Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bloom Watching

Sunday - and feeling light and easy, I decided to take to the wheels and spin around Bintulu town to do some bloom watching. Luckily I spotted a line of Angsana Trees in full bloom at Kidurong township. Kidurong township faces the sea and is an ideal location for Angsana Trees ( Pterocarpus indicus) which grow naturally by the sea through out Malaysia. Bintulu's distinct dry spell now have induced many Angsana trees in town displaying their best blooms.

Angsana or sometimes referred briefly as 'Sena' is native to Malaysia. It has small yellow and highly fragrant flowers. I was amazed by the carpet of yellow flowers that gather below the trees I saw this afternoon ( See pictures at inset and below)
Angsana trees are huge trees with a shady crown and are normally planted on broad roads. When full grown it can reach a height of 30 meters.
Recently I have been very busy bloom watching and that hobby made me put up a new blog specifically to compile all the pictures I took of the plants since I started blogging about them. The blog is really a photo blog with very little data on the plants except their names. All the plants can be accessed here. It is my fervent hope that the compilation becomes a useful resource on tropical plants .

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Swinging Monkey Strikes with a Vengeance!

Once it was the Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon. Today the 'Swinging Monkey' strikes back with a vengeance on Bintulu's trees. Imagine for a moment the swinging monkey is fitted with a critter cam on its lofty head and ran lose among Bintulu's trees and shrubs. Here are some of the snapshots taken as the swinging monkey swings from trees to trees and leaps from shrubs to shrubs. All images are taken within the last 2 weeks in Bintulu. Feast your eyes for a moment and not to forget that the Swinging Monkey is available when his services are required in future.
( Note: Click here for more pictures of plants in Bintulu and Kuching ).

Hibiscus mutabilis ( Rose of Sharon)

Delonix regia ( Flame of the Forest)

Dillenia suffruticosa ( Simpoh Air)

Tabebuia rosea ( Trumpet Flower)

Bignonia magnifica ( Bignonia)

Lagerstroemia indica ( Crepe myrtle)

Lagerstroemia indica ( Crepe Mrytle)

Gardenia jasminoides ( Common Gardenia)

Roupellia grata ( Creamfruit)

Plumeria rubra var.acutifolia ( Frangipani)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

White and sweet Terap fruit

I don't have to climb this Terap tree ( Artocarpus odoratissimus Blanco) this morning to harvest its ripe fruits. This tree is still small and planted just about three years ago. With the aid of a bamboo pole I managed to harvest two ripe fruits. Sometimes the Terap fruit (Malay) is also called 'Ong Lumok' among the Melanaus here. The fruits are very sweet tasting. Often times the seeds that are enclosed by the white pulp or flesh are dried and then fried as afternoon snacks. However I just love to eat them fresh and ripe from the tree. After each season I would normally germinate the seeds for propagation purpose and now there are at least 50 Terap trees that I planted in the farm the last few years. This tree is the first batch of newly planted Terap trees at the farm besides the ones that were here long before I came on the scene , some towering as high as 30 meters above my head.

Remove the skin carefully and you'll find the fleshy pulp soft to touch and would easily separate from the seed by applying a little pressure with the tongue. Eat the flesh but not the seed.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ais Kacang Cendol

There is unique place in Kuching called the 'Open Air Market' situated across the Electra House . Here you can savour the best of Kuching's iced drinks especially the ones called 'Ais Kacang Cendol'. A bowl of 'Ais Kacang Cendol' consists of green pandan jelly, red beans, palm sugar, milk and cold squashed ice. At the cost of RM1.50 per bowl, it's one bowl I'll never miss whenever I drop by at Kuching downtown market.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Seasonal Fruits at the farm

After spending the month of May in Kuching, I'm back in Bintulu for the month of June. Unfortunately or fortunately I felt ill for about a week now. But today I'm feeling better. The stress of working on the assignments, reading and preparation for exam must have taken a toll on me. Well June is semester break and I'm thinking of making full use of it from now onwards.
Thus I decided to walk around the farm this morning to make up for all the good things nature provides here. It looks like the seasonal fruits are coming into fashion. Here's a peek at a few that are showing at the farm today.
The 'Cempedak' or Artocarpus integer. Unripe ones like these can be served as vegetables.
'Ong Lumok' is what the Melanaus in Bintulu refer to this fruit which can also be prepared as vegetables when young.

I sliced into half this very young 'Ong Balem' fruit ( Mangifera pajang). Take it raw as salad with shrimp paste ( Belacan).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Morning Visit to Serikin

On any Saturday and Sunday you'll see as if the whole of Kuching converge on the tiny town of Serikin, an hour drive from Kuching city centre which I made today. Here local visitors and tourists from West Malaysia, Sabah and even Brunei flocked to shop for items that are produced from people across the Indonesian border. Serikin is a border town on Malaysian soil and is enjoying brisk business by allowing traders from the Indonesian border to sell their products and wares to Malaysian citizens and foreign visitors along its narrow and crowded singular street. I would estimate the total length of the street at 300 meters and on both sides are erected hundreds of makeshift stalls and tiny shops that sell anything from antiques, textiles, leather, glass wares, rattan mats, souvenirs from diverse range of materials like bamboo, rattan, wood, beads, silver etc., However the most popular item seemed to be the rattan mats that come in various sizes, colours and patterns. An average rattan mat size of say 6'x9' would fetch a prize of about RM 110- 150 depending on quality of workmanship and type of rattan used. Below are pictures of the rattan mats.

Today's weather was extremely hot and sunny. However the shopping crowd grew as the day progresses and that caused a traffic jam about a kilometer long as cars kept on coming to the only main parking space in town. Coincidentally today is a public holiday ( Malaysia's King official birthday) and double as a weekend holiday -cum-school holiday. It took me about an hour to clear the jam. To be at Serikin is to experience a totally different kind of shopping. It's not the sleek and air-conditioned shopping malls that are prevalent in cities. Here people walk the street in hot weather and bargaining is a must. Well, it's never too late to try and polish your bargaining skills here. Remember your Malaysian Ringgit (RM) is worth lots more than the Indonesian Rupiah. At today's rate RM 1 = 3600 Indonesian Rupiah. In Indonesia One Ringgit Malaysia can buy you a full meal, while One Ringgit Malaysia in Serikin or Kuching for that matter will only get you a bottle of plain water (500 ml)

This scene got me blown away. A street hawker with a push cart selling home-made fast food and snacks. He moved his eatery up and down the street, a brilliant idea I thought.

View of the narrow street and the shopping crowd.

Couldn't believe my eyes. A kilometer long traffic jam of shoppers to a tiny border town.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Kayan Burial Hut (Salong)

In the not too distant past, the Kayans of Sarawak used to inter ( bury) their dead in special burial huts called " Salong".  Today while visiting the Sarawak Museum grounds, I had a closer look at two tall Salongs, made from the hardest timber of Sarawak called the 'belian'.  Both  are at least 10 meters high and have been brought to the museum gardens from their original locations hundreds of kilometers away in the interior regions of Sarawak.
There was one that is constructed as a single pole and another as a double pole. 
( Inset is painting of a Kenyah warrior with his head trophies)

Single Pole "Salong"

Double Trunk " Salong"
This double trunk "Salong" was originally erected more than 150 years ago on the banks of Long Segaham, above the town of Belaga in Sarawak.  This burial hut was ordered to be built by the chief of the Kayan tribe in Belaga to inter his young daughter named Lisan.  It was reported that it took five craftsmen plus many helpers and five years to complete the carvings on the solid 'belian' tree trunks.  In 1973, the "Salong" were  presented by the people of Belaga to the Sarawak Museum.

Close Up of the "Salong" or Burial Hut

Above is a picture of the Sarawak Museum's original building dated 1891.  Over time the Museum authorities added more buildings, offices etc., to house more collections to cover archaelogical and anthropological  artifacts, artworks, etc., Today the Museum is a must visit place for tourists or local visitors to Kuching.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Drunken Sailor Drops By

Right Hand Corner of Front Garden with the 'Sepenuh' plant in full bloom, a rare occurrence.

I introduced another species of heliconia to add variety to the collection, which has long, wide and green  banana-like leaves as seen on the right foreground.

Lately I have been closely watching the right hand corner of the front garden in Kuching.  The plants seemed to be doing very well.  The variegated wild banana leaves have provided much needed shade to the plants below.  On this trip I saw the  'Sepenuh' (Eurcycles amboinensis ) plant in full flower, an uncommon sight and therefore considered myself lucky.  I was enthralled to see the 'Drunken Sailor' (Quisqualis indica ) droppin' by.  Somehow, it has managed to creep over the banana leaves and unabashedly  show off itself at a tight spot by the right hand corner of the front garden.
Sometimes referred to Red Jasmine the flowers are scented.  When in bloom the petals initially appear pale pink then gradually turning red as the day develops, akin to the face of a drunken sailor.  I am still undecided of  what to do with the Drunken Sailor.  Should I allow it to remain as a permanent feature or prune it?  Well, let's see how worthy the Drunken Sailor proove itself.  Then we decide.  I guess for this time around I can extend some patience with the Drunken Sailor.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bamboo boardwalks

What interested me while window shopping at the Spring yesterday was a small set depicting a rural village house.  It was tucked nicely  at one corner of the shopping mall.  The floors were made of bamboo strips and the hand rails were of bamboo culms.  You can still see a lot of the rural longhouses still using these materials for their decorative as well as functional appeal.  Another interesting thing I saw were the decorative poles that are made from soft wood and shaved with a sharp knife, thus producing its unique curls ( see top picture).  I have seen many of these in Bintulu where  the curls ( shavings?)are dipped in various coloured dyes.  These decorative poles are widely used among the natives during auspicious occasions.  By the way bamboo boardwalks can withstand rain and shine and thus used in the open though their life span will even be longer indoors and coated with varnish etc. where they are used as walls, ceilings or for table tops.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Feliciano Songs for the Recording

I'm checking my list of songs to be recorded for my own rendition of Jose Feliciano songs for my 2nd Solo Exhibition in October.   Of course there are many other singers that I'll be imitating like the Bee Gees, Beatles and other Indonesian and Malaysian singers for songs in Malay.
Since today is a holiday in Sarawak ( Ist June= Padi Harvest Holiday or Gawai Dayak), I set the whole day to practice singing on the guitar a couple of Jose's songs that I will record in Bintulu next week.  
My fascination for Jose Feliciano's style of singing grew slowly over the years.  In 1971 I sang for the first time "Rain" in an open air concert at the Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang while as an undergraduate student there.  Much later in the 1980's I sang "Loving Her Was Easier" in a big hall with the Chief Minister of Sarawak in attendance.  On both occassions I sang with the guitar. Jose's voice continue to astound me with his bagful of soul in interpreting songs to his masterly style of guitar work and a voice that only great singers possess.
The list of songs that I'll record soon:

Che Sera
First of May
Gotta Get A Message to You
In My Life
Light My Fire
Loving Her Was Easier
Old Turkey Buzzard
The Air That I Breathe
The Last Thing On My Mind
Windmills of Your Mind