1 Wayang Street, 93000 Sarawak, Kuching, Malaysia
Tel +60 82238801
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The meeting point was at the Para Desa Borneo Discovery main office, which is right in the center of town, at 7,45. After explaining the formalities and safe measures and agreeing on signals to be used once on the road, our local tour guide Alfonso assigned each one of us with a bicycle and we were soon on the way for the half-day Kampong bicycle tour in Kuching outskirts to visit traditional Kampongs and the local market. Cycling at 8am is nice in Kuching since traffic is still not too bad at that time. Kuching roads are wide and cyclists can feel safe, in fact we felt quite comfortable straight away.
Before long we were passing central market, China street, India street and finally reached the jetty where Alfonso hailed a taxi boat; we loaded the bikes and off we went for the 5 minutes boat journey to reach the opposite bank of the Sarawak River. These small local taxi boats run from 6am to 10pm and have a nominal price range of 6 to 10 Ringgit.
The key of this tour are the Kampongs (Malay for ‘villages’): they were and in some cases still are home to Sarawakians; small clusters of houses built from wood and thatch and raised on stilts to avoid floods and creeping animals, nestled against a backdrops of idyllic greeneries surrounded by banana and coconut groves and marshes.
Once we reached the first Kampong, we cycled along narrow lanes surrounded by a quiet environment; some of the village wooden houses on stilts are more than 100 years old and have a flavor of times past. Houses’ courtyards have hens roaming in them and kids playing, on the inside women were cooking and there was a permeating smell of boiled bamboo in the air. Kampong houses were built along the river shore and are painted in bright colours; some are derelict and uninhabited and others nicely refurbished. On these small roads, traffic is practically inexistent and we were given time to cycle at our own pace, while Alfonso showed off his knowledge of the local area.
We crossed a wooden bridge and were soon within sight of a huge market, the Kubah Ria, hosted inside a modern roofed area inside which merchants proposed the usual exotic items you would expect in a local market: fruit, veggies, meat, a huge variety of fish and souvenirs, as well as unique jungle produce like wild ferns, exotic veggies, curative seeds, roots and orchid plants, all for sale at affordable prices. We were blessed to be there on a harvest celebration day and even watched a dance by local people in tribal attires. At the nearby food court, Alfonso treated the group to laksa, the local specialty: a popular spicy noodle soup from the Peranakan culture, a merger of Malay and Chinese elements. I had eaten laksa before, but this was particularly delicious, not so spicy and with a lovely pungent flavor; we washed it down with an icy cold Teh Tarik – tea with milk and sugar.
A chat with Alfonso revealed his passion for this profession and his being at ease with people, and this was indeed reflected in the level of entertainment and in the wealth of information and wisdom he transmitted to the group of cyclists during the whole 3 ½ hours tour.
Next destination, after crossing another series of wooden bridges and narrow passages where friendly local people waved at us and kids said infinite hallo, we found ourselves in a maze of lanes hosting a lovely residential area, where we stopped in a local house to purchase coconut water and a freshly squeezed sugar cane drink, and to socialize with the owners. The temperature started to soar and it was soon time to head back to town.
In the last 10 minutes we negotiated our way in the city traffic, which was not that bad after all. Back at the office, we congratulated Alfonso, made acquaintance with operational manager Mr. Law and were offered a freshly brewed coffee that we enjoyed in the lush courtyard of the Para Desa building, which also has a chill-out lounge and a guest house on the upper floors.
I felt privileged to be part of the Kampong bicycle tour in Kuching, to have been able to explore the other side of Kuching, one that very few outsiders visit, and to have seen the way the local folks live in traditional houses on stilts along the banks of the great Sarawak River. The bikes were great, 27 gears and all the necessary gear including helmets, and we were glad to be provided with a bottle of water! Alfonso is a local and an excellent guide with an impressive knowledge of the town sites and its surroundings areas.
Paradesa Borneo is a small and friendly business, very much efficiently run, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to any visitor to Kuching in search of a bit of safe and healthy adventure, be it an heritage tour or a bike/hike/kayak expedition.
Kampong bicycle tour in Kuching always ride, rain or shine:
Duration: 3 to 3 ½ hours
Tour package includes: bicycle, helmet, guide, drinks, refreshments.