"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open." ~ Jawaharal Nehru

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

River travels tales

As you know, the Kapit division covers quite a large area which includes Belaga & Sungai Asap. So I travel there every 2 monthly to run clinics.

Getting to Belaga is an adventure itself. There's 2 ways of getting there - either up the Batang Rejang or through Bintulu. For me the journey it's a loop.

Firstly, need to get myself to Kapit as the express from Belaga leaves from there. So it's an early 7.45am ride from Song to Kapit, then a change of wharfs for the 9.00-9.30am express to Belaga (No fixed time as it depends on the water level). This time, the wharf guy managed to call his friend who was piloting the Bakun express, so it made a detour in Song to pick me up. However, still had to wait a good half hour in a heaving boat in Kapit to collect passengers before continuing on the journey. 

Me & heaving boats = Not good! 

What was interesting though was the ladies that charged into the express in Kapit. They sold everything from "chap fun" to satay (the love Bishop's nose on a stick here!), beer, some kind of funky coloured milky drink (think air bandung in purple & neon green) and packets of kuaci & peanuts!

Vendor aunties
Stayed the whole 1/2 hour in the express to enjoy 
the free AC & movie (some old Jacky Chan one)

What follows is a butt-numbing, hair raising ride up the Pelagus Rapid. Thank God they blasted some of the rocks last year, so the journey is not so treacherous anymore. Instead, of capsizing, there is more danger of hypothermia from 5-6 hours of frigid air-conditioning in the express. 
Mental note to self: Bring a thicker sweater next time!

Going down these rapids in a rubber dinghy is fun,
but in a inflexible, metal behemoth... not so!

Along the way, the express stops at the various longhouses to pick up passengers. There's no wharf or jetty here so they just wait along the banks of the Rejang & jump in as the express only makes a split-second stop! You have to be nimble and light on your feet to survive here.

Malboro man waiting for his metal stead
(Call him so cause he was chain smoking the whole journey...
plus he had some pretty scary looking tattoes)

As usual, the local villagers carried with them local produce so there was clucking, ribbit-ing, slip-slopping and all sorts of squishy noises coming from their baskets or plastic bags. Some of the lads even sat on top of the express to keep their produce company. I won't want to be caught doing that considering the only safety feature is a low railing and not a life jacket in sight!

This guy definitely has a death wish

After countless stops along the way, the express finally pulled into Belaga just before 3.00pm. Boy, was I glad to get my legs on land!

Finally, dry land!

And yes, I finally spotted a croc in the wild. Actually it was more like the croc's shadow. Was sitting at the port side door when the guy on the starboard side door explained excitedly "Buaya, buaya!". By the time I crossed over and followed to where his finger was pointing, all I could see (or imagined I saw) was a dark shadow. Ya, so no buaya pic for you guys!

Lesson to learn - don't swim in a river if you can't see your toes in it! Hahaha!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

50 books

It's a new year altogether and people tend to make resolutions.
Resolutions, targets, goals... whatever you may call them, it all requires effort, work and commitment.
I won't call mine a resolution but more of a TARGET. Something I hope that I will achieve by the time I leave Song (which is probably by the end of the year).

As you know, I moved here with 35 boxes, a third of those my library. I have yet to unpack all my books - of the academic and not academic variety for want of proper bookcases, so they still sit unceremoniously in boxes in my hall. At the moment, I only have 1 tall bookcase - the bottom already filled with my Lonely Planets, Rough Guides & Frommers'. 1 shelve dedicated to all my academic books & the rest to works of fiction and non.

So I have decided to challenge myself to read more (which isn't something too hard to do) and read 50 non-academic books by the year end. That would mean 4-5 books a month, at least 1 book a week. 
Books like "Who moved my cheese", I can finish in an hour but then it takes a couple of rereads to truly absorb the wisdom contained within. Then there are heavier reads like Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Love in the time of cholera" or Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children" which is now a big screen movie. I wonder will it ever arrive on Malaysian shores.

Anyway, here are some of the books I've read so far:

That's part of my reading list for now. Still have all those works of fiction from 2011 BBW's crazy sale which I will slowly but steadily plough thru.

Whats on your reading list for 2013?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Comparing apples & oranges

Unfortunately there's no apples & oranges here for comparison. Instead, there's a whole melange of exotic fruits for you to choose from here in Sarawak. Many of them look alien and bewildering. There's no end to God's creativity when He created them or maybe He was being mischevious and wanted a good laugh looking at our reactions on seeing them!

The prize for weirdest fruit definitely goes to:


The buah tarap looks like the offspring of the jackfruit & breadfruit. There are soft spines on the exterior, akin to those of a Koosh ball (anyone remember them?). When ripe the smell can be pretty strong, some have compared it to the pong from a durian but milder! The flesh is silky & smooth, and taste like a cross between mangoes & jackfruit!


Sally initiated me to the dabai. If I'm not mistaken, I think you can only get the dabai in Borneo. It's also known as the Sarawak olive. As its seasonal, the price for the fruit fluctuates. I remember paying RM10 per kong early in the season but at its peak, it was only RM3 per kong. To consume it, you need to soak the dabai in warm water till it goes soft. Only then can you consume it. The flesh tastes creamy but bland, just like avocado. Usually the locals snack on it with a black sauce & sugar dip but I prefer mine with a sprinkle of salt. Nasi goreng dabai is another seasonal speciality. BTW, Song apparently has the best dabai in the whole of Sarawak!


This has to be my favourite of all the local fruits. Externally, it looks like mini custard apples. Inside the translucent flesh encases a deep red-black seed. I think they must be from the longan or mata kuching family.  Usually, the appearance of buah isau marks the end of the fruit season. I've been buying them by the "kong"fulls from the local Iban ladies cause they taste sooo refreshingly good. Best when served chilled!


This must be the baby brother of the durian. Comparatively, they are tinier than normal sized durians. They have slimmer and sharper spikes than their big brothers and only 1 seed in each segment. As I'm not a big fan of durian, I'm adverse to even trying. From what I've heard, these babies taste better than durian!


Another relative of the longan or mata kuching. While the isau is a greenish hue, the kakus is a yellow-brown.  The kakus fruit is also smaller than the isau. As the skin is thicker, opening the kakus takes more effort. Taste wise, I think they're slightly less juicy & sweet than the isau but I may have gotten a bad batch instead!


I think you find them in West Malaysia as well but they are not as common there. From a distance, I initially mistook them for rambutans. They have little soft spikes and to me they look like the offspring of a lychee-rambutan match (just realised there's plenty of hybrid looking fruits here)! The flesh is slightly more opaque than a rambutans but not as thick. The plus point is they taste better!


No prize for guessing what fruit this is. I initially thought the salak was only grown in Indonesia but was mistaken. I've not tried the local ones so really can't comment on them. The ones from Indonesia have a sort of sweet but acidic tastes and the best ones supposedly come from Acheh. I think they look outright weird, like some reptile's eggs.

That's all for now. If I do find some other interesting fruit, will add on later.
And ya...