A mum, dad and their three kids from Tasmania, go on an epic adventure in Borneo for 3 weeks in December

Monsoon in Kuching

The first order of today was to find a barber shop for the boys and I. Being a tight arse we had let our manscaping go knowing it would be fast and cheap in Malaysia. We were right. Mark took us to a little row of shops in the burbs decorated with piles of rubble, plastic chairs, old motorbikes and awnings under which steaming food was being chowed down. This is just the spot I think. We race over to the barber and push the door but it doesn’t open. Bollywood music is blaring on the inside but no barber. Presently he rounds the corner and opens the shop. Probably just took a wee break.

He gets the clippers and scissors out and his hands are a blur. The boys and I are impressed. I take photos and this makes him nervous. Mark chimes in that he’ll be famous because in no time his pic will be on the net. His brown face pales. He asks that his picture not be shown and genuinely sounds worried. He says that his boss will sack him and deport him back to India if his face is seen. I ask why. He says because his boss is in the secret service and is an extremely cautious man bordering on paranoid. Foreigners in the shop taking photos and posting them is apparently not the attention he is seeking.

The barber has two children in India around the same ages as mine. He hasn’t seen them for a few years. He sends money back and hopes to work for a couple more before going home. I feel sorry for him. He asks why it is hard to come to Australia and I wonder why we make it so hard for people to work in our country. He’s been cutting hair for 20 years since starting in his fathers shop at age 12. I guess he wants his kids to have an education – something that has obviously contributed to his situation.

I tell Mark about the secret service story and outside drinking an ice kopi he laughs. He says he would be illegal but isn’t buying the secret service bit. Secret yes, but not service.
At the end of my trim he massages my head, shoulders and neck. I’m sure he intended it to be a happy ending to my cut but I found it a bit too rough and a bit too quick. He probably needed to start a bit more gently. Some might like rough and quick but it didn’t do it for me. I hand over the equivalent of $7 Aussie for all of us – now that makes me happy!

We had decided to bus back to LCC terminal from One Utima shopping centre to catch our flight to Kuching the city of cats but on arriving realized we’d screwed up and missed the bus. That hurt because taxi cost three times more.

Nani had her first meltdown of the trip at the airport. After checking our bags she took abbey to the ladies and I decided to do the same with the boys. After noticing I was peeing something that looked like beer I thought it would be good to get a drink. Bubble tea was the goal. We searched from domestic to international before settling for iced tea and iced milo then headed for gate 7. I was met by a furious Nani who said she had no idea where we were or what had become of us. Had we gone through security with her boarding pass and was she about to miss her plane she worried? She had AirAsia page me but it was in serious manglish and they would only do it the once. I didn’t hear it (multitasking not my forte). Abbey told me she had dropped a few choice ones. I placated the mother bear and the claws retracted after she assured me I will NEVER be holding her boarding pass again.

Check in had put abbey and Oscar across the aisle from lachie and I and some Malay guy was on the aisle with them. I thought this was awesome and that it sucked to be him. Abbey asked him if he knew English. He shook his head. By the end of the flight she had he and his mates in the row in front laughing. I said to Nani that she will hopefully have a shy stage when she goes through that awkward teenage phase. Gawd ‘elp us all if she doesn’t.

Approaching Kuching steep and densely forested islands stood like sentries guarding the rugged coast. Winding brown delta style rivers doubled back on themselves meandering aimlessly until emptying onto mud flats where the sea began. The excitement of seeing land vaporised quickly when the pilot informed us of the monsoonal storm cell over the city and commenced a holding pattern. I thought oh shit I really don’t want to go back to KL. We circled the city a few times and then started ascending again and headed away. We were heading to Sibu to refuel and wait it out. I worried that the hostel I booked would let our room go as I hadn’t paid a deposit or even confirmed by email.

I asked abbey’s Malay friends if they wouldn’t mind calling the hostel. They had a chat about where the place was in Malay but no calls got made. A nice bloke behind overheard and offered to do it. Turns out he was from Kuching but studied, lives and works in Australia as a structural engineer traveling home for a week. Thankfully us Aussies do let a few in and that they do in fact become one of us to the point of helping a fellow bloke out overseas.

After landing it was my turn to crack the shits with the kids. They were being loud in the taxi and I’d had enough. I gave them an ear bashing explaining that I’d had enough of parenting them for one day and to pull their heads in. I was feeling irritable probably from all the travel and delays. Being an introvert not having any time alone robs me of the headspace I need to be patient with the kids.

We find Nomad B&B and check in. The kids are apologizing and promising to be good. We head out onto the street around 9pm to find food, had cold showers (the hot bit was on strike) and collapse into bed. I set the alarm for 5am for Nani to get up to catch her flight to Sibu for her cousins wedding. Unfortunate given she was already there today thanks to monsoon in Kuching.


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