Saturday, November 29, 2008

November Sky

On the way to Miri on Friday (28/11) I noticed the sky turning cloudy on the eastern horizon. However, after about a three hours journey from Bintulu the rains didn't materialise. In the middle ground are palm trees that are left rotting after being poisoned to allow underplanted new and younger palm trees to take over. In the Miri region where oil palm trees are planted a decade earlier than Bintulu, thousands of hectares of old plantations are replanted on yearly basis. A competitive measure as deemed by the industry. Underplanting is one of the two practices of replanting old oil palm estates that have trees surpassing their 25-30 years of economic life. The other practice of replanting oil palm holdings or estates is called clean clearing with zero burning.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Yellow Boats, Blue and Green Roofs by the Kemena River

The evening sun casts its rays on the yellow fishing boats that are moored by the fishing jetties at the Bintulu town riverfront area.  The two big boats on the left are deep sea trawlers while the two smaller ones on the right  are coastal fishing boats. The  blue conical roof is the 'Pasar Utama ' which houses the fish and meat market. The distant green roof is the 'Tamu' or jungle produce market. The Bintulu riverfront near the town proper is one of my favourite hangout anytime I am in Bintulu. It reminds me a  great deal of my childhood days when I had to paddle a tiny boat every time our family needed firewood . Being the eldest boy in the family I was mainly responsible to bring my younger brothers to carry out the job.  Very frightening at times for a small boy especially when the waters were rough and the boat fully loaded with timber from the sawmill across.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bintulu 4x4 Taxi

This picture shows an interesting face of Bintulu. Bintulu's faces are many. A fishing village. A natural gas town. A plantation country. An energy town. And a timber country. It's rough in the country. Indeed if you are to go to the remote and interesting locations outside Bintulu town proper, to see native cultures, wildlife ,mighty rivers and deep forests, you need to book one of these 4x4 taxis readily available in Bintulu town.  Never too late for a rough adventure in Bintulu.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Singapore - Bintulu Landscaping Connection

( Note: The above pix is taken from the 1961 Bintulu Centenary Celebrations souvenier programme book, pg.50)
Clocking back 50 years today, we found that Bintulu had its first public park planted with trees and shrubs from Singapore. I remember as a kid I used to frequent the only public park in tiny Bintulu of the 60's. The plants I could remember well were the bougainvilleas and the mussaendas( mussaenda philippica) which were planted not only in the park but also in a strip of green corridor between the river and the town shophouses , a distance of about 200 meters.
Fast forward 20 years since the establishment of the park, Bintulu employed a Singaporean by the name of Arthur George Alphonso as its horticultural consultant in its early attempts to put Bintulu's landscaping on a more professional footing comparabe to the like of Singapore.
( Ref: Bonnie, Tinsley (1983) Singapore Green,Times Book International, Singapore. pg.47)
The above picture is taken in 1982 and depicted how George looked when he paid the many visits to Bintulu then, a handsome and tall man. George was a Kew-trained horticulturalist who became the Chief Administrator of the Botanic Gardens from 1970-1976. Upon retirement he set up a private horticultural consulting firm. From 1980-1993, George Alphonso paid regular bi-monthly and sometimes monthly visits to advise on the choice of plants and preparation of landscaping plans for the many major landscaping projects of the 80's.  Among them were the following:
a) The Bintulu Golf Course - 1st Nine Hole
b) The Bintulu Divisional Mosque
c) The Taman Tumbina ( previously called The Bird's Park/Bintulu Wildlife Park)
d) The Roadside Tree Planting programmes of Bintulu and Kidurong new townships ( 25 km long) esopecially the protocol roads and roundabouts/ traffic islands.
In the above picture , George is seen standing at the far right joining others in a conversation with the Chief Minister of Sarawak during a short official visit to the new nursery at Sungei Plan, Bintulu that he helpled planned and advised.  This picture is taken in the very early 80's.
On this visit the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Datuk Patinggi Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud had a chat with George whose face is partly hidden by the large and spherical sea grapes leaves ( cocoloba uvifera) which he sent  earlier from Singapore for propagation at the nusery. 
During his stint with the Bintulu Development Authority ( BDA) George delivered papers to JKR Road conferences and BDA's own seminars on landscaping for other smaller councils in Sarawak and Sabah on the topics of Roadside Trees, Parks and Gardens Planning and Planting Maintenance.
Beside that, George played a meaningful reciprocal role in receiving BDA's key officers for occassional  educational trips to Singapore's Botanic Gardens, Singapore Zoo and Sentosa Island Golf Courses to gain better insights and practical knowledge on Singapore's landscaping success and working models.
Tabebuia alba ( white flowers)
To me however the most memorable contribution of George to the landscaping of Bintulu is in a little brown envelope he sent me in July 1985 which contained the seeds of Tabebuia rosea/alba. From this envelope came the thousands of beautiful trumpet trees that we see flowering twice yearly in Bintulu nowadays.
Tabebuia rosea ( pink flowers)
To think that all these large and beautiful trees came in a envelope from George is indeed a treasured memory of him for me and the Singapore connection.
( P.S. These pictures of the trumpet trees in heavy flowering were taken last month in Bintulu.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Let's Play and All Enjoy

A group of small boys having sure fun on a muddy pitch. No exams, no books, no uniforms. Here's a short song for them boys:
Schools is closed and lessons done,
Holidays for everyone,
Bring your kite and bring your ball,
Let's play and all enjoy.

Tanjung Batu Beach, Bintulu.

Almost every day now the days are cloudy and the nights wet in Bintulu. This month of November we in Bintulu are right smack in the middle of the rainy monsoon season. On the radio while driving to town I heard that the waves off Bintulu are dangerous for small crafts because they can reach a height of 3-4 meters. Therefore I drove to the Taman Temasya at the end of the Tanjung Batu Coastal Road to watch the sea conditions from land. I walked along the beach where I took this scenic shot . It was a pleasant afternoon off and I enjoyed the relaxed and serene atmosphere of the place.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My ! 1888 Sarawak coin is today 120 years old

I have a rare coin in my collection which is a time capsule of the colourful Brooke's Dynasty rule in Sarawak during the middle of the 19th century. Before Sarawak was colonised, it was ruled by a British family and they gave up their dynastic rule to the British Crown after they found it impossible to run the state without much budget and a bigger administrative structure which could only be provided by The Empire.
The first 'White Rajah' or 'White King' was James Brooke and was succeeded by 'Rajah' Charles Johnson Brooke who ruled Sarawak from 1868-1917. During his rule Rajah Charles struck or minted the above copper coin, dated 1888. This coin is 3 cm in diameter.
Before the Brookes rule, Sarawak was under the Sultanate of Brunei which used coins of tin. However being of soft metal it wore easily. With a more modern British minting technology coins were then minted in copper like the one above.
For those who believe in the power of numbers like the number '8' among the Chinese, what is the significance of the triple 8 digit, I wonder?
( P.S.: BTW this coin is not for sale)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Serving the 'Bald Fruit' - Ong Balem ( Mangifera pajang) at Eco-farm

If you like mangoes then you should like these slices of 'ong balem'. Both the mango and the 'balem' are from the same family i.e. mangifera. The taste can range from sweet sour to very sweet. Unlike the mango the balem fruit is very fibrous and for that matter I love to eat it. Guess it is good for the stomach and general body upkeep. Whereas the mango is known as mangifera indica, the balem is called mangifera pajang. The word 'Ong' in the Bintulu Melanau dialect means fruit, thus 'Ong Balem' - the fruit of the 'Balem' tree.
Bintulu is now in the full swing of the seasonal fruiting season which is at its peak in the months of November right till December annually. At any day now at the Bintulu tamu or jungle produce market you can see the above ' bald ' looking fruit called the 'balem' in the local Melanau dialect. The Ibans call them 'Bambangan' and among the nomadic Penan tribes, it is called 'Alim'. The going price per fruit of the above size ( about 1-1.5 kilo) is RM 1.
In my childhood years we used to joke at a bald-headed guy as 'Ong Balem'. A secret code only a few knew.
The skin of the balem fruit is thick and in a single fruit of say 1.5 kilo, half a kilo will be its skin and another half its sizeable seed. The skin is easily peeled off from the pulp or flesh and its important to follow the fibrous veins to cut it neatly and easily.
The ripe balem fruit is best taken fresh. Its thick skin are sliced into small pieces and can be eaten as salad with the local shrimp paste or belacan. Besides that the skin can also be done as pickles.
Now this tree is tall indeed. It's the balem tree at our eco-farm and its long and straight trunk reaches about 35 meters high at the top of the canopy. Lest I forget, the young leaves of the balem can be eaten raw as salad, of course with the local belacan paste. I believe this tree must be around 60 years or more.
The balem tree can be found wild in mixed dipterocarp forests but rare. It is mainly a cultivated tree in Sarawak's lowland evergreen forests like our eco-farm for instance.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Eco-Farm Stream Overflows

Saturday, 15 th of November I wanted to post on the heavy rains at our eco-farm that caused the small upstreams we have here to overflow. But from Friday to Sunday last, the WWW broke down. I could only began online since late Monday night. The picture above shows how much rain we had that morning.

After about four hours of persistent rain, the upland stream returned to normalcy.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Kuala Tatau Water Festival

Today I went to Kuala Tatau to watch the 'Kuala Tatau Water Festival' held in conjunction with the celebration of 45 years of Sarawak Independence through Malaysia .
Kuala Tatau is a tiny fishing village which to my knowledge has no road links for the last one hundred years to any nearby town or village even within a one (1)  kilometer radius. However about 3 years ago when a coastal link road was completed to make it accessible from the main town of Bintulu by a 20 minutes drive, it has become a popular place for people of Bintulu to see the nostagia of living in an isolated village away from the hustle and bustle of life in booming Bintulu.
The above signboard is a good idea of how small  the village is. There are two reinforced concrete fisherman jetties, a football field, a row of wooden shophouses, a Mosque, a Primary School,  a Water Treatment plant, some signs of government like a Forestry Office, a Rural clinic, an Agriculture office, an Electricity Board office, a Kindergarten, Government Quarters , about a few hundred of 'kampung' or village houses and interestingly an Esplanade. 
To go to the main village of Kuala Tatau we have to cross the Tatau River using this boat powered by a small Mariner outboard engine . The carges for a one way trip was RM1.50 per adult.
The grand stand for the boat race is the jetty farthest in the picture towards the left. I could see spectators on both sides of the river banks. Toward the top right hand corner of the picture is the general coastline with the mouth of the river seen in the far horizon. It was through this river mouth that people from Kuala Tatau was able to travel to  Bintulu and other coastal towns by long boats, fishing boats or coastal launches for the last 100 years.
The Esplanade equipped with a children's playground, some park furniture and greenery, with a view of the Tatau River and the great open sea beyond ( i.e the South China Sea). More pictures of the day can be seen here, at Bintulu Clicks.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oh, I Love this Scent of a Woman

"The sweet and subtle fragrance of this Cape Jasmine has me intoxicated" said Daisy as she lay her head to nap and enjoy life's brief moments of peace and calm. For more update stories of my cats adventure hop here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oldest Book in My Collection

The moon at 0600 hrs today at Laman Kambatik, Bintulu gave me the inspiration to unearth some more older books I have in my collection. It's going to be day break and the moon will soon disappear into the western horizon. Lo! Behold, let the books see the light of day.
61 Years Old
Edited by G.F. Maine, the above is a collection of quatrains by the famous Persian poet-philosopher, Omar Khayyam. The actual translation into English of the Rubaiyat ( collection of quatrains) of Omar Khayyam was done by Edward Fitzgerald in many editions, after intrepreting and reinterpreting them over his lifetime. This book contains Edward's First, Second and Fifth Editions of the Rubaiyat.
Published by Collins, London, in 1947 the book has 221 pages.
Below I quote the first and second quatrain in the Rubaiyat:
WAKE! For the Sun, who scatter'd into flight
The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
Drives Night along with them from Heav'n, and strikes
The Sultan's Turret with the Shaft of Light.
Before the phantom of False morning died,
Methought a Voice within the Tavern cried,
"When all the Temple is prepared within,
Why nods the drowsy Worshipper outside?"
And the first runner-up goes to:
60 Years Old
Published by the Shell Petroleum Company Ltd, London in 1948, the above is the Third Edition.
The book is a compilation by members of the Staff of the Royal Dutch Shell Group.
It is an excellent backgrounder to the general understandingof the World Petroleum Industry, its Production( Exploration/Production of Crude Oil and Natural Gas), Manufacture, Transport and Distribution and Products and Their Applications. The book has 658 pages.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Beatles Are Coming to Bintulu

Rummaging my collection of old documents, books etc I stumbled upon a series of song books that were the main diet for English songs in the 1960's.
For those die-hard Beatles fans (like myself) and others out there, I would like to share the songs included in the three volumes of O.K. Hit Songs book released in 1966 which I bought in my younger days i.e. 42 years ago in Bintulu at which time I was in Form Three.
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, the Beatles came to town. Check out whether the songs that you grew up with are included in the list below, bearing in mind that these were the earlier  days of the Beatlesmania. And I was still struggling with my guitar chords, English proficiency and voice chords to imitate the Beatles style then.
42 years old
Vol. 196-200 ( 1966)
(Songs are listed in alphabetical order)
A Hard Day's Night
All My Loving
And I Love Her
ATaste of Honey
Bad Boy
Can't Buy Me Love
Day Tripper
Dizzy Miss Lizzie
Do You Want to Know a Secret
Drive My Car
Eight Days a Week
From Me to You
Hold Me Tight
 I Call Your Name
 I Feel Fine
If I Needed Someone
I'll Follow the Sun
 I'm Down
I'm Happy Just to Dance With You
In My Life
 I Saw Her Standing There
I Should Have Known Better
It Wont Be Long
I Want To Hold Your Hand
 Long Tall Sally
Love Me Do
Mister Moonlight
Norwegian Wood
Nowhere Man
Please Mr. Postman
Please, Please Me
P.S. I Love You
Rock and Roll Music
Run For Your Life
She Loves You
She's a Woman
Tell Me What You See
The Night Before
The Word
 Think For Yourself
This Boy
Ticket to Ride
Till There Was You
Twist and Shout
We Can Work It Out
What Goes On
Words OF Love
 World Without Love
You Can't Do That
You Like Me Too Much
You're Going to Lose That Girl
You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
You Won't See Me
42 Years Old
Vol.201-205 ( 1966)
Paper Back Writer
42 Years Old
Vol. 206-210( 1966)
And Your Bird Can Sing
Doctor Robert
Drive My Car
Eight Days A Week
Eleanor Rigby
Feed The Birds
For No One
Good Day Sunshine
Got to Get You Into My Life
Here, There and Everywhere
I'm Only Sleepy
I Want To Tell Yo
Love You To
She Said She Said
Tomorrow Never Knows
Yellow Submarine
For the record, the O.K. Hit Songs book were sold by  Nyiap Mui Bookstore. And Nyiap Mui's advertisement in the 1961 Bintulu Centenary Celebrations sovenier programme book is shown below:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

First Issue of Sarawak Historical Society

34 years old
You have to be a history geek to be interested in this issue. The Sarawak Historical Society was launched on Thursday,18th January,1973. It did not produce any journal issue in 1973 because it was busy recruiting members, lacking funds and no suitable articles to be published and not many willing contributors.
This first issue is therefore a collector's item.
But was interested me in this issue is a report of the society's activities, which mentioned that at the time of the issue publication, there was only one life member by the name of H.P. Buxton, from Bintulu at P.O. Box 59.

End of the road for Sarawak Malay media mouthpiece - a historical document

37 years old
I found this last issue of the Sarawak Malay media mouthpiece. Started in 1947, it has survived 22 years of reporting.
The above is the last editorial of the Utusan Sarawak written on Saturday, 30th January 1971 .

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Books of Historical Value on Sarawak

Today is Sunday and I thought what a better way to spend than dust my old books.  What I found was a few books that I have kept for quite a while now. Among them are three described below:
50 years old
Ok, The center of the map is an Iban man, apparently not dressed. Bintulu is illustrated with the symbol of a log. Sabah is written as North Borneo on the map. These are the little things that interest me in this rare book in my collection.  As part of my lifelong learning hobby, I  like to keep odd, rare and historical value books, documents, photos, coins and stamps of Sarawak.  The above book or booklet for that matter,  is the oldest I have now about Sarawak, written in 1958 by .M.Jasni from North Borneo ( Sabah, then) and printed by Sinaran Bros. (Printers), Penang. What? from Penang?True. Interesting pictures inside the book are the Radio Sarawak Building and Lane No.1 Kuching among the very few. The book has only 22 pages.

40 years old
The above book is history written from the colonial perspective.  The book is used as a history text for primary school students before Malaysia and even a few years after.   First published in 1960, the edition I have is the second edition, 1968.  Having 80 pages, with lots of illustrations, maps and pictures. The author is Vernon Mullen. The book is published by Oxford University Press in association with Borneo Literature Bureau
39 years old
This Art book is an all time favourite of mine.  Written by Suzie Heinze in 1969 and published by the Borneo Literature Bureau, Kuching, Sarawak. In its 120 pages are packed vast information on drawing and painting, crafts restricted to flat paper, Ink and or Colour and Other Craft and Hadiwork, which has a list of 22 activities like mat making, batik, silk screen printing, beadwork, carving, mosaics, pottery, clay model, lithograph, etching, monotype, woodcuts, puppets weaving to mention but a few.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hemigraphis colorata at Sassy Pink footpath

Just below the fallen log are planted recently the metal plant ( Hemigraphis colorata).  This is to provide cover for the jungle soil at the Sassy Pink footpath section of the Heliconia Valley. The front pendulous inflorescence
has 24 bracts according to my count this morning. Below is a CU view of the metal plant(looking east)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Washingtonia palms in Miri

In Miri city on Saturday last ( 1/11) I passed this stretch of Washingtonia palms or sometimes called the desert palm. Originally from California, they grow well in sub-tropical zones. In the far background is a flyover, of two recently built in Miri. Flyovers are a sign that a town has grown into a city in Sarawak. Thus Kuching has flyovers. Is a city. Sibu doesn't have a flyover, but aims to be given city status earlier than Bintulu. Bintulu aims to be a city in 2020. Bintulu doesn't have a flyover at present. Does it mean that we have to wait another 12 more years to see a flyover in Bintulu? Currently there are only two cities in Sarawak, viz Miri and Kuching.

Free Food Everyone

I can't believe my eyes when I saw this signboard at one of the stalls at Batu Niah when I made a pit stop on the way back from the day trip to Miri last Saturday( 1/11). ' Bayar Suka Hati ' in Malay means ' Pay as You Wish '. Read again. Yes, you can drop a coin or a ringgit note or more or nothing if you eat at this stall.  It's all up to your conscience.  I inquired further from the cashier who told me that as part of the Niah Food centre philosophy if there are people in the buses or travellers who cannot afford a meal, they can just take any amount of food from this stall and pay as they wish or not pay at all. What good samaritans we have here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Snow flakes decorations

While in Miri today, I stopped by the Boulevard shopping mall. Looking down at the atrium's space below I took shots of the colourful decorative snow flakes as part of the complex's Christmas decorations. As usual the place is swarmed by Bruneians who are great shoppers to Miri city.  Without the Bruneians coming daily in their thousands and driving their cars too, Miri would have lost half of its shopping crowd and economic lustre. Over many years now the annual statistics have shown that about two thirds of the yearly tourists arrival to Miri are from neighbouring Brunei. Though Miri's tourism tag is 'Miri as Resort City' the majority of the tourist arrivals are in for day shopping since the road journey from the capital of Brunei to Miri is less than a hour drive made easy by excellent roads and bridges.

Day Trip to Miri

We went to Miri this morning and returned late at night around 10.30 pm for a day trip. The picture above shows a section of the jungle produce market at Batu Niah, a half- way stopover. Seasonal fruits are plenty today ranging from durians, rambutans and dabai among the top players. Here the traders are mainly the womenfolk from various ethnic origins like the Ibans, Kedayans,Chinese, Malays ( mainly localised Indonesians) and Melanaus.