Here’s the Project Alpha Season 1 reunion in Kuching, which kicks off Season 2, all compiled into an easy to watch complete series!
Catch the rest of the season at the official Project Alpha website!
Here’s the Project Alpha Season 1 reunion in Kuching, which kicks off Season 2, all compiled into an easy to watch complete series!
Catch the rest of the season at the official Project Alpha website!
Last post from the Kuching Season 1 Project Alpha blogger trip! This time we headed to a longhouse in Annah Rais – I’m familiar with this area, there’s a hot spring in Annah Rais which took us ages to find last time we were there. Here I present to you Aud’s tulan face – she doesn’t take very kindly to people waking her up (or the sun either). >.<
What do you do when you go to a longhouse? Why, my dear friends, you indulge in the hospitality of the local folks by drinking some tuak (rice wine). It’s also for sale for RM 10 per bottle. I drank most of the gratis tuak and bought a bottle so that everyone can have a taste and even lugged it to the bus (but finished it before I got to Kuching).
Old skool kettle for…boiling coffee or something.
We Maoris, we once were warriors – headhunting and shit like that.
I met this lady who has a husband working for PDRM. I instantly sat down and helped her peel shrimps while talking with her, much to Aud’s amusement. She knows Inspector K, MK, Sargeant AD from Narcotics too! Good thing she didn’t ask me how I knew them. ;)
…and what longhouse visit would be complete without an old woman chewing betel nut?
Permata Carpark in Kuching is host to some of the freshest catch from the seas if you’re not in the mood to drive down to Lundu or Serian. It’s smack dab in the middle of the city. My favorite is ABC Seafood (Stall #10) and we went to Bukit Mata Seafood Centre (Stall #25) this very day a week ago during the Project Alpha shoot.
Verily, much has changed in Kuching but the popularity of this al fresco (a very atas word meaning open air) seafood court has not waned.
We had beef, prawns, ferns native to Sarawak, fish, noodles, bamboo clams and crabs.
Me and Aud ate quite a bit of the chilli crab – it’s pretty big by normal crab standards if you don’t compare it to Alaskan King Crab.
The sauce is tangy and sweet, with a hint of spiciness to it. It goes very well with rice, I just love the eggy and starchy texture of the gravy.
It was so good that I didn’t realize I cut my index finger multiple times while digging for that elusive crab meat. Lacerations galore. >.<
We were at Semenggoh Wildlife Center to look at Orang Utans (which always reminds me of the way Caucasians pronounce it – orang as in “Oh, the phone just RANG) during the Project Alpha shoot in Kuching. This place is about 40 minutes from Kuching city proper.
This looks like Mr. Hussein when he was captured, except his beard hasn’t turned white from fear of Death From Above (TM).
One thing that I learned from the trip was that orang utans sleep in trees at night. These are tall trees on which they built nests using twigs to avoid pythons and other predators. I wonder how it can support the weight of an orang utan with those slender branches at the very top. That’s a view of their nest – they actually build one every single night to sleep in!
Perspective: This is how high they build their nests.
We had to walk down a muddy path to the feeding platform. These orang utans are semi-wild, fruits are placed there and the orang utans knows it. However, they will only eat the fruits if they can’t forage food – apparently they also eat stuff like lizards.
Unfortunately we didn’t manage to see any orang utans…
Except this one.
…and a bunch of escaped primates. ;)
I’ve been so sleep deprived during the long weekend that I can’t even think straight. I want to write about the Kuching Project Alpha shoot but I’m so sleepy I don’t think even propping up my eyelids with metal toothpicks would do the trick.
Thus, I shall just put up this photo of a sleeping feline I saw in the longhouse visit and get some sleep. Not. Able. To. Type. Coherant. Sentences.
I reckon this would come in handy for me soon considering I’m turning 29 in about two months. ;)
Now…the only problem is finding the bride. Heh!
You know how I always say I prefer Asam Laksa to Sarawak Laksa? Well, I don’t know if it was the rather intense workout this morning but I just had lunch with the Project Alpha Season 1 bloggers at Madam Tang’s Cafe in Petanak and it was fucking good.
The Sarawak Laksa Special (RM 10.80) comes with a lot of huge, juicy prawns. It is as good as the one in Golden Arch Garden Laksa which was a favorite haunt of mine when I was working in Kuching due to the proximity to my office back then.
Sarawak Laksa is a bit different from the other santan (coconut milk) laced concoctions and it was refreshing (not sure if this is the correct adjective but it feels right to me) to get reacquainted with this superb specialty from my hometown again.
A squeeze of lime into the belacan paste mixed into the Sarawak laksa is a ritual I haven’t done in a long time. Heavenly.
The Beef Noodle Special is pretty awesome too! We had a taste of it and ended up ordering a bowl to share.
I also managed to meet up with a lot of Kuching bloggers and good friends today – that was another highlight of the trip! :)
Next up is dinner at Topspot @ Permata Carpark which is really famous for their seafood. I’m still full from lunch though so I’m not sure if I can handle a lot of that tonight. >.<
Hello Kuching! It’s been a while since I was here, and a lot of things have changed – new malls Spring-ing up (haha bad pun), new hotels, and generally a lot more vertically inclined buildings scattered around the city. I daresay it’s about as developed as Penang now.
It’s a full day of shooting for us Project Alpha Season 1 bloggers and I only slept 4 hours last night so today is gonna be a long day! I’m quite excited though coz things look so new and different now.
We’re staying at 360 Hotel if anyone wants to drop by. It’s a pretty good boutique hotel.
Most of the people are here for the first time, and as a Sarawakian, I had to put up with a lot of “Oh, Kuching also got Shell/7-Eleven/(insert common franchise)”.
Koreana restaurant is quite an established institution serving authentic Korean food in Kuching. It has recently moved its premises to 101, complete with brand new décor and fittings.
I like the eating implements (and also using unconventional words instead of just “utensils”) in Koreana. The chopsticks at Koreana are Korean chopsticks – it’s angular and oblique which makes it difficult to handle the first time you come across it.
We all had a mug of steaming green tea (RM 2) since we had just consumed an excessive amount of Slurpees previously, which made us a little on the cold side. The weather was chilly too, for some reason – rainy season, probably.
Koreana serves a select range of complimentary entrees for all diners. There’s kimchi (the staple of Korean food), clams in some sort of hot sauce, seaweed, anchovies, a salad and vegetables of some sort.
Irene had the Dolsot Bibim Bub (RM 20) which is described as “slizzling rice with assorted vegetables in stone bowl”. I’m sure they meant sizzling. ;)
The bibim bub (stone bowl mixed rice) comes with a raw egg which was cracked in by the waitress…
…and mixed thoroughly. Check out the look of concentration on her face. The raw egg is actually cooked by the excess heat from the stone bowl.
The obligatory kimchi is then added to the stone bowl mixed rice…
…before it is served. Koreana serves a pretty mean bibim bup and a testament to the authenticity of the place is the Korean expatriates at a table beside us.
Emeric opted for the Kimchi Fried Rice (RM 12). It tastes a lot like the Dolsot Bibim Bub minus the theatricals. ;)
I went for the Mulnaengmyun (RM 22) which is cold noodles in soup. It came with bamboo shoots and other vegetables and half a boiled egg. The dish was served in a metal bowl full of ice cubes. It’s not just cold, it’s freezing! I like! :)
Koreana also provides you with scissors for the cold noodle dish to cut the noodles into more manageable lengths for slurping. I really liked the taste of this dish – the freezing cold soup tastes delicious and although the concept of having ice cold noodles may be foreign for some people, it actually tastes really good.
We also ordered a bowl of Samgaetang (RM 35) to share. It is chicken soup cooked with ginseng Korean style and Irene insists that it is a very healthy substitute for ED meds. I’m not sure why she thinks me and Emeric has that kind of problem, but the chicken soup does taste good. ;)
The chicken soup with ginseng is served with half a whole chicken and lots of Korean ginseng. There’s also some rice at the bottom of the soup bowl and the rice expands and absorbs all the goodness of the soup and is meant to be eaten after everything else is consumed. It’s delicious!
Koreana is a nice place to have dinner if you’re hankering for authentic Korean food. The bill came up to about RM 95 so it’s pretty reasonable for three people. Thanks to Irene for driving me around Kuching in search of the elusive Slurpee! ;)
Transit Point is a budget accommodation facility located in the heart of Kuching. It has just been recently completed and features WiFi in every room. The rates start at RM 35 nett which is slightly more expensive than the RM 30 nett charged by it’s main competitor – Singgahsana Lodge. However, the two places are different in many ways.
Transit Point provides a more private environment with a room consisting of a double bed and air conditioning (and television and WiFi to boot) while Singgahsana provides dormitory style accommodations sleeping 10 in a room (without WiFi). Transit Point provides towels for free too, which is chargeable (RM 2) in Singgahsana Lodge.
Transit Point also features shared toilets and shower units but the place is very clean and there’s a soap/shampoo dispenser in the cubicles. Smoking is not allowed in both places (except outdoors).
I would recommend Transit Point if you want the privacy of your own room and a larger bed with an air conditioned room. Singgahsana Lodge would be more suitable for people who wants interaction (and doesn’t mind leaving their notebook filled with incriminating photos and videos in a room with 9 other strangers). ;)
Transit Point just costs RM 35 nett per night. I stayed there during my recent trip to Kuching (the 12 hour grueling trip where I nearly missed my express boat back) and was happy with the place. I’ll definitely do a return visit when I’m on a shoestring budget.
Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort is a private and secluded nature retreat near Kuching, Sarawak. It’s accessible only by boat and is operated by the Hilton chain of hotels.
Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort aims to provide a world class authentic Iban resort in the middle of prime rainforest. The entire resort is surrounded by a lake.
There will be a boat to take you to the resort itself and the entire Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort is visible as the boat is pulling up to the jetty. The rooms are built in the traditional Iban style longhouse (communal living quarters) design. There are several of these longhouses in the resort – in fact, the entire resort looks like a traditional village in the middle of the jungle!
The 20 minute boat ride takes you to the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort jetty, where you disembark and walk up a wooden path to the elevated resort grounds. The air is fresh and cool from the surrounding rainforest canopy and I immediately felt refreshed by the large lake surrounding the resort.
The entire lake is visible from the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse resort reception area. The calm body of water around you is very therapeutic. This is what a retreat resort should feel like. :)
There will be Hilton staff waiting for you with a welcome drink (some kind of fruit juice) at the resort lobby. The resort is made of timber and is very well maintained, which is quite impressive for rural resorts.
The Hilton Batang Ai Resort lobby is furnished in traditional native design with timber being the main structural support, as well as interior wood fittings. It provides a warmer ambiance than steel and glass constructions and well suited to this rainforest resort.
The checking in procedure is relatively uncomplicated and a porter will carry your bags and lead you to your room.
The rooms are located in longhouses surrounding the main communal resort area and all are within a short walking distance from the lobby. The longhouse design is done like an authentic Iban longhouse built on raised stilts.
There are oil lamps hung on the top of the walkway…
…and the entire longhouse has one facade dedicated to the common corridor and patio, true to the Borneo longhouse design.
The room itself is furnished with modern fittings, and provides the amenities of contemporary living.
There is a TV and a comfortable spring queen sized bed, as well as chairs and a writing desk.
The bathroom facilities includes a shower (no tubs here) and sink and is in a separate room from the sleeping quarters. The tap water is filtered by the resort and is safe for drinking without fears of cholera or other water borne pathogens. ;)
Coffee and tea making facilities – don’t worry, there is an electric kettle and even a fridge – are available in-room. There is also a wardrobe and a full-length mirror.
The blinds opens up to reveal a nice view of the nature retreat and the design was intelligent enough to incorporate three (3) sliding doors – a glass door for retaining the air conditioning, a mosquito netting if you want the maximum outdoor experience without the inconvenience of insect attacks, and a wood panel for total privacy.
There is also a comfortable armchair for you to relax, put on your smoking jacket and have a big fat cigar while enjoying the rainforest view. Just kidding, you can’t smoke in the rooms. :)
Batang Ai Hilton Longhouse Resort is a eco-friendly resort – the lights in the room go out if you’re not within a certain proximity to conserve energy. The bedside lamps tur
n off automatically when you
‘re not lying on the bed and turn back on when you step close to the area. Very nifty.
The longhouse design is modeled on the traditional Iban living arrangements. The longhouse is a communal dwelling structure where families live in rooms joined by a central common walkway. The Hilton Batang Ai Resort faithfully reproduces this design and all of the fittings. There are even replica kerosene oil lamps (which are electric lights) illuminating the corridor.
There is also a communal patio with deck chairs on one side of the longhouse. The design of this is excellent as the deck faces the jungle (instead of being adjoined to the room) so privacy is ensured, coupled with a serene nature view.
It should be noted that smoking is not permitted in the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort rooms so indulgences in tobacco should be done at the patio.
There are recreational facilities ranging from tennis courts to table tennis. Phoenix trashed me at the ping pong table due to my ethanol attenuated reflexes. At least, that’s what I’ll like to think since she got the better of me at pool as well, both times while competing for the 8 ball. The pool table costs RM 4 in tokens for one game.
Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort also has a wading pool and a swimming pool. The swimming pool is surrounded by palm trees, creating an illusion of an oasis in the middle of the jungle.
Unlike other resorts in remote areas, the Hilton Batang Ai Resort is maintained in excellent condition. There is no evidence of neglect prevalent in such remote retreats and the resort is kept so clean that you can even walk barefoot if you’re so inclined.
Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort would be a paradise for nature lovers. There are guided walks through the forest (including the classic Smuggler’s Trail which crosses the border into Indonesia) and outdoor activities like recreational fishing and jungle trekking are scheduled throughout the day.
There are also trips by longboat (a local variant of the schooner without a sail) to nearby longhouses where travelers can absorb the local Iban culture.
I noticed that the overwhelming majority of the visitors are older Caucasians blazing a trail through the off-beat path. Younger Caucasians tend to follow the Phuket-Bali route while the more mature and seasoned travelers tend to gravitate towards Sarawak.
The staff is majority native Iban too so it’s also an ideal place for a private retreat for person(s) without the luxury of overt relationships (e.g. having a romantic sojourn with someone else’s wife/husband) in their own stomping grounds. Don’t worry, I won’t tell if you won’t. ;)
The facilities at the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort includes a swimming pool and a smaller wading pool. There are also numerous deck chairs lining the pool area for soaking up the sun.
I went in for a leisurely swim in the swimming pool…
…and Phoenix decided to join me and we spent almost an hour inside the water. My skin was all wrinkly when I finally came out of the water.
I noticed a couple of chronologically advanced Caucasians basking in our warm tropical climate. Other popular poolside activities includes reading (there is even a small bookstore at the resort lobby selling novels) and interestingly enough, playing card games.
The pool towels are provided and there is also a small gym with minimal facilities for you to turn that blubber into beefcake. ;)
Drinks (both cocktails and mocktails) can be ordered and consumed by the poolside. There’s nothing like enjoying a nice tropical cocktail while reclining on the poolside with a good book and some SPF 50 sunblock…
There are also concrete paths lining the resort and you can opt for a stroll with a loved one. The flora are all labeled with local and scientific names and there is an abundance of trees, plants and flowers.
Eating the forbidden fruit.
The Batang Ai water is safe for drinking. At least that’s what the resort tells me. ;)
There is also a replica longhouse at the resort where I saw mini natives going about their daily lives.
The path is also illuminated at night so you don’t have to worry about losing your way.
Dinner is available from the Nanga Nepi Restaurant. This is the only restaurant available in Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort and serves international and local cuisine.
The tagline of the restaurant goes “Embark on an adventure of jungle cuisine as you discover the exotic flavors of Sarawak”.
Complimentary dinner rolls are served with butter upon your arrival, which is a bit of a nice touch. It all adds up to the positive ambiance of the restaurant.
I had the Batang Ai Delight (RM 15.50) for the non-alcoholic session of the drink. This is a mixture of mango juice, grenadine, and 100 Plus (the isotonic drink) and it really taxes the gray matter to ponder why such a concoction would come with such an astronomical price tag. ;)
Phoenix had the Ruai Delight (RM 15.50) which looks suspiciously like a chocolate milkshake but is actually made of pineapple, vanilla ice cream and coconut cream.
This is the Lubok Antu Discovery Platter (RM 22). It’s a starter with a combination of beef and chicken satays, prawn samosas, and vegetable spring rolls, served with homemade chilli and peanut sauce.
I went for the Pansoh Manok (RM 26). It’s chicken pieces flavored with Iban eggplant and herbs slowly cooked inside bamboo over hot coals. This is a local signature Iban dish.
It’s served with local vegetables and steamed rice. It tastes pretty good actually, but that could be the THC talking. *cough*
Sandra had the Sri Aman Campuran (RM 44) which is a combination of local favorites – grilled fresh water prawn with spicy tomato sauce, beef rendang, mixed satays, jungle fern and steamed fragrant rice.
The fresh water prawn is from the Batang Ai lake and it’s gargantuan! It must have been on a serious course of PGH (Prawn Growth Hormone) therapy. The flesh is succulent and sweet, and goes very well with the spicy tomato sauce.
This is the Sago Gula Melaka (RM 10). It’s a dessert of pearls of sago served with coconut milk and local brown sugar.
It’s a local dessert that’s served warm and tastes great!
The Wong Irup Bar is the only lounge in Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort and serves a variety of alcoholic drinks, including several of their in-house concoctions. There are specialty cocktails containing tuak (a local Iban rice wine) for those wanting a sample of the local culture.
We opted for a table for two with comfortable rattan armchairs.
The bartender is a friendly Iban local who recommended three (3) of their signature cocktails.
Phoenix had the Batang Ai Sunset (RM 20) a signature cocktai
l containing gin, Cointreau, orange juice, lime juice and grenadine syrup.
I had the Longhouse Paradise (RM 20) a local cocktail made of tequila, tuak (a local rice wine), Drambuie, mango juice and sprite.
We also tried the other specialty cocktail – the Longhouse Brew (RM 20) which is a concoction of tuak (Iban rice wine), tequila, coconut milk and grenadine syrup.
Wong Irup Bar is the only place within the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort where smoking is permitted. I capitalized on this by using their decorative candles to light a Marlboro.
The corridor at the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort is highlighted (no pun intended) at night by the quasi kerosene lamps hanging on top. This is a common fire hazard in traditional Iban longhouses but the resort version uses electricity.
Thou shalt eat everything except the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
The resort pretty much tones down after 11 pm when the restaurant and bars close. You can bring your own wine for consumption after the bar closes.
I found it very relaxing to just lay back, relax, drink some wine, make love and lounge at the deck at night, watching the night sky as the insects chirp around you. Not all at the same time, of course.
Smoking on the veranda at night is tranquil (depending on the substances ingested, of course, and in my case, it’s always tobacco ;)) and while Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort is not for everyone, it’s perfect for city dwellers wanting a weekend getaway with a loved one.
Time seems to slow down, and you really get to recharge your batteries at the place. Checkout time is at 12 noon but you would probably want to check out earlier to take the 12:15 am boat to meet the 1 pm shuttle back to Kuching. You can opt for a short stroll by the poolside or soak up the warm morning sun with the cool breeze coming in from the lake by the jetty.
You might want to bring some instant food like cup noodles to the resort. Food at the restaurant is not cheap and while it’s not very expensive either, it’s also fun to boil some water and slurp some instant noodles in bed for breakfast.
You can catch the rising sun if you wake up early enough for the sunrise over the lake.
There is still time to go for a stroll if you wake up early in the morning. You can opt to have a leisurely lovemaking session…
…lounge by the poolside,
…or just stop and smell the flowers.
Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort is a very chilled and relaxed environment – perfect for a weekend getaway.
It should be noted that there is no cellphone reception here, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on the reasons for your trip.
I felt totally refreshed from the weekend getaway. :)