Tourists bask in our culture, nature

ON SECOND VISIT TO KUCHING: Rhonda (left) and Mike Laffar.

KUCHING: Borneo’s rainforest and its beauty are the attractive features that draw tourists to Sarawak and make it their favourite holiday destination.

“We love Borneo Island. This is my third time coming here. Twice Kuching, once to Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan,” said Rhonda Laffar from Busselton, Western Australia when met here yesterday.

The 51-year-old is here with her husband Mike. The couple has been here for a few days after their trip to the peninsula.

“It is interesting. Here, we saw the State Legislative Assembly building by the river side. We visited the orchid farm, it’s beautiful. We love nature, the greens, everything,” said Rhonda.

She said she and her husband had a great experience at Bako National Park. They enjoyed jungle trekking, and the spectacular sceneries of the rocks and the blue ocean amazed them.

“It’s magnificent. But one thing saddened us. We saw a lot of rubbish on the beach. We were thinking of how we could help to clear it all.”

She said when they travelled here they did not just sit inside the hotel and wonder around the bar and the pool.

She added that she likes the culture here, noting that people of different races live together in perfect harmony.

“It’s a very good thing. Actually it is the people that make the place so good. This place is so nice. I enjoy going out mixing with the locals. We go to places where locals go,” she said further.

On food, she said they loved to select from the array of different types of food which reflected the multi-ethnicity of the state.

“We had tried seafood and some vegetables at a seafood centre at Jalan Bukit Mata Kucing. Delicious! This is the best food I have ever eaten in my whole life,” said Rhonda.

Mike added that they loved to eat in places where there is a crowd.

“If that shop has less people, the food might be not so great.”

Besides the food, the couple also likes the warm weather.

Mike, a 57-year-old real estate agent said: “It is a bit hot but better than cold.”

They said they knew about this place from a hairdresser in Australia, prompting them to come to Sabah for the first time four years ago. They made their first visit to Kuching last year.

Rhonda said they felt safe walking around in town as they had prepared themselves to face incidents like snatching.

Rhonda bought some jewellery and accessories as gifts for her family.

“I hate shopping in Australia but I enjoy shopping here. We bought anything we like – clothes, shoes, bags and so on. Definitely we will come again,” she said.

Mike added: “Almost everything is good here. There is only one, the Tourism Information Centre should provide us information about tours in Kuching.

“They should be proactive organising some tours for tourists.”

Cisela Klahr from Sweden is meanwhile backpacking in South East Asia with her boyfriend, Matthias Seeleitner from Austria.

“We are planning to backpack travel for eight months. This is our first month. We saw the travel magazine and we have asked our friend who lives in the peninsula before coming. We were told if we want to see nature, plants and wild animals, come to Borneo.”

Cisela said she was very excited before they landed as she saw beautiful rivers and jungles from the sky.

Already here for a few days, the 27-year-old account manager said she was amazed to see the orangutans as she had never seem them ‘live’ in the jungle except in zoos or TV.

The young couple will spend their time here visiting longhouses and jungle trekking.

Cisela said she felt the warmth of the people which emanate from their friendliness and greetings.

“This place is good. The air is cleaner compared to Kuala Lumpur, not so polluted. The people are very friendly and they help without looking for anything from us. They are simple and pure,” said Matthias.

The 29-year-old business consultant also said he liked the local delicacies, especially laksa.

“I love hot and spicy food. The varieties are really great. I like Malaysian food,” he said.

“I feel the food I ate here is healthier than the Western cuisine and tastes less fatty. Ice-kacang which I thought is nothing great turned out very tasty after I tried it. I’m amazed to see fresh fruits everywhere here. The fruit juices here are so cooling and refreshing, I just like it,” said Cisela.

The couple said they were also buying wood carvings and other handicraft as souvenirs. They found them very special and unique.

Mesud Sijecic, owner of Art and Craft Gallery, said arts lovers would come to his shop looking for unique collections.

“I open this shop because I appreciate arts and handicraft. This is a hobby. People who share the same hobby like me will come.”

He said most of his customers were foreign tourists and some locals who came to look for small gifts and decorative items.

“The business is a bit slow now because there are not many travellers and some are not shoppers. They are here only to visit places and for sight-seeing,” he said

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