18 April, 2010


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07 April, 2010

Images of Bintulu Today

Waterfront structures
Belian railings ( foreground) at Bintulu Waterfront

Sarawak Rivers Board newly completed building

Bintulu Waterfront - longest waterfront in Sarawak.

29 March, 2010

Salleh sells the 4 C's

Haji Salleh Yap, always feeling young and energetic in front of the wok.

I am fascinated by how Salleh Yap makes his business last. When I was a young student in the early 70's, I used to drop by at Mr. Yap's stall situated next to the Rex cinema in Kuching. Sounds familiar? Those were the days of the cinema and films, and he was in his twenties joining force with his father to conduct a simple yet unique business of selling fritters at the back lot of the Rex cinema. When I met him today at his stall nearby the Kuching divisional mosque, I found that he is just one year my senior. He has been in the business of selling fritters for the last forty five (45) years. The name "Rex Fritters", or in the local Malay lingo - cucur campur rex, was proudly displayed on a one-page menu at the table where I sat. It was all light- heartedness, friendly atmosphere and laughs when I intervened in short conversations his busy movements while he completed an unending list of orders from customers and many who lined up to buy some as take-aways. At RM 5.00 I had a plateful of fritters served hot according to my choice. The choices are many. There are fritters of fish ball, prawns, yam, sweet potatoes, sausages and bean curds. The beauty of eating the fritters at the stall is that it is served hot out of the frying pan. With a magical sauce that has remained consistent over more than four decades, he remains the N0. 1 fritter seller in Kuching. And was I surprised? He how runs courses on making fritters, the Rex style. Now I can understand why the 4 Cs he sells has kept him forever busy and wealthy- Convenience (location), Class (quality), Cheap and Culture (common cuisine). All mixed the 4 Cs has been a winning menu for people from all walks of life who have like me associated Rex fritters as an original Kuching brand over many decades.

Fritters - Rex style.

25 March, 2010

Kuching's new Orchid Garden

A section of the open area housing some ground or terrestrial orchids.

I have been busy for the last two weeks researching and writing for my assignments which I've completed a few days ago. Therefore today I took time to free my mind out of heavy reading and let it wander amidst nature's scenery, fragrance and beauty. Oh, how grateful I was for having made a short visit to the newly completed DBKU Orchid Garden nearby the Kuching Waterfront area. The garden is owned and managed by the Kuching City North which in Malay means Dewan Bandaraya Kuching Utara - thus the abbreviation DBKU. DBKU is a government agency tasked with the administration of Kuching City North. I need to explain further. Kuching City has two mayors, one for the northern area and another for the southern region. I guess not many cities in the world have two mayors. Well, that's something for the record. The garden sprawling over a 15 acres site, is open to the public from 9.30 am till 6.00 pm from Tuesday to Sunday and on public holidays. Admission is free and photo taking is allowed. Naturally I had a field day taking the images home . But I feel I need to come back here again in the future to see more orchids in bloom especially to peek at those that failed to show their true colours today. I will try to cover more on the subject of orchids later now that excellent samples are easily seen at the garden. For now I would like to share a few of the wonderful species that caught my nokia n93i camera phone lens for the sharing. I hope you too will enjoy the slide show below. Just click on the 'Normah Orchid' image below to see the garden via youtube. Have fun and need I remind " A thing of beauty is a joy forever".
Sarawak State Flower ~ 'Normah Orchid' ( Phalaenopsis bellina)

20 March, 2010

Images of Kuching Today

Wild fruits sold at Satok Sunday Market

Belimbing Hutan ( Baccaurea angulata)

Asam Paya ( Eleodora conferta )

Keranji ( Dialium indum)

Rambai ( Baccaurea motleyana )

[Note: All the vernacular names are in Malay]

03 March, 2010

Going wild over illipe nuts

A fruiting " Engkabang" tree ( Shorea macrophylla) showing reddish brown winged fruits.
Let the illipe butter melts its flavour and enriches your rice with its highly regarded oil. Rice is never the same again.

I have a ravenous liking for illipe-buttered rice. How does it taste? For those not familiar I'll just like to describe the illipe nut taste as near to the cashew nuts. The rarity and speciality of the illipe nut tree (Shorea macrophylla) has been described in my earlier post here.
I have read recently that the illipe oil that is derived from the nuts is used as base for cosmetics (lipstick), skin moisturizing products and a substitute for cocoa butter in the making of chocolates. Whenever there is chance I'll try my best to keep stock of the illipe butter cake. They have a reputation of lasting for years at room temperature without losing its unique taste or flavour. My love for them was acquired from my grandmothers ( from both my father and mother's side) and that's as far as I could remember. Back then it was easily available but today I think it's a miracle if you can stumble upon one cake in town. Like any other indigenous trees in Sarawak , those with exportable value have seen their last hours under the unstoppable blades of bulldozers that carve new homogeneous oil palm plantations across the length and breadth of Sarawak. The fate of the engkabang tree is the saddest story of Sarawak's "development" story. Thus whenever I see an engkabang tree or its fruits I'll jump to joy and try to enjoy it in the two ways described here, that is as a salad and butter for rice.
Remove the thick skin and then soak them in water for 2-3 days.

After soaking, the fruits are boiled and reboiled repeatedly for about 4 times to remove its bitterness. After the last boiling, take a bite and if it tastes like cashew nuts, Yep! that's just right.

The boiled nuts are soft to eat. Take them with a pinch of fermented durian called "tempoyak" locally. For me, I'll can devour any amount of the sliced nuts. Well, it's part of the family tradition!!

The illipe butter in cake form standing tall on a plate of boiled illipe nuts and "tempoyak".

The above is the last step towards happiness. Having the illipe salad next to the fermented durian (Tempoyak) is indeed mouth watering. Add some slices of red chilli and a tiny pinch of sugar to the tempoyak and Oh, life is worth living. Have a joyful meal of illipe -buttered rice with
your favourite fish and that's how marvellous simple living is.

23 February, 2010

Images of Kuching Today

Shady Kuching

Central Padang, Kuching City.

Central Padang, Kuching City

Kuching Waterfront

Kuching Waterfront

22 February, 2010

Mama was terrified!

Mama looking frightened. What's above the roof?
We're now safe and sound in Kuching. On the 17th of February, we left Bintulu at around 9.30 am and after the usual 10 hours journey through the only road that connects Bintulu to the capital city Kuching ( Pan Borneo Highway), we stepped into our home around 7.45 pm. that evening. At the start of the journey, Mama Daisy was panicky, nervous and looking terrified. She never showed those signs before. What was amiss? About 10 minutes of the journey fospa parked the car by the road shoulder and gave time for Mama to relax and cool down. Theories about why she behaved strangely were discussed. At about the same time I did my 'business'! Oh, the air smelt shit!. Then fospa's head lamp lighted. He got an idea. My 'shit' was placed close to Mama's nose. Sure enough the foul smell neutralised her senses of smell. That trick worked and immediately she stopped being terrified or nervous. Now comes the explanation. Apparently just before we left Bintulu, fospa had asked Ati ( our nursery hand) to vacuum the car. The "fumes'' and smell of the vacuuming process must have produced some unpleasant and fearful odour to her, thus her fear and eagerness to jump out of the car and looking fearful as if something's happening above the car. With Mama feeling safe and sound, fospa continued on with the journey. Below are the memorable journey in pictures. With this 20th trip back Kuching, we garnered a total record of 23,400 km thus far in our record breaking journey as the most travelled cats in Malaysia.

20th trip back Kuching (17-2-10; 23,400 km achieved)

In safe hands. Thanks for the thighs.
Thighs that bind!

Inul sharing the jump seat with Mama

A bend on the Pan Borneo Highway.

Mama looking curious as we entered the town of Sibu.

Early harvest. Many paddy fields around Sri Aman town were ready to be harvested.

CU of a paddy stalk. Rice is the staple food for all Sarawakians.

The last quarter of the journey i.e. from Sri Aman to Kuching we met with heavy tropical storm.

16 February, 2010

For the love of orchids

I am always fascinated by orchids. When in Kuching a perfect place to start admiring orchids is the flower market at Satok that runs from Saturday till Sunday. At the flower market one can be easily overwhelmed by the many varieties of orchids sold by the commercial nursery owners when they gather weekly to display their latest collections. Below are a sampling of the hundreds of varieties available.
Orchids at Satok Sunday Market

Sarawak is still largely covered by tropical rainforests and by some account have about 300 species of wild orchids. They come from many habitats like limestone forest, kerangas forest, mangrove forest, sub-montane/mossy forest, roadside open spaces, lowland forest, secondary forest or gardens and peat swamp forests. The orchids that are of special interest in Sarawak are many. The Phalaenopsis violacea is an epiphytic orchid that can only be found on Borneo island after having been discovered in 1859. It combines beauty with fragrance. Yet another highly regarded rarity is the slipper orchid called Paphiopedium sanderianum which can only be found in the limestone hills of Gunung Mulu National Park, a world heritage site. Its flowers have two wavy drooping petals that reach more than three feet in length. One of my favourite native species is the Pigeon Orchid that can be found on many old trees along Sarawak town roads especially on rain trees ( Samanea saman) or the tall and shady Angsana trees ( Pterocarpus indicus) ( see inset above)
A common terrestrial orchid native to Sarawak - Spathoglottis plicata, thrives in open sun.
Being a lover of orchids but not in any way a grower, I find that those who excel in cultivating orchids are naturally gifted in the art and science of tendering these very demanding plants. As for me the many trips that I've done on the Pan Borneo Highway has always been an orchid journey of sort. This is because all along the highway, on both sides of the road one can see endless rows of bamboo orchids ( Arundina graminifolia) growing in clusters with slender stems and forever producing a succession of rosy mauve flowers opening one or two at a time. They are so prevalent that they appear as natural landscaping for miles on end.
The Bamboo Orchid ( Arundina graminifolia) growing wild along Pan Borneo Highway
Can one be hooked on orchids? Said one commercial orchid grower, Joe Kunisch; "You can get off alcohol, drugs, women, food, and cars, but once you're hooked on orchids, you're finished. You never get off orchids....never".
A thing of beauty is a joy forever;
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health and quiet breathing.
(John Keats)

15 February, 2010

Images of Bintulu Today

Red Lanterns to usher in the Chinese Lunar Year of the Tiger

A rare find - fresh Illipe nuts ( Shorea stenoptera) sold at Bintulu Tamu ( Jungle Produce Market )

Instant Planting of Foxtail Palm ( Wodyetia bifurcata) at Bintulu Town proper.

10 February, 2010

Gone 22,800 km

Watching Mama Daisy sleep. It's her routine now. She takes driving the Pan Borneo Highway the easy way, provided the car is air-conditioned.

On this 20th trip ( 9Feb'10) to Bintulu we hit the 22,800 km mark. Fospa and fosma had a tough time caring for me because somehow I'm the noisiest one in the family when inside the car. I cried and screamed for about half an hour, after that my nerves calmed down and overheard fospa sighed" Oh, Inul, you'll be OK after Serian." Serian is our first stopover after about a half an hour journey. Fospa loved the market at Serian and rested for about 30 minutes to enjoy his favourite cakes and morning newspaper, the Borneo Post there. After Serian I behaved well. Everyone seemed to show their biggest smiles to me. Mama Daisy came over many times to groom me and meowed words of comfort. My favourite spot this trip was the 'jump seat' because in my times of stressfulness I needed some human touch. If you haven't noticed, everytime I wanted to sleep during the long journey inside the car I would always look for fospa or fosma's thighs or hands to rest my paws. Surprisingly human touch gives me much comfort and safety. At the jumpa seat I had a choice of two. ( see inset)

Freshly baked morning cakes and goodies at Serian. Choice is a problem!

A awesome place to park at Sri Aman. The shade provided by the Angsana trees was so cooling that Mama and me had a good rest before the next lap.

View of Sarawak country side before reaching Sri Aman town.

"Wake up! Mama. We're about to go for the last lap of the journey". Fospa and fosma had their cold thick black and iced coffee at Selangau canteen before proceeding to Bintulu to beat off the drowsiness or sleepiness. From Selangau, it's just another two hours journey remaining out of ten. We arrived safely at around 6.45 pm after a long 10 hours journey from Kuching.

At the farm in Bintulu today (11 Febrauary'10). Oh, isn't this a perfect place to hide and ambush little robin?
Remember me Inul?

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