Tattoos, Dancing, Orangutans, and Donuts

I know I’ve been a little quiet on the updates lately (you can blame the rash of new illustration clients I’ve gotten since replacing my tablet pen) but it’s been an amazing couple of weeks in Malaysia.

In the last week of September, one of Andrew’s students offered us guest passes to the Sibu International Dance Festival. The Festival was the same day as the tattoo appointment that Andrew has scheduled with local artist, Ah Seng, which led to a very busy day. Luckily we’ve got a friend named Alex who was willing to spend his Friday driving us all over the city.

So Andrew finally got his bird tattoo, which looks amazing.
And I got to see dancers from all over the world.
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We weren’t allowed to take photos of the dancers, but you can take my word that it was really great. My favourite troupes were the Youth Dance Ensemble of Sri Lanka, the University of the Philippines Dance Company, and the Vehaara Arts Group, who are locals from Malaysia – but there were thirteen groups, and they were all really great to watch.

Since then we’ve been eating strange food (black burger buns disturb me) and making new friends.
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But one friend in particular, who I’m refusing to name in hopes that it will help my heart break a little less when we have to leave her behind.
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Last weekend though, was the experience that will mark my time in Malaysia. We spent a night in Kuching, and on Sunday, I finally went to the Orangutan Sanctuary.

We drove to Kuching with Lucas and his family – I spent a six hour trip in a full back seat, but the scenery was amazing. I also discovered some really strange snack foods – yes that is a small plastic container of ketchup, and yes, it did come inside the bag of potato sticks.

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After arriving in Kuching, we visited the Indonesian border to update Andrew’s visa – so, even though it was only five
minutes, I’ve technically visited yet another country!

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We got a hotel for the night and Andrew and I got to go walking down on the water front, where there were a bunch of little stalls selling souvenirs and handy crafts, as well as a huge amount of food stalls (Oreo ice cream aa, so tasty).

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We also found this statue, which was erected in honour of the Kuching Cat Museum – I really wanted to check that one out, but it was already closed that night, and didn’t open on Sunday’s.


At the end of the waterfront shops, we found a pack of kids and their parents playing with an assortment of light up toys. A bunch of them had light up helicopters that they were flinging into the air with sling shots, and because Andrew and I are essentially overgrown children, we had to have one.

When I finally got bored of bright flashing lights, we headed back to the hotel.

The next morning, I found random cannons outside our hotel, a temple that doubled as a cafe, and a specialty donut shop – I haven’t had a donut in over two months, and these ones tasted like heaven. We also visited the famous cat of Kuching, who is actually kind of terrifying up close, but looks cute in our nice touristy photos.

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And then… It was finally time for the orangutans!

…except that, when you’re me, nothing is as easy as it sounds. We arrived at the Sanctuary at noon, only to find a sign that said “CLOSED. Reopening at 2pm.” Lucas and his family didn’t want to stick around until they re-opened, but I vehemently refused to go back to Sibu without having seen my orangutans. Lucas found us a taxi driver who was willing to drive us around for the day, and wait for us at every stop, so that we didn’t get stranded anywhere, and take us to the airport at the end of it all so that we could catch a plane back to Sibu.

So, Andrew and I spent a little time at a giant mall, mostly with a few SPCA puppies they had out for viewing that day and at a strange Japanese import store where I got new socks, and at 2pm, we taxied back to the Sanctuary – and they were open!!


We got our tickets and took a long walk into the jungle, where I saw some beautiful flowers and got more excited with every step.

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We arrived at the viewing area, where the staff let us know that the handlers were out calling the orangutans, and we just had to wait quietly. The sanctuary is out in the jungle, and there are no cages – the orangutans are wild. They come into the viewing area to eat melons and other fruits offered by the handlers, but if they don’t feel like seeing people that day, they just stay in the jungle.

Luckily, this was not one of those days, and my life is now pretty much complete.

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These are less than a third of the pictures I took – I could literally wallpaper a room in orangutans. There were two females and their babies. The rest of the troupe, including the big male with his face plates, stayed in the jungle. One baby was cheeky, he kept getting away from his mother and snapping branches for no reason, and making kissing sounds at the people. The other was a lot smaller, and she almost never left her mother’s chest. They were amazing to see. They’d stare right into our eyes, and you could see how intelligent they were.

After an hour, we had to leave to make sure we made it to the airport for our plane. I hated leaving while they were still hanging around, but it was an amazing experience, no matter how long it lasted. So, we made our way to the airport with our kind taxi driver, ate an overpriced pot pie at the gate, and hopped on a plane back to Sibu.

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As I’ve said to Andrew so many times he’s sick of hearing it – the orangutans are my new best friends, and I love them.

3 thoughts on “Tattoos, Dancing, Orangutans, and Donuts

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