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.


Protege said...

What a wonderful picture diary of your trip! I love to see your cat in the car. My cat is car sick and hates being in a car.
I did not know you drove on the left side.;)

Kemesraanku said...

The best posting ever!Suka lalu sihh..

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