Sunday, April 8, 2012


We just spent three days in Borneo - an island that has two states of Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak), one state of Indonesia (Kalimantan - which also happens to be one of my all-time favo(u)rite words), and the entire country of Brunei. We had flown there three years ago to get to Sipidan, but we had not yet been to Kuching.

Whenever we had a three day weekend in the last five years, I put together a spreadsheet of our options for where to go. We have to go somewhere, because I literally go crazy if I stay in Singapore longer than a month or so. Kuching and Kota Kinabalu always come up as cheap options, but we always decide that we can go another time, and the timings aren't ever ideal. This trip was actually planned for Chinese New Year this year, but we had to go to the US for my we begged the airline and the hotel, which we had already paid in full, to let us switch for free - you know - for my health. So we switched both to the next long weekend, which was Easter.

All was good. For two weeks. Then someone asked us what we were doing for Passover, and we looked at our calendars, and we realised that we're going to Kuching for Passover! While my husband goes back and forth about caring about these things, I very admittedly DO care about Passover and about creating these family traditions, and teaching them to Samara. Last year was my first Passover (EVER!) away from my family. I have always done Passover. Always done seders. Not only was I not going to be with my family (my mom had 27 people last night, though having us might have thrown them over the edge...), but I wasn't even going to have a seder or Passover at all. At first I thought about pretending and doing something while we were there, but then I remembered that it's Malaysia, and it would just be really weird - since we were going on holiday - on Passover. Turns out that we went with another Jewish couple, and we also spent time with our other Jewish friends while we were there - so I felt a little less bad. At least we weren't the only ones.

Meanwhile, while we were there, we had a fantastic holiday.

We got there on Thursday night, and Friday we headed off with Jeremy and Maria to Bako National Park. Once we hurried to get there...we waited...for over an hour for the tide to rise. We finally got on a boat with four random people (a super hot pilot and his fiancee and her parents - from Iceland!), and we left for the half hour boat ride. There was shade. There were life preservers (that's more than we can usually say on boats in these areas...). We weighed our options for Samara - we decided that keeping her in the carrier would be safer, as there is a higher chance that she would jump over the edge than the boat going down without us being able to get her out of the carrier. She was happy to just sit there, on the seat, in the framed carrier. After about 15 minutes, we stopped. I recognised this feeling. We were grounded. All of the boats around us were going slowly, with their props raised a bit - but they were going. Not us. We thought about getting out and walking, but there are crocs. Nope. Well, we just waited for the water to rise and take us up with it. It did. It took us a mere one hour to get there. We had a really fantastic hike that was quite challenging - especially for Matt since he had Sam on his back - but GORGEOUS - and it ended at a beautiful beach. We had planned to hike back, in time to get back on the boat before the tide went back down, but when we got to the beach, there were boats waiting for us. It was the best 35 ringgit we have ever spent. We had a relaxing lunch and coffee instead.

That night, since we were not doing a seder, we went all out. We had awesome pepper crab and amazing grilled prawn. Sam sat nicely and played with stickers (she nearly kept Passover).

Saturday we got out early to get to the orangutan rehabilitation centre before 9, the feeding time. We got to see around 4 or 5 of them, mostly hanging high in the trees. Seeing the orangutans on Sumatra was a life highlight. We were alone in the woods - just us and the hairy dudes. This was totally different - there was a platform to watch, there were about 200 other people, there were ropes hanging in the was totally staged - although the orangutans are still free to roam the whole, huge park - so it's not like the zoo. It was cool to see them all over the high trees, but it was not as cool as the last time.

After this we walked all around Kuching - Matt loves shopping for stuff. We had some super yummy kopi ice and some fabulous kuay teow (hey - if the Sephardim eat rice, do they eat rice noodles?) and we saw the Indian neigbhorhood and also Chinatown. It's a cute little city. Matt and I generally call Malaysia the armpit of Asia, but this was different. Perhaps Borneo Malaysia is different to peninsular Malaysia? We liked it.

After swimming, we met up with Jeremy and Maria as well as Francesca, Bernard, Lilah and Isaac and went to a place called Junk. It was definitely not junk. The food was super good. We had pizza (it was thin crust - is that like matza?) and amazing salmon. Sam ate so much pizza. Lilah (4.5) and Isaac (2.5) played with Sam, and all the kids were amazing. It was really nice.

This morning Maria and Jeremy and Francesca and Bernard and family went off to do their own things with their additional day - we headed back earlier - and we prepared to fly back to the 'pore. We walked a bit more around the town, had some yummy food and took off to the airport. All in all a great trip.

Samara highlights:
Samara was amazing on this trip. She fell asleep when she needed to and chilled when she didn't. She was super happy to hang in the framed carrier, and she also spent a bit of time in the ergo. She ran all around the lobby of the hotel, saying "wow" at the same statues again and again (and day after day...). She ate nearly nothing local (we brought so much food with us - it's nuts), and she caused a lot of smiles, as usual. She says, "hi" or "hewuw" and "dai-dai" to everyone. She was obsessed with wearing my hat...sideways. She LOVED swimming - she could walk in the kiddy pool, and she just squealed all around it. She purposely went underwater multiple times and kept getting really excited. She sat so nicely at all meals - saying "all-done" multiple times when she wanted to get down, but she chilled with toys, stickers, books, whatever really. At least 6 random people took photos of her. One asked me to take a photo of her and my child.

Being a good mom:
There were multiple times on this trip when I thought, "wow - my friends in America would NEVER do this. I should be a better mom."
  • Riding on a boat with my child in a framed carrier
  • Being on a pretty brutal trail - in the sun and in a jungle - with no mosquito repellent and limited sun protection
  • Riding in a car with my child in the ergo, and the carseat in the trunk
  • Letting my child sleep in a crib that would clearly break if she jumped hard enough, and if she stood up, she could totally tumble out (I did move the coffee table out of the way, though, just in case she were to fall, she wouldn't have hit her head on the corner of the table...)
  • Letting my child eat raisins off the floor of an airplane
I sort of feel that I can either obsess about everything - in which case I probably wouldn't travel to these places with Sam - or I can just obsess over a few things and prepare the best that I can. Look - she wasn't riding on a motorcycle!!

Click here for more photos.