Typical view of the Pan Borneo Highway. Bintulu which is to the east of Kuching is 600 km away and about 10 hours by our Ford pick-up inclusive of pit stops for rest.
Me and Mama Daisy on our special travelling mattress.
JUst theotherday, fospa mentioned of his intention to go east. He has many times over the course of a few days talked to us about going east. Ya, I know, I know.. but I am not ready. How can I tell fospa about him? Oh, the neighbour's tom cat has broad shoulders, long and white body and piercing eyes that kept me melting away! Soon, I'll have to say good bye to him and that thought made me cry. At about 8.20 am on 28th December, we proceeded with our journey to Bintulu. I was crying again during the first half hour of the journey but Mama Daisy was always there to stay close to me and comfort me. Sooner than expected I began to join Mama in having long cat naps. Sleep would be a better word to describe Mama's marathon naps. On this 19th trip to Bintulu, fospa made pit stops at Serian and Betong. Finally we arrived Bintulu around 6.40 pm in fine weather. Below are pics taken of the memorable journey east.
Rice fields around Sri Aman looking healthy and fertilised. The rice fields will be harvested sometime in April or May next year.
A small town park in Serian.
Mama Daisy got all the onlookers attention at the petrol (gas) station in Serian. On this 19th trip to Bintulu, Mama Daisy and me set a new record for the most travelled cats in Malaysia.
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A town park at Betong.
In Betong-old wooden shophouses still compete with newer concrete ones.
SeasonalFruitsof Sarawak - On this trip many seasonal fruits were seen and sold along the whole length of the Pan Borneo Highway. It's the end of year season for many types of local fruits. Here are some examples we saw. "Dabai " fruits were seen from Serian right up to Sibu. Depending on the variety and quality most were sold at an average price of RM 5 per kilo ( see inset). Fospa adores Dabai fruits.
Ripe "Dabai " fruits on trees
Very seldom seen "Kundong " fruit.
Unripe mangosteen fruits are green, ripe ones blacken to deep purple.
" Langsat" fruits on tree branches, literally speaking.
Two islands just off the coast at Sematan Beach, Western Sarawak.
On the 23rd December we drove west of Kuching to see the beaches and tiny rural towns of Sarawak. The last time I travelled west to Sematan must have been more than three years ago. There has been almost no change to the country side and the towns of Lundu and Sematan remain quaint, quiet and I guess trailing far behind to the rushing pace of development in Kuching or Bintulu for that matter. Both towns to me are ideal shooting locations for some truly romantic small town episodes or short story. Why our local film makers not make them popular shooting locations is beyond me. This is because the scenery is fantastic with rolling hills and countryside, the people are friendly and docile, food is relatively cheap and costs of living generally low and both towns are very accessible from Kuching city by a short one and a half hour journey by road. If I were a teacher and got transferred to rural towns like these I think I'll be able to save tons of money. I guess for young teachers its a place to get married and start a family early. Life can be so serene and I think crimes are a rarity. Is it? That could be the start of my short story.
Above is a picture of the only coastal road that links Lundu and Sematan to Kuching. Over the hills is neighbouring Indonesia. They are hundreds of individual homes spaciously positioned along the whole stretch of the highway with large gardens and small subsistence farming plots.
This beautiful coastal vine has pale purple flowers and makes habitual presence in most coastal beaches of Sarawak. Immediately they remind me of the beaches at Bintulu where they are a welcome respite.
CU view of the common salt-tolerant beach creeper Ipomoea pes-caprae or sometimes called railroad vine or beach morning glory. Notice the pale grey coloured beach sand of Sematan.
A collection of sea shells that makes picking and beach combing a pleasant activity.
Shells on log. These tiny sea shells can be boiled and the soup is a delicacy among the locals.
The street sculpture at the entrance of Lundu town depicts a touristic image. Around this locality are to be found the largest or biggest flower in the world called the Rafflesia. Above is the image of the flower done in ferro- cement technique . There are a few national parks around this area but not well promoted. The town of Lundu seems well maintained and the little town park surprises me. Here we can take a leaf from rural town landscaping. The folks take pride and fully utilise their parks as meeting places, green corners for relaxation and I guess a fun place to be. The shophouses in Lundu retain much of their pre-war beauty - wooden, quaint, over-sized and shopping cum residence style living architecture. Residence is on the second storey. Dropping by at the local market place I stumbled upon tiny chillies of various colours and the price was reasonable (see inset)
Typical wooden shophouses prevalent in rural towns of Sarawak and in Lundu there are many.
Durian fruit sellers waiting for Customers
Take a leaf from Sarawak small town landscaping. There's always a small park right in the centre of town. This Lundu town park serves many functional objectives which I thought was excellent.
I was happy that I could make time for this short day trip to Sematan and Lundu because I'm not sure yet when I'll be back here. Maybe when I have a better idea of a truly romantic story.
You would have imagined that the tree tops of forests canopy are the last competitive space of the gigantic rainforest trees proudly claiming the winning height with their latest outcrop of new green shoots into the tropical blue sky above. But come December I am in for a beautiful surprise. Throughout Sarawak the vigorous Bauhinia climber (Bauhinia kockiana) steals the show for it is on top of everything else. December is a time to look at tree tops as the Bauhinias scrambled over the trees to provide a magnificent crowning glory to the permanent gigantic columns of greenery. It makes me wonder whether the ancients have seen this acrobatic display and created the 'crown' intuitively in the shape of encircling vines to be accorded to the best achieving athlete for the vines are above the tallest trees and then conferred over our short human frame. Well, it's just a December thought to haul me up forward to a new year of which I am desirous of more success in business as well as in learning. The best is yet to come!
CU of Bauhinia kockiana species
Crowning December Glory
Trailing the December climbing beauties here in Bintulu are two favourite species of mine and are shown below.
CU of the purple Trumpet Flower ( Bignonia magnifica)
The trumpet flowers are woody, vigorous and tough climbers and as such are ideal for pergolas or trained as colourful urban tree climbers.
Below is Close Up of the flowers of the Garlic Vine ( Cydista aeuquinoctalis)
Garlic Vines grown at the Sarawak State Library or Pustaka Negeri Sarawak,Kuching.
With the camera handphone on my right hand, I tried hard to pull over "Jane", but she left me flabbergasted. Jane won.
I meant to write about the striking but tough climber at my eco-farm sometime ago. Today, being a Sunday I have more hours of leisure time to come to terms with her. I'll like to call her "Jane" because she reminds me of the imagery of the forest when people talk about the jungle, jungle people or jungle adventure. As one writer eloquently recalls "No writer or artist describing a 'jungle' has ever left out the snaky stems of the climbers or lianas, nor has any jungle dweller remained unaware of their flexible usefulness. Even in films, the camera lingers on these ropes of the forest. Breatheless, we admire Tarzan as he swings halooing through trees or sails across some incredible chasm hanging on the end of a thick vine; or, variously, we are filled with horror when our hero grasps a climber we know is really a deadly serpent, so sleek are the skins of both" (W.Veever-Carter, Riches of the Rain Forest). Well, this morning I had a tug-of-war with "Jane", the leguminous climber - Bauhinia ( see top picture). For the moment I'm unable to say 100% sure what the real name of the species I have at my farm. Nonetheless, for all intents and purposes it could be a very close relative of the Bauhinia kockiana which are constantly seen in urban parks and homes since it is more flamboyant in its flowering, sturdy and a vigorous climber of pergolas. I find that the Bauhinia kockiana has mainly dark orange flowers which are much larger than the species I have at the farm. The species here have both yellow and orange flowers of slightly smaller sizes. It is the philosophy of my eco-farm to leave as much natural stand of original rain forest vegetation islands as possible. There are many such micro eco-systems islands scattered at the farm 20-acre site, over swampy and flooded plains, undulating forested jungle fringes, covered hill tops and dark and damp valley slopes and basins. All these to ensure that my oil palm holding is vested inside a sustainable and biologically diverse environment, with dense variety of wildlife to complement. Only in this respect could I see the oil palm holding be sustainable in the long run.
The Bauhinia is a genus of legumes which are represented in the form of trees, shrubs or climbers mostly in tropical and sub-tropical climates. As a climber they need tall trees to cling to and for the Bauhinia this is no big deal because they have soft tendrils that could do the twining process simple and early, then unnoticed they slowly envelop the old trees or shrubbery with its maze of twiners, flowers and green leaves making some perceive wrongly that a tree is in flower, as in the picture above.
The Bauhinia kockiana originated from Sumatra. They are loved for their frequently blooming flowers that resemble some orchid species e.g. the golden showers. They can be effectively trained over an arch or support or any old tall tree. When in flower they are very showy, producing blooms in racemes ( i.e. flower-cluster with separate flowers attached by short equal stalks, at equal distances along the central stem). Bauhinias love full sun and grows well in deep soil. I am hoping to get some seeds from this plant after the flowering season is over though I know they rarely set fruit. Anyway, if I can't get any pods, I might propagate some from its green or semi-woody cuttings later.
Above is an example of a Bauhinia kockiana showing deep orange flowers and a flattened brown seed pod that normally hangs out for months. Note the charateristic 2-lobed leaf.
LS view of the feather-leaved Sealing Wax Palm ( Cyrtostachys renda) synonym - Cyrtostachys lakka grown at my farm.
This outstanding red palm is a real favourite of mine. It is always locally known in Sarawak as "Pinang Lakka" and being native grows throughout Sarawak, Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra island especially along coastal regions in sandy and swampy soil conditions. However because of its ornamental appeal it has been grown at urban locations where soils are different from its original habitat . But it doesn't bother the lakka thus dislaying its perfect adaptability. It has been used as instant decoration for arches during sports day, weddings and also in welcoming returning pilgrims from Mecca. Grown in big pots it can be shifted anywhere within a corporate building or any open landscaping spaces, e.g. sidewalks, airport lobbies, etc. It is the most exotic among the palms in Sarawak basically because of its brilliant scarlet and sometimes deep orange and smooth crown shafts. In my farm I have kept both varieties of the blood- red and deep orange- coloured leaf bases.
I have been planting dozens of this palm at my farm for beautification purposes as well as for an on site nursery for obtaining seeds for germination. Recently I checked on the propagation box. Surprise it was. I was able to see some seeds germinating after been placed inside the box a year before (26/11/08). Indeed it is not easy to get young seedlings from the seeds and the time it takes to germinate does not make impatient people happy to search for them. The rate of germination is less than 50%. Thus there is another way to obtain young trees the instant way. From the adventurous stolons new trees can be separated from the mother plant but the amount one can get is limited. Therefore to obtain large quantities, propagation by seeds is still preferred though restrained by time.
With the help of a " parang" ( matchet) the underground stolons that connect the young tree to its mother plant is cut and an instant plantlet is obtained.
As the tag says, the date of sowing the seeds was 26/11/08, that's a year ago. Notice the straight eophyll ( first leaves) at the upper left of the box barely an inch long.
More seeds are available for this year's propagation from this single stem.
A view of Sarawak Museum building in Kuching showing the C. renda planted at the entrance. The trees must have been planted for more than 20 years to achieve the height above.