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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s Several of the former and one of the latter.

In the previous episode: we flew 12+ hours to Kuala Lumpur, then had a few drinks in our hotel next to the main train station, before going to bed with an alarm set for 0630. Why would we do such a thing?

Well, firstly we had to have breakfast. I didn’t recall doing so deliberately, in fact maybe everyone gets it, but when checking in they’d told us we have free breakfast. It was down in Nook, the 1st floor restaurant where we ate the previous night and, holy smokes, breakfast is an incredible buffet of vast choice. There’s pastries and cereals and fruits and bread and cold meat and cheese and hot English breakfast style stuff and eggs done any way you want and Malaysian choices and just loads. We’re early enough that the place isn’t crowded. I go for a few bits of curried stuff, followed up with some unnaturally colourful doughnuts. Helen has mac & cheese with hash browns, mushrooms and rice.

It all hits the spot and we’re ready for our next job: asking at reception for late checkout. Had I booked directly with the hotel then a shiny card in my wallet would’ve made us eligible for 2pm, but since we went the cheap route of using hotels.com there are no status benefits. After a bit of tapping the bloke at the desk says he can give us an extra hour, until 1pm. OK, fine, we’ll take that.

Back upstairs we grab our cameras, put on some sun screen, and leave again. It’s about 0830, I dunno, 0845 or something. Down at the 1st floor Helen realises she’s left her phone behind so I’m sent into the mall/station myself to get some cash out while she nips back to retrieve it.

Withdrawing cash is a longer affair than it should be. There’s an orderly queue at the two adjacent ATMs in the middle of the station, and it takes a while for me to be next up. I get a bit frustrated at how long the lady in front of me takes, but once it’s my turn I realise it wasn’t her fault - the UX of this ATM is awful. I enter my PIN, it shows me a screen for 10 seconds telling me not to be distracted by strangers. I ask for cash, it asks which account I want to use - savings, current, credit - it tells me my bank will charge a fee, then asks me how much I want. After a couple of seconds, it says oh no, you can’t have that, you can only have a multiple of 100. Do I want to continue? Yes. And thus is dumps me all the way back to the start of the process. Grargh!

Anyway. Cash withdrawn I reunite with Helen and we walk back through the station. Briefly asking directions at a desk, the answer is “go that way then turn right”, which is a bit simplistic for our destination: the KL Bird Park. In reality, we exit the station on the opposite side to our hotel, turn right (that is accurate), then cross the road, turn left, walk around the perimeter of a large office block, go under the 8 lane road via the local metro station’s subway, then go past one museum and through the car park of 4 others, up and over a long bridge into a park.

In the park we then go through the edge of the planetarium, which has some outdoor displays and trails named after planets.

This sounds like a long route but it’s not far really, maybe 1.5km in total. Tell you what though, it’s hot. I’m a little bit away from Helen and she’s grateful for a short rest when I excitedly shout THERE’S A HENGE! I’M GONNA GO TAKE A PHOTO OF THE HENGE.

Turns out it’s an actual replica of Stonehenge! Hurrah!

A few minutes later and hey presto, we’re at the bird park. I’d tried to come here on my only previous visit to KL back in Feb 2014, but rain and traffic had foiled my attempt. It’s one of the world’s best bird parks, including (so they say) the actual biggest free flight walk-in aviary.

Buying tickets is simple, and the stone faced woman at the till even cracks a bit of a smile when I drop my only Malaysian – terima kasih. Thanks! Between a couple of large groups of small children we enter, starting in zone 1.

There are 4 zones, numbered 1-4. Good that. Despite having read about the place before, neither of us can recall what the theme is meant to be about the zones. Nor do we consult our map. Rather, we just walk about saying “look at him!” at every bird we come across.

Look at him!

That really how it all goes. It’s a huge place, and “free flight” mostly means “loads of storks and peacocks wandering around”. Some birds are still in cages, but very few of them.

There really are lots of peacocks.

Dunno what this fella is. He was having a drink in the water feature.

This is a giant hornbill, like a double-decker toucan. He’s in a dark cage, and regularly hopping between branches while shouting a bit.

There’s a little house with a few owls, none of whom actually seem to be attached to their branches by string or anything. They’re just happy to sit around and chill.

This one looks like the “owl does not like water” meme owl. Helen has a cracking pic of him winking at her.

THIS IS MY FAVOURITE OWL EVER. Look at him!

As well as storks and peacocks wandering about the place, there’s the occasional pelican.

Like this.

As we reach one end of the park, Helen’s stopped to take photos while something catches my eye in the sky. Crawling across the canopy way above our heads there’s a monkey. He’s a wild one, not part of the park - on top of the canopy not beneath it. We’d seen signs near the litter bins on the road before arriving that said to be careful of the monkeys. Ace.

Can’t remember what this bird is called, nor what it looks like from the front. Only that it has a hairstyle which resembles a firework display.

Storks storks storks storks storks. They took over the path as I walked a few yards ahead of Helen.

Storks storks storks storks storks.

One of the peacocks did us a favour and got scared, thus putting on the show everyone wanted.

The path through zone 1 and most of zone 2 leads us back to where we started, and the giant hornbill cage again.

Zone 3 has the WORLD OF PARROTS, but as we get close we can hear that it’s currently completely rammed with screeching school kids. So instead we head around past the flightless birds and education centre. There’s a big cassowary, and then ostriches. Wait, not just ostriches - ostriches you’re encouraged to feed by hand!

Properly daft.

Feeding ostriches is easy, especially if you follow the instructions written above. There’s a bowl full of leafy veg with long stalks. You grip the stalk firmly, hold it up near the ostrich, and they chomp the leaves off. Then you throw the stalk into the enclosure, and repeat.

Like this.

I look a bit too far away in that pic, but rest assured I got plenty close enough and fed him (and his mate) numerous times.

Helen was a little flinchier than me, gripping the stalks less tightly so the ‘rich took the whole thing out of her hand. It was much fun though. They are daft looking birds, really they are.

Past the emu at the end, we went back past the caged hornbills ‘n stuff and into the indoor WORLD OF PARROTS. There are loads of types, many of them free-flying, and oh my god there’s a member of staff there and if you pay 1 ringgit he gives you a bowl of parrot food to hold and if you’re lucky one or two will come land and eat.

Ah, who’m I kidding. One or two? Luck? Both lies. They come and land on you before you’ve even started, just because you’re stood next to the handler. Helen goes first, and utterly hilariously a parrot sits on her head straight away.

Once she’s holding food, it gets a bit more out of hand. Really, properly out of hand.

Once I get my breath back from laughing so hard, it’s my turn.

There’s one on my head, and my shoulder, and 4 on my arm, and another coming in. Their claws are a bit stronger than a Finnish great tit, I’ll tell you that for nowt.

It is magnificent though. Here, you can see two of the parrots on my hand having a row. I thought they were going to properly squabble.

Unfortunately there are other people around, so we can’t just stay there for hours and hours. Boo. OK, doubling back this time we’re able to take a better look at the other types of parrot and hornbill they have.

Zone 4 is the “waterfall aviary” IIRC. In reality, it’s a giant water feature (waterfall, lake, etc) but otherwise just more storks and peacocks and stuff. We’re not there for long, except for being hindered by people trying to actually stroke the peacocks. Stop that!

A couple of times we see a Eurasian Jay, which is boring as hell since we get them in our back garden in Surbiton. Then there’s another enclosed bit with ducks and a black swan and some other small birds in trees. It’s a bit better and less boring.

We walk back to cafe near the entrance, realising there’s a small bit we’d not explored – but it isn’t that interesting, just a different view of the flamingo pond which seems flamingo free. It’s mostly storks and peacocks. To be fair, there are 3 types of stork... but it’s a big bunch o’storks.

Sitting round the back of the cafe drinking cold water, there are pelicans having a ruckus in a tree. Oh, actually, not a ruckus - looks like there’s a baby being fed.

And then we see another member of bird park staff, who will take photos of you with the birds he’s got with him if you hand over 17 ringgit (about £3.50). Go on then, let us have a go with yer macaw and cockatoo ‘n that.

While the big macaw dances on Helen’s left arm, the smaller bird on her right takes advantage of the distraction to try and steal the map out of my breast pocket. Oi! Stop that!

We finish at the bird park just before midday, which is expertly timed if we say so ourselves. Since we’ve no roaming on our phones we can’t hail a cab, though there’s a rank outside. But we know the walking route and it’s not so bad, so back the way we came it is.

By ‘eck it’s hot.

We’re back at our room in Aloft by 1220 or so, meaning there’s enough time for a cold-ish shower and to change our tops. Then, re-pack everything we don’t need for the afternoon into the giant suitcase and go checkout just prior to 1pm. As we do a sweep to ensure we’ve not left anything behind, I am UTTERLY delighted by the footwear warning.

It’s still too early to actually leave, so we wheel ourselves back to W XYZ where Helen orders a preposterous coffee. Assembly required.

A couple of drinks later and it’s time for us to go get on a train, back to Kuala Lumpur airport. We’s getting on a plane! Descending down to the platform for the KLIA Ekspres, I’m confronted with signage unchanged since that 2014 visit. This is South East Asia’s fastest train, apparently.

It’s a less modern vehicle than the one we got from the airport the previous day but no slower. At the airport we head up to departures and outside so Helen can vape, then go to the Malaysia Airlines domestic check-in counter to drop off our bag. We’re handed boarding passes which have an invitation to visit the lounge printed on them, as is pointed out by the staff “because you are Emerald”. Check me out.

Through security, we consult a map and find the lounge. It’s moderately crowded but there are a few spare pairs of seats up at the end. There is no booze. What! In fact, as we discover later, there’s no booze in the entire domestic terminal. Ah well, no great loss.

Skies are clear and we have a relatively good view. A couple of plates of snacks are head, and annoyingly I’m starting to feel a bit ill. This isn’t helped by eating a disgustingly soapy little cake thing. Yuck.

Leaving just before we’re told boarding will commence, Helen goes for a vape in the smoking lounge and then we walk up to gate B9 – only to discover that our flight is now delayed by 20 minutes. Grr. With no real desire to go back to a dry lounge, but also no desire on my part to just loiter by the gate, we walk up and down the terminal slowly. Eventually that bores us too much so yes, we plonk down at B9. Lo and behold, a plane arrives and a bunch of people get off. Better yet, baggage comes off then new bags are loaded. Malaysia Airlines send me an SMS to say boarding has commenced even though it hasn’t.

When it eventually has, we’re one of the first to board, plonking ourselves down in seats 8A and 8B. They are surprisingly cramped, and I’m muchly jealous of the business class seating we walked past. Unlike European business class, short haul on Malaysia Airlines involves very different seats – ones which look, like, comfortable and stuff.

I didn’t really know what to expect of economy service, and when Helen pointed out there was no menu in the seat pocket I expected we’d get nothing. Mind you, since I felt so ropey I just wanted to sleep throughout the flight anyway. This was somewhat successful, as I dozed off repeatedly during taxi and take off and the first part of the flight. But then I was woken up with a mild elbow prod to be told that, oh, here’s the cabin crew with a choice of hot dishes, for free! I’ll have the chicken thanks.

It’s surprisingly delicious and filling. Also nuts and a couple of biscuits, and a second drinks run. No alcohol is served, I knew that much in advance, but anyway hats off to MH’s “domestic” service. By now, thanks to the bit of kip and a few more calories, I’m feeling much better than I was at the airport.

I call this service “domestic” in quotes because yes, we’re flying to Kuching which is still in Malaysia - but the integration is a bit weird, and even Malaysians need to take ID with them. We get a passport stamp for “East Malaysia”, as part of a pretty remarkably efficient arrivals process: immigration is lightning quick, our bag is 3rd or 4th on the carousel, and there’s a guy with my name on a sign standing right in front of where we emerge.

It’s a pre-booked shuttle to our hotel, The Waterfront Hotel in downtown Kuching. I’d contacted them by WhatsApp last week to inform them of our expected arrival time and to enquire about a shuttle, since their website mentioned it. They said it normally shuts at 8pm but they’d make an exception for us, which was mightily appreciated as we landed at 8.40pm or so. Thanks, Waterfront!

At the hotel, we commence check-in at the ground floor but are told that since we’re staying on the Executive floor (don’t you know), we will complete formalities up in the Executive lounge. We’re escorted up to floor 11 and do the rest of stuff - get two room keys, get our ID photocopied, etc etc. Then down one floor to 10 and let’s see if we have a nice view.

We have a remarkable view.

That big building is the Sarawak parliament. The mad bridge on the left is an S-shaped thing, built not just to join the two sides of the city but to express unity. Supposedly the pillars are in the shape of a hornbill.

Deciding that nipping down to actual waterfront is a good idea, we’re greeted by stalls selling fresh fruit juice while pumping out very loud happy hardcore. Bizarre. There are quite a few people about but it’s not completely packed or anything. By now it’s around 2130, and there’s meant to be a fountain show. In fact, there’s meant to be two of them 5 days a week and 3 on the weekends. Bit excessive, innit? But let’s have a look.

It starts with a video, projected into the water, complete with dual language subtitles. Just basically bigging up Sarawak, the video presages the show proper. They’ve really made it like a firework show but made of water and it’s pretty damn impressive.

After the first piece finishes we walk further up the front, seeing a band playing to an audience of 6 or so people, plus many other food and drink stalls. Nothing’s serving booze though we know this isn’t a dry city – it is, however, kinda half-Muslim and half-not. Knowing that Chinatown is very nearby, we go one street inside and spot a bar with outside seating. Huzzah!

IT’S GUINNESS TIME. No, really, it is. I quite fancy a t-shirt but I’m not sure about buying two buckets of the stuff, so I opt just for a pint. Helen has a lager. The beer arrives moderately promptly, but our change takes at least 20 minutes to turn up, such that when it does we actually ask for another round.

Said round never does turn up. We think perhaps it’s a pace of life thing, but after slowly serving a couple of other tables the two waiting staff just stop doing anything at all, and aren’t prompted into remembering we’d ordered more beer even when asked where the loo is.

So we left. Whatever. As we normally do when on holiday, we go to find a source of cheap canned beer to store in the fridge in our hotel room. 7/11 lets us down massively by not actually selling booze. In fact, it seems nowhere sells takeaway booze. What! Well, at least the bar on the 4th floor of our hotel is still open for another hour. Guinness and a mojito please. Guinness is popular round here, and both venues have served a damn good pint.

Apparently I don’t have a photo of the view, which is a shame. The bar has a balcony, except it’s made of water, because it’s a swimming pool that overlooks the waterfront. It’s quite a spectacular setting, and we have it to ourselves because there’s two staff and us two and no-one else. Well OK then! We have one last drink just before closing, and go to bed ... with an alarm set for 0630 again. Oh come on now, what?

Created By
Darren Foreman
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