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Wednesday 1 February 2012

Journey to Melanau Heartland

Mukah is the 10th Division in Sarawak and have been declared as a Division on 1st March 2003. Usually visitors like myself prefer to use express boat or speed boat via Dalat rather than by bus or car to Mukah. It is because of its unique and interesting scenery along much of the way.

The journey to Dalat from the embarkation point of Sibu, takes about 2 hours by speedboat and about 2 ½ hours by land. The speedboat cost to Dalat town costs about RM 20.00 per person and only when it is filled with required number of passengers. From Dalat town to Mukah town by land, the ride takes another 45 minutes.

( Speedboat or Express Boat is the one of the main transport to Mukah )

Near Retus river, we stopped at Tugau Memorial Park which was about 60km from Sibu town. According to the local legend, Tugau was a Melanau warrior and it was he who created the laws for the Melanau people at that time. He lived for five centuries and he ordered the Melanau people at that time to build the tall house so that they can prevent the Iban people from attacking their home. Thus, my conclusion, Tugau was the father of Melanau civilization because most of the Melanau people culture is based on Tugau legend. Tugau Memorial was a significant place to visit because it was the starting point of the Melanau heartland experience.

(One of the remenant of Tugau settlement)
We arrived at Dalat and noticed that there was an old cemetary, 100 meters from the jetty. It was an old Chinese cemetary where some of the tombstones dated back to 18th century and some of the tombstones were written in Japanese characters.

(The Old Cemetery in Dalat town )
After that we visited the 'Jerunei' post near Taman Bulatan Dalat. 'Jerunai' is one of the remains of the ancient Melanau. Jerunai was used as the burial place of the Melanau aristocrats or royalists, nobles, dignitaries and merchants who were philanthropists. It was made from large, fully-matured 'Berlian' as the wood is long-lasting and can withstand heat and torrential rain for hundreds of years. Two or three holes were bored into the Berlian pillars whereby the bottom and middle openings were meant for the bones of the dead person and valuables needed in the other world.
( One the Jerunei that is still standing in Mukah)

From Dalat town to Mukah town, it was about half an hour road journey. On the way to Mukah, we stopped at Kueh Sepit cookies cottage outlet of Kpg Judan, Mukah. We learn how to make their version of Kueh Sepit which is very popular with Sarawakians. They are made with fresh sago powder and coconut milk. Besides Kuih Sepit outlet, we also stopped at a 'Tebaloi' factory in Mukah. It was located at Kampung Tutus Hilir that was about 3-km from Mukah town. This traditional Sarawak snack, made of sago, is a delicacy of the Melanau people of Sarawak. It is taken as a snack and served to guests with tea and coffee. The unique taste of 'Tebaloi' is a very popular snack for all races in Sarawak and is widely available at commercial outlets.

(Up : The old lady preparing 'Kuih Sepit' in Kpg Judan.
Down : One of the family preparing Tebaloi in Kpg Tutus Hilir)

For visitors who want to experience a Melanau tall house, they can stay in Lamin Dana Cultural Boutique and Handicraft Centre. 'Lamin Dana' means traditional house in archaic Melanau dialect is a home that welcome guests and visitors. It was built in 1999 and to date, Lamin Dana has received guests from all over the world. Besides being a tall-house homestay tourist project, Lamin Dana represents an effort to preserve or re-create a culture which is on the brink of disappearing forever. It is a live museum where visitors can learn anything about Melanau culture from dances, crafts, costumes and musical instruments. Lamin Dana is a must-visit for any visitor to Mukah.

( Lamin Dana Cultural Boutique can be find at Kpg Telian)

At night, we went to Nibong Seafood Restaurant to have some Mukah local food such as Sago Worms, 'Umai Sambal', 'Umai Jep' (raw fish steeped in lime), 'Ikan Terubok' (a shad species) and Sago Pellet (Tumpi). Nibong Seafood Restaurant is located 5km away from Mukah town. They serve delicious and fresh seafood cuisine...Melanau style naturally.

( Some of the dishes served in Nibong Seafood Restaurant )
(Clockwise from top left : 'Umai', 'Tumpi', Fried terubok with lemon and fried sago worm, )

The next day, our group went for river cruise along Sg Tellian. We stopped by at sago processing factory and a traditional sago pellet processing factory. One can also witness how sago logs are floated to factories for processing. From Sg Tellian, we proceeded our journey to Mukah by speedboat.

( Some of the local activity that happen along Telian River in Mukah )

In Mukah town, we stopped at Tanjung Pedada Mangrove Walk just opposite the bank of the Mukah river. A short boat trip is required to reach there from town proper. The wooden trail at Tanjung Pedada Mangrove Walk was a 1-km long wooden plankwalk. The best time to visit this place is after sunset when fireflies can be seen.

(Up : Tanjung Pedada Mangrove Walk *picture from
(Down : Some activity that happen in Fish Market in Mukah Town )

The fish market is also a must-visit if you are in Mukah town. One cannot miss the mounds of freshly sliced fishes ready to be made into 'Umai' the delicacy of the Melanaus.  Mukah is the great place to visit because it is rich in culture and history. The best period to visit Mukah is during Mukah Kaul Festival held in the fourth week of April every year.

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Written by: Mohd Hisyamudin - Tourist Officer
Visitor Information Center Sibu

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