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.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

100 countries and beyond

I have been blogging for more than three years now i.e. since mid 2007 and have created a dozen blogs. My blogs have all been powered by Blogger. Today I would like to put on record my sincere appreciation to all visitors, readers and followers of my blogs. My blogs central is branded as "My Sarawak" from which all other blogs are linked at the side bar.
Some useful statistics are indicated below, based on the total page views/visits as at yesterday ( 3March'10):-

  1. my Sarawak (1 ed.) = 15,760
  2. my Sarawak (2 ed.) = 8, 757
  3. my Kambatik World = 11,932
  4. all the plants (1 ed.) = 14,435
  5. all the plants (2 ed.) = 5,815
  6. all the plants (3 ed.) = 7,164
  7. 4 da love of orchids = 4,933
  8. daily cut flowers = 5,437
  9. my Kuching klikz = 3,966
  10. my Bintulu clicks = 6,038
  11. phnotography by n93i = 3,601
  12. my siber klikz photography = 263
  13. hav paws will travell (1 ed.) = 1,712
  14. hav paws will travell (2 ed.) = 292
  15. images of Bintulu B4 n now = 961
  16. my gardening projects = 1,106

Total = 92,171 page views/ visits ........and counting

From the country analysis, people from more than 100 countries of the world have visited my blogs . The blogging experience has given me an opportunity to gather information and images, helps me with unrestricted writing exercises, survey the market about people's queries ( feedjit diagnostics) and sharing of knowledge. To all good friends and followers of my blogs I wish to thank you all for the tremendous support and ' many many blogging times ahead'. It is my fervent hope to publish a book and booklets being outcome from my blogging experience in the near future. For example, " Blogging about plants", " Blogging about Bintulu", "Blogging about Sarawak" etc,etc,. The world is at the door of a revolutionary times these days of the Internet to let it pass by unblogged!.and I am but a child of the universe.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Images of Kuching Today

Flower power at Satok Sunday market
This weekend flower market is part of a bigger attraction called the Satok Sunday market. Many new varieties of plants can be bought here at reasonable prices. Besides flowers, fruit trees and orchids are available . More images of Sarawak orchids can be seen here.

Ethnic art on sliding door
At the Kuching Waterfront shop I noticed this creative use of Sarawak's ethnic design for a decorative wooden sliding door. Sarawak's diverse ethnic traditions have produced some wonderful designs ideas. To see more ethnic design art please click here.

Serikin shopping
Serikin is a popular shopping destination for local tourists from Sarawak, Sabah and more so from Peninsular Malaysia. It provides a growing market for goods made in Indonesia for the Malaysian tastes. Chiefly among them are textiles, personal accessories, rattan goods and many more. For more stories about rattan mats from Serikin please click here.