Invited in for coffee with the locals, causing drivers to rubberneck, and our planned date with Mr Wong.

Day 84: Bintulu, Malaysian Borneo. After breakfast at the guesthouse this morning, we headed out for a long walk around the coast.

The lovely lady at reception said she would continue to communicate with the bus driver today, to try to get Lil’s cap back. We gave her the 10 Ringgit the bus driver had asked for, and left the process in her capable hands.

And speaking of caps, Jim’s decided that having ‘Foodpanda’ (a food delivery service) on our white caps is dorky, so he’s working on removing the lettering with Lil’s nail scissors. Suffice to say it may take a while.

We headed out and walked through the town until we were close to the the coastline, except there still was a row of houses in between us and the sea. Convinced that we must be able to get down to the waterfront somehow, we walked down a side road, however it was a dead end and the small track that ran down to the water didn’t look at all safe.

We were just turning around to retrace our steps when the gate to the house next to us slid open, and a guy came out to ask what we were doing. We explained we were trying to get to the waterfront. He asked if we were tourists – we said we were – and his response was “We don’t get tourists around here”. We said we’d guessed as much last night, when everyone in the town stared at us as we walked past. He said his name was Charlie, and coincidentally he was Australian and used to live in Sydney many years ago.

He asked where we were headed after Bintulu. We ran through our plans for the next couple of weeks, and mentioned that we were also hoping to get to Similajau National Park tomorrow (30km from the town), but while we could get a Grab there, we couldn’t work out how to get back. He said “you’d better come in”, waved us through the gate and to some seats in his garden, and we sat and waited while he went and got his Malaysian wife, Lyn.

While we were chatting to Charlie and being introduced to their two dogs, Lyn went off to make us coffee, then called a couple of her family and friends to find someone who could drive us. Her favourite taxi driver, Mr Wong, who she uses regularly said he’s free to take us, so she organised for him to pick us up at our hotel at 8am tomorrow morning – what a great result! They’re a lovely couple, incredibly hospitable and really helpful, filling us in on a lot of background to the town and surrounding areas.

We said our thanks and goodbyes, and headed off to continue our walk. A couple of kilometres along the road we reached Taman Tumbina, a small zoo and botanical garden. Set up in 1991, it’s home to small range of animals and birds, and some great gardens and forest tracks to wander around.

Neither of us are fans of zoos, but we were keen to visit as they have a Hornbill aviary and we wanted to check out some of the birds which are the national emblem of Sarawak. They also have a tiger, a couple of sun bears, a very cute slow loris, some bear cats and deer. Some of the animal and bird enclosures are quite small and a bit tatty, but all in all it wasn’t too bad and worth the visit.

The scorpion cage in the small insectarium seemed to be missing. A few minutes later we came across a dead scorpion on one of the paths – perhaps it managed to escape.

Then we headed further along the coast until we reached Pantai Tanjung Batu, a beach and picnic area with walking and jogging paths. As we were walking, we realised that lots of people in cars were actually rubbernecking as they drove past us, baffled to see tourists in their town.

We continued walking further around the coastal road, past Bintulu golf course and what we fondly called ‘church strip’ – there are five churches in a row next to each other – Evangelical, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist and Catholic. If you want to try out different religions, it’s pretty convenient.

At the end of the coastal road (also grandly called The Promenade), a night market was setting up. We were too early for most of the stalls, but bought a couple of fresh coconut drinks and sat drinking them looking out over the water. The guy who hacked the coconuts apart (with a seriously scary looking cleaver) was lovely and a lot of fun – he welcomed us to Malaysia, asked where we were from, and put on his best Australian accent saying “Have a good day mate”.

Then we retraced our steps back to the town, picked up some snacks for the walk tomorrow, and had dinner at one of the eateries next to our guesthouse. Spicy chicken noodles, seafood soup and chicken roti. More superb food – we’re becoming big fans of roti.

Then back to the guesthouse for another chilled movie night with beers and more of those odd tasting snacks we bought yesterday.

Tomorrow we’re planning a long walk through Similajau National Park – assuming of course, Mr Wong turns up as planned.

More then.

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