26 October, 2009

At the Tamu

River prawns called " Udang Galah" fresh and alive at the Tamu or jungle produce market.

Fresh and uncontaminated jungle ferns called "Midin" at the Tamu, Bintulu town.

For more pictures and stories about Bintulu, please visit my other blog here ~ My Bintulu Clicks

24 October, 2009

A Harvest and a Feast

This morning I feel elated for two reasons. Being away from Bintulu for about three weeks now I miss exceedingly my eco-farm here and therefore to drive away the blues I started to do a little bit of labour of love. Then while walking around the farm I met with a surprising encounter with a lovely beauty that seems to enthrall me forever. First, the harvest. As can be seen on the left (inset) the oil palm fruits freshly harvested today, are about 3-5 cm long with a diameter of about 3-4 cm which I consider a pretty good size since planting them three years ago. And there are good tasting. It's no wonder squirrels love them and BTW there are plenty of these cute creatures around at the farm here.
A ripe fruit bunch like above could easily weigh between 10-15 kilos.

This morning I started to harvest Zone D, located just behind my chalet. The tree that I harvested is seen on the left of the picture above. Note the diversity of planting in an eco-farm which allows for multiple harvesting of oil palm fruits, seasonal fruits, and other jungle produce items like edible ferns, herbal plants etc. besides my favourite inter-cropping of landscaping plants for advance growing and propagation purposes.

Before Harvest
After Harvest
To be an expert harvester you got to be able to cut the base of the leaf stalk with one single thrust of the chisel and another to cut the fruit bunch. Well I'm beginning to love this work especially when I can strike one with a clean cut. It gives much satisfaction and needless to say perfect exercise because at this low height you need to bend your body many times to complete harvesting about 4-5 fruit bunches per tree. Well, my record this morning is 10 trees and the rest I'll just let my worker continue harvesting. At today's price a tonne of the fresh fruit bunches fetches between RM 350-RM 380. Normally I would harvest the farm twice monthly.
And a Feast for my Eyes
As the butterfly flutters its wings I feel a strong rush of excitement and thrill to see how this regular visitor clings to the flowers to extract the honey. It is one of those moments when we suspend all thoughts and just love life for what it is - to be enjoyed.

For your eyes only.
This lovely flowering plant is of the Clerodendrum genus and commonly called the Pagoda Flower due to its bright orange to red flowers arranged in a pagoda-like structure, and is found in many regions of Asia. From this genus comes another favourite of mine called the " Bleeding Heart Vine" ( Clerodendrum thomsoniae)

The leaves are broad, glossy and deeply veined. But what attracts me to this plant is the pyramid-like tier of hundreds of tiny salmon pink flowers. This plant flowers throughout the year and thus qualify well as a "Kambatik Garden" favourite.

This LS view shows partly its growing habit. The above specimen is just a few feet away from my verandah and seems to grow excellently in damp but well-drained soil.

By the Kemena River

Late this afternoon I dropped by at a riverine petrol station near Kampung Jepak situated close to the mouth of the Kemena River. Just across the petrol station is the original Bintulu town which is still thriving even though many of its satellite towns have blossomed surrounding the original town over a 30 years period of transformation from a fishing village to an industrial town it is now. The original Bintulu town attraction is the river that has been the lifeline for generations of people from upriver and the coastal areas around Bintulu. From where I was standing at the petrol station jetty I could see two uniquely shaped buildings with rooftops in the form of the local "terendak"- a kind of sun hat worn by the Melanaus of Bintulu. On the banks I saw plenty of colourful fishing boats berthing which reminds one of the importance of fishing to the people of Kampung Jepak. In fact of the two unique buildings (see inset), the one on the right is the called" Pasar Utama" which consists of a wet and dry market. The left building is the "Tamu" which houses hundreds of local traders selling jungle produce items, vegetables, fruits, local cakes and anything else that is edible ( e.g. maggots, frogs, wild boar, snakes )

End of the riverine petrol station jetty , with the two unique public buildings on the bank of Kemena River across.

Bridges Don't Come Easy

Next to the petrol station is a pontoon where motorcyclists wait for the ferry boat. The motorcyclists of Kampung Jepak prefer to ride the ferry boat to take a short cut to town because the bridge that links Kampung Jepak to Bintulu town is situated some 20 kilometers away upriver. Furthermore the ferry service is free.

Note: For more pictures and stories of Bintulu please visit my other blog here ~ http://mybintuluclicks.blogspot.com/

22 October, 2009

19,800 km in the rain!!

We have been forewarned. Fospa mentioned that this 17th trip to Bintulu will be a rainy one coz the end of year rains will be at our back. We left Kuching at 8.45 am today (22/10) in slight rain to start with and as we proceeded on with the 10 hours long journey we encountered more rains as predicted. Geography can be an interesting subject and it's just only talking about the weather. Except for a total brief period of about half an hour, the whole journey was in complete rains - some light, some medium and some *OMG* heavy tropical torrential downpours! At the start of the journey I was screaming and very nervous. In fact fospa checked my heart beat and mentioned to fosma ( yes I heard it) " Inul is nervous and her heart beat is throbbing!". " Oh, don't worry", fospa said "Daisy will be there to comfort her". Mama came to my rescue and after about 30 minutes ( that's a long time she has to endure my behaviour) my nerves seemed to be settled and calmed as she continously groomed me. Mama can be so loving and a true friend. So on with the journey. At the first leg of the journey ( 1st quarter) fospa halted the car at a country side farm near Sri Aman to get a shot of the farmers working their paddy fields. By this month most of Sarawak's subsistence paddy farmers have worked, planted or tended their paddy plots and throughout the journey we could see the paddy plots in various colours to show the various stages of planting work achieved by the farmers. Some plots were really dark green in colour while others brown and black because the owners have just completed burning the bushes and grasses before they start to plant them with this season's new seedlings.
" Planting rice is never fun. Bend from morn till set of sun.
Cannot rise and cannot sit, cannot rest a little bit"- lines from fospa's school song sung about 50 years ago.
Fospa could remember the lines of the song that he learnt from his primary school days about paddy planting which he recited while driving. It is sad that after so long a time ( generations and generations) Sarawak paddy farmers are not exposed to mechanisation. What's this ministry called " Modernisation of Agriculture" doing for the poor farmers? I can't even see a mechanical equipment used in the paddy planting process along the whole stretch of this Borneo Pan Highway. What modernisation? Oh, I could sense fospa's anger and frustration.
Rains at Sarikei, somewhere at middle of the journey.

Nearing Sibu, careful of the pools of water.

More torrential rains fell on us at the 3rd leg of the journey ( nearing Sibu) as per images above.

Finally at around 7.00 pm we arrived Bintulu in light shower and so happy to be back home to where I was born. Mama Daisy was considerate enough to allow me to lay my head on her shoulders. I could then sleep soundly. Mama you're an angel.
Remember me Inul?
Note: Cumulative Distance Travelled = 19,800 km
achieved on this Btu - 17th trip ( 22-10-09)
For more stories about us, please check it out here ~ http://havpawswilltravell.blogspot.com/

20 October, 2009

Getting ready

Today (21/10) fospa broke the news. Tomorrow we'll be on the road again. Fospa eagerly checked the computer for our images that have not been posted. So here they are. In the picture (inset) Mama Daisy is seen at her favourite loitering place. Must have been the cold concrete floor and the shade that makes the place groovy. Here's a little secret about me. It's a habit of mine to put my paws on Fosma's hand when ever I get the chance to nap or cuddle close to her. This touching act Mama Daisy will never allow me to do to her and thus makes me wonder. Why does Mama not allow me be friendly with her? Am I past my age of being treated like a cute little girl? Anyway, I always like to treat Mama Daisy as a true friend, even though at times ( many times actually) she would snarl and show her disagreement. We young girls need love too Mama.
Remember me Inul?

I am that big girl above.
For more stories about our adventure follow this link~ http://havpawswilltravell.blogspot.com/
See you all in Bintulu soon.

Najib is Listening

I was overjoyed when I heard over the TV1 news yesterday that the Federal Government has finally agreed to make Malaysia Day a public holiday for all the 13 states of Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak included. The Malaysia Day issue has been a sore point in the relations between the eastern and western states of Malaysia for many years . I have written at least three posts on this issue here and here and again here.

Malaysia was formed on 16th September,1963 when the ex- British colonial states of Sabah, Sarawak and the Malay States of Malaya decided to form a Federation despite being distanced and separated by the South China Sea. The one anomaly in Malaysian history that remained uncorrected and purposely avoided by generation of Malaysian top leaders was the fact that while the act of forming the modern federalised political entity was a major historical landmark, it was never given official recognition and a source of pride by setting aside a day like a public holiday to remember it. Forty five(45!) years have passed and yesterday it was finally agreed by Federal leaders that it is time to give due recognition to the eastern states of Malaysia for their sacrifice and compromise in teaming up with the Malayan states to form Malaysia. Of course, it will be in the interest of historians in future to outline the reasons why and how the decision was made. But to me, living in the present I am more inclined to give my version of what made the Prime Minister changed his mind. Najib has always been adamant about the demands of the peoples of Sabah and Sarawak. Why did he change his mind? For one thing, the politics in West Malaysia has been bad for UMNO ( Najib's ruling party) recently where in the last election it lost five (5) states to the opposition parties. It could remain in power today because the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak are giving UMNO full support by siding UMNO at the Parliamentary level. Assuming both states withdraw their support, UMNO would sit on the opposition bench - a dreadful thought for any UMNO leader. Secondly, I find that despite the hype about" One Malaysia" concept mooted by Najib ( since he took over the reins of the government a few months ago) the states of Sabah and Sarawak gave it a lukewarm response for reasons we all understand ( if you are a Sarawakian or a Sabahan). I am speculating here. But could it be that the celebration to commemorate Malaysia Day in Kuching recently with its dismal turnout made Najib radically revise his calculations? What do Sarawakian leaders and peoples want to show? Thus in a pre-emptive move he quickly announced yesterday the need to make Malaysia Day a public holiday. Najib is listening and Sarawak gets what it wants without begging.

I saw these school kids during a rehearsal at the Padang Merdeka where the Malaysia Day celeberation was to be held. But wait. It was held on the 10th of October and not the 16th? Why the anomaly? Beats me! but when you jumble dates irresponsibly and get cold faces looking at you, what is the implication? Anyway, the show went well that evening because the end of year rains did not fall to scatter the crowd.

19 October, 2009

The Supple Rattan

I am forever fascinated by nature's special gift to the jungle peoples of Sarawak. From its deep tropical rain forests are obtained the 'rattan' (Calamus). The rattan is a versatile, pliable and flexible climbing plant and due to its suppleness, it is sometimes referred to as the 'supple jack'. To utilise the rattan one has to perform much processing work because when found in the jungles it is a very thorny plant and some cleaning and drying processes have to be introduced to make it last and workable. There are rattan mats and drums with rattan ties and fasteners ( see inset). At my farm I used to carry fruits in rattan baskets. There are rattan fish traps, rattan bags, rattan walking sticks, rattan balls, rattan walls and ceilings, rattan furniture - chairs, tables, table mats, beds, partitions, cribs, and even rattan cosmetic jewellery items like rattan rings, rattan beads, rattan bangles and rattan head bands.

My favourite rattan carrying basket called " Abik" in the local Bintulu Melanau dialect.

Rattan baskets of different shapes and sizes to carry jungle or farm produce to home or market.

And just the other day at the native crafts exhibition I stumbled upon these beautifully ethnic-designed "parang" which is the Malay word for sword-like instruments where the rattan is used to tie or hold the sheaths of the parang together.

An expert craftsman requires no nails or glue but instead uses rattan strings as fasteners.

The "parang ilang" once used by native warriors for head hunting expeditions are prized souvenirs for visitors to Sarawak today.

The above is a rare show for me. It's a special axe used for building dugout boats or canoes called "perahu" in Sarawak. The handle is made from rattan and fastened to the cutting blade using rattan strings. This axe is preferred over wooden or metal handles for the simple reason that it is lighter and gives that 'spring back' effect .

15 October, 2009

Two Years Tall

While writing this blog post, the end of year rains are tapping on my rooftop and the abundance of heavenly water it pours on the garden will be evidenced tomorrow on depressed surfaces over the garden floor. With the coming of the wet season, I will normally start to add new planting materials to the garden as a welcoming gesture to the days ahead of garden renewal and green sprouts. It has been just about two years down the road when we made the once-in-a-lifetime decision to put foot in Kuching. We have no regrets even though the decision was highly pragmatic and in the most casual "take- it-as-it-comes" approach.

Front Garden as at November 2007.

Front Garden today.

The rains will come and go, like our entrances and exists of daily existence. It will come and nourish the garden. Our front garden plot is small but has been a great a spiritual retreat , a story of growth and decay in the working wonders of nature . Besides the garden has been a most pleasurable physical workout place to unwind my hurried life. It's about two years tall and the garden is shaping up well. It sings out a calling in me to live up to my whole senses ( spiritual, emotional, intellectual and civil) in order that the garden of my life will be filled with moments of discovery, wonder and blissfulness. Like a blessed garden our life has to be lived in, re-worked and re-discovered not once but continuously.
Does your garden grow?

14 October, 2009

Images of Kuching Today

Fishing Boats berthing by Sarawak River

Speed boats berthing by Bako River

Extension terrace of a fisherman's house at Bako

Nibong Palm leaves ( Oncosperma tigillarium)

Papery bark of the weeping paper bark tree- Melaleuca cajuputi
Credits: My Kuching Klikz
Images captured by camera phone N93i
Date taken: October '09

10 October, 2009

Chinese entrepreneurship

You can call Malaysia as a 'nation of Chinese shopkeepers'. Everywhere in the towns and rural villages throughout Malaysia, Chinese traders have a stronghold on the local economy and has remained unchallenged even after much intervention by government policies aimed at encouraging the Malays and other native groups to have a piece of the economic pie for more than forty years now. While statistics on the increasing involvement of the "bumiputras" ( i.e. the local Malays and native groups) show a minute improvement, these statistics seemed disparate and subject to manipulation by the authorities to justify their claims on the success of their market intervention policies. There again, the bumiputra success are pinned on the 20% control of corporate assets owned by the government through its government -linked companies ( GLC's) but not owned by bumiputra individuals. Thus in summary, bumiputra entrepreneurship is a drop in the ocean of the big Malaysian economy.
Above is an oil painting by Mohd. Sallehuddin entitled "Village Shopping", dated 1959 ( 89.5 x 76 cm) kept by the National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. I had a chance to see this painting yesterday at a mini-art exhibition at the Kuching Waterfront of which the painting shown was a re-production. However it captures well the elements of Chinese entrepreneurship then. The Chinese trader, call him " Ah Chong", opened shop right in the midst of a Malay village ( kampung). Ah Chong is frequented by the local Malay ladies( call her Sarimah) who obtain their daily necessities from Ah Chong's shop almost religiously. Sarimah made it a point to dress her best when shopping and so did her little daughter. But Ah Chong doesn't bother about niceties. He seemed proud to show his abs to lovely Sarimah. Ah Chong's presence has been in the kampung eversince his lifetime and then his son and grandson's generation. Chinese entrepreneurship always start small and end mostly big.
Fast forward fifty years, I find today the newer generation of Chinese kids are quick in grabbing opportunities in dealing with the latest essential of today's living - like the hand phone business. In Kuching city small vendors sprout like mushroom selling handphones and its accessories, prepaid cards or even loading you handphone with songs albeit at a tiny price of RM1 per song. I guess Ah Chong's generation had made a head start which later generations are able to build upon and reap. Over the counter, Sarimah's generation continues shopping in bigger numbers, better dressed and so does the handphone vendor, thanks to improved education.

Images of Kuching Today

Images of Kuching by Walking Around
Mona Lisa on My Back

Tin Smith at Work

River cruise boat berthing at Kuching Waterfront

Narrow Corridor at the General Post Office

Malaysian colours

Candy Floss

Shopping at a Gambier Street shop
Date taken: 10-10-09 ( Saturday)
using camera phone N93i

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