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Something the Locals Won't Tell You: Kuching is a Hiker's Paradise

February 3, 2014 at 1:45 PM | by | ()

We boarded bus K21 in the Kuching City Center ($1.33) and rode out to Kubah National Park, arriving about an hour and a half after the gates opened at 9:30 a.m. When we approached the hut at the gate to pay the entry fee (approximately $6) and were asked to sign in, we noticed that our name was the only one on the sign-in sheet.

An avid hiker, this couldn't have pleased us more, the thought of having the whole park to ourselves. We went off into the jungle wilderness for the next few hours, hiking to and swimming under waterfalls, spotting pitcher plants, ekor buaya palm trees (which are used to make roofs), and stingless bees. But the biggest surprise came when we exited the park later at 2 p.m. -- we were still the only person in the park!

As you can see on the map, there are about a half dozen parks within a two hour drive of Kuching, yet, when we were meeting locals throughout the town, everyone seemed to be confused about our jaunts into the jungle outside the city limits. No one seemed to know what we were talking about. Finally, after several days of watching people draw blanks, we pressed for an answer: Do locals really not like to hike?

It was the waitress at a restaurant that finally set us straight, confirming that, for the most part, locals indeed do not take advantage of the wilderness that surrounds the city and engulfs Borneo. Why? Because their families -- aka their parents and grandparents, and, in some cases, themselves -- came from the jungle. Borneo has a long history of jungle tribes, including the Iban who still live in longhouses today, and now that this generation has moved into the modern world, there's "no reason to go back."

It was, without question, just as moving as it was enlightening, and we had the opportunity to visit such a community at the end of our trip, which we will dish on later this week. It was extremely interesting to see the separation between the young and the old when it came to how life should be lived, about whether it was a good thing that the tribes were beginning to move into the modern world.

We always recommend to play along with the locals in a destination, but this is one case where we have to make an exception. The natural scenery is the reason you go to Borneo, and while Kuching is slowly developing from a small town to a small city as far as opportunity and entertainment go, exploring the rainforest is an absolute must.

With all the options, where should you start? You can find the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia, at Gunung Gading National Park; orangutans at the Semenggoh Nature and Wildlife Center; and roller-coaster trails at the aforementioned Kubah National Park.

[Photos: Will McGough]

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