Since we were staying in Damai and not in Kuching, we decided that it was a good opportunity to explore Damai and the kampungs around, something different from Singapore.
As we were by the sea, we rented a boat to view the Irrawaddy dolphins that live in the bay at Damai. The dolphins are unlike the more common long-nosed dolphins. We spotted them very soon as they surfaced noisily up for air in pairs. Although I do not condone feeding wildlife, I didn’t stop the boatman from purchasing some fishes from a nearby fishing boat and throwing the fishes into the sea to lure the dolphins to us. After all, he had good intentions and this is after all, his territory.
After some time, the boatman took us on a tour to the nearby mangroves, hoping to spot Proboscis monkeys living there. These monkeys with long nose usually appear in the cooler evening and not in the late morning so we were not too hopeful, but my sharp-eyed boatman pointed out some activities in the far distance, and I spotted some golden-colours amongst the greens.
The boat trip took us along meandering canals through the mangroves, and we sighted a colourful kingfisher. It’s such little things that bring pleasure to our trip.
Near the entrance to the mangroves are schools of huge jellyfish, bobbing up and down with the current. The boatman said these are harvested and processed in a nearby factory for export to China, as the Chinese love these delicacies. That was when I connected the creatures in the green sea to the food on the cold plate appetizers during Chinese wedding dinners.
My resort is situated near Kampung Santubong, a small village of about 300 residents. The name Santubong is Chinese – three pigs kumpong. Many of the staff working at our resort live here. Singapore has only one last remaining kumpong left and that kumpong charges entrance fee, so we took the opportunity to visit this village which hopefully will leave some memories for Aaron.
Mount Santubong, at 800m, is the highest mountain in Kuching. Climbers who succeed in climbing to the summit receive certificates from the ranger’s office and I badly wanted to attempt it. (Now I am into collecting certificates, no matter how trivial the task.) Unfortunately, my companions refused and only agreed to a two-hour forest hike. The hike was relatively easy as we followed the ribbon markers along the track. Rainfall is scarce in June and the waterfalls were not as majestic as we had hoped.
Still, this hike was a good practice run for what was to come in Mulu. We met a group of four rangers at the waterfalls and we had a good chat. Sarawakians are such friendly folks.
Overall, our choice of accommodation at Damai instead of Kuching was a blessing, as we got to experience doing stuff we won’t get to do in Singapore. So instead of binging on food in Kuching as we had planned, we spent hours on long walks through forest, kumpongs and beaches. That’s what I call a vacation indeed.