Thursday, November 24, 2011

Kuching walkaround

It takes a little bit more time to be accustomed back to blogger format as I have left it quite a while for facebook.
I have returned.
Now in Kuching, I have spent sometime walking around the city.
Kuching is a very moderate, sane town. It's traffic jams are reasonably well under controlled not merely due to slightly improved infrastructures but largely the attitude and temperaments of Sarawakians. Sarawakians are cool-headed and harmoniuos lot when compared to their Semenanjung counterparts. At the inset is a pedestrian footpath in the center of the city and speaks volumes of the efforts made to beautify the city.

There is so much of history and heritage in Kuching. The old stands gracefully with the new. Amidst a lush greenery the old Fort Margherita doesn't look alike abandoned compared with the new Sarawak state legislative building. The fort is becoming a tourist attraction.

In Petrajaya, I chanced upon this beautiful dome of the Jamek Mosque. The " Masjid Jamek" (Malay) is the state mosque and is situated in the political and administrative hub of Sarawak i.e. Petrajaya.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

# Re - activation of blogspot # ( my Sarawak ...2nd Ed.)

 Started by the Indian community at India Street, this supposedly 'Indian mosque' is now frequented more by Malays than Indians. But the date 1834 is worth a a photoshoot if you happen to be in Kuching.

 The yellow orchid above is native to Sarawak.  I have a few of them at my eco-farm in Bintulu.

Does it look like a tree house?  Apparently at Serikin this huge tree trunk holds up the roofing structure of this car parking lot.  Serikin is " Little Indonesia" , where Malaysian and foreigners shop for goods traded by Indonesians on Malaysian soil but the currency used is the  Malaysia Ringgit.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Images of Bintulu Today

A uniquely designed 'tambang' which in the local Melanau dialect means a small motor launch used to cross the Kemena River . The tambang has been the main transportation for the Kampung Jepak villagers since decades ago.

It's the season of heavy flowering of the Angsana trees ( Peltophorum pterocarpum). The distinct dry weather for the last two weeks with hardly any rain has stimualted the roadside trees in Bintulu to flower flamboyantly. The above is taken near the SMK Bintulu overhead bridge.

The Kemena river as seen from the Bintulu town side. In the far background is the Bukit Jepak with the Melanau fishing villages tucked on its foothills and riversides.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

May flowering trees of Kuching

Above is CU of the Goa tree flowers.

This time around in Kuching I noticed that the Cabbage tree/ Indian Goa tree ( Andira inermis) is at its best. The flowers at the car parking lot near the Padawan's Pitcher Plant center have cast their magic spell. Currently there is a heat spell in Kuching and this could have stimulated the rich flowering of bougainvilleas too around the city. The flowers are small and purplish. After the flowering season is over, the tree wil bear almond-like fruits which resemble our local ' kedundong' fruit ( Otaheite or ambarella). However, while fruits of the kedundon are edible this one isn't.

The Goa tree takes its name for the town of Goa in India. The tree is small to medium ( 5-10 m) high. It has a good compact crown shape and as such is a good candidate for shade trees. This tree is placed in the family Papilionoide of which another common family member is the Indian Coral tree ( Erythrina indica as in here >> . The best planting distance on roads is 40 meters.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Images of Kuching Today

A nice spray of the strongly fragrant frangipani ( Plumeria acuminata) which I bumped into at the Mile 10 bazaar roadside. To see newer varieties of the plumeria, please go here >>>>

Next to where I sat was this interesting water fountain which I thought was cool in its originality. With the sound of falling water, a good cup of coffee and free wifi, Mile 7 is beginning to catch up with Kuching inner city. More images of Kuching can be browsed here >>>

Mile 7 is on the way back home. So I decided to have a good fried rice with salted fish at the "After 7" outlet there. The "After 7" street extension had free wifi and I had a cool time browsing the Internet while observing the mixed crowd that kept on droppin' by the place.
For more Kuching's street scenes please gto >>>

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Images of Kuching Today

The traffics lights weren't working and we saw one good samaritan volunteering against the rain and confusion to help re-direct the traffic ....KUDOS to the good man.
Satok Sunday market starts early. Dropping by on Saturday afternoon the place was already abuzzing. The weekend shopping will continue till Sunday afternoon.

The flower section at the Satok Sunday market offers a good bargain for an up-to-date collection of orchids for sale . The market is a regular weekend haunt for Kuching orchid lovers, hobbyists and enthusiasts.

Friday, April 22, 2011

MOOD in the mood for Indonesian song

There are a couple of Indonesian singers and songs that remain my favourite over the years (1967- presently). Among them are Titik Sandora and Muchsin, D'llyods, Endang S. Taurina, Broery Marantika, Hetty Koes Endang, Jamal Mirdad and Ebiet G. Ade. On Wednesday, 20th April, I was having a fun time planning my very own video clip based on an Indonesian song by Ebiet G. Ade called " Lagu Untuk Sebuah Nama" . It really surprises me that I could make and publish the video clip in a day using Windows Movie Maker program. By midnight I was able to share it with my facebook friends. What wonderful creative technology we have these days. To view the result of my work in You Tube please go >> here.

Hope you guys enjoy it :))

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Election posters along Sarawak countryside

Travelling to Kuching from Bintulu by way of the Pan-Borneo Highway today, I came across posters that were erected along the remote Sarawak countryside. The 10th Sarawak State Elections results over a one day polling ( Saturday, 16 April) were announced the same day. Out of 71 seats contested the ruling BN party ( Barisan Nasional) garnered 55 seats, DAP ( Democratic Action Party) - 12 seats, PKR ( Parti Keadilan Rakyat) - 3 and Independent - 1 . With more than two -thirds majority, the ruling party continues to control the State Legislative Assembly which would allow it to institute legislative changes and policies involving the administration of the state of Sarawak during the next five years tenure. The BN posters above were seen at the rest area just outside the town of Betong on the Pan- Borneo Highway. Betong is roughly a three and a half hours drive to Kuching - the capital of Sarawak. The pyramidal structure evokes a sense of achievement by building political power from a broad base of ground support and culminating in the apex of political power housed in the august State Legislative Assembly building in the capital city of Kuching.
Ali's posters stood firm on scaffolding pillars. Ali Biju's use of BS scaffolding ( British Standard) remains unique so far because it has set a high standard for advertising structure in remote Sarawak!!
Ali won the stiff fight on the opposition ticket (PKR) in the N.34 Krian seat, beating the BN incumbent Datuk Peter Nyarok Entrie. Krian is an exclusively ethnic Iban enclave.

Note: For an in-depth analysis of the election results please go here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Images of Bintulu Today

Sarawak's 10th State Elections have brought in much fiesta of posters in Bintulu town. The Bintulu division is divided into three constituencies namely N58 Jepak, N59 Kidurong and N60 Kemena. ( N is short for 'Negeri' ( Malay) to mean 'state'. For this 10th state election there are a total of 71 constituencies. The one day voting period will be held this coming Saturday, 16 April. Moving around town today, I caught some glimpses of the respective parties posters.

In the above poster, any layman can understand the message. In the cartoon , the opposition parties from West Malaysia viz PAS , DAP and PKR are characterised as sharks that are bound to 'eat up' the prized land of Sarawak. Sabah - a sisterly northern neighbour as shown in the cartoon has unfortunately become the spoils of these hungry sharks. Will Sarawak be next?

Jalil - PKR ( Parti Keadilan Rakyat) candidate's poster promises 'Change' by giving back the rights of the local natives whose customary lands have been parcelled out, bulldozed or cleared and given away to powerful tycoons related to Taib - the Chief Minister of Sarawak who drives the bulldozer on behalf of the vested business groups as shown in the cartoon.

Kudus- an independent candidate uses the Bintulu Melanau language to attract voters from the predominantly local Melanau, Malay and Kedayan communities of N58 Jepak constituency.

BN's ( Barisan Nasional) - the ruling party's posters capitalise on the image of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. The message is cold and calculated (like the official blue colours) :- Vote BN for prosperity.

DAP's ( Democratic Action Party) subtle message is seen in a happy hornbill with chest and tails enamoured in the opposition party's official colours. Sarawak is called the 'Land of the Hornbills' and DAP's choice of a young smiling hornbill bird should ring popular among young voters. Will Sarawak be better under the wings of's for the voters to decide.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Sarawak takes a break

My Sarawak takes a break for this week as I'm on a trip to Kuala Lumpur.

See you all again back at Bintulu next week.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Images of Bintulu Today

Call it guerilla art, graffiti or street art - these are fluid expressions of urban creative aesthetics. Saw this at the Assyakirin Commerce Square. The graffiti covers part of a wall which hide the municipal rubbish bins. For more pictures of Bintulu's graffiti, click here.
Bintulu's sea sprays are ideal for coastal hibiscus plants. For more coastal hibiscus stories please go here.

One major thing that makes Bintulu a league above other towns of Sarawak is the abundance of fresh fishes at the local fish markets. I'll never miss to drop by at the fish market if ever I'm shopping in town. There's so much unspeakable plain joy in eating fresh fishes be it grilled, BBQ, souped, smoked or eaten raw ( umai or sushi style). Want to know more about fish markets and seafood menu, please click here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wow!! It's the Bintulu belacan

Welcome to Bintulu - home of the best Belacan money can buy.
Two things that make Bintulu international. First, from its seas are exported liquefied natural gas. Second, from its coasts ( see inset) are exported the finest and best quality 'Belacan' or shrimp paste. While in Bintulu, this year opening 'Bubuk' or shrimp season have kept me excited to blog about the making of Bintulu belacan. In a year the bubuk season come twice and the next one would normally be in August. What makes Bintulu belacan simply the best? I think it is the waters off its 14 miles of protected natural park beaches stretching from Likau river to Kuala Similajau river. From its blue and unpolluted coastal waters the local fishermen catch the shrimps in nets and these are immediately brought to town to be sold. Another point worth mentioning is the distinct hot and dry weather here that is ideal for the drying process. Ultimately , I think its the legendary skills of the fishing folks here in the fine art of making the belacan as passed from generations to generations with some recipe kept a family secret. In this blog however I'm about to let some secrets out so that you can try your luck with the smell, the sweat and the blisters or else just fork out RM 60 for a kilo of belacan !. Small fishing boats park nearby the town local market have the shrimps ready packed in ' gantangs'. At the early morning price is inelastic - it's a sellers market. Later in the day when the shrimps are less fresh and the demand less, it's a buyers market. However, when the weather is cloudy or rainy the shrimps can sell much cheaper because there's little sun to help dry them. But then Bintulu's weather is such that when the bubuk season is around there are always days when the sun naturally brings cheer.
Buying 'bubuk' early morning near to Bintulu's tamu or local market.
The season of shrimps in Bintulu has been exceptionally good this year. The fishing folks have been kept busy for a full month now. Before the shrimps land on the negotiation table or roadside market the fishermen have packed them into plastic bags weighing a 'gantang'' which is equivalent to about two and a half kilo. The gantang is always the preferred weight measure for sentimental and traditional reasons, I guess. At the inset is shown the main ingredients for the making of belacan. These are - fresh shrimps, coarse salt, pounded red rice for colouring. The steps in making belacan can be described briefly here. Firstly, the shrimps are marinated with salt and red rice and kept for 24 - 48 hours. Then, it is dried on mats in the hot sun. Next, the men and ladies folks alike pound it into a fine paste. More pictures below.

The dried shrimps are pounded in a special vessel called the ' lesung' which is a wooden mortar. In Bintulu, people prefer to use the mortar from the hardest timber species here called the belian. The 'anak lesung' or the pestle is also made from belian timber as seen in picture above. It takes about 2-3 rounds of pounding to obtain a fine paste of belacan. The pounding process can stretch to several days. Above is the finished belacan product. Each piece is about a kilo in weight and the selling price currently in Bintulu tamu or local market is RM 40-60 depending on quality and availability. Normally for a small family a kilo of belacan will last for about a year or slightly less depending on usage. That's about it folks. If you haven't try Bintulu belacan please do so. Put it in your list of 1000 things to do before you die!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Images of Bintulu today

Daisy takes it easy at the farm. Drinking rain water is just perfect for health.

About eight years ago I picked up Daisy when she managed to cross a road safely under heavy traffic. She could hardly open her eyes and I knew she could only be a few days old then. When I kept her away from my car to a safer place 10, 20 then 30 yards away, on all three counts she returned back to my car. Seeing her reaction I decided to give her a lift and since then adopted her as my pet. Bintulu is Daisy's birthplace but she does travel to Kuching and back Bintulu almost on monthly basis for the last four years. She's right on the way to make the 30,000 km mark soon. For more stories about Bintulu's adventurous cats, please click here.

Phalaenopsis hybrid orchids on display at Bintulu agriculture show ( 11-14 March)

Last week I went to see an agricultural show in town located at the old Bintulu airport site. I spotted a good collection of Phalaenopsis orchids on display at one of the booths there. More orchids from Sarawak can be seen here.

Buying centre for oil palm fresh fruit bunches.

Farmers in Bintulu especially those staying in the rural areas and farming oil palm trees have a few choices to send their harvested fresh fruit bunches (FFB). They are a handful of retail buyers sprouting around Bintulu division ready to buy these 'green gold' fruits. What many people don't know about oil palm small holders here is that many send their fruits in expensive Toyota hilux pick up trucks. These pick up trucks can easily carry a ton of these fruits. In the picture above the fruits are around 20 kilos/ bunch which are typical of fruits produced from a 6 year old tree. Presently a ton of these fresh fruit bunches can fetch between RM 650 - RM700 cash on delivery. Remember that an oil palm tree's economic life is about 20-25 years. Thus many natives in Bintulu prefer to do oil palm farming as an alternative to pension. For them their pension is in the palms. For more stories about Bintulu please click here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The "Queen of Sarawak Palm" blossoms

In Bintulu, and enjoying the garden and forest views here. I have a tough day at the farm today but what kept my spirits up was a rare scene of the lakka palm, aka renda ( Cyrtostachys renda/ Cyrtostachys lakka) in full bloom. The renda is an extremely lovely palm for me. Her smooth trunk is surrounded by bright red leafsheaths making her recognizable from a distance. In my opinion it should be named the Queen of Sarawak palms. It is a native of Sarawak or Malaysia and Borneo for that matter. Its original habitat is peat swamp forests but is so versatile that it can be grown in big pots for corporate offices, in residential homes, roadsides and many types of urban landscapes. In Bintulu, the bright red stem and crown shaft are used to decorate arches and for many other ornamental uses e.g. school parade grounds, grandstands, etc., At the inset is a close-up view of the flower stalks. You have to be lucky to catch a glimpse of it when it is still a short palm because in the wild the palm can reach 30 meters high and its flowering magic will be missed. But not to worry here it is for every one to marvel - WYSWYG!!

Very rarely seen blossoms of the renda
The flower stalk of the renda has many branches with each about 30 - 70 cm long. The creamy white flowers are very small and not scented. From my observation, the flower buds are set in a pit. When the flowers fall and seeds develop, the latter are held intact in the same pit.

Dark, mysterious and delicious -looking like black grapes
It is from these seeds that the renda can be propagated. I have experimented with germinating the seeds before but it takes minimum about 2 to as long as 9 months for them to burst into life. Therefore when looking for a quick fix, I would normally remove a sucker from the clump to have an instant renda palm of various heights.
Inspired by Black Beauty

Today I am inspired. I scouted for a few flowering heliconia species at my garden to team up with the attractive dark seeds of the renda. To heighten the rich colours further, I did not hesitate to add the light red leaves of the "Red Ti" ( Cordyline terminalis) . I have had many experiments with exotic daily cut flowers before but this is the first time I'm using the seeds of the renda. I thought of using a cylindrical bamboo -weaved container to obscure the white glass vase inside.

The result is shown below. The dark orange with green tips latispatha, the " Sassy Pink" and the yellow "Golden Torch" have brought much live to the otherwise dark and mysterious stalk of the renda. I would like to name this floral composition " Black Sweet ". In Sarawak it is common to hear of people calling a darkish brown complexion lady as "Hitam Manis" ( Malay, literally translated 'Black sweet') especially when her smile is of the captivating type. So for all those lovely hitam manis girls out there, this one is for you.

Floral arrangement # "Black Sweet"

For more exotic looking floral arrangement that is inspired by the Kambatik garden please check it out here.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Images of Bintulu Today

A section of the Bintulu waterfront at the town proper.
The Bintulu waterfront is the longest in Sarawak, nearing 5 kilometers in length. The main waterfront lies alongside the Bintulu town proper. A new extension that runs another four kilometers towards the sea facing the river mouth has been completed mainly for recreational purposes. The above view shows part of the waterfront at the town proper where business making use of river and sea transportation facilities are carried out from dusk till dawn.

A late afternoon view of the Bintulu river called the " Kemena River" with the Bintulu town proper in the background.
Much of the romance of Bintulu revolves around the river mouth. The Bintulu river mouth has been a confluence of activities, history and culture since times immemorial. The town's heart beat is kept alive by the daily movement of people, goods and all types of river transport that arrive from upriver, off-shore gas platforms or oil rigs, nearby coastal villages and far-away foreign ports. The best time to admire the beauty of the river romance is from the Jepak fishing village situated on the opposite bank of the Bintulu town proper. For more river scenery and life along the Kemena river please go here.

Long poles and net for shrimp fishing.
A boat used for shrimp fishing is parked next to a jetty at Kampung Jepak fishing village. This week fishermen in Bintulu took to the coastal waters nearby to fish for shrimps that are the feedstock for making 'Belacan'. Bintulu's belacan or shrimp paste has been the much sought-after quality belacan by visitors to this well-known coastal as well as deep-sea fishing town. The shrimp fishing set is called the "pakaq" in the local Melanau dialect. The pakaq set consists of two long heavy poles which have a 'shoe' attached at the front end to help it move smoothly in shallow waters. Very fine nets are attached to the poles and the set is pushed in waters using the power of an outboard engine. At today's price a "gantang" ( equivalent to 2.5 kilo) of fresh shrimp costs RM 20/kilo. From a gantang of fresh shrimps you can process about 1.5 kilo of belacan. Finished or processed belacan in town now fetches RM 50/kilo. For more interesting stories and snippets about Bintulu, click here.