Around noon today heavy rains poured over at the farm. The tiny stream that flows by our chalet suddenly turned into a river in just 30 minutes. Our farm is situated in an upland area and the stream is part of the network of tributaries that combine to form a river some three kilometers towards the coast. I name the stream that passes our farm as " Kambatik Stream".
After the torrential rains, our "Kambatik Stream" returns to its normal flow and size
I call this fruit the 'canon ball'. It's one of my favourite seasonal fruits of Sarawak. There is one tree that is fruit bearing now at my farm. But more about the tree later. The fruit when ripe exudes an aroma that can make one dreams of the Arabian nights. Its flesh is fibrous but better quality ones are sweet and less fibrous. I love to eat them freshly sliced ( see inset). About two months ago I took a picture of the tree when it was just starting to bear tiny fruits. Today I find the fruits have grown quite big ( about half a kilo in weight) but not ripe yet. This canon ball fruit is called "Bambangan or Asam Embang"in Malay while the Ibans call it " Mawang". In Bintulu, the local Melanaus here call it " Balem". The "Balem Tree" ( Mangifera pajang") can grow to a height of 35 meters high and the one at the farm now is slightly more than 25 meters high.
The "Balem" tree is tall and upright . In case there is heavy rain or strong wind you are advised not to walk underneath the tree or you will get knocked off with a Life Achievement Prize of the Day on the head!!!Some Balem fruits can weigh two kilos.
Close Up of the Balem fruit
Picture taken in June. Thus the balem fruiting season in Bintulu is between the months of June-September
A ripe Balem fruit. Notice the fibrous flesh and thick skin . Its thick skin enables it to be kept for longer periods.
An unripe fruit cut into two to show the thick flesh as well as the big sized seed at the core.
Locals here cut the unripe flesh into small pieces and take them as salad with the ever popular local shrimp paste called "Belacan".
Today (30-8-09) we are on the road again. Around 7 am Mama Daisy oversees fospa loading our pick up truck ( see inset). With the car fully loaded, we left Kuching at 8.20 am. As promised I was a good girl today. After about 40 minutes of the journey, my nerves were cooled. There were little screams or cries from me. But Mama was exceptional. She now takes the travelling to catch up with her lost sleep. Kuching was not a totally peaceful place for her. There were three tomcats that tried to 'tackle' her. Hah!...and all to failure. How come these black , white and light brown tomcats did not match up to her expectations is beyond my understanding. Is she trying to play 'hard to get'? I wonder.
Fast forward, we arrived Bintulu at 6.30 pm. Today's journey is just about the average time we take to cover Sarawak's Pan Borneo Highway from Kuching to Bintulu i.e. 10 hours. With this trip we clinched another 600 km to our existing record of 18,000 km. To catch up with more stories about our record breaking journey, please follow this link Hav Paws Will Travell. Thank you Guys!
That's me! Remember Inul?
Mama Daisy keeps on napping, napping, napping, naappiinngg, naaapppiiinnnggg..
Mama says, " Inul, follow me speak English .. the banner reads... SIBU CENTRAL MARKET.. ..get it?"
Sibu is three quarter of the journey from Kuching to Bintulu. Below are more post cards of Sibu town.
The Express Boats Terminal - these long river boats are superfast!
A River Cruise Boat parked at the Sibu Waterfront.
A section of the Sibu Central Market. At the foreground is a pile of sunhats worn by local women in Sarawak to protect their faces from the sun and rain while working in their gardens or open spaces like paddy fields.
This afternoon I drove downtown to Kuching City to see what's up at Satok 's Ramadan Bazaar. Surprise was more like it. The Ramadan Bazaar here must have been the biggest in Kuching and therefore Sarawak. My conservative estimate put the total number of stalls or traders at 200. On sale were an extensive variety of culinary delights. There were various types and manners of cooking -fishes, meat, rice, pancakes vegetables, local desserts,etc.,. All sorts of colourful iced drinks, cakes, biscuits, dates, fruits, etc., were there to wet one's appetite. Indeed the Ramadan Bazaar is a unique phenomena in Sarawak where one can buy food in tiny quantities at very reasonable prices for breaking of fast. But there is more that meets the eye. People from all walks of life take an afternoon off to feast their eyes and meet acquaintances or friends in an atmosphere of festivity and delight. I guess this is one tradition that deserves a permanent place in the hearts of Sarawakians. Below are more pictures I took of the Bazaar. ( Inset: "A Roti
Canai" seller places the popular pancake on hot plate)
A long shot view of the sheltered walking and trading area ( in case it rains)
My favourite "ikan terubuk" fish in smoked or barbecued style. Can never say no.
Grilled seafood - prawns, cuttlefish( squids) & fishes with special sauce
"Nasi Bryani"- something like Moroccon "kush-kush" in tumeric yellow colours. Nasi Bryani is a mixture of Basmati rice from India, cooked in spices, ghee, milk and meat.
And finally the traffic jam around the Ramadan Bazaar. Be early to avoid being stuck in one. Best time to visit the bazaar would be 4-5 pm.
Maka ... Berebut-rebutlah mencari ilmu Untuk mendakapNya Moga jalan terang diberkati Cahaya yang mengenalNya Di lubuk rindu kehadiranNya Siang bermesra kasihNya Bermalam pada sayangNya Redha dan takwa Pada jiwa yang luhur Ya Rabbi.
I saw Mama Daisy looking out the window with her long piercing eyes today. She's wondering about tomorrow. Very soon we'll be on the road again. News is in the air. Fospa is doing the finishing touches to all his assignments and soon will be submitting them. He stroked Mama Daisy's neck this morning and said " Daisy, get ready we'll be hitting the road soon. The moment I submit my assignments we'll be back to Bintulu." Those words sent Mama looking sad and dreamy this morning. I brave myself and asked fospa " May I see the video of Mama crossing the mighty Rajang?" " Hmmm...no sweat. OK, I'll upload the video for the world to see." said fospa. "Oh..is that so? " I eagerly replied. Fospa continued,"Yap, promise me that you'll be a good girl on this journey back like you used to?" " Meooooww.." I replied with the most innocent smile I could throw on fospa. I saw a muscle of relief on his tired face. " OK, Promise I will !" I answered fospa willingly. ( Below is the video showing Mama Dasiy crossing the Mighty Rajang - Sarawak's longest river at the tol bridge in Sibu taken on our earlier trip back Bintulu/P.S. The little girl at the end of the video clip is me - remember Inul?)
The last few days, the rains have started to return to Kuching after a prolonged absence since the middle of July to middle of August.This is good news especially to those working in the field and fasting. Above, is a picture I took on the 19th of August when the rains came in quite heavy.
Yesterday ( 23/8) was the first day of Ramadan. I went shopping at Mile 7 Ramadan Bazaar for some goodies to break the fast. By 5 p.m. the crowd had swelled as people from all walks of life and creed gathered to savour the rich variety of foods and drinks offered. The Ramadan Bazaar is a yearly occurrence in Sarawak where in towns and small villages they sprout like mushrooms attracting the various races to mix freely in a festive culinary mood. The Mile 7 town bazaar was no different. Being a Bintulu guy my eyes were inescapably attracted to the fishes available. To name a few that caught my attention were the barbecued "ikan keli"(catfish), "ikan terubok"(Tenuala macrura), and the "ikan pari" (sting ray). For drinks I opted for the freshly done sugar cane juice. Next, the barbecued chicken fit my bill and with a choice of two cakes I was driving home happy.
I am always excited with the coming of Ramadan - the Holy Month according to the Muslim calendar. In this month of Ramadan, God closes the gates of Hell and ties up the Devil or Satan. There is Light and Peace thrown upon us on Earth. The windows of opportunity are open to those who seek blessings and forgiveness. One of the five tenets of Islam is vigorously practiced through out this month i.e. the day long fasting which start at dawn till sunset for a duration of one month. As is traditional I would take one or two dates from the deserts of Arabia (see inset) to break the fast with a glass half-full of plain water. It's a physical as well as spiritual training. For the last 11 months I know my body has been fed with all the abundance of eating and drinking. Come Ramadan all the excesses will be checked. My body machine will undertake its yearly overhaul and general maintenance. It's back to basics. While my body goes on a lean production system, my mind and spiritual being seeks a new lease of life. With 'spiritual eyes' open to light, we should be able to see humility better, a clear, straight and short path to living successfully presents itself, followed by a strategic intent to do what is right and abandon what is wrong. Now how could there be so much wrongs on this globe even in the month of Ramadan? I guess even though the Devil is tied up, Satan characteristically whispers and for those with a faint heart the temptations are always there. It's business as usual.
There is so much added value, extra bonuses and dividends waiting for the faithful in the month of Ramadan that once its over I will normally shed my tears of joy after having lived the month in one piece and God willing - peacefully. For those celebrating Ramadan I wish you all Happy Fasting. Salam.
Sarawak besides being a land of rivers, forests and mountains is also a confluence of cultures. There are about 27 ethnic groups in Sarawak who intermarry quite naturally among themselves such that any forcible threat to racial disunity is constantly kept in check. Cultural performances are increasingly seen these days at the Kuching Waterfront and in many instances the cultural performances have blended many elements of the differing ethnic identities into newer forms of cultural mix or integration. Among the Malays, Melanaus and Kedayans of Sarawak, the "Bergendang" ceremony is kept very much alive. The video below shows a "Bergendang" performance that is held at the Kuching Waterfront. Guess what? Anybody is welcomed to participate in the dancing, young and old, Black or White, Yellow or Brown. Visitors to Sarawak can pick up the dance steps very quickly. But the real fun begins when the ladies playing the drum ( named " Mak Gendang" = Lady Drummer) and singing the "Pantun" ( a four-line verse poetic message) gets response from the men. The men reply back in pantun-style the message or question embedded in the "Mak Gendang" pantun. Thus this answering and replying of pantuns continue for hours on end. Today the " Bergendang" is very much part of a wedding celebration activity and held mainly during the night in many villages through out Sarawak.
Fospa came home with this picture of a cute young cat playing the guitar on stage. "It's a postcard look-alike me", Inul meowed. " Oh, I love this picture fospa. I would like to keep it", Inul added.
" Could I go on stage too?. Pleaassee..." she begged.
" Wait a second. I have a better idea", said fospa.
"Ok, here's the deal. I'll put you live on You Tube and you get to pick up another word of English". Inul having just woken up from her nap answered " Ok, fospa. Done, Sealed and Delivered!" said Inul as she extended her paws to give the Big Five.
" Wow, Inul! Those are three big words of English!" fospa turned surprised.
Model of Kuching City - with the lazy Sarawak River meandering through and dividing the city. Towards the upper left corner is Mount Santubong where the beach hotels are and reachable by a 45- minutes drive from Kuching City.
Kuching is a moderately- sized city with a population of about 600,000 people. With the equator not relatively far overhead, it enjoys a tropical rain forest climate that exudes the mystique of the deep jungle and adventure. To move around Kuching City is like driving in a massive botanical garden. Indeed its rich flora can be seen everywhere as you make each turn along its crowded urban roads. It is not excessive if I were to state that Kuching is slowly turning into a shady garden city and yet I think many improvements are possible. ( Inset: Angsana Trees ( Pterocarpus indicus) are planted as wayside trees on road median at Petra Jaya)
Another view of Kuching City - showing the Sarawak River branching out to the right and pouring its waters near the beaches around Bako National Park .
Urban planting is important in providing green lungs to the city. You can even call it urban forestry or any other term but the principal idea should be the evolution of a conducive green environment that stimulates bio-diversity, wildlife and recreational areas that makes living in a city bearable, healthy and socially enriching. There are many equally effective or desirable trees that could be incorporated in the re-making of Kuching urban green but trees should be selected for their shade, flowering habits, wildlife- friendly ( e.g. some fruit trees), safety and other aesthetic criteria (e.g. character). What is important is that any visitor to Kuching will bring home memories of a stay rich in beauty, tropical life and aura that is uniquely Kuching.
About a 30 minutes drive from Kuching City is Jong's Crocodile Farm. It is a popular tourist destination showcasing hundreds of crocodiles that are bred in captivity. I took a video of the crocodiles in action during feeding time sometime last year. Below is Mister Croc's attempt to capture the prize.
I have been staying in Kuching for slightly more than a month now. The Kuching garden is shaping up beautifully. For one thing our presence in Kuching enables us to water and carry out general maintenance of the plants on daily basis, the latter being critical in times of drought that Kuching faces in July and now continuing to August. On the left (inset) is a LS view of the side garden of which the planting has now obscured the fencing. Below is a medium shot picture of the side garden showing the many varieties of plant materials used to colour the garden. Generally I am quite pleased with the result thus far, though further improvements are possible.
Side Garden - facing south, showing various plant species
Side Garden - Yellow Bells ( Tecomastans)
Side Garden - new Hibiscus flower in close up
Side Garden - Spider Lily ( Hymenocallislittoralis )
FRONT GARDEN - Inside view
Front Garden - inside, cu of plumeria flower ( Plumeriarubra var. acutifolia)
Front Garden - inside, cu of Ixora flower ( Ixoracoccinea)
Front Garden - Outside, cu of Drunken Sailor ( Quisqualisindica)
Front Garden - outside, a long shot view
Left Front Garden - outside view
Left Front Garden - inside view
Notes: The above pictures cover July - August 2009 period.
P.S. For more stories about gardening in Kuching and Bintulu , please click this link : My Gardening Projects