Monday, September 28, 2009

Kuching Travel - Palm Beach Resort at Sematan

About 20 min. drive from Lundu Town is Sematan Bazaar, a small seaside town near the Western tip of Borneo Island. Actually if you keep walking West along Sematan Beach, you will reach the Indonesian border eventually. I've never tried that, but seems like an adventure !

Sematan Bazaar itself only has a couple of rows of shophouses. It has remained that way since I could remember. People come here mostly for Sematan Beach, which is one of the longest stretch of sandy beach in Sarawak. It is also a popular outpost for visits to the Talang Talang Islands.

One of the newest resorts here is the Palm Beach Resort. It is a very nicely developed property, with regular rooms as well as chalets. The one thing they lack is a swimming pool, but I guess the beach makes up for it.

The resort is pretty well equipped. They have all kinds of leisure equipments for hire, and can also arrange boat trips to the Talang Talang Islands. There is a restaurant there which serves mostly local food, as well as buffet dinners for the guests at night. Dinners and breakfasts are included in the room rates, which is great as there are not many places to eat in Sematan, especially at night.

The main reception building.

The 2-storey block where the rooms are accommodated, and the chalets.

The restaurant.

A covered barbecue area.

The beach.

Palm Beach Resort is a great place for a short break from Kuching. The rooms are nice, there is plenty to do, and the endless Sematan Beach is a wonder to behold. Here's a link for more information. Palm Beach Resort at Sematan.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Kuching Travel - The Retreat at Siar Beach

If you are looking for something a bit better then the Siar Beach Resort, you are in luck. Just a few steps down the beach is a brand new resort called The Retreat. It was developed by the Sarawak Bank Employees' Union (SBEU) as a training centre and retreat for their members, but is also operated as a resort for non-members. They have standard rooms as well as chalets. Though not as well-appointed as a 5-star resort, it is nicely done and great for a short break.

The main attraction has to be the swimming pool which is right in front of the main building. It is quite big and has a water cascade on one end. A large open lawn next to the beach provides generous space for outdoor activities. There is even a beach-side bar with a terrace facing the sea.

The swimming pool seems to be the main attraction here.

The large open ground next to the beach.

Rates at The Retreat are not exactly cheap, but since it's the best accommodation in Lundu you really don't have a choice if you want a nice place to stay. They are very popular on weekends and holidays so do book way ahead if you decide to join the holiday crowd. Otherwise go on weekdays when the rates are much cheaper. Here's a link to their Site: The Yes Union Retreat at Lundu

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Kuching Travel - Siar Beach Resort

Siar Beach Resort is one of the oldest resorts in the Lundu area. I have stayed there a few times many years ago. The accommodation is extremely basic. It is alright if you are just using it as a base for other activities, or if you are young and carefree. As a place for a relaxing break it probably won't cut it.

The resort has been upgraded somewhat in recent years. There are now 2 and 3-room chalets for families. They are much better then before, but still pretty basic. There is a canteen where you can order simple meals, but it is better to organize your own food - especially a barbecue on the beach.

The beach is just right in front of the resort. You can also take a walk to explore other resorts and lodgings in the area. During low tide, the sea is quite far out. The large expanse of sandy beach is great for beach activities and flying kites.

This is another basic lodging next door called "The Red House".

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kuching Travel - Lunch in Lundu

Due to it's popularity as a seafood destination, quite a number of seafood restaurants have sprung up in Lundu. However during our recent trip, many of the restaurants have either closed or are looking a bit run down. Which is sad.

One of the most popular seafood place in Lundu has got to be this corner coffeeshop in town - the Happy Seafood Centre. If you go a bit late, you probably wouldn't get a table. The seafood is really fresh, but the cooking is just OK. So stick with the simple dishes and let the natural sweetness of the seafood come through. Real seafood aficianados would go for the fish, they have quite a good variety here and the prices are reasonable.

The buttered prawn is unlike any other in Kuching. The "butter" is more like milk powder, dry bits of powdery stuff sprinklered around the prawns. The taste is good, but the powder makes it a bit dry.

The stir-fried squids with dried chili was really good - very fresh and the heat and saltiness just right.

The fried rice was quite mediocre.

The ubiquitous midin - this one is the same as most other restaurants. Still one of my family's favourites.

Sweet corn soup - more for the kids.

There are not many options for lunch in Lundu nowadays, which is unfortunate. Hopefully some enterprising restauranteurs would come in to liven up the place a little bit.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kuching Travel - Lundu Town

Lundu Town is the gateway to Pandan Beach and Siar Beach. Due to the new road, the town sometimes gets by-passed. It is worth a visit as this is one of those typical old towns in Sarawak with wooden shophouses around a square. The oldest part of town is still intact - though the centre town square has been redeveloped into a monumental park, which is a pity as it would have been much better kept as an open space without the obtrusive structures.

Due to it's popularity with local visitors, Lundu town has grown to more then double it's original size. It is quite common now for Kuchingites to take a leisurely weekend drive to Lundu for the beaches, seafood, and the Gunung Gading National Park where you could see the famous Rafflesia flower (only if you are lucky !), or take a hike up the hill to several beautiful waterfalls.

As Lundu is near the sea, fishing is one of the main activities here and you could find some really fresh and cheap seafood at the markets. When in season, you could buy buckets of baby shrimps which are used to make "Chinchalok", a local preserved delicacy which is very appetizing. It can be served as a condiment with some shalots, lime juice and chili, or used in stir-fry with pork or chicken. So if you decide to make a visit to Lundu, be sure to bring along some buckets. Who knows you might get lucky !

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kuching Travel - Lundu & Sematan

"Lundu" and "Sematan". Two words which used to conjure up lots of excitement when I was a young boy. Before Damai Beach was developed, Lundu and Sematan were the only two places in Kuching where you could find accessible beaches. And going to the beach was a rare treat indeed.

I still remember the first time I went to Sematan Beach. I must have been around 10. I was so excited that I decided to sleep on the beach under the stars, even though there was a perfectly good lodging for us. The next morning I woke up with hundreds of sand fly bites all over. They were nasty ! Took more then a week to heal.

Lundu is about 70 km from Kuching. The road to Lundu is very good - though the journey is long, the drive is very pleasant. It takes around 1 1/2 hour to reach Lundu town. From there it is another 10 km to the 2 beaches - Siar Beach and Pandan Beach.

Siar Beach is more popular as it is more accessible. There are several resorts there now which fits all kinds of budget. The beach itself is just OK. The sand is more light brown then white, and the beach has a very gentle slope towards the sea. During low tide, the sea is quite far out. We can't complain as these are already the best beaches in Sarawak.

Sematan Beach is another 20 km from Lundu Town. Driving time is around 20 mins, and again the road is very good. Sematan Beach is probably the longest beach in Sarawak. Many years back I tried walking along the beach for almost half a day, and still couldn't reach the end ! From here you can see the Talang Talang Islands which have been gazetted as turtle sanctuaries. There are also corals around the islands so they are a popular local diving spot.

Sematan Beach stretches as far as your eyes can see.

The beach here also slopes very gently to the sea.

You can see the Talang Talang Islands in the distance.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Eating in Kuching - Yamisu Tea House

Lovers of dim sum in Kuching finally have a proper place to go. It's a new dim sum-centric restaurant at 101, the cluster of shops along the Kuching-airport road.

The restaurant is modeled after popular Hong Kong style Chinese restaurants which you find all over Asia - an open dining area, a counter serving roast meats, and a snacks area with a few choices of fried and baked dim sums. The selection of dim sums is not very extensive, but at least they are served on push-carts like in a proper Hong Kong dim sum restaurant. Part of the fun of the dim sum experience is to see the items before ordering, but the fun is tempered here somewhat by the limited choices.

The quality of the dim sums here are quite ordinary, but they are already some of the best you'll get in Kuching.

The stand out here is this baked sweet potato with a cheesy crust. They reminded me of the delicious baked sweet potatoes I had in Beijing. Very yummy !

Dim sum in Kuching is usually a disappointing experience. At least now you have a place for a reasonable dim sum breakfast, but due to the limited choices you need to augment the meal somewhat from the a la carte menu.