Friday, July 31, 2015

Chronicles of James : Farm Homestay @ Janda Baik

Psidium guajava @ jambu batu

Carambola averrhoa @ belimbing besi

天鹅 

raccoon


Citrus maxima @ limau bali


Artocarpus heterophyllus @ nangka

pony

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Matu – A quaint town with stories to tell



July 5, 2015, Sunday



Some of the old wooden shophouses in Matu that are still running.
TUCKED away in the Melanau heartland and hidden deep in the shadows of the forests along the narrow coastal belt of Sarawak, lies the lonely town of Matu – all but forgotten by time.

It has only two rows of shophouses at its bazaar, a primary school, the Matu-Daro District Council – the biggest building in Matu, a clinic, a temple and several abandoned government quarters.

The quaint town has very few cars plying its roads. Its residents spend much time sipping coffee and gathering at coffeeshops facing the Matu River.

A greenish blue houseboat docked at the unattended jetty, of which the wooden platform sides are covered in plant overgrowth – a vestige of this predominantly-Melanau community that once depended upon the river for its livelihood.

This town did thrive once. In the early days, a boat service plying the Matu River played a vital role in connecting people and transporting goods with nearby destinations and beyond. The narrow water route facilitated its early economy where boats docking at the wharf provided outlets for traders, farmers and fishermen to deliver their commodities to little towns along the river.

Surprisingly, it was also popular for its small prison cells that once held notorious residents of Sarikei and Bintangor.

Today, Matu is connected by branch roads linked with bridges and ferry points. Daro is the closest town at some 30km away, while Sibu is further 75km southeast. Nevertheless, the little businesses being run to sustain the population of hundreds there – the majority of whom living in villages scattered outside the town – are struggling.

Still, the small town still has a few intriguing stories waiting to be told.

One century ago, a large fire tore through the wooden shophouses at the old bazaar next to a small Tua Pek Kong temple on the other side of the Matu River.

The old bazaar was razed to the ground but quite strangely, the temple remained unscathed by the inferno.

Locals claimed of seeing a little boy standing on top of the temple, who appeared to be using a flag to redirect the flames from touching the structure.

According to former councillor Phong Ah Tee @ Kim Yong, the traders – most of whom were Chinese immigrants – then moved across the river to re-establish the commercial area, calling it the ‘New Bazaar’.

“The Chinese here worship Tua Pek Kong. The temple is also dedicated to Gee Seng Kong, in honour of the little boy who protected the temple from the big fire,” he told BAT 5.

“In the 1970s, the late Tan Sri Sim Kheng Hong gave a RM70,000 grant to Matu. Residents also raised funds to refurbish the temple and enhance its surrounding.”

At the New Bazaar, 17 units of shophouses spread out in two rows were set up. Today, however, only few units are still running such as grocery stores, a coffeeshop, a tuck shop, a furniture store as well as a fabric and clothing store.

Traditional Chinese designs can still be seen on the old wooden structures that have managed to withstand the ravages of time.

“It must have been around for 70 to 80 years now,” said Phong, referring to his rustic tuck shop, which is surrounded with wooden racks and old glass display cases shelved and stuffed with dry food, as well as medicine and fabrics wrapped in brown paper.

“I inherited this from my father.”

Phong recalled vividly of another fire that happened on June 17, 1967, which partially burned down some of the wooden shophouses down the road leading to the primary school.

“So we constructed two new shophouses next to it. Then, another fire struck in 1969. So the Chinese here gathered and held prayers as well as rituals at the Tua Pek Kong and Gee Seng Kong Temple, to seek advice and ask for divine intervention.”

In response, Phong said the faithful were told to sleep by the five-foot-way to appease the ‘God of Fire’ and in turn, seek blessings for the town.

“We slept on the road in front of our shophouses for two weeks. All the shops were fully stuck with talisman sheets. We also used to hold processions as a way to appease the deities once every three years, but the deities wanted it to be done once every two years,” he added, pointing out that things had been peaceful since.

Phong himself admitted that he was not sure when exactly or how the story began.

“One thing for sure is that the Chinese, who lived through these incidents, believe it.”

On his hometown, Phong hoped that more could be done for its only primary school, which has been existing since 1948 and is still running, despite being very run down. Currently, it houses 106 pupils.

“The old school block needs to be renovated to provide a safer and better teaching-learning place for children and teachers.

“There is a plan to build new buildings for the school, but we are lacking RM1 million in funds.”

Phong revealed that he had applied for a permit to raise funds at the Matu District’s Office two years ago, but it had yet to be approved.


The refurbished Tua Pek Kong Temple.

The primary school – the one and only in Matu – houses 106 pupils.

Phong's tuck shop still retains its traditional Chinese design



  
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