Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Sabah On a Shoestring: Wild Beings of Riverside

Kinabatangan River - 560 kilometers, Malaysia's second longest river and Sabah's longest.

Most nature lovers would know that this river provides an important source of livelihood for its native people known as Orang Sungei (literally means people of the river) and as well as to its vast diversity of wildlife. At the lower Kinabatangan River, which is known as Sukau where tourists would flock to see wild Probosis Monkeys (Nasalis larvatus), Orang Utans (Pongo pygmaeus), Bornean Pygmy Elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis), estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) and many more. 

The award winner of Asia's leading Green Hotel, Sukau Eco Lodge would be a perfect choice for most nature lovers to spend their holiday at Sukau. The temptation was there but their exorbitant package rates drew us away. And so, Aida and I decided to experience Kinabatangan River on a shoestring.

The bus ride from Inanam to the Kinabatangan bridge took us more than six hours of travelling before arriving Kampung Mengaris, Batu Puteh at 3am. Bart, our guide, greeted us on the pitch dark road of the village decorated by millions of stars up in the black sky. Some people did say that Langkawi is the best place for stars gazing but this place has beaten Langkawi.

Bart, a localised green badge guide, is also a friend of Aida's via projects that both of them worked together. So, I was fortunate. As it was still the wee hours of the morning, we had to salvage as much sleep as possible before setting out on our exploration. And so we slept on the jetty under the Kinabatangan bridge.

The glimpse of sun light at 5:45am woke me up and this was what I saw.

The planning stage only began after our breakfast at a local shop and the overall itinerary was dependent on our budget. After all the "brain-storming", we decided to take the river cruise after lunch. Meanwhile, Bart took us to Perpaduan Village, about 15 minutes drive away to an observation tower surrounded by oil palm plantation.

As I was looking from the top of the tower, I was pondering on the battle between our lowland rainforest and the palm oil plantation. Who would win? Will both of them live in harmony without creating extinction to the wildlife?

Bart spotted Red Leaf-Monkeys (Presbytis rubicunda) on the salt-lick trail. These primates were so shy and they jumped away quickly before I could reached out for my camera. My primate lifer!

Other flora and fauna along the trail:
Some sort of fungi. Anyone can help to id please?

A damselfly! Which I thought it was one earlier. Many thanks to Mandy for correcting me. It is an Antlion (Myrmeleontidae family)

River cruise at 2:30pm when Bart took us down river for 10 minutes. Could it be his instinct or he may had made appointments with these beings? We spotted them within that 10 minutes!
Another primate lifer! This one showed her teeth at us. I was surprised that Probosis monkeys would do that 
A wild estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). Alas, not those in the crocodile farm

We headed upriver after that which was our initial plan. The plan was to camp in the forest and it was a 45-minute ride upriver by boat. Why that campsite? Because of the stories about a cave nearby that made us drooled.

The 45-minute ride became almost a two-hour journey. We saw two groups of Probosis monkeys, Black Hornbills (Anthracoceros malayanus), Darter (Anhinga melanogaster) , Green Imperial Pigeon (Ducula aenea)  and lots of Blue-Throated beeaters (Merops viridis)
Green Imperial Pigeon (Ducula aenea)

Aida with her brand new Canon G12 camera
Wonder why they call the village Kampung Mengaris. Mengaris is referring to those Tualang trees (Koompassia excelsa) that are found abundance along the river.

Lots of fig trees were fruiting along the river that had attracted the pigeons, hornbills, long-tailed macaques and many more

We arrived the campsite at 5pm and we were set to embrace the mosquitoes. There was sufficient time for us to set up our "sleeping den" before the sun starts to set after 6pm.
The kitchen area of the campsite. This nice wooden hut is not for us.
View of the river peeping from our "sleeping den"

Our enthusiastic guide, Bart arranged for a night walk behind our campsite. This was our wishlist to spot: Slow Loris, Flying Lemur and Giant Squirrel... but well, at least we did try to wish. With our pace, we took two hours instead of the intended walk of one hour.
 These sort of fungi illuminates in the dark after shining your torchlight on them
Bart spotted these scorpions mating. According to Bart, this species of scorpion will spray a mist of liquid that smells like vinegar in self-defense or escaping from a predator
 An appreciation to JK of SiputKuning for his help to identify this snail which is endemic to the Borneo lowland forest. Thanks JK!

It was a long day and I was looking forward to crawl into our "sleeping den".
Hey, Aida... I did control that night. You were saved from being "gassed" 

I have always love hammocks. Being my first time climbing onto the top of a double-storey hammock, thanks to Aida's idea, it was a bit tricky. Not long after we snuggled into the warm comfortable fabric of our hammocks, the mosquitoes came and joined us. On the next morning, I noticed a few droppings on the flysheet and we realised that Long-tailed macaques were also sleeping above us on the trees.

What's our itinerary on the next day? Next post ba...

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Green "Bungkus"

Found! Hawker stalls that are still practicing the old fashioned way of "tapau"-ing or "bungkus" (take away) the food.

We were taken by Yvoone, another raptor counter, to the old hawker food center next to the taxi stand or the morning market area in Taiping town, Perak. It was  tough for me to decide what to eat and which stall to choose from. Upon seeing this "uncle" (stall owner) scooping the fried noodles into a green leaf with newspaper to wrap the whole thing, I was excited.

And so I ordered his fried kuey teow (flat noodles).

I must admit that I was hungry as well and so I didn't manage to take any pictures of the fried noodles. Sorry.

So, what was so special about the old-fashioned "bungkus"?

From the picture above, there are only 2 pieces of items: one is the green leaf inside and the outside is the newspaper. The green leaf is not banana leaf as most of us perceived. Banana leaves are commonly used to wrap food especially our nasi lemak. For this case, this leaf is from Simpoh Air tree (Dillenia suffruticosa). Please see the bottom of this post for the tree information.

As the tradition method of takeaways is slowly losing out due to the convenient of polystyrene boxes and plastic bags, I was glad to see that these stalls are still around.

With a filled and happy tummy, I was up and about taking these pictures and the local grannys were curious if I was a Myanmar because I didn't speak Mandarin nor Hokkien. I told them that I am a Japanese and they laughed.

After taking the picture of this "uncle" (below picture), I realised that not only his stall is practicing this method. Most stalls in this center was doing the same (only for fried or dried stuffs). Finally, it was good to eat from these stalls that serve you food with real plates, bowls and cutleries. Thanks, Yvoone for taking us there. We will be back there!


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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Morning Poem At Kuala Gula

Many thanks, Bing for this:
Who was the one doing the plonk, plonk? 

It was a still quiet morning when I broke the stillness with my heavy running on the wooden jetty... plonk, plonk... 
We sat down watching the boats passing us and heading to the open sea.
It was entertaining watching fishermen with their boats going out to work.
It was like watching people in their cars going to work and into the city traffic.
Except that the sea is huge and traffic is very much lesser.
We thought, "What a complacent and simple life of the fishermen".

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Two New Babes

What is this book all about? Well, the title description says it all.  To those who are interested in our natural history and what the future holds for us in related to our 100-million year old ecosystem, this may be the one for you! 

The publication was in year 2007 and I may be outdated in getting this book now. Well, I didn't know about this book until I went shopping in BookXcess bookstore in Amcorp Mall, PJ. So, what made me bought it? A chapter on Elephants, Dung Beetles and Ecosystems! And the next best part is the cost of this book is only RM17.90 at BookXcess bookstore. The stock is very limited. You can check out the contents of this book here.

I wish to take the opportunity to inform my readers here that BookXcess will be having a warehouse sale from November 12th-17th 2010 at South City Plaza (I have no idea where this place is) or go check out this website: 

Here's another babe...
by James V. LaFrankie, JR.

The book above contains technical stuffs on Asia's rainforest trees and this book was launched in August 2010. Therefore it is not available at all at BookXcess. Cost? Don't ask. But it is worthwhile to have it in my shelf as a reference book. Many thanks to Chew MY for getting this book for me at launching and had the author to sign on the book.

Yippee!! Two new babes added on to my collection today.

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