Of Dayaks and Seahorses

It’s 4.50 pm and I am in the Miri State Library. Nooo.. we didn’t fly all the way here just to go to the library. Even book geeks have their off days too, you know?

We arrived very early in the morning. The flight was smooth, thank God. I am claustrophobic, so although I like to travel, time spent in the planes or trains or coaches can bring about a tsunami effect in my head. So since the flight here was just nice, I occupied myself with what else but photography and reading.

When we landed, Miri was what I expected. A cowboy town set in the past. Time simply just didn’t move or if it did, moved very slowly. The whole morning was spent watching the Sound of Music on cable in our hotel room, cause we just wanted to chill after the night’s lack of sleep due to packing and then driving to the airport. It ended at 11 am and I was like…errr.. 11 am only???

After that the husband and I decided to have lunch at a nearby restaurant which ironically is owned by someone from my hometown and selling food from my hometown. But we had to make do as halal food is not so aplenty in Miri especially around the area we are staying at. After lunch, which was good and cheap, we decided to part ways. The husband had to find a mosque for Friday prayers and I simply just wanted to explore. So with a map, slippers, camera and sling bag, I was free to see and snap anything that came along my way.

For two hours, I walked through the streets of Miri Town. Miri being an oil town is quite expensive compared to Kuching when I was there 4 years ago. It’s old. Time stood still. Found quaint old shops selling rokok gulung, lots and lots of sireh and other strange stuffs. I didn’t know they like to chew sireh. I thought only Mak Dara from the film Ibu Mertua Ku chews sireh. Maybe she was from Miri? heh..:P

The sun is scotching hot that I could feel it penetrate through my scarf. But it gave good lighting for photography so I endured. I surprised myself with my map reading skill. My husband could have sworn I’m a map goondo, by his standards at least. Found the market place. Ok one thing about both of us is that, wherever we go, we must find the market place first. ( after that comes the bookshop but that’s another story ). We would never leave a town/state/country without first visiting the main market place. Market place, at least to us, is the best place to:
1) capture good colourful shots
2) meet the locals in a non artificial manner, where we– the thick skinned travellers that we are would ask them anything and everything we want to know about the place, taste their food and learn their language. ( we can be politicians, no? ๐Ÿ˜› )
3) buy authentic local stuffs.

But since I was alone I didn’t want to buy anything as I wanted my hands free for photography. Oh but I did buy a small packet of kapur. Err.. strange as it sound but I was passing this really really antique zaman dahulu kala punya kedai runcit, mersmerised at its really old 50s setting that I just plonked myself there and spoke to the shopkeeper, an old man in white pagoda singlet and seluar katok. I saw he had tiny little bottles of white liquid stuff and asked what are those? ‘Kapur lah.. lu tarak tau itu kapur ah ?’ . My mind suddenly went back home and I saw that I had packets of sotong kering from the trip to Melaka, yet to be made into sambal tumis sotong. It has been months since I bought them, only that I don’t have kapur to soak them in. So tadaaa! He gave me a bottle for 50 sen. Alahaii…. ๐Ÿ˜› ( No one can imagine my husband’s face when he asked.. so what did you buy the 2 hours you were alone? When I showed him the bottle of kapur, his expression was super classic! ).

And I walked through the shophouses. Sometimes I sat and watched the day of the Miri-ans go by. Today is Friday. I saw many ladies clad in baju kurung. Not that they are Malays or Muslims for that matter. Many are dayaks as their native features are very distinct. Many Chinese ladies were in baju kurung as well. Hmmm.. I thought only in Semenanjung it is a practice for most ladies to wear baju kurung on Fridays? Here as well? Sweet!

I took lots of photographs. Of things and people. At almost 3, the husband called. He is done with his own exploring. So we decided to meet at the Handicraft Centre. And I walked there. A long long walk as I was from the other side of the town. It being an oil town, surprisingly, taxis are expensive !

At the Handicraft Centre we had the chance to see Borneo Crafts made by natives, their beautiful perisai ( shield ) and their songket and other beautiful crafts. Met an old Ulu lady there who manned a shop and she told us heaps about her culture. We bought stuffs from her shop and she let me don the dayak headgear which the dayak girls wear for their wedding. Beautiful but heavy. Gave me a headache.

And we then walked to the Miri Mall. The only ‘big’ mall there is. Something like Komtar was to Penang a long time ago. 2 storeys high. The husband needed his newspapers. As I have not done my combined prayers yet, we then walked to the state mosque quite a distance from the Mall with the sun scotching down upon us. But it was nice and we bonded and told each other stupid jokes that made us laugh silly laughter. The heat was almost forgotten.

The state mosque was nice and clean and as the husband had done his combined prayers earlier, he decided to hang out at the Botanic Gardens opposite the mosque. In the mosque, I took my time in the washroom, really apprieciating the luxurious feel of cool water on my sun-scotched skin when an old lady walked in. She said something very loudly as if she is pissed with something, only that I could not understand anything she is talking about. Some dayak language perhaps. She continued cursing to herself and always ended her sentence with the word ‘berak’– which is the only word I know throughout her gibberish which means to ‘poo’. And she went on to poo without closing the toilet door. I quickly took my wuduk and got out.

In a while, got an sms from the hubby saying he found The Miri State Library IN the Botanic Gardens and from then on, I knew I’ve lost him. So if I couldn’t beat him, I joined him. He is now immersed in God knows which floor as I am typing this down. The lady at the counter said they have tourist package for Internet — RM 5 for one whole week of unlimited usage so I thought that was cool. The library is nice and cool and swanky…surprisingly for a cowboy town like Miri. The internet is ohhh so slow but since the husband still has his nose buried in books upstairs, I am in no hurry.

Till then….
Oh by the way, the symbol of Miri is the Seahorse. Why? I dunno… plenty of time to find out. I told you time stood still here, aye?


2 thoughts on “Of Dayaks and Seahorses

  1. Sound like you have a lovely time.
    I’m looking forward to see a photo of ‘zaman dahulu kala punya kedai runcit.’ It would be lovely if ‘an old man in white singlet and seluar katok’ included.

  2. i will try to load them when i get back. been trying to load pics here but wordpress is giving me problems with uploading images. i dunno if it is wordpress or the internet connection here is super slow

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