DIARY OF OUR 2003 PILGRIMAGE TO BORNEO
DAY TWO - Saturday 19th April 2003
Down to breakfast at 7.00am, great food and great variety to chose from. We ate a huge breakfast! Then onto bus to visit the Sarawak Cultural Village. This was a great location with many items of interest. Numerous houses and huts built throughout the complex that depicted the various various cultural groups/races found throughout Sarawak. There were also period displays for the different early indigenous groups in Sarawak. Inside many of the house/huts were amassed a large range of artifacts and various live displays.
During the morning we went into a theatre for an hour long live stage show performance that included many dancers, warrior acts and blow pipe displays. It was a terrific performance and well received by the large crowd. We had lunch in the cafeteria then onto many buildings and displays. It was a great location and everyone in our group did enjoy the cultural village.
We then went onto the Cat Museum. It was a building that contained an unbelievable display of cat memorabilia. Kuching means 'Cat City' and throughout the city there are monuments and displays devoted to the cat. Walking around the cat museum was an ideal time to pick up some interesting and different gifts for our family back home.
Then onto Batu Lintang Teachers College which is the site of the former POW Camp. 'E' Force stayed at this camp enroute to Sandakan and the officers, who were sent from Sandakan in 1943, were also housed here. Many european civilians from Kuching, Sandakan and elsewhere were also housed here. The book Three Came Home by Agnes Keith tells of her experiences at this camp during World War Two. In addition many British and some Australian servicemen were based at the Kuching Camp.
Mr Tan took us to the POW Memorial for a dedication and presentation service. A tour of the immediate area was conducted by Mr Tan and he pointed out various items of interest including that of the location where the Japanese flag flew. An afternoon tea was then provided by the college and was an excellent setting. The college principal was seated at our table and was very informative about the college and the history of the site. We had an excellent time at this reception and everyone was so friendly towards our tour group. The President of the Sarawak Chamber of Commerce was also at the reception. Ryan was also impressed with this official reception as it was not on the program. Rain started to fall whilst we were under shelter.
I asked Mr Tan about the location of any remaining POW Quarters and he said one did remain and explained how we were to find it. When we arrived at the site on the bus we found both Mr Tan and the President of the Chamber of Commerce had followed us and gave an informative talk about the remaining buildings.
When I alighted from the bus to photograph the various buildings it started to rain. The President of the Chamber of Commerce grabbed an umbrella and was holding it over my head whilst he was getting wet. Him in his business suit and me in my casual holiday gear. They then took us to the old ammunition building and the position where the main gates to the camp were. We departed from Batu Lintang College after saying our farewells.
Back to the hotel for a rest period but as the bad weather had passed over Jean and I decided on a walk along the Sarawak River foreshore which is paved. Many people on the foreshore but very few europeans. Everyone so friendly and many seemed to be of Chinese heritage.
Then for our evening meal we went by taxi to the open air top level of a shopping centre. There we found many stalls set up with a large variety of seafood. The area was a carpark during open shopping centre hours. We selected the items required, staff took our orders and we dined on the greatest array of fish, prawns, crabs, many unknown sea creatures and Chinese rice dishes. A great meal and terrific service. Everyone in our group said it was the best meal they had eaten.
We all caught taxis back to our hotel and Ryan and Trisha came back to our room for drinks and a talk. We discussed many things but particularly the need to document and publicise the local Borneo civilian population involvement in the attempt to help the Aussie POWs. The Heroes Grave had a big effect on us all. At about 11.30am we decided to call it an evening as we had another busy day ahead tomorrow.
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