Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Photo Hunting Trip To Rajang And Belawai

3 of us, Steve, Abana and myself went on a photo hunting trip to the coastal villages of Rajang and Belawai last week. We left Sibu for Sarikei by bus early in the morning at 6.45 am, arriving one and a half hour later.After a simple breakfast in a Muslim stall at the Sarikei Express Boat Terminal, we boarded the 9 o'clock express boat heading for Tg. Manis. This 28-km journey took us an hour, with several stops along the way to pick up more passengers and also to allow some passengers to disembark at the sawmills and plywood factories. We finally arrived at the Tg. Manis Wharf (above picture) at slightly after 10am.

This impressive dome-shape building greeted us upon entering the multi-million ringgit boat terminal. It houses a restaurant on the left and several offices at the right.After a few shots, we hurried through this building onto the street leading us to the new Tg. Manis Township which is just 50 yards behind the terminal.We needed to find a place to stay and we were very lucky indeed to almost immediately locate a signage saying " Rooms for rent". At the instruction of her Chinese boss, a local Melanau lady led us to a guest room on the first floor. The air conditioned room is a bit small for the 3 of us, but what are you expecting when the rate is only RM40 per night? The room is decently clean but you have to be contended with sharing the common toilet and bathroom outside.After checking in, we had a full and proper breakfast cum lunch at Wang's Corner, a Chinese restaurant serving halal food. The restaurant is owned by a friend who has been there for 8 years already.The food and drinks, including a big slice of fish and a big portion of prawn costed us less than RM50, very reasonablely priced indeed.

Before I take you onto the journey to Kampong Rajang and Belawai, here are two pictures of the Tg. Manis Wharf taken at dawn the next morning. We were actually expecting a spectacular sunrise but we had to be satisfied with a gloomy morning without a full and red sun greeting us.

The wharf is always an interesting location to take many photos. So after the early lunch we proceeded back to the wharf area.The Tg. Manis Express Boat Wharf is one of the best in Sarawak and it was constructed earlier than the ones in Sibu and Kuching. It has been fully utilized and well maintained but its future role will be sceptical after the completion of the 70 km road from Sibu to Tg. Manis.

The main means of public transport within the Tg.Manis-Rajang-Belawai areas are by van and small truck. The pick-up point is at the wharf and they will bring you to your destinations after the arrival of each express boat. The road conditions are good, I would say most of them are better than the Sibu roads.

We decided on using the truck, thinking it would be more stable for us to shoot while travelling along the road. It had only 6 passengers including the 3 of us, so it was spacious and comfortable with the cushioned seats. It costed us RM4 each to travel from Tg. Manis to Kampong Rajang which is approximately 12 km.

At Kampong Rajang we walked a short distance to the wharf of Lembaga Kemajuan Ikan Malaysia (LKIM) and waited for the returning fishing boats with their harvests of fish and prawn. The local fishermen told us that it is now the beginning of the prawn season which usually lasts until August.

The government wharf here is the centre for fish and prawn collection with LKIM as their collecting agent for all the catches from the sea. LKIM is also supplying subsidized diesel to the fishermen. The facilities here sort out and prepare the fish and prawn for wholesale to Sarikei and other towns.

It was low tide during the time we were at Kuala Rajang. You can notice in the above picture the difference in colour of the water as the yellowish brown river water was flowing out to the South China Sea.
And as the tide came in, the water was becoming more clear.

The skipper of the express boat which took us from Sarikei to Tg. Manis was caught here struggling with a big fish which was as long as his legs. He would bring back the fish during his return trip to sell it in Sarikei Town.

I am allergic to prawn but that did not deter me from consuming them for 3 meals during this trip. They were super fresh and very cheap as well.

This young lady was travelling in the same truck with us. Towing a heavy luggage with an Air Asia tag, she probably was returning home from KL. I caught her looking very anxious to reach home.

It was surprising that after a short walk along the beach from the LKIM Wharf, we had reached the village at Belawai.The boys and girls in the picture below were posing for us under the shady trees while their parents were busy building and repairing boats and also putting out salted fish to dry under the scorching sun.

The Melanau fishing village at Belawai

Building a new fishing boat. Melanau fishermen all over Sarawak are expert boat builders, but it would still take them a whole month to complete one.

The hull of this boat is completely built with Belian timber. Since Belian is very hard and would crack when nailed, the fishermen are putting together the pieces with "wooden nails" instead.Not a single iron nail would be used.

It is common sight to see people drying fish in the village

Belawai Town is still 2 rows of single storey shophouses. One row consists of 2 wooden shophouses and the other row with 4 concrete shophouses.

After a short break and refreshment at a coffee shop in Belawai, we headed to kampong Rajang again. This time we visited the famous Pusat Tenunan Songket Rajang where it produced very fine traditional Malay textile.The textile is beautifully hand woven and apart from meeting the local demand, it is also being exported to some foreign markets.

The songket centre is manned by more than 20 workers, with Puan Hajah Sa'anah Hj Suhaili (centre in picture below) as the Manageress. I asked Puan Sa'anah if all the workers were female and she answered they were all female from their teens to early 60s. I volunterred to be the first and only male worker to the roar of laughter from herself and her staff. I really don't mind to be the temporary colleague of pretty and friendly Faziana (above) who is waiting for her STP results.

After the Songket factory, we shot off to another fishing village in Rajang, hoping to catch the returing fishermen before sunset. It turned out to be too early and we ended up at some jetties there. At the end of a long concrete jetty was this shelter where we found the 3 boys relaxing in the hammock.

Then we went to another jetty, a very precarious wooden jetty leading out to the sea. Still no fisherman was to be found. The sun was beginning to set. We positioned ourselves in some strategic locations waiting for a beautiful sunset.But much to our disappointment, there was again no spectacular sunset.

I only managed to take some shots of this Panama registered vessel heading out to sea with its cargo of woodchips. Another consolation was the silhouetted picture (below) of an abandoned giant steel structure of a woodchip factory which was closed down many years ago.

After two seafood meals for dinner and supper at Tg. Manis, we found our stomach and legs too unwilling to take us further. So we retired to the small room at the lodging house for a good rest. We all woke up early the next morning at 5.30 am in preparation for the sunrise shot, but that was disappointing. After breakfast at 7 am, we walked 2 km to the site of the Tg. Manis Halal Hub where PM Abdullah was due to officiate its launching later that afternoon.
The trip wasn't that fruitful, but it was interesting, especially that it was the first time the 3 of us were travelling together. Barely 2 days after we came back, Abana called to inform that he would be bringing his colleagues to Belawai again this coming Saturday. I was invited and I couldn't say no because I still want to take many pictures of the fishermen, the children and hopefully during this coming trip the beautiful sunrise and sunset will be there waiting for me. And the good thing is we will be staying together with the fishermen at their Belawai village.


nelson said...

Nice photos taken, congratulations. Hope that you can snap more like the tanjung manis new township, the airport, the current under construction highway connecting sibu to tanjung manis, the new deep sea fishing depot, the old and failed (Yaakob's) fishing depot etc, etc. my dad and his uncles are from belawai. they own the 2 wooden shops in belawai which are super old and still standing. =)

horseshoe crabs were common sights

apart from drying fish, they are famous for making dry prawns too (hay bee in hokkien).

sarawakiana said...

These are great photos. Your write up is very educational.

Good experience for my armchair travelling.

suituapui said...

Gosh! I wish I could go too. Looks like a nice and interesting place to visit and ooo...the udang galah (big head prawns)!!! Drool!!

Jeff said...

Fantastic pics, well done. Wish I was there with you guys. For me, just getting to Sibu would be an adventure in itself! let alone going further out to the fishing villages. Jeff in Aust.

Philip said...

nelson:Thank you so much. Can you believe the kampong in Belawai (the one infront of your old shophouses) was flooded the last few days?Villagers said there was heavy rain on Friday night.I looked around and found the whole village without a proper drain!The rain water, which was several inches deep in some places was simply clogged inside the village.Just wonder why the so called "1st class" Melanau people also has to suffer like that.Noticed some kids playing with a live horseshoe crab at the beach and visited several families processing dry prawn.

sarawakiana:I am just back from the second trip to Rajang and Belawai. You should go there to research on the history of the early Chinese settlement at Rajang. Local people said the Hokkien people were there much much earlier than the Foochows arrived in Sibu.

stp:You should can easily make a day trip. Eat your breakfast, lunch and early dinner all in Tg. Manis and Belawai...prawn,fish and crabs, nothing else! The last express boat leaves Tg. Manis for Sarikei at 4.30pm.

Jeff: Thanks a lot for dropping by and also leaving your comment here.So are you planning to visit Sibu in the near future? I can bring you to all those interesting places.

goolooloo said...

i like the photo of that lady, the expression is good. the kids photo looks great too. even better if they can do jump shot. haha

-eiling- said...

Very nicely taken photos! You're allergic to prawns and yet you ate them for 3 days?! Are you ok?

My, my...just look at the giant prawns. I can only salivate in front of my computer screen!

Philip said...

goolooloo:Thanks for your comments, Sifu.We always tend to capture more on the happy and joyous facial expresions and miss all the other good shots.Yes, jumping shots will be nice on the beach on a clear, blue day or silhouetted against the sunset.We will make yet another trip to Belawai when the sunset will be nicer.You must come along both as a photographer and a model!

eiling:Thank you. Good news....I am perfectly ok this time with the prawns.I ate even more prawns over the weekend when I made a return trip to the village.Come, I cook the giant prawns for you!

Anonymous said...

A frequent visitor but have to comment this time. Great pixs and particular in love and in lust with pix of the 5 ladies n the songket centre. NOT the ladies ok but the solid wood really envy the ladies walking bare footed on th timber...oh what a feeling. see you 4th April? cheers Kpenyu2000.

Philip said...

Kpenyu:Feel honoured to receive such an interesting comment from you.Thank you very much.I observe that most Malay/Melanau are extremely clean people who set a high standard of hygiene within their immediate living and working environment.The songket centre is being maintained sand all shoes are prohibited.Just a pointer, one of the 5 ladies in the picture is still unattached, not the young lady in light green though!
Certainly see you on April 4th.

sarawakiana said...

Next week can make trip to Belawai?

Would love to research on the Chinese history bit.


Philip said...

Sarawakiana: Sorry, next week can't. I will be travelling to Belaga/Bakun. You coming to Sibu next week?

Philip said...
This comment has been removed by the author.