17 Jul 2013

kuching 02

Our first stop on our second day was at the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre. Fruits aren't in season inside the rainforest right now, so we were fortunate to be able to spot around 6+ of the 27/28 orangutans that reside here. Park rangers do feedings twice a day to ensure the orangutans get enough to eat. The youngest of the bunch was only a mere 15 days old! You can see her? with her mother in the photo below.

This orangutan's brightness made everyone chuckle. Instead of taking one banana from the park ranger, he took off with a bunch of bananas instead! 

It was an incredible experience for us to see these guys up close in the wild! Tip for future travellers with DSLRs - you have to bring your long-focus lens!

Our next stop was the Bidayuh Annah Rais Longhouse. We were supposed to go to a more traditional/further longhouse but MC's mum didn't like the sound of a six hour land and water journey thus, our guide changed it to Annah Rais, which was a closer alternative. I thought our local guide, Joda was great! 

We saw so many cats in and out of the Longhouse that we thought Kuching really lived up to it's name. Kucing means 'cat' in BM and has the same pronunciation as Kuching. We were welcomed with some homemade rice wine before we met Joda. He spoke English which was really good, since I don't understand BM (except for kurang manis [less sweet] which has actually become a little joke with the guy at the mamak store).    

The majority of the infrastructure is made from 9 different kinds of bamboo that thrive around the Longhouse. Each type of bamboo has it's own purpose. Even the flooring was constructed from bamboo. The slats that are exposed to the weather are replaced yearly, whereas the ones under cover can last for 4-5 years. The damaged bamboo are then collected for firewood, making the Longhouse very sustainable. Even though there are so many bamboo left in the rainforest, locals continue to grow and preserve bamboo for future Longhouse usage. We spotted giant bamboo shoots near the bamboo bridge challenge (which I was too chicken to cross by the way) and my grandma wanted to pluck them home!!

After watching Joda demonstrate how to extract juice from sugar cane to make sugar, he brought us to the panggah (headhouse). It was a small room which contains a wire basket of headhunted rival/neighbouring tribal leaders (?!). He isn't exactly sure how old they are, but believes the oldest date back to around 500 years. Basically, the number of skulls symbolise the strength and power of the tribal leader. Up until recently, the people living in Annah Rais had to hold a yearly ceremony to honour their past tribal leaders, but they have stopped doing it since the majority have converted to Christianity and the whole process is very lengthy and time consuming. 

Annah Rais Longhouse is where tradition meets modernity. As you can (barely) see in this photo, there are some buildings that are more modern compared with the rest. There is a Perak-styled building (not shown) and even a bank and wi-fi here! The modem is strangely locked up in the panggah for some reason.

One thing I found interesting was that in the past, men preferred to marry bigger and stronger women since they had to do so many heavy-duty household work - hand grinding flour, making sugar and fire etc. whilst the men hunted and collected food from the rainforest. Of course, this has changed now! 

Oh and another thing! A smart way they keep the bugs out is by using smoke. Fire wafting from downstairs would reach and smoke the food storage upstairs scaring the bugs out. 

Many of the older folk here continue with traditional handicraft. We were able to see a seventy-ish year old lady (who looks so young) beading a headdress, another old lady who was weaving baskets and a middle age guy who was making traditional clothing made from tree bark. I actually tried the last activity and although it seems simple, it's actually pretty hard. It's a long process of moistening the bark and constantly hitting it with a special wooden baton to make it flat. But, you can't just hit it anyhow, as it is fragile and can break, making holes which will seep in the cold rendering the piece of material useless.

We were all pretty impressed with the beading lady who was very patient with her beading and is still able to thread the tiny beads onto the thin needle. Young people's eyesight (mine included) are surely much worse than hers.

At the end of the tour, we were all invited to Joda's place for lunch. I was expecting to be sitting on the floor on bamboo slats, but to my surprise, his house was so modern! Lunch was cooked by his business partner, Alex whose aunty makes a killer rice wine. I had a bit and it was so strong, but my grandma loved it so we air flown four bottles back. 

We had curry chicken, spicy egg plant, a delicious seaweed soup, sweet and sour fish, stir fried vege with rice and jugs of bark tea which tasted like sugar cane. You can actually buy the edible bark from the villagers in the Longhouse for RM5 per packet. If you want to visit a Longhouse close to the city, I highly recommend joining Joda's and Alex's tour at Annah Rais. 

After that, we drove out of the kampong and back into the city. We visited the Civic Centre again since we couldn't go up the day before due to heavy rain. Look see look see and then back to the hotel for a quick rest before we set out for our river cruise.

Um, what can I say. A cruise is a cruise. Fortunately the lower deck was air conditioned. Kek lapis and orange juice was provided. Towards the end of the ride there is a dance performed by a guy from the Orang Ulu tribe, but I was too comfortable to go up and watch. 

Dinner was at a proper Chinese restaurant and the food was pretty good. It was my first time eating marmite prawns and I think it has a unique flavour. The duck was really good. Better than what we can get in Melbourne!