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Gerard MacBryan, the most eccentric Sarawak officer during the Brooke dynasty

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Gerard MacBryan after his pilgrimage to Mecca.

“There came out to Sarawak at about this time a young man who was destined to play a sinister part in the history of the Sarawak Raj.”

This is how Sylvia Brett, the last Ranee of Sarawak introduces Gerald MacBryan in her book Queen of the Headhunters.

The Brooke family governed Sarawak between 1841 and 1946. James Brooke ruled the area until his death in 1868. He was succeeded by his nephew Charles who in turn was succeeded by his son Vyner.

During the Brooke family’s reign, many British citizens were employed into Sarawak service.

One of them being Gerard Truman Magill MacBryan, whom some historians believed was Sarawak’s equivalent to Rasputin.

The story of MacBryan

MacBryan was the son of a doctor who owned a mental hospital near Bath, England. He was described as tall, graceful with bright eyes and ivory-white skin.

MacBryan was only 18 when he entered the Sarawak government service in 1920. Soon after MacBryan arrived in Sarawak for duty, however, rumours already began spreading about him.

According to Sylvia, “MacBryan, it was said, suffered from hallucinations that his bungalow was being attacked, and would start shooting wildly into the darkness.”

Sylvia was not the only one who recorded MacBryan’s lunacy.

Robert Payne in The White Rajahs of Sarawak stated that most of the white Sarawak officers during the Brooke reign were too busy to indulge in complicated pleasures.

“With Malays, Dyaks, Chinese, and Indians, all around them, and with a growing country to serve, they were kept occupied. Only one went mad, but he had a streak of madness in him long before he came to Sarawak.”

And of course the madman Payne referred to in his book was none other than MacBryan himself who was reported to have had a series of manic episodes.

Once in South Africa, he appeared naked at a party, and afterwards explained that he thought he was invisible. Sometimes he thought he was a dog, and would walk on all fours, barking at the top of his voice.

MacBryan also allegedly stole from shops and alms-boxes.

Gerard MacBryan and Vyner Brooke

Even so, with all the manic incidents, how MacBryan would continue to stay and serve in Sarawak was due to his relationship with the third white rajah, Vyner Brooke.

Of his first impression, Vyner told his wife, Sylvia that he thought MacBryan was “wonderful, but nuts”.

Putting aside the nuisance he presented to some of his fellow white officers, the Malay and Dayak people reportedly loved him.

MacBryan spoke fluent Malay and had even delivered a speech in Kenyah.

He also proved himself helpful by negotiating the peace-making ceremony between the Ibans and Kayans in Kapit in 1924.

Vyner nicknamed MacBryan the “Baron”, after Baron von Munchausen, the German cavalry officer who had been renowned for his fantastic and irresponsible antics.

According to historian Dr Bob Reece in The Name of Brooke, MacBryan was a man of considerable talent with an intelligence superior to that of most officers.

Reece wrote,

“More importantly, he was a skillful politician and a shrewd judge of character. He seems to have had the knack of knowing how the Rajah’s mind worked and of suggesting courses of action which would fulfil his wishes. In other words, MacBryan was capable of doing the Rajah’s thinking and decision making for him, something Vyner Brooke found very useful sometimes.”

MacBryan interfering with the succession to the throne

Vyner and Sylvia had no sons, so MacBryan began courting their young daughters. He even openly talked about becoming the next Rajah.

At one point Vyner had enough of the ‘Baron’ and fired him. MacBryan was subsequently banished from Sarawak for about four years.

During this time, he married a Malay lady, announced his conversion to Islam and even made a pilgrimage to Mecca. He had planned to make himself the Muslim ruler of the east.

MacBryan did not manage to do that but he did successfully make a return to Sarawak. By 1927, he was put in charge of Sarawak Gazette and eventually became Vyner’s secretary again.

Despite his best efforts, however, MacBryan was unable to seduce his way to the White Rajah’s throne.

But some reports claimed that he made sure the next heir apparent, Vyner’s nephew Anthony, would not make it to the throne either.

Another popular opinion was that the last Ranee was trying to push her eldest daughter, Leonora or her grandson Simon MacKay, to succeed the throne.

At the time, it was believed that Sylvia was plotting with MacBryan.

But on July 8, 1940, Sylvia wrote a letter to her brother in-law Captain Bertram Willes Dayrell Brooke (Anthony’s father) claiming her innocence.

“I happen to know more about the MacBryan plot than anyone. It began with MacBryan making violent love to Didi (Elizabeth, Vyner’s second daughter). I don’t think that Didi was more than fourteen at the time. But as you know MacBryan was determined to get into the family somehow. The whole thing has really grown from the evil seeds in MacBryan’s brain.”

Gerard MacBryan’s role in Sarawak’s cession to the British

But MacBryan’s biggest role yet in influencing Sarawak’s history was when Vyner appointed him to negotiate the terms of cession between Sarawak and the British government.

Local historian Ho Ah Chon stated in Sarawak Historical Events 1941-1945 that:

“After the war, Vyner sent out his private secretary to induce the leading Kuching Datus to sign letters in which they agreed to support any moves Vyner might think fit to make ‘in the interest of Sarawak’.”

According to reports, the letter never mentioned cession .

The community leaders signed the letters, not knowing the truth till few days later.

“One of the Datus, Datu Patinggi Abdillah, was furious when he discovered that they had been tricked, and he returned the $12,000 (all those who signed were given a large sum)- saying it was a bribe.”

And that private secretary was MacBryan.

Sylvia also wrote,“I think it can safely be said that if there had been no Gerard MacBryan there would have been no cession of Sarawak at that time — July 1946.”

When Vyner and Sylvia returned to Sarawak in 1946 to say their final farewell, the Baron was not there with them.
Sylvia stated,

“He had sworn he would see Vyner through the difficult period of Cession. After all, it was he who set the machinery in motion; who had coerced and corrupted the Malay Datus into signing papers they did not understand. And then he had simply vanished, leaving Vyner to face the music alone, to withstand the disapproval of his brother, and the shocked fury of his nephew.”

However according to Reece, this claim might not be true.

Reece stated,

“There is no way of verifying later accusations that MacBryan used trickery and even force to obtain the necessary signatures. But it is clear that he deliberately misrepresented Bertram and Anthony as having agreed to the cession.”

Nonetheless, the information retained and reproduced in a Malaysian secondary school History textbook for Form 3 was that of Gerard T. MacBryan using trickery to gain signatures from Council Negri members.

The Brooke family ceded Sarawak to the British government as a crown colony on July, 1 1946.

Life after Sarawak for MacBryan

By late 1949, there were reports of him losing his sanity. He was arrested for stealing peaches from a fruit barrow in London eventhough he had more than £40 in his pocket.

At one point, he also carried with him everywhere a mysterious black box which he said could blow up the world.

He occasionally checked himself into a mental institution in London.

Towards the end of his life, he was living in a cheap hotel in Hong Kong until he died in 1953.

Vyner believed MacBryan hanged himself although Sylvia believed MacBryan starved himself to death.

In her final mention of MacBryan in her book, the former Ranee stated, “…although he had thousands of dollars in the bank, the ‘Baron’, with his charmed and twisted dreams of powers, looked down-and-out, filthy and in rags. I never dared ask Vyner what he thought about the downfall of his friend.”

Check out these adult dance classes you can take in Kuching

Do you believe it is never too late to sign up for dance classes? Dance gets you to move your body, helps you release stress, improve your posture and you’ll have taken up a new skill!

If you are staying in Kuching, here are some of the dance classes you can take and which studios offer them:

1. Belly dancing

Belly dancing is considered a low impact form of exercise. Hence, it can be enjoyed by all regardless of age.

Although men doing belly dancing is almost unheard of, there are men who shimmy as good as women.

Belly dance movements such as hip drops and hip circles are known to relieve lower back pains.

In Kuching, La Danse Studio offers belly dancing classes for all age groups.

They also organise a biennial showcase featuring the dance instructors and students presenting mostly belly dance performances.

Other studios offering belly dancing class include Soul Dance Studio and Right Steps Dance Studio.

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Shimmy your hips in belly dancing.

2. Ballet

Tyng Dance Academy believes it is never too late to start ballet.

Whether you are an adult or a child, doing plies and spinning are not impossible.

One of the benefits of doing ballet is that it helps build muscle and agility.

On top of that, it also strengthens your core and lower body,

So what are you waiting for? Time to pick out your tutu!

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It is never too late to learn ballet.

3. Lyrical Jazz

If you like to express your emotion through music with lyrics, lyrical jazz is the dance for you.

The dance movement for lyrical jazz emphasises on the strong emotions of the song expressed in their choreography.

For those who want to give it a shot, check out La Danse Studio.

If you prefer jazz dance, head over to Tying Dance Academy.

4. Hip Hop/Urban/Popping/Street/Locking Dances

Do you know the difference between Hip Hop and Urban Dance?

How about popping and locking?

Is street dance nowadays considered a dance genre?

The best place to have these questions answered in Kuching is none other than Soul Dance Studio.

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B-boying anyone?

5. Tahiti dance

A Tahiti dancing is known for its rapid hip shaking movement.

You can look forward for a slimmer waist over time as this dance engages a lot of waistline muscles.

Check out the Tahiti dance class schedule at Right Steps Dance Studio.

6. Modern Ballroom Dance and Latin American Dance

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Grab your partner for ballroom dancing. Credit: Pixabay.

Grab your partner and sign up for any types of ballroom dance or Latin American dance.

Interested students can enquire with Alexis Dance Sport Studio for their dance class schedule.

There, they cater to all levels of footwork, posture and gracefulness, so don’t be shy.

The story of Sarawak’s first and only sultan, Sultan Tengah

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The mausoleum of Sarawak’s first and only sultan, Sultan Tengah.

The story started of how Sarawak got a sultan begins with Sultan Muhammad Hassan, the 9th sultan who ruled the Bruneian Empire from 1582 to 1598.

He succeeded the throne from Shah Berunai, his older brother who died without an heir.

When Sultan Muhammad Hassan himself died in 1598, his eldest son Abdul Jalilul Akbar ascended the throne.

Abdul Jalilul Akbar’s younger brother Pengiran Muda Tengah, however, also wanted to become the Sultan.

He claimed that his elder brother’s ascension to the throne was invalid as he was born when their father was still crown prince.

Therefore Pengiran Muda, who was born when their father was already king, claimed he had the right to succeed the throne.

In response, the newly crowned Sultan appointed his brother Pengiran Muda Tengah to be the Sultan of Sarawak which comprises present day Kuching division.

Sultan Tengah’s reign in Sarawak

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Sultan Tengah’s tomb was rediscovered in 1993, more than 300 years after his death.

According to historian Chang Pat Foh in The Land of Freedom Fighters, Sultan Tengah came to Sarawak in 1599.

He brought along an entourage of a few nobles and over 1,000 warriors to help him to govern the new country.

As the Sultan of Sarawak, he carried the name Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah of Sarawak.

Before he set sail to Johor and Pahang, he established four ministers to administer his new kingdom.

They were Datu Patinggi Seri Setia, Datu Shahbandar Indera Wangsa, Datu Amar Seri Diraja and Datu Temenggong Laila Wangsa.

On his way back from Johor, Sultan Tengah was shipwrecked near the coast of Sukadana which is now the capital city of North Kayong Regency of West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

There he married Puteri Suria Kesuma, the younger sister of Sultan of Sukadana, Sultan Muhammad Saifuddin.

By 1600, he left Sukadana to Sambas where they built settlement in Kuala Bangun, near the Sambas river.

Sultan Tengah’s issue

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Opening hours to visit Sultan Tengah’s tomb.

It was during their stay in Sambas when the late Sultan had three sons with Puteri Suria: Radin Sulaiman, Pengiran Badaruddin and Pengiran Abdul Wahab.

Radin Sulaiman later married Puteri Mas Ayu Bongsu, the princess of Sambas.

In 1631, Radin became the first Muslim ruler of the Sambas Kingdom bearing the name of Sri Paduka al-Sultan Tuanku Muhammad Safiuddin 1.

By that time, in 1630, Sultan Tengah had already departed to Matan, an ancient kingdom located in the Ketapang Regency of West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

There in Matan, he married a local princess and had a son. They named him Pengiran Mangku Negara who later become the Sultan of Matan.

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A brief history of Sultan Tengah written on a plague near his tomb.

His death

After staying a few years in Matan, the wayward sultan decided to return to Sarawak.

By 1641, he arrived home and made a temporary settlement at Batu Buaya near the coast of Santubong.

It was there that Sultan Tengah was assassinated by one of his followers.

His wife decided to return home to the Kingdom of Sukananda after his death.

No records show that the Sultan of Brunei sent a replacement for Sultan Tengah, and Sarawak was reunified with Brunei.

The tale of Sultan Tengah is one of a prince who was not supposed to be, but wanted to be king. And when he finally became one, he hardly spent any time in his kingdom.

It is unsurprising that none of his princes came to claim the throne of Sarawak as they themselves were not born or raised in the kingdom.

Nonetheless, Sultan Tengah did establish his capital along the bank of Sungai Bedil which slowly expanded into what we know today as Kuching.

Thanks to Sultan Tengah, the once Hindu royal houses of Sambas and Matan both turned into Muslim Sultanates and his descendants became the rulers for both kingdoms.

Sultan Tengah’s tomb was lost over the centuries and finally found again in 1993. Subsequently, the Sarawak Government commenced the construction of Sultan Tengah Mausoleum in 1994. The mausoleum was completed in May 1995 at the cost of RM546,000.

Sarawak’s first and only Sultan is now laid in his final resting place at the junction of Jalan Damai and Jalan Kampung Santubong.

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His tomb is now overlooking the junction of Jalan Damai and Jalan Kampung Santubong.

What to do in Gunung Gading National Park, Lundu?

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Welcome to Gunung Gading National Park!

Gunung Gading National Park is one of the most accessible places in Sarawak to view Rafflesia blooms.

Gazetted in 1983, the national park is a conservation area for this majestic plant.

The park is located about 80km from Sarawak’s state capital Kuching, near the small town of Lundu.

The name Gunung Gading was believed to come from a tree called engkabang gading (Shorea hemsleyana).

However, according to the book National Parks of Sarawak by Hans Hazebroek and Abang Kashim Abang Morshidi, it’s name comes from a legend behind this mountain.

There were three celestial princesses from Gunung Roban in Java, Indonesia.

The princesses were guardians of Gunung Gading Puteri Gading, Gunung Perigi Puteri Sri Giar and Gunung Sebuluh Puteri Sri Geneng.

They loved to bathe and play in the seventh waterfall. They also planted flowers called Sri Gading on the mountain.

It is said that if you manage to find these flowers, you will be showered with good luck.

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What should you do on Gunung Gading?

Here are the three things you can do at Gunung Gading National Park (on top of looking for a good luck charm):

1.See Rafflesia

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Come and visit Rafflesia in Gunung Gading.

Regardless if you are a celestial princess or not, the only flower that matters in this national park is the Rafflesia.

Gunung Gading National Park is home to the endemic Rafflesia tuan-mudae, named after Charles Brooke, the second White Rajah of Sarawak.

Since the Rafflesia is a rare flower with a short flowering period, plan your visit carefully.

You can check in with the park headquarters at 082-7355714 on whether the flower is in bloom.

2.Climb to the top of Gunung Gading National Park

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The sound of a splashing waterfall can be heard along the trail to the summit.

Visitors can opt to climb to the top of Gunung Gading although there is no picturesque view awaiting you.

It has a a sign telling you something to the effect of “this is it, you’ve reached the top”.

The climb will take up to eight hours for a round trip so plan to start hiking early in the morning.

Do not forget to pack a lot of water, some food for an energy boost and a bag to carry your trash back with.

3.Visit the waterfalls

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The two-tiered Waterfall no 7 awaits you.

Follow the path of the celestial princesses and take a dip in any of the waterfalls.

The waterfall trails pass seven waterfalls but not all of the waterfalls are accessible.

The easiest trail is to Waterfall 1 while the two-tiered Waterfall 7 is the furthest to reach (about 1 hour depending on your stamina).

Every waterfall is a perfect bathing pool offered by Mother Nature for us to relax in so don’t leave any trash behind.

Last but not least, do wear long pants or leech socks as, based on my personal experience, those creepy-crawlies can pop up unexpectedly. So better be safe than sorry!

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Doesn’t this look so relaxing?

The Frog Pond of Kubah National Park

Most visitors to Kubah National Park would put Mount Serapi or its waterfall on the itinerary but only a few would stop and appreciate the frog pond located there.

Situated about a half-hour walk from the park HQ, this pool is the breeding ground for numerous frog species.

There are a few signs provided at the frog pond to educate the public more about this amphibian.

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Kubah National Park prides itself as “The Home of Palms and Frogs”.

If you are visiting the frog pond during the day, you might miss them. They hide among the leaf litter away from the hot sun and predators.

You can enjoy more of these amphibians if you are staying overnight at the national park.

This is because the frogs only come out at night. Furthermore, they are most active an hour after sunset.

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Most visitors tend to skip this small frog pond.

Have you heard a frog’s call before? Male frogs call to attract females.

Unlike catcalling among humans which usually repel the females, the louder the frog’s call, the better their chances of getting a mate.

Every species has its own distinctive call.

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A visitor walking pass the natural frog pond of Kubah National Park.

Some of the factors reportedly affecting the frog’s mating rituals are humidity, rainfall, temperature and even the phases of the moon.

After choosing a mate, the female expels its eggs into the water while the male releases its sperms to fertilise the eggs.

The eggs will later hatch into tadpoles and live like a fish for about 11 weeks.

Some tree frogs lay their eggs in the trees to avoid egg raptors.

When the eggs hatch, the tadpoles will fall into the pond.

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After choosing a mate, the female expels its eggs into this pond while the male releases its sperms to fertilise the eggs.

The importance of frogs

Frogs and their tadpoles hunt mostly insects allowing them to control the insect population. Hence, this helps to balance the ecosystem. Similarly, snakes, birds, bats and other frogs also prey on these frogs, continuing this important predator-prey cycle.

Did you know that having lots of frogs in the forest tells us that the area is still healthy?

They can be used as bio-indicator for pollution. This is because frogs have permeable skin which can be sensitive to any disease, pollution and changes in the environment.

If the number of frogs decline, it’s safe to say that it’s a warning sign that something is wrong with the environment.

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If the number of frogs decline, it’s a warning sign that something is wrong with the environment.

Frog species found at Kubah National Park

According to Sarawak Tourism Board website, some frogs that can be spotted here are Grass Frog, Common Asian Toad, Brookes’s Burrowing, Kerangas Bush Frog, Harlequin Tree Frog, Four-line Tree Frog, White-lipped frog and File-eared Tree Frog.

Apart from these, Hans P. Hazebroek and Abang Kashim Abang Morshidi listed more frog species in National Parks of Sarawak.

These include Kuhl’s Creek Frog, Black-spotted Rock Frog, Sarawak Slender Litter Frog, Abott’s Litter Frog, Giant River Toad and Brown Slender Toad.

Top 8 Penan Handwoven Items That Everyone Should Have

In Sarawak, it is normal for one person to own at least one traditional item that is used as an everyday thing.

Whether it is a hand-woven mat or a basket, traditional items aren’t just decorative, they’re also practical.

For the love of traditional indigenous items, KajoMag has compiled top 8 traditional Penan handcrafted items discovered at the the 2017 edition of the Non Timber Forest Product (NTFP) festival which are still practical for modern day use.

1. Kitong

Penan Item 1: Kitong
Penan Item 1: Kitong

Purpose: The kitong is a rattan basket used traditionally by the Penans to store apu nangah (sago flour) or cooking utensils.

Alternative: While the kitong can still be used to store flour, rice and cooking utensils, it can also be used to store everyday items such as nail polish, canned food items or even as a key holder

2. Bukul

Penan Item 2: Bukul
Penan Item 2: Bukul

Purpose: A traditional Penan backpack made from rattan, it was commonly used to carry plants and herbs they gathered in the jungle . The betik, which is the motif on the rattan bag, depicts patterns inspired by the jungle such as plant vines and bird’s eyes.

Alternative: Imagine using this effortlessly stylish backpack for your books as you walk around campus.

3. Berat Sakin

Penan Item 3: Coaster
Penan Item 3:  Berat Sakin

Purpose: Coaster. Surprised?

Alternative: Still relevant, looks chic and stylish in any setting.

4. Sekepit

Penan Item 4: Sekepit
Penan Item 4: Sekepit

Purpose: A small pouch used by the Penans to store small items like tobacco cigarettes when hunting in the forest

Alternative:  A cool yet practical to carry your power bank and smart phone.

5. Mak

Penan Item 5: Mak
Penan Item 5: Mak

Purpose: Rattan mats

Alternative: A convenient size and practical to be used as a mat or a table runner. Place a piece of glass over it and you have an interesting focal piece.

6. Pihan

Penan Item 6: Pihan
Penan Item 6: Pihan

Purpose: A Penan’s rattan bag

Alternative: Consider swapping your H&M bag for this as your staple everyday handbag

7. Basah

Purpose: A western Penan rattan bracelet. Most of the basah salak motifs are patterns inspired by snake skin. To give the rattan its shiny colour, natural dye is used.

Alternative: Great gifts if you have a lot of friends

8. Tabit

Penan Item 8: Tabit
Penan Item 8: Tabit

Purpose: The tabit is a Penan traditional garment made from rattan. It is worn around the waist over a loincloth to protect the wearer from sitting on thorns or other sharp objects when they sit on the forest floor.

Alternative: Frame it and put up as decoration. It’ll make an interesting conversation topic when people come to visit.

To know more about NTFP, click here to check out their website.

Where to have coffee and croissants in Kuching?

Coffee and croissants are one of many perfect matches made in food heaven.

The bitterness of coffee always goes well with a buttery, flaky croissant.

A croissant is made by layering the dough with butter, rolled and folded several times, then rolled onto a sheet before being baked to perfection.

It is a descendant of kipferl, an Austrian bread dated back as the 13th century. Reportedly, an Austrian named August Zang opened a Viennese bakery in Paris, serving Viennese specialties including the kipferl.

It was such a hit that the French slowly made it into their own. Their version of kipferl was named croissant because of its crescent shape.

Nowadays, croissants are synonymous with breakfast in France.

Here in Sarawak where we have kolo mee (or insert favorite local food here) for breakfast, croissants are a bit harder to come by.

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A cup of hot coffee goes perfectly with croissant. Credit: Pixabay.

Nonetheless, here are some of our suggestions where to have a session of coffee and croissant in Kuching:

1.Madeleine Cafe & Patisserie


Have your coffee and croissant in French-inspired surroundings at Madeleine Cafe & Patisserie at tHe Spring or its Green Heights branch.

Here you can pick chocolate, almond or a butter croissant to go with your freshly brewed coffee.

2.MANNA Patisserie, Boulangerie & Cafe


The croissants at MANNA Patisserie, Boulangerie & Cafe – especially their matcha croissants – are highly praised on social media so this is a definite must-try.

If you are chocolate-addict, give their homemade chocolate a try too.

3.Taka Patisserie


You can walk in to grab your food to go,  sit down to relax or you can host your own small private party – Taka Patisserie is the answer for all these conundrums.

The cakes and pastries (including croissants) are arranged in such an elegant setting that it’s hard to just pick one pastry.

4.The Patisserie Cafe


Open from 11am to 10pm, this cafe believes in serving tasty pastries hand in hand with hand-roasted coffee.

Some of the items on their menu such as Croissant and Pasta are available but at limited times so do check out their Facebook page for more updates.

 

Read more:

Top 5 Places to go in Kuching For that Panini Craving

What to do at Santubong, Sarawak?

Santubong Peninsula, with its rich history and great landscape is only a 35-minute drive from Kuching.

Behind its mountain peaks lies an age-old legend of jealousy and rage between Puteri Santubong and her sister Puteri Sejinjang.

Hailing from a celestial kingdom, the princesses were not above sibling rivalry. One fateful day, the princesses fought violently with each other over who was the more beautiful.

Sejinjang hit Santubong’s head, after which the latter fell to the earth, becoming Mount Santubong.

Before she fell, however, she managed to throw the beam of her weaving loom at Sejinjang. The impact broke Sejinjang’s body, and the pieces scattered into the ocean, forming nearby islands Pulau Satang, Pulau Talang-Talang and so on.

With the family feud in the mythical past, Santubong is a famous place for both locals and foreign tourists alike, the beauty of these two sisters still living on to this day through the scenic views of both the rainforest and the South China Sea.

Here are 10 things to do while visiting the Santubong Peninsula:

1. Climb Mount Santubong

A steep climb up to Mount Santubong.
A steep climb up to Mount Santubong.

The number one thing to do (provided you have the passion and stamina) is to climb to the Santubong summit.

It is moderately difficult since it has some steep climbs assisted by rope ladders.

The climb takes about 3 to 4 hours to the summit and up to 3 hours to hike down.

Do not take the climb lightly as there have been cases of climbers becoming stranded out of exhaustion.

It is advisable to depart from the park rangers’ office no later than 8am and take at least 3 litres of water for each person.

Nonetheless, the views from the top are definitely rewarding.

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The view from the top of Mount Santubong.

2. No energy to climb to the top? Just hike around it.

If you don’t have the energy to climb to the top but still want to enjoy the rainforest, hike around it.

At Santubong National Park, you can either follow the red trail up to the summit or the blue trail for an easier alternative.

The blue trail takes around two hours to complete and will lead you to one of the waterfalls.

If you take the blue trail of Santubong National Park, you'll find yourself on this hanging bridge.
If you take the blue trail of Santubong National Park, you’ll find yourself traversing this hanging bridge.

3. Take a dip in one of the jungle pools

While you are paying Mother Nature a visit, you might at as well take a refreshing dip in  one of its jungle pools.

Both blue and red trails at the national park have waterfalls to offer.

The waters are relatively shallow at all the waterfalls and may be only waist-deep at most.

Take a relaxing dip at one of the waterfalls at Mount Santubong.
Take a relaxing dip at one of the waterfalls at Mount Santubong.

4. Explore the coastline, not just Damai Beach

Apart from Damai Beach, there is another less famous but equally beautiful beach located at Santubong Peninsula.

Situated at Kampung Santubong, Pantai Puteri offers a scenic view of its coast.

It is a great place for beach combing as you can walk as far as the mouth of Santubong River.

There are plenty of weird-looking rock formations to explore as you draw closer to the estuary.

Be alert to your surroundings because if you are lucky enough, you might spot a kingfisher or two.

Here are some photos taken at Pantai Puteri:

5. Kayak along the shoreline

Another way to enjoy the shoreline is to kayak along it.

Permai Beach Resort and Damai Beach Resort offer kayaks for rent at affordable prices.

There are other recreational activities as well such as scuba diving, snorkelling and stand up paddleboards.

Each of them allows visitors to look at Santubong from different perspectives.

Kayaking is a relaxing way to explore Santubong.
Kayaking is a relaxing way to explore Santubong.

6. Have a taste of Sarawak culture

Visiting a new place would not be complete without having a taste of its culture.

Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) is an award-winning living museum depicting the cultural heritage of major racial groups in Sarawak.

There are seven unique houses which invite visitors to have an insight of the traditional life: the Bidayuh longhouse, Iban longhouse, Orang Ulu longhouse, Chinese farmhouse, Melanau tall house, Malay house and Penan hut.

Do not miss their cultural performances held at its theater twice a day at 11.30 and 4pm.

Once a year, SCV also plays host to the world renowned Rainforest World Music Festival.

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One of the performers from Kobagi Kecak (Indonesia) during Rainforest World Music Festival 2016.

7. Swim in the South China Sea

Put on your bikinis or swimming trunks and just have a swim – but don’t forget to put on some sunscreen first!

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Just take a swim!

8. Visit historical sites

The history of Santubong can be traced as far back as the 7th century.

The artifacts found in the area shows that the peninsula was a trading port between Borneo and China.

One of the historical places to visit at Santubong is Sultan Tengah Mausoleum.

It is located right before the junction to Santubong village.

The first and only Sultan of Sarawak, Sultan Tengah died in 1641 and was buried together with his family members.

Other historical sites include Batu Bergambar near Sungai Jaong, Cursed Crocodile Stone in Santubong village and archaeological site of  Bongkisam.

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Miss the crowd by visiting Santubong during weekdays.

9. Explore Damai Craftworld and Event Centre

It was formerly known and still preferably called Damai Central.

The place has wide variety of facilities and services to offer which include barbecue pits, camp ground, event venues, food courts and crafts bazaars.

Monkeys can easily be spotted even at Damai Central.
Monkeys can easily be spotted even at Damai Central.

10. Sit back, have a beer and enjoy the sunset

This is perhaps the best thing to do at Santubong.

Plop down on one of the seats at Escobar at Damai Craftworld and Event Centre, have a sip of a cold beer and then simply enjoy the sunset.

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The sun setting at Santubong.

Top 5 Places To Go in Kuching For That Panini Craving

Panini is not a typical dish you normally look for in Kuching… but that doesn’t mean you won’t have those cravings for this grilled sandwich-y goodness.

In the name of our love of food, KajoMag went on a mission to look for the best place to find Panini (so you wouldn’t have to).

By checking out these top five spots, you might be able to complete this list everyday this week:

  • Munch Café
Panini served with a side of salad
Panini served with a side of salad

Munch Café serves a blend of local as well as Western dishes; varying from a steaming hot bowl of noodles to a plate of thick and toasted sandwiches.

At Munch Café, their plate of Panini consists of two pieces of Focaccia bread grilled to perfection stuffed with chicken slices, sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, served with a side of salad, which cost RM12.80.

desert munch cafe
Cool sweet dessert  (Photo source from Munch Cafe facebook page)

Other items available in Munch Café worth trying includes scones, their bagel with smoked Norwegian smoked salmon (my current favourite), mee sua as well as the various types of cool desserts which are perfect for hot weather.

It’s self-serve, meaning that customers will have to get their own eating utensils, dipping sauce or extra plates at the utensil counter provided in front of the café. The Munch Café is open from 6.45 am until 3 pm every day except Sunday.

Check out their Facebook page to know more: https://www.facebook.com/MunchCafe/

 

  • The Museum Café and Shop at The Main Bazaar
MCS
The interior of Museum Shop and Cafe

Located at the Main Bazaar in Kuching, the exterior of the cafe  looks more like an antique shop.

Entering the Museum Café and Shop is like stepping into a part of the Sarawak Museum itself.

Every inch of the place is either covered in shelves filled with traveling books, cabinets showcasing beautiful jewellery for sale and precious  trinkets.

It might be tricky walking around the café as it is cramped with small tables and chairs for customers.

However, it the best place to relax and chat or even read a book during a rainy day while enjoying a cool drink.

Smoked Duck Panini with cheese
Smoked Duck Panini with cheese

Taking advantage of the Instagram-worthy background, I spent about 15 minutes trying to take the perfect picture of my food before giving up and devouring my Smoked Duck Panini with cheese.

Besides smoked duck, customers can opt to have beef bacon, turkey ham, chicken, tomato, onion or tuna Panini.

Curious about what the café looks like? Why not pop by on Wednesdays for their weekly talk. From 5.30 pm to 7.00 pm, the talk features various topics on hobbies, interest and travel.

You may also check out their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/sarawakmuseumshopandcafe/

 

  • Tease by Jase’s Tea Room
Panini served with a side of french fries
Panini served with a side of french fries

At RM16, the Panini served at Tease is a bit more costly than those mentioned in this list.

That being said, I find the Panini – served warm with a side of French fries on a wooden platter – completely satisfactory.

I think the best way to devour this wholesome goodness is by downing it with a glass of milkshake
I think the best way to devour this wholesome Panini goodness is by downing it with a milkshake

Located at Icom Square, Tease is that sort of place to go if you have a last minute assignment to complete.

Those who prefer a private yet comfortable space to be alone might find a decent sized spot with a cushy sofa in the corner of the café partially hidden by a book shelf, while those who might come in with a large group may opt for the long cafeteria style table with high stools.

The natural light coming through the glass windows makes you feel like you are outdoors.

To know more about this café, check out their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/teasebyjasestearoom/

 

  • Coffee Obsession
Filling and savoury without being too overwhelming
Filling and savoury without being too overwhelming

I had some difficulty spotting this café (located at Lorong Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce) the first time, as it is located on the first floor.

For RM9.90, the beef slice Panini that I had for lunch was  filling without being too overwhelming.

The soft wholesome bread complements the smokiness of the beef slice and the crunchy texture of the lettuce. It is an easy and pleasant meal for those who are in the mood for a light lunch.

Besides the one I’ve sampled, you can also opt for other choices such as the chicken or turkey ham slices.

Besides the food, my favourite feature of the café is the book shelf in the middle of the eatery. So while waiting,  you can read a book or magazine to fill up the time.

Popular for a small gathering party, the café will sometimes be closed for big parties, so bear in mind to check their Facebook page for their opening status.

Coffee Obsession is open from 12  to 11.30 pm every day except Thursdays.

Check out their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/coffeeobsessioncafe/

 

  • Seattle Coffee & Tea Kuching at Merdeka Palace Hotel and Suites
Paninia dn sandwiches offered at Seattle Tea & Coffee Kuching (Picture source from Seattle Tea & Coffee Kuching)
Panini and sandwiches offered at Seattle Tea & Coffee Kuching (Picture source from Seattle Tea & Coffee Kuching facebook page)

Merdeka Palace Hotel and Suites is strategically located in close vicinity to Kuching’s historical sites.

Surrounding the hotel is the Sarawak Museum, St Thomas Cathedral, the Textile Museum, Sarawak Museum Department and the old Courthouse.

Even the building itself has a colonial style facade to match the heritage sites surrounding the area.

Seattle Coffee & Tea is located at the right corner inside the hotel and so you can get nice view overlooking the roundabout of Padang Merdeka and the old cathedral while enjoying a sip of hot coffee to go with your Panini, priced at RM14.

Check out their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/SeattleCoffeeAndTea/

 

If you have other suggestions on where to get Panini in town, just let us know at KajoMag!

 

PHOTOS: DBKU Orchid Park, a perfect place for plant lovers

If you are a visiting botanist or horticulturalist to Kuching, the number one place you must visit is DBKU Orchid Park.

Constructed in November 2007, the park was finally opened to the public on May 5, 2009. The garden is made up of two areas – the nursery and the display area and houses a collection of more than 75,000 plants!

The entrance sign may say ‘Orchid Garden’ but it was upgraded to Orchid Park back in 2013.

If you are familiar with the names Lady’s Slipper (Paphiopedilum Sanderianum), Coelogyne Pandurata, Bulbophyllum Beccarii and the Vandal Dearei, then you have to visit this garden.

But if you come with almost zero knowledge on orchids like yours truly, you might need to squeeze some effort to appreciate the place.

My biggest disappointment after visiting the garden was the lack of information and signage. While not all plants came with a sign, those that did only displayed the names of the plants without any extra information, leaving me with more questions than answers after my visit.

For instance, was this orchid endangered? Where could this particular orchid be found? Is this orchid endemic to Borneo?

These were just some of the questions that popped up in my mind while I was going around the garden.

Nonetheless, the park is strategically located within the vicinity of the Astana and Fort Margherita, making it a good place for a quick visit, especially for tourists.

Plus, admission is free and it is open to the public every day from 9.30am to 6pm, except on Mondays.

Don’t forget to bring an umbrella or a sunhat. If you have a DSLR camera, the garden is perfect for macro photography – I brought mine and I was happy how the photos turned out in the end.

But I need help to identify these beautiful orchids so drop some names in the comment box if you recognise some of these beauties!