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?

08 February, 2010

Images of Kuching Today

Red Lanterns
-decorations for the coming Chinese Lunar Year Celebrations-

The Spring Mall

The Boulevard Mall

The Spring

02 February, 2010

True Forest Dwellers

Me on top of the express boat bound to Tubau, after which we took the landcruiser to reach Penan territory at Ulu Belaga. Notice the piles of rattan neatly stacked on which I sit.

In 1987 I took a challenge to go deep into the interior of Sarawak. My mission then was to meet one of the well known nomadic tribes of Sarawak called the Penan. With the help of a forester friend we left Bintulu at 7.00 am on the 29th of September, 1987 and arrived at the Penan's location around 11.00 pm at night. The journey to Penan territory entailed a five hours journey by express boat and then a gruelling 6 hours journey by landcruiser using the muddy , slippery and dangerously steep logging roads. But feeling young then really there was no fear or real fatique. Only excitement to see eye -to -eye the true nomadic tribe of Sarawak. Indeed our journey was met with success. We slept the night in a makeshift jungle hut and woke up early to search for the Penan settlement. At around 10.00 am the following day and after travelling for about two hours in thick jungle we stumbled upon a small party of Penan who led us to their temporary settlement.

The above is a picture showing a Penan family preparing the wild sago as starch for food. The Penans live by extremely simple means. They are jungle hunters and gatherers. They move about the deep tropical forests of Sarawak and seldom meet other Penan parties or other native groups of Sarawak. As such they tend to shy away from people and by remaining in the jungles most of the time they retain a surprisingly fair complexion. Inbreding is common among them because contact with other Penan parties are seldom. Thus the Penan girls marry early as the need to produce children is found urgent due to their short life span as a result of tough life in the jungle.
On this visit I met this young Penan mother who has just given birth to a boy a week ago. Without any name yet, my forester friend gave him his name" Masleh" to the little boy. To my surprise the family agreed. The Penans travel light. The most important things they carry are their bundles of clothes, cooking pot, blow pipes, knives and rattan carry baskets. All other needs are provided by the forest e.g. fishes, wild animals, fruits, sago, herbal plants etc. They do collect bird's nests,'damar' ( jungle resins) and rattan that fetch high prices when sold to rural traders. The Penans are extremely fit, stout and forever 'King of the Jungle'.

A typical temporary settlement in the jungle made of bamboos, rattan, palm leaves, tree barks and wooden branches. You don't need any nailing to the structure. Most are fastened or tied using rattan and strings made from tree barks.
It would be very interesting to know what has become of " Masleh". One thing for sure he must be in his early twenties now. Could he have gone to school? May be studying at a local university? If only I knew.

01 February, 2010

Building conversations #2 - Poetic about a string

We are still at ground zero. We are going to construct the ground beams by connecting two pile heads. The concrete pile heads have been hacked to expose the steel bars. From these exposed bars we are going to tie up additional steel bars for beams and columns later. But there's something neat happening on site. At the level where the beams are to be constructed the hacked pile heads are properly boxed to maintain exact level. Now the tricky part is to place or align the formwork. For this fospa was glad that the contractor used the carpenter strings. Can't live without it.( See pictures above and below). Oh, ya mama too was curious whether the carpenter strings were aligned correctly (see inset). Now once you have the area of the ground beams boxed then later on you can place the ground beam bars squeezed in between the formwork ( not shown in the pictures here).
The earth in between two pile heads are evened out so that the formworks stay upright.

Once the formworks are erected, they need to be firmed and for this purpose small pieces of wood are used as bracing. Formwork need to be sturdy and firmly erected to support the pressure of concrete when poured later. Don't want the concrete to push out the formwork and mess the place, do we? Such hazards are costly and a total waste of time.
More formworks. More bracing.
OK, now's something going on in fospa's head. He's kinda poetic about the carpenter strings.
In fact, he has cracked a poem about it. Here it goes:
The point of it all

The craftiest of old hands
And latest survey know-how
Will meet to life's reliability,
On a busy construction site
When two strings cross
A perfect needle point
You get practical with life's problems
Through the ages of use
A philosophy of life
That answers the science of knowledge
With the simple wisdom
Of a carpenter's loving hands
Stick to the knitting
The tapestry of life
A vision statement
You would love to sing
And be practical with dreams
Like stretched yet flexible carpenter strings.
Remember me Inul?

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