Tag - borneo

Borneo on a Budget- Malaysia

Borneo is a dream destination for many travellers, and it can be quite an affordable place to visit in the Sarawakian city of Kuching, the Malaysian word for cat.

Malaysia's Cat City- Charlotte Baird

Malaysia’s Cat City- Charlotte Baird

Borneo doesn’t seem to do ‘budget’ very well on the surface, certainly not compared to other, more well-known countries on the South East Asian backpacker trail. However, Kuching in Malaysian Borneo has started to appreciate what budget travelers are looking for in terms of both accommodation, and not charging over- inflated entrance fees for its prime tourist attractions.

Getting To Borneo

Air Asia, amongst many other airlines, flies direct from Kuala Lumpur’s Low Cost Carrier Terminal into Kuching, so Borneo no longer has to be quite such a distant and removed destination for budget travellers. It also means it is possible to catch a glimpse of the island cheaply and quickly as a short diversion from a journey around mainland South East Asia.

Accommodation in Kuching

Kuching is one of the only cities in Borneo that has started to cotton on to what backpackers are looking for, even though it will still be a bit of a shock to the wallet for those used to paying only a few US dollars for a bed for the night.

Two hostels that seem to be the best value for money are the Waterfront Lodge, situated as the name suggests, right in the heart of Kuching’s waterfront tourist attractions, and Singgahsana Lodge, close by. If neither of these options appeal, there are numerous other small bed and breakfast hotels dotted around the back streets close to the river to choose from.

City Center Attractions

Most of Kuching’s museums are free to get into, including the Natural History Museum, Art Museum and the Ethnology Museum. Fort Margherita, a picturesque legacy from the 1800’s and the days of the white Rajah’s of Sarawak, is also free, and it only costs 1 Ringgit for 2 people to get across to the other side of the river to see it. Kuching is a very pleasant city to stroll around, browsing the local handicraft shops and galleries and generally soaking up the relaxing atmosphere, a cheap way to spend some time unless you make a purchase, of course!

Budget Options For Eating Out In Kuching

Kuching is positively littered with cheap Chinese and Asian restaurants. Zhun San Yen Vegetarian Food Center, for example, is a haven for non-meat eaters or fans of Chinese food. They charge 1.5 ringgit per 100 grams of food taken from the buffet of over ten dishes. A full plate of food for one person came to just over 5 Ringgit, equivalent to less than two US dollars. Other cheap options to suit any taste or dietary requirement can be found in the large number of stalls and street-side cafes littering the waterfront and maze of back streets.

Orang-utans – Borneo’s Prime Tourist Attraction Semenggoh Orang-utan rehabilitation center is likely to be one of the most costly days out for a budget traveller, but even this must-see attraction does not have to cost the earth. It is easily reached from town by bus for those who are really watching their cents and dollars, or a taxi can be hired for the return journey, including waiting time, for as little as 80 Ringgit for the car, (approximately 25 US dollars.) Sharing expenses like taxi fares between at least one traveling buddy makes some of the expensive attractions a lot more affordable. Semenggoh certainly works out to be a lot more affordable than some to other wildlife experiences on the island, for example, Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary in neighboring Sabah charges over ten times Semenggoh’s entrance fee of 3 Ringgit per person, including permission to take a camera in, and still involves a taxi journey several kilometers out of town.

Spotting Proboscis Monkeys In Borneo

Proboscis Monkeys, cr-adventures.com.sg

Proboscis Monkeys, cr-adventures.com.sg

Macaques, Monitor Lizards And More in The Brunei Rainforest

Spot some of this threatened species and other wildlife unique to the island of Borneo in the quiet sultanate of Brunei. Proboscis monkeys are rarely described as beautiful. Their prominent, pendulous noses distinguish them from other types of monkeys, and they are often overlooked by visitors to Borneo in favour of their more famous and more attractive relations, the orang-utan.

In fact, the country and city where there is the most chance of spotting these distinctive creatures, Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei, is also often overlooked by tourists, as most visitors to Borneo hurry eastwards towards the Malaysian state of Sabah, in search of more well-known animal inhabitants of Borneo, Pygmy Elephants and Orang-utans.

Brunei – Home Of The Proboscis Monkey.

This slightly unusual looking primate is endemic to the banks of the Brunei River that snakes lazily through Brunei’s capital city, and is one of Borneo’s many wildlife treats that should not be overlooked. It is not widely known that Brunei has the world’s largest population of Proboscis monkeys and an easy and cheap way to spot these delightful creatures is by taking an early evening boat ride down the Brunei River.

Brunei is a tiny country, so it does not take more than a couple of days to check out the sights that Bandar Seri Begawan has to offer. In the centre of town, book one of the local boatmen to take the trip downriver, as this will be much cheaper than trying to organize a similar trip through a tourist agency. It is easy and quick to organize, and the trip should not come to much more than 10 Brunei dollars per person, (around 7 or 8 USD.)

Kampong Ayer – Brunei’s Water Village

Boats will usually set off from the centre of town, opposite Yayasan Shopping Centre and close to the impressive Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque that dominates Bandar Seri Begawan’s tiny city centre. The trip always includes a brief tour around Kampong Ayer, Brunei’s famous water village, and can sometimes include a look inside one of the village’s typical houses as well, upon request.

The water village itself is a maze of wooden boards and seemingly ramshackle houses, a surprising number of which boast satellite dishes attached to the outside and other evidence of all the mod-cons not usually associated with a water village. The village also has all their own amenities such as several schools, a fire station – manned of course by boats, a police station and restaurants.

Wildlife Spotting On The Brunei River

After the tour around the water village, the boat will head south in the direction of the Malaysian border, past the Sultan’s place and into the thick mangrove tree-lined river that a large number of Proboscis monkeys call their home.

The boat drivers are well trained to spot any animal movement in the trees or pick out even the smallest glimpse of scales resting on the river banks – crocodiles, monitor lizards and snakes can all be spotted easily along the river as well. The engine goes quiet, and the boat driver guides the boat silently into a nook hidden between the mangrove trees until some tell-tale rustling leaves give away a hiding place.

Although animal sighting cannot be guaranteed on most wildlife spotting tours, it is extremely likely that proboscis and macaque monkeys will be spotted along the river banks, and more often than not, a large monitor lizard will be pointed out perched ominously over the roof of the boat on a low hanging branch.

An easy and affordable way to spot some of Borneo’s wildlife away from the large tourist crowds.