploring the orchid gardens, we’d worked up an appetite and wanted to try some popular local delicacies. We opted for the Sarawak Laksa. With bean sprouts, noodles, shredded chicken, prawns, spring onion and a slight kick of chilli, I was in love! This was so tasty! I even learnt how to use the spoon to catch the drops as I ate my Laksa.

To get to the Orchid Garden and to get back, we had to use the GIANT bridge that crosses the river.  The breeze that we had on here was well received, especially with how hot and sweaty we were from walking. In my opinion, the bridge resembles the national symbol, the bird. Take a look at my pictures, what’s your opinion?

Kuching: Visit the smelliest flower? Why not?  

We found the buses to get to the ‘smelly flower’ a little difficult to book. Though we’d arrived early one day, the buses were sold out for that day already, so we had to return another day to continue our pursuit of finding the smelly flower!

The day had arrived for us to hunt down the large, smelly flower! I was prepared with braided hair and the weather was absolutely chucking it down! It took around 2 hours for the bus to drive us to the bus station near to the park and then from there we shared a taxi with other travellers up to the national park.

At the National Park, we combined our money with the other travellers to invest in a guide, who would take us to where the flower was in the bloom. So, this smelly flower that I keep mentioning is known as the Rafflesia flower. It’s one of the world’s largest flowers and also one of the smelliest! I was so glad we invested in the tour guide as I don’t think we would have tracked it down on our own. We were also super lucky to find one that had 6 petals – which is apparently really rare! We then found another that was slightly open, with a dead one right next to it. It was fascinating to find out that this flower that was only slightly open would open more in the few hours we would spend at the National park. It takes a mere 18 hours to bloom. So, on our way to the exit at the end of the day, we returned to the flower that had started to bloom and it had in fact opened more.

Bako National Park

We caught a ‘Grab’ from Kuching to Bako Harbour where we then took a nice boat ride along the murky waters. I was so shocked at how high the front of the speed boat went as we ripped through the water!

After the short boat ride we arrived at the National Park, and after walking to the main centre and checking in by telling them our chosen route to explore, we were off! There is the option to pay for a tour guide here but instead we opted to free-style. Just as we were about to begin our trek along out selected routes, we noticed some movement in the nearby trees that lined the beachfront. Proboscis monkeys, eating and playing right by us! I was so pleased, what a great start to the day! They were really chowing down on the leaves on the branches and I couldn’t believe how long their reach extended. I wanted to get close but not too close. Again, like when I experienced the encounter with the orangutan, these are wild animals and in my opinion it’s best to let them ‘do their thing’.

One thing I have to point out about this day was the sheer amount of climbing! We climbed…A LOT! We were often climbing up narrow planked stairways and root systems or stepping between rocks. It was moderately intense. It wasn’t long before I noticed how sweaty I had become. Even my arms were shimmering. I was so relieved I’d opted for a loose-fitting top, trainers and a baseball cap and braid kind of day. Though you are covered by the dense forest, the heat and humidity mean that it’s not only you that’s sweaty but the forest itself is also dripping.

What’s it like to work here?

One of the handy things in Kuching is that you’re pretty much always within a 5-minute walk of somewhere to eat food or buy food. So, I would often teach and then schedule in a break so I could go and get a snack and get some fresh air. As the time zone is the same here as in Beijing, it means you have the day for the odd few lessons or instead where you can make the most of taking in and exploring where you are. Then, you have the evenings to knuckle down and work either before or after you eat. But, remember to eat! One thing I always found tempting was to book myself in from 3-10pm, and then I’d be starving! Always factor in food breaks, it’s also important for you as it will help to keep you energised and on the ball.

Though I had the local sim here, which worked great, I had to keep getting new sims as I couldn’t find sim-only contracts with as large a data bundles as I had in the other places I’d visited. However, sims were super easy to get hold of here and the people in the shop would set them up too, simple! I didn’t really have to use the sim whilst teaching as the hotel WIFI was strong enough to support my lessons. The lighting here however was much like in other hotels I had experienced, not great. I ended up rearranging the furniture so I could use the 2 bedside lamps to try and ensure my face was well lit. I also stuck myself in the corner of a room so that I had a wall I could use as a background to make my teaching environment a bit more child-friendly.

What’s up next?

Back with my feet on the ground, I was able to make some money whilst in Kuching. Next week I head to Kuala Lumpur. My final stop before returning home where I start to maximise my income ahead of my next set of travels. 

Have you got any questions or want to share your stories? Then send them my way! You can contact me at – travellingteacher@iqbar.net .