Catting around Kuching

From Laos, we had a short stopover in Kuala Lumpur. Then, we headed out for a five week exploration of East Malaysia on the island of Borneo.  Even though the states of Sarawak and Sabah are part of Malaysia, on arrival by air from Kuala Lumpur, we were directed through immigration and our passports stamped.

Our first stop was Kuching, the capital of Sarawak.  In bahasa malay (Malay language), Kuching means Cat, so cats are a big theme for the city.  Some historians suggest Kuching comes from Mata Kuching, (cat eye), the name of a longan or lychee like fruit that was found wild along the Sarawak river.

Courtesy of

The main areas for our exploration were the Orangutan center, Orchid Garden, and Waterfront.

Orangutan Center

Orchid Garden

The banner shows the new foot bridge over the Sarawak river that recently opened. This allowed us to hike over to the Orchid Garden in the Government building area.  Prior to this, a taxi or water taxi would have been required.  There are just hundreds of beautiful orchids and other flowers spread over a huge area.  Here are a few examples that I think show the limitations of my iPhone camera instead of the expansive displays:




Rize, the land of Chai: It’s all in the Samovar

Black tea is called Chai in Russia, throughout the Balkans, and throughout Turkey.  In Turkish it is written Çay, in Russian Чай. This is not the Indian spiced milk and tea mixture.  This is the clear tea brewed strong to which hot water is added to cut the bitterness and to serve it piping hot.  The samovar still plays an important part in providing boiling water and keeping the tea warm at the proper temperature.  Even today, tea is served using electric samovars or kettles with the same principal of boiling water maintaining the strong tea at the proper temperature.

I grew up with a samovar that was originally brought from Russia to Windom, Minnesota by Mennonites around 1920.  A traditional samovar must be well ventilated, and usually started outside.  Our samovar in this picture was never used to heat water, but it was tested and would have worked.

Samovar in my basement corner in Edina, MN
Samovar in my basement corner in Edina, MN

We traveled from Trabzon to Batumi, Georgia by way of Rize. This region provides tea for all of Turkey. The banner image of this post shows the tea plantations around the bay on the Black Sea. Considering tea is consumed by the bail, it is amazing that this small region can produce so much.

What really excited me is on our tour of the Sümela Greek monastery near Trabzon,

Sumela Monastery dating from the Fourth Century.
Sumela Monastery dating from the Fourth Century.

we stopped at a shop that was serving tea from a working wood fired Samovar. I really felt right at home here.

Samovar in use on way from Trabzon to Sumela Monastery
Samovar in use on way from Trabzon to Sumela Monastery

Samovars come in many different forms. Here’s a Google search:

Popular Samovars according to Google

Here is a nice photo reposted from Tumblr.


Here are some modern samovars, all based on the same principal of the boiling water keeping the tea at the proper temperature.

Modern Samovars from Ask search
Modern Samovars from Ask search