Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Early Morning Talk and Work

I was sitting the other day in this corner coffee shop, having an early morning breakfast of toast, one half-boiled egg and tea. The shopkeeper knows me so well that by the sight of me, she will immediately prepare my breakfast favourites and deliver to my table without any order from me. Well, talk about special service! And no extra charges or tips, too. Sometimes I wait here for my worker who stays across river and pays RM.50 for each crossing by a 'kapel tambang' which is a small river ferry boat transporting the Kampung Jepak people to the Bintulu town's side of the river daily. The two gentlemen in front of me seemed very engrossed in their coffee talk, while I was reading the daily newspaper called 'The Borneo Post'.

By the river bank is this big ficus tree, sometimes referred to as the banyan tree ( Ficus mirocarpa ). Anyway, our local banyan tree is huge and is easily distinguished by its numerous aerial roots and thicker and blunter leaf blades. Many times I have seen flocks of the red-eyed starling birds eating the fig fruits on this tree. Today they seemed to be absent. With the light cover of a morning mist a woman street sweeper starts her day's work early. Today she doesn't have to worry about the litter of fig fruits that are left to rot because the tree is not in its fruiting period. The red- yellow car is any typical taxi cab through out Malaysia and yes, it is a Malaysian made car.

MY Special Poem for the New Year

A New 2009

Every day in one tiny way
I be better and a lot wiser
That which swayed me by night
Unfetters by end of day
For the simplest truth I believe
Is to unveil and let barren my soul
To the Light of Day
To bathe in its Reason
And harvest her Intelligence
So let go the load
This heavy heart carries
By that my alert life
Gains the little successes
And significant breakthroughs
The whole wide world need not reason by.
Just by the light breeze
The veil is lift
And with a determined hold
A fling casts tight
What is held with lesser might
Soar then high like a free hornbill fly
And breathe not the dirt below
To herald each waking day
With a freshness of mind and spirit anew
Thus the tracks I tramelled
Be blessed by the numbered days
Of every affirmation I daily claim
Made possible by the Majesty and Beauty
That my searching heart cry
Between the night slumber and
The twitter of a new day.

Gift for the New Year

On this last day of the year, I took ample time to walk around my eco-farm . I had the best gift for the new year. From the hundreds of fruiting oil palm trees and for the first time around, I managed to gather the first batch of ripe fruits since they were planted from the tiniest of seeds in December 2006.

The above bunches came from five trees. A morning harvest of one ripe bunch per tree, makes my day even though they are just 5 trees out of 600. Average weight of a bunch was 3 kilos. Today's first harvest weighed 15.5 kilos. This is so important for me because I have spent hundreds of thousands of Malaysian Ringgit to develop the farm over the last three years. Currently there are 600 trees in different stages of fruiting covering an area of 10 acres.
My excitement today is beyond words. It is my fervent hope that the bunches will grow heavier over the coming year and many, many years to come, albeit with more fertilisers and appropriate agronomic and other cultural practices. For those who are not familiar with the oil palm tree you may like to note that the economic life of an oil palm tree is 25 years, after which they are replaced by re-planting programmes or the holding may transform into other profitable land use e.g. an eco-resort or a housing development area. At the peak of growth ( 10-15 years) one ripe bunch may weigh between 25-40 kilos. In other words my pension are my trees.

Close-up of a 30 months old oil palm tree ( Elaeis guineensis) at my eco-farm ( Tree tag no: ZA-18) bearing the first ripe fruit bunch, weighing 3.5 kilos. On the average one tree may have 10 - 20 bunches at differing stages of inflorescence and ripening. Normally you can undertake two rounds of harvest a month/tree.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Evening Downpour

It happened so suddenly. A minute ago I saw in the distance dark clouds heralding a tropical rainstorm , the winds blowing from a south-westerly direction. Within seconds they streaked over my farm and then the thunderous sound of the downpour sent my two cats scattering under the sofa.

The Blessed Rain

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Thousand Thoughts

Today I am greatly inspired to write a poem to welcome the new year. Here it goes:
A Thousand Thoughts
Like dried leaves
On the jungle path
These thoughts piled my mind
Over a thousand journeys
Through long, quiet country roads
Do you love your country?
Have we not filled the glass vase
A flower,bract and fragrance too
To seek not too far of the beauty
Within our immediate garden
Of Life's greatness
That tenderly sew our longing
Of living, striving and winning
A thousand efforts
Honest ones that bespeaks our toil
Atop mountains and valley floors
Criss-crossing many conceptual maps
A career profile, a bio-data of a humane me
Have sparked a forwardness
Mindful of a blessed life has been
And a tiny walk tomorrow may be
But must we plan
A thousand moves
For the success of tomorrow
Erupts from a fallen seed today
By a forest clearing
That shoots our labour of love
Henceforth the garden of tomorrow.
Date: 1st Muharam,1430 H.
( 29,December'08 )

Inspiring Sunset

" In the creation of heavens and Earth, and the alternation of the night and day, and the ships which sail the seas to people's benefit, and the water which God sends down from the sky - by which He brings the Earth to life when it was dead and scatters about it creatures of every kind - and the varying direction of the winds, and the clouds subservient between heaven and Earth, here indeed are Signs for people who use their intellect."
( Quran, 2:164)

A Panaromic Sunset to end the Muslim Year

Today, 28th December,2008 is the last day of the Muslim year 1429 H. I watched this sunset over at my farm this evening and managed to capture its panoramic colours with my cameraphone N93i. It was such a wonderful and inspiring moment.

A Fruity Break

It was raining this morning. Rain is a blessed thing, of course in a tropical climate like ours. The evergreen biomass will only sustain itself with the underground water it provides and the cleansing of pollutants on leaves with every downpour. It's also a good excuse to be at the computer table today and to reflect what have I achieved this year. More of this later. After having had so much meat during the X'mas holidays it's time to go vegetarian. So today's lunch menu consists of : Bananas and the wholesome ripe Jackfruit served fresh, its unripe fruit cut into small pieces and cooked in coconut milk as vegetable and finally its ripe seeds boiled for much needed calories or starch.

On the left is a plate of boiled jackfruit seeds. Remember to remove the papery brown covering from the big brown seeds before you eat it, preferably with honey. Oh , how lovely to have a change of diet...Bruuppp!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

X'mas Lunch Malaysian style

This is X'mas lunch Malaysian style. On the menu is spaghetti, 'beef rendang' i.e. beef cooked in spices and coconut milk, roasted chicken, curry chicken, stir -fried mixed vegetables and 'nasi minyak' which is rice cooked in ghee and spices. The host ( a Bidayuh) is the gentleman at the head table who happens to be my wife's brother-in-law. The Chinese guy next to me is also my wife's brother-in-law. The British bloke is my host's son-in-law and the lady standing is my wife's niece. The bespectaled guy on the left is a Malay from Kelantan, and next to him is my host's son who are collegues at work. The silver -haired guy towards the right is...yours truly.
To One and All..two thumbs up!!!!:))

Miri City and the Grand Old Lady

Part of Miri city, as seen from Canada Hill.

I have fond memories of Miri in two respects. First as a young student where I came to town in 1967 doing my Fourth Form studies at Tanjong Lobang School. At Tanjong I completed my Sixth Form education in 1970 at the age of 19. My school days at Tanjong was instrumental in moulding my adolescent personality and has resulted in some deep traits in me. I'll find time in future to write more on this very early influences in another blog here .
Secondly, as a mature adult I came to the city in 2003 as a part-time student doing my MBA studies at Curtin University of Technology campus in Lutong, a satellite town of Miri. This entailed me to rush to Miri on weekends and hurry back to Bintulu after the last lectures on Sunday. At most times I could only arrive home past midnight because the travel time from Miri to Bintulu was approximately three hours. Well, I took up the challenge for two and a half years and made it! I got my degree in 2005. And I need to add here that the MBA was self-financed, a decision that took a heavy toll on my business income. I imagine now when considering the academic fees, purchases on books, subsistence allowances while in Miri, transportation costs etc, the MBA degree though done on part-time basis amounted to not less than RM 40,000. Well, it is much cheaper and more convenient than to go to Perth, Australia to undertake the same degree at Curtin's main campus there on full-time basis.

On top of Canada Hill is this relic of an oil well derrick, made of timber but fastened with steel bolts. This is indeed how Miri grew rapidly than other towns in Sarawak. The first oil well was erected on this hill on 10th August,1910. Three days before X'mas in December 1910, oil was struck at 137.16 metres( 425 feet) producing some 83 barrels per day. In 1911, oil production from this wooden derrick increased to 132 barrels per day and since then the Well. No. 1 became known as ' The Grand Old Lady '. With the discovery of oil Miri's fortunes shot into the skies. The presence of SHELL provided employment and businesses for the local people of Miri and other parts of Sarawak. But to me it was its early 'internationalisation of culture' in large part due to the presence of expatriates that distinguished it from other towns of Sarawak. Its early modernity and development gave it a headstart among other towns and thus earned a divisional and city status much earlier than Bintulu for example. Bintulu has got its divisional status but not a city status yet.

Another view of the Grand Old Lady with a time capsule installed, to be opened in 2015.

Friday, December 26, 2008

To Miri on X'mas Day

Miri is about 200 km north of Bintulu and like Bintulu it is situated on the coast facing the South China Sea. Half way before reaching Miri we made a pit stop at Batu Niah junction. Here a small stop over place has over the last 30 years grown into a tiny town providing facilities and amenities to travellers, tourists and the surrounding  populace. For those unfamiliar with the development in this part of the country will be amazed to see the prevalence of 4x4WD vehicles, probably 6 in every 10 vehicles parked around town. The fertile lands between Bintulu and Miri have been used for oil palm cultivation while the deep forests have been and continue to be exploited for its rich timber resources. The only practical way to drive the off-country or rural dirt roads  would be by these 4x4 vehicles. Therefore in this plantation and timber country these vehicles are a necessity.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Chinese painting

I saw this Chinese painting displayed outside a Bintulu frame maker's shop the other day. What attracted me to the painting was its large size and the vibrancy of the colours. It struck me that in my 'nexart exhibition' scheduled in October, 2009 at Kuching I will put on show newer paintings done in the Chinese stlye. In my earlier art training days at Tanjong Lobang School, Miri ( 1967-1970), I was fortunate to have been taught the basics of Chinese painting over a four years period under the guidance of Mr . Voong, our art teacher who later migrated to Australia. Typical of many Chinese paintings, the red stamp or seal and calligraphy is shown at the upper right hand corner of the picture above. The blotting technique employed above is very effective, I thought. It renders the flowers a reality that is fresh and lasting.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Fruitful Tuesday

Last night it rained heavily but when I woke this morning the weather was fine. It struck me that today I have to pay a visit to Bintulu town to check my mail and pay the 3G Phone bill so that I can carry on interneting without interruption  when the long end of year holiday starts with the X'mas day off this coming Friday, Malaysian time.
To start the day I climbed this jackfruit tree ( artocarpus interger) in my farm and collected 30 nos to give away to my brothers and sisters and relatives in town.  This year most of the fruits are attacked by insects that bore through the thick skin and rot the fruits. Therefore in order not to lose the  fruits to insects,  I decided to pluck them early i.e. when they are still unripe to be used as vegetables instead.  Below is how we cook the young jackfruit as vegetable. 
Guide to preparation: Remove the skin, cut the young fruit into 2 cm cubes and boil it with pounded chillies, onions, garlic, shrimp paste ( belacan), lemon grass in coconut milk. Boil for about 15- 20 minutes.
The creamy taste is very yummy, yummy,yummy!
Next to the jackfruit tree I found these two varieties of mushrooms, one white which is edible and the other orange which is a bit poisonous. They sprout easily these days due to the rainy season.
Later while in town, I dropped by a Melanau kampung house by the river to get the above shot. The speed boat is powered by a twin 200 horsepower outboard engines. Normally these boats are rented by fishing enthusiasts or tourists for deep -sea fishing  or sightseeing the Bintulu coastline or river.
The feather-leaved palm tree at the center of the picture is the familiar coconut tree.
These boats are also rented by timber merchants or traders who need to inspect their logs when loading onto timber ships that  anchor about 10-15 km offshore before they are bound to foreign destinations.
Lastly after having collected my mail and paid the telephone bill, I bought other provisions at this Parkcity Shopping Mall. I found this X'mas tree to be the biggest and the highest this time around.
This year I noticed too that the shopping crowd is thin as most people are tightening their belts in view of the gloomy days ahead when  we will face tougher times due to the severe recession which is now a confirmed reality in US and many other developed economies.
I guess we just have to be moderate, I mean very moderate in our spending now.
Want to barter jackfuits with me anyone? 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Melanau Kampung by the Kemena River, Bintulu.

A Melanau village by the Kemena River, Bintulu.
This is a view of the Kampung Jepak, from the sawmill I bought timber the other day.
Bintulu was once known only as a fishing village, an out post district from Miri which was its divisional capital some 200 km away to the north. Today, it has acquired its own divisional capital status and therefore is no more a remote village or small town it used to be.
Its original inhabitants were the Melanaus who fought bravely in the hey days of piracy and defeated the most notorious of all pirates roaming the South China Seas of the late 19th century called the 'Illanuns' from Southern Philippines.
The Melanaus today are still fishermen though a large majority of their children have taken up jobs in newer sectors of the economy. Kampung Jepak is one typical Melanau fishing village in Bintulu. Here the village folks build their houses on stilts made of the hardest hardwood species on Borneo Island called 'belian' which can make the house post last for about a  100 years.
A closer look at a kampung by the river in 'batik' painting.
( Batik painting by Kuching artist, Lee Hock Kia)
This painting illustrates well a river kampung scene with its boats, conical sunhats called 'Terendak' as protection against the sun and rain . The roofs are either of 'belian' shingles or 'nipah' thatched leaves. The jetties and walkways are almost of 'belian' planks. Notice how close the houses are to each other. This is a common feature as these houses are connected with each other by a maze of jetties and walkways. In a way being a kampung folk you have to be very careful of what you say or do because the walls have ears!.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Malaysian Garden and the art of cut flowers

One of the main highlights of my creative endeavours this year is my focus on cut flowers especially the tropical kind. The reason I concentrate on experimenting and developing this line of interest is very much related to my concept of the Malaysain Garden.

For a long time the Malaysian Garden has no name. I thought deeply into this issue and finally in 2005 I created the concept of Laman Kambatik. In the Malay language, 'Laman',  refers to garden but in a much enlarged connotation in accordance with the Malaysian gardening practice. In Malaysia, a garden is a fringe clearing from the jungle or forest and thus embody certain implications that are absent in other gardens. Then again our gardens are not 'for your eyes' only that play on aesthetic or garden planning elements.  It plays many roles like an edible resource, a wildlife centre, a playground and leisure park, a biodiversity in microcosm,a resort escape from the tropical sun and rain and an aromatic centre.

For the many reasons above I have coined the term 'Kambatik' to define the concept. 'Kam' is a derative of the word 'Kampung', a Malayisan terminology used to mean  rural villages and 'Batik' is a traditional art form, yet remaining versatile to this day as in the dynamic textile art it is sold overseas. 'Kambatik' reflects the essence of Malaysian creativity especially its specifics - spontaneity, decisive flow, deep panoramic colours and much artistry and experimentation.

In my 'Forward Years - naturally ' period which I am living right now, I will work further on developing the opportunities and businesses related to the concept.

However, in today's post I'll just stick to the art of cut flowers.

Daily Cut Flowers 

For the purpose of explaining, experimenting and defining cut flowers arrangement of a tropical kind, I created a blog called daily cut flowers. Here the emphasis is to show that in the Kambatik Garden planning you should be able to obtain and compose floral arrangement for vases, bowls, boats, table pieces or wall pieces by just having a brisk walk or run around your garden.  This shows the versatility and usefulness of the Kambatik Garden planning.

As an example, tropical exotics like the heliconias should be fully exploited as in minimalist or ikebana style compositions.  Secondly our tropical forests are known for its evergreen wash and deep strong colours.  Thus its colourful foliage of which many are variegated should be used in artistic combinations.  There are other parts of the inflorescence that can be utilised like the colourful bracts and seeds or fruits from an almost limitless choice. So does the rich scents and perfumery of some species of the ginger, gardenias and plumerias.

It is my fervent hope that next year I'll sum all my attempts in the form of a book as part of the overall list of events to be incorporated in my second solo art exhibition targetted in October 2009 at Kuching.

' Belian' timber and its many uses

Today I went shopping for timber to be used for renovation of my farm's office.  I was looking for both hardwood and medium strength wood species. In particular I was looking for hardwood species for posts and medium hardwood for trusses.
Our pick up loaded, Ati fastened  the sawn timber for security and stability. The distance from this sawmill to our farm is about 25 km.
Sawn planks of belian timber. This sawmill can custom cut belian from as thick as 30 cm to 4 mm, the later being  typical sizes for roofing shingles.
At the sawmill I noticed a good stock of 'belian' timber. 'Belian'( Eusideroxylon zwageri)  is the hardest of all hardwoods on Borneo Island. It is not subjected to rot or insects attack. It is so valuable that it is prohibitted to be exported.  Locally it is used for numerous purposes especially in view of its superior strength and longevity. I have seen solid round belian timbers used by the locals here especially the Kelabits and Kayans for their longhouses posts. Among the Melanaus who live closer to the coasts and literally build their houses on rivers, belian is the chief timber for house stilts, floors, roofing shingles, jetties, walkways, steps and stairs, bridges and even canoe hulls.  Among the Ibans, they use belian posts for pepper vines. In towns, belian timbers are used for wharves and even piles for civil construction purposes.  Among the women folks of all the various races here, belian made instruments are like pestles, mortars, pounders for paddy and some children play or games instruments.
A Penan burial totem
 However of all the uses of belian timber, I find the above to be very unique. It is a burial totem pole called the 'Kelirieng' amongst the Penans and this type of craftwork is also prevalent among other tribes in Bintulu like the Kayans and  Kelabit, though I must add that craftwork is seldom carried out these days and the culture related to the burial has been  totally prohibited for more than 100 years.
The burial totem is totally made of a solid belian tree and the above size is equivalent to the size of an oil drum. Note the intricate designs that are carved out of the hard belian tree.
The above is a slightly older picture of the same burial totem pole that I managed to pull out from my old photo album. The above 'kelirieng' is still standing in front of the wooden shophouses in Pandan, a rural town about an hour drive from Bintulu. Burial totems are a sign that the bodies of dead chiefs are put to rest there. The chief's remains are placed inside the totem pole . Notice the jar on top of the totem pole. The jar contains the remains of a young girl who unfortunately was sacrified to accompany the dead chief in his after- life journey. This practice has been disallowed since the coming of modern law in Sarawak with the coming of the British rulers. Therefore the 'kelirieng' is more than 100 years old, and so does the belian timber.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

White Mushrooms for Lunch

The heavy rains in Bintulu now has encouraged the growth of wild white mushrooms. I bought a small quantity like the one in the small bowl above,  priced at RM 2 at the local jungle produce market called 'Tamu'.
Here's one way of cooking it. Mix the wild mushrooms with young cucumber leaves and baby corns and fry with the following ingredients: shallots,garlic,chilies, anchovies and shrimp paste. Serve hot :))
( Talking about mushrooms, can you imagine that there was once a local pop band in Malaysia named " Dead Mushrooms"!!)

The Handsome Rose Myrtle - "Kemunting "

The 'Kemunting' or Rose Myrtle shrub at Sarawak's Biodiversity Centre's car park, Kuching.
Loves open and sunny locations and not particulary choosy on soil conditions.
The fruits when ripe are eaten fresh by birds and children alike.
In October I went to the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre, Kuching   to collect some information about wild bananas.  At the Centre's car park I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon this rose myrtle ( rhondomyrtus tomentosa) shrub or locally known as 'Kemunting'. This is a local shrub though it's equally distributed in other parts of South East Asia and sub-tropical regions like Florida.  I have been hunting a long time ( like 10 years) for  a good specimen.  Well, this specimen was excellent and almost perfect in that it was about its maximum height .i.e. about 3 m. The reason I like to encourage the cultivation and use of this plant as an ornamental shrub in our Laman Kambatik ( Malaysian Garden) is mainly in respect of its pretty lilac flowers and delicious sweet berries that are attractive to wildlife.  By growing this shrub around our urban as well as rural gardens we will able to attract more birds, bees and butterflies to our immediate environment. It is extremely hardy, produces flowers and fruits all year round.

The pretty pink flowers are 5-petalled and the oblong fruits ( 10-15 mm long and 5-10 mm wide)  are pale green when young and upon ripening changes to purplish red or maroon red. Note the flower's many stamens.
Its fruits are also processed into jam and jelly.
All its young parts especiallly its leaves, twigs and fruits are covered with a thin layer of white tomentose ( fine hairs ) hence the name - rhondomyrtus tomentosa. ( Synonym = myrtus tomentosa)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rainy December

View of 'Pasar Utama' from Jepak Fishing Village

Since back from Kuching last Friday, I find that the weather in Bintulu is very rainy. Even at the point of writing this piece ( time:11.00pm) it is raining heavily outside and winds are strong too. Where the barge is going is the open sea. The two twin roofs of the 'Pasar Utama' are iconic of Bintulu because it represents a Melanau tradisional hat ( 'terendak') worn by men and women when they work in their farms or walk around the village for protection against sun and rain or fish in the open sea. In view of our extreme climate i.e. rainy one moment and hot the next, the conical shape of the roofs is an ideal design for umbrella-like protection against both rain and shine.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bintulu Malay Wedding ceremony ( Part 2 )

After all the formalities and the legalities of the wedding were done yesterday, it's time for more festivity.
Today I attended the second wedding reception at a well known hotel in town. In the above picture invited guests, friends and relatives are welcomed by members of the family.
At around 11.00 am the bride and bridegroom entered the hall and then sat on a specially made wedding platform called 'pelamin' in the local Malay dialect. Here they are accompanied by two bridemaids and treated like a King and Queen ( for a day at least). At the second reception it is now customary to be dressed in western bridal gown and as for the man in a lounge suite.
A few close members of the family and VIP guests take their turn to sprinkle flower petals and rose scented water as part of the wedding blessing ritual.
After the tradisional blessing , it's time for the wedding couple to cut their wedding cake. This indicates the modern influence on Malay weddings in Bintulu nowadays besides the bridal gown and lounge suite.
Nowadays anybody can become photographers. Soon the professional wedding photgraphers will be out of job!
This would be a kind of Japanese influence in Malay wedding these days. Any interested guests are most welcomed to belt out any karaoke numbers for entertainment while the guests have lunch.
Today's wedding was well planned and ran smoothly. As they say 'All's well that ends well '. Now, let's ponder what kind of love blossoms in the future.

Bintulu Malay Wedding ceremony

The couple on the wedding dais and ritually blessed by well wishers.
Today I attended a Bintulu Malay wedding. The couple met in cyberspace. The bride is a teacher from Bintulu, of mixed parentage ( Melanau+Kelabit+Malay + Dutch)  and the bridegroom is a Sri Lankan working in Japan.
Members of both families pose for a group photo after the marriage vow ceremony.
Earlier in the morning the bridegroom had to pronounce his marriage vow to an authorised religious official ( 'juru nikah ') and witnessed by many others at the local mosque named Masjid Assyakiriin.
Once the marriage vow is uttered it's official. They are husband and wife in body, spirit and soul.
Once there was puppy love.For many it was love at first sight. Now it's cyber love.
All my best wishes to the wedding couple and congratulations to both families.
The religious official reads out a short marriage sermon to the bridegroom and audience present.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Driving the Borneo Countryside

This morning at 8.30 am we were off and away to Bintulu after a short 10 days spell in Kuching.
On this trip the weather was fine throughout, more clouds, less heaty and no rains at all. 
I took lots of pictures along the way however I'll show a few to show highlights of the 11 hours journey.
This is an excellent stretch from Kuching to Serian, approximately a half an hour journey. It's a dual carriageway. However past Serian it's all on single cariageway till you enter Bintulu town at the km 23 you'll again have the chance to drive back on dual carriageway mode like the one above.
Between the towns of Serian and Sri Aman, which is another two hours journey, you'll come across huge mountain ranges like the one above. This is because travelling up northerly to Bintulu, to the farthest left of the driver seat is the sea ward side and to the right is the Indonesian territory whose borders with Sarawak follow the main mountain ranges.Thus at certain locations where the road swerve close to the Indonesian border you'll find border posts or border towns.
There are only about three very tall mountains where roads are carved through them like above.  Otherwise the rest of the journey is through meandering roads past rural villages, small towns , oil palm plantations, small vegetable market gardening farms, bridges, padi fields, small rubber estates, forest reserves, fruit orchards and  disturbed forest areas. 
Coming close to Sri Aman town where the surrounding landscapes are relatively flat , one can see small plots of paddy fields like these.  Sarawak has not gone into large scale paddy cultivation like in Vietnam or Thailand and as such need to import its rice to the tune of about 70% from foreign countries mainly from China , India, Thailand and Vietnam.
Most subsistence farming are done by the Ibans who live in wooden longhouses like the ones above. Some longhouses can be as long as 100 'bilik' or doors where one bilik refers to one household. Most are between 30 -50 doors. They live in communal style with the headman known as 'Tuai Rumah' to head the longhouse. Previously most longhouses were built along rivers. But now with the Trans Borneo Highway completed from Kuching to Miri, they prefer to build their longhouses along roads where public utilities or amenities are easily provided like electricity lines, telephone transmitting stations, water pipelines and proper road maintenance.
A slightly better built longhouse made of bricks and concrete and uniformly designed and painted.
After about fours hours on the road, we decided to stopover at a rural town called Engkilili. The signboard welcomes visitors in the Malay greeting pronounced as 'Selamat Datang'. There are hundreds of small towns along the highway if one bothers to hit off the main road as what we did today.
Old rural towns still have wooden shophouses and are normally built parallel to the river since previously the river was the only means of access to these towns. Today Engkilili town is accessible by road and thus the modern part of the town's planning are radial or concentric in pattern. I was surprised to see a fruiting cocoa tree as seen at the left of the picture above.
The swift river that runs infront of the shophouses at Engkilili showing a small longboat as the main means of transportation among the Ibans to reach locations e.g. farming lands within the riverine areas or unreachable by road.
After about an hour of lunch break at Engkilili town we caught on with the road. Before leaving the town we passed this arch wishing us a safe journey. 'Selamat Jalan' in Malay means 'Farewell' and also carries connotation of a 'safe journey'. The designs on the arches are typical of Iban designs that are similarly drawn as tatoo, on shields and textiles like blankets or jackets etc.
We met a convoy of Malaysian army vehicles after about five hours on the road.
Traffic got slowed down by the convoy.
After about 6 hours on the road we approached Sibu town by way of a tol gate and bridge. This is the only tol bridge throughout the Kuching-Bintulu journey.
This privatised tol bridge crosses the mighty Rajang River, the longest and widest river in Sarawak.  For a pick- up vehicle we had to pay RM 5 to utilise this crossing.
The mighty Rajang River that runs along the Sibu town in the distant background.( View from tol bridge)
Golden yellow rounded brinjals planted mainly by the Ibans are excellent vegetables especially done in sweet sour flavours. These are sold regularly at the Sibu town Central Market, where we stopped for afternoon tea. Having reached Sibu  meant we have only three hours remaining before we could arrive Bintulu.
Between Sibu and Bintulu it is very common to see timber trucks loaded with logs transporting them to the sawmills or log ponds which could be near rivers or along roads.
Inul, our female cat is alerted as the distance from this Tatau bridge crossing to our home is a mere 30 minutes. In the far horizon the full moon starts rising. Time: 6.30 pm.
Arrived Bintulu at 7.00 pm making a total of 11 hours journey, 2 pitstops included. After dinner I took a picture of the night sky with the full moon rising higher but not overhead.
Nite Everybody.