Orangutans, Franky Kuching & Salsa?

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Hello All!

As I exited the airport in Kuching, Borneo I asked myself why I wasn’t nervous or intimidated to meet someone I had never met. And I knew I wasn’t going to feel any culture shock in Kuching either. Concern washed over me and I quickly thought, “shit!”, have I seen and experienced too much? Had I encountered or was I too familiar with the horrors of humanity that now very little impacts me? I mean, the last thing that impressed me in North America was “O” in Las Vegas by Cirque du Soleil. And worldwide? Likely what I see when I dive – ah, that’s why I dive so much. I’ll NEVER forget the day a manta ray with a 25’ wing span came around the corner in the Similan Islands (Thailand). Or even better, try slipping into the water off the coast of Salt Cay in the Turks and Caicos Islands, next to a 55’ female humpback whale and her 15’ calf while she teaches it to dive. FYI, the time to go is Dec – Mar and you’re not diving, just flippers and a mask. Impactful to say the least as her eyeball, the size of your head, stares into your soul from 15’ away. By the way, she’s judging you so step it up!

Franky Kuching was the profile name on Couchsurfing of the lady who I would be staying with. CouchSurfing is a service I chose to utilize for the first time on this trip because in my opinion there is no better way to experience a destination then through the eyes of someone who lives there. I’ll speak more about it in a post later this month but for those of you who don’t know, Couchsurfing has members who offer whatever accommodations they have to travellers. The service and accommodations are free, a reference system is used and members can search for hosts by age, gender and location. Franky and I talked back and forth a bunch before I came here and I could tell by her profile and our communication that she was a special person, kind, generous and that we’d be the perfect fit. It turns out that we’re both fire signs, we get along like we’ve known each other forever and I’m helping her market her business via the likes of Trip Advisor, Facebook etc. I’m going to miss her when I leave on Monday and she will always have a friend in me, wherever I may be.

Prior to me coming Franky had given me her cell number and offered to pick me up at the airport. After exiting the baggage claim I waited a few minutes before she showed up with Anthony, another couchsurfer from Washington, D.C. I had it in my head that we’d go back to her accommodations (she runs Nook Cafe and B&B in downtown Kuching) and I’d shower and take a quick nap. But Franky had another idea – we were off to the Semenggoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre which was closer to the airport and was on my list for two days from then so I happily agreed and we were off. Already Franky had saved me RM 30 ($10 CAD, not a lot but to put it into perspective, enough for 3-4 meals). I was happy as a clam; this was exactly what I was hoping CouchSurfing would be!

I don’t believe in luck. I believe that everything happens for a reason, when it is supposed to. Maybe it’s spirituality, or maybe as my father believes, it is to serve a purpose so that I and others who believe the same are better equipped to handle the shit that life can sometimes dish out. Whatever it may be I chose Franky as my host and she chose me. She has worked in tourism, she was a flight attendant for Cathay Pacific, she has lived in England, she runs a café and B&B (my degree is in Hotel & Restaurant Management) and she has travelled a ton. I’m “scared” to ask how much because she might even show me up, lol. She knows everyone and anyone important in Kuching. She got Anthony into the orangutan reserve for free and would have done so for me if she knew me better and it is not a coincidence that I basically met myself 15,000 kilometres from Toronto.

I quickly changed into shorts upon entering Semenggoh and off we went for the afternoon feeding of the orangutans in the reserve. To clarify, Semenggoh is not a zoo. There are no boundaries, and while orangutans can come and go as they please they were brought to the reserve for rehabilitation and don’t leave until they are reintroduced into the wild – not all are. There are ropes around the feeding stations only because they are placed in the middle of the jungle and it gives them something to swing on as they make their way to the food. The week before, a mother felt she and her baby were threatened and attacked a tourist, leaving a gaping wound. This interaction was to be taken seriously, about as seriously as the mosquitos were about my bare legs (deet was in my luggage).

We all took pictures, the mothers and babies were cute, yada, yada, yada. I was on my last leg, figuratively and literally as the mosquitos had consumed one of them and so I decided to leave the entire group and go back towards the parking lot. Franky accompanied me and as we approached we were quickly told that Ritchie, the 30 year old male who hadn’t shown himself in a month was approaching. No eye contact was to be made and did I have any idea how lucky I was? And voila! I was impressed. Yes! He was massive and he swung slowly and deliberately towards me. His orange hair swinging in the wind, looking at me warily deciding if he would attempt the food station 15’ away from me. And he did, and I was in awe. I had him all to myself, I had the photographic evidence to prove it and I don’t think I would have had the same experience had I come alone a few days later. Timing is everything.

We left after Anthony got to see him as well and 30 minutes later I was settled into my room at Franky’s B&B where I took a shower and a nap. Franky’s B&B is centrally and ideally located in downtown Kuching, unlike some CouchSurfing hosts who are further out of town and then one can get stuck downtown all day until the host is done work. Reading the profiles of CouchSurfing hosts is very important for many different reasons, to be later discussed. Nook Café and B&B has great food, free wireless for guests and patrons, two washrooms, a shared shower, a common room and balcony overlooking the street. There are four bedrooms, two of which each sleep four individuals. I was given my own room and as I write you all I am comfortably nestled on my bed, under a fan, drinking a cold beer.

I’ve gotta run as Franky is hosting a salsa party tonight, go figure. I hear dancers are coming and for RM 15 ($5 CAD, it’s all you can eat and drink). I personally will not be “salsaing”, I will be bartending. She doesn’t know that I make the worst drinks, I have no idea how much alcohol to put in and they’re often too strong. I don’t think she cares. It’s going to be blast, I will be hungover tomorrow just in time for the overwhelming smells at the famous Sunday market, at 12pm. Can’t wait. Off to help her set up.

What Was Spent Today (In This Post)?: RM 3 / $1 CAD – Entrance to Semenggoh

More tomorrow, wait until you hear about karaoke!

XoXo. Julie

5 Responses to Orangutans, Franky Kuching & Salsa?

  1. Awesome Jules! I look foprward to living vicariously through the jungle with you.

    NVS October 8, 2011 at 11:49 AM Reply
    • Today I walked an hour through monsoon rain in the jungle, alone. Stunningly gorgeous until it started to get dark and I realized, %$#&, I’m in the jungle baby! Xoxo

      juliemunsch October 13, 2011 at 6:32 AM Reply
  2. Congrats Julie, looking forward to hearing about all your experiences….be safe and have an amazing time….

    Lesley Kernan October 11, 2011 at 9:01 PM Reply
    • Thanks Leslie, so much to say. Lol. What an incredible trip so far! Xo

      juliemunsch October 13, 2011 at 6:30 AM Reply
  3. Jules~
    I have been following you, my very famous jetsetter! I thoroughly enjoy you blogs & look forward to your postings! Take care of yourself & feel free to couchsurf here in Turtle Creek, Pa when you get home. Keep up the postings…I am vicariously living through you!

    denyse October 12, 2011 at 1:32 AM Reply

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