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Wednesday 28 March 2012


Buah’ means fruit in Bahasa Malaysia. So buah engkalak simply means ‘engkalak’ fruit. All of our three trees are fruiting again and this week we harvested a big basketful.  Engkalak or Litsea garciae belong to the same family as avocado.

I didn’t like this fruit before; it truly is an acquired taste much like avocado too. But now, I love it! Rich and creamy and especially tasty with a pinch of salt or soya sauce, I think it’s a lot nicer than avocado!

As the fruits mature, they will turn a bright pink. However, they are only ready to be eaten when they turn a deeper red and the flesh has become soft. When consumed either green or pink, the flesh will be tough and tastes bitter-spicy. They are sold from RM2 to RM4 per basket.

When planted from seed, it takes about 4 or 5 years for a tree to reach fruiting size. The tree can attain a large size with large leaves and branches that spread out several meters from the trunk. It grows to about 15-20 or more meters high so this isn’t your normal garden tree as it requires a lot of space. Expect the first successful harvest around the fifth year. Well worth the wait, especially if you love avocado-type fruits. This is a tropical tree so unfortunately, not everyone will be able to plant this and enjoy the fruits!

To prepare the ripe fruits, simply place them in a deep bowl and pour hot water at about 80 degrees Celsius. Leave for about 5 minutes and the fruits would have “fattened” up and the flesh turned soft. Then simply squeeze out the large, round and hard seed inside and eat the soft creamy white flesh (minus the skin of course!). Very tasty with a pinch of salt!! Yummy....Engkalak is also known as butter-fruit locally. 

Sarawak Malaysia Borneo...
Where Adventure Lives..

Author: Deckson Bundak

Thursday 22 March 2012

Putting an international jazz line-up together

Borneo Jazz is actually just round the corner. It’s a definite East-West flavor there this year. And a fairly balanced mix (I think!) of men and women musicians.

F.V.E. Project
Most emotional setting at the festival is going to be F.V.E. Project who is based in Kuala Lumpur, but guitarist Dean Sim is a Miri-boy so it is a home-coming of sorts. They are young and cool and adoringly enthusiastic like only the young can be. This is said with a considerable amount of envy, of course!

Nita Aartsen

I heard Nita Aartsen live at a festival in Bali last year and, while fairly quiet and low-key off-stage, she erupted into a dynamite performer at the piano on stage. Coming from a classical training background, her technique is impeccable. Watch her fingers fly!

Indonesian and Thai jazz performers are in a league of their own anyway.

Koh Mr Saxman and his Takeshi Band
And talking of Thailand, we’re getting in someone that I’ve admired for years now – Koh Mr Saxman and his Takeshi Band.  I was in Bangkok last week and was so excited to see huge billboards up in the city with his face on it. He’s a real star - running his own festival, running his own club, and on an Asian tour as we speak. How does he do it??!! Check out his videos. He has energy coming out of the screen. Can’t wait to get him live on stage.

Schalk Joubert and the Three Continents Sextet
One of the hardest bands to get together logistically was Schalk Joubert and the Three Continents Sextet. And from 3 continents they are coming from, indeed. Four beautiful ladies at the front - 3 on brass and I on piano, with very distracting good looks but their playing surpasses even that! And their leader, Schalk, is just as distracting - young, lean and blond and a real sweetie but completely tough and mean on the bass. He’s managed to persuade 2 other brilliant musicians to join them even if they have to fly from San Francisco and Cape Town, and I hear they have to fly right back again immediately after the gig as their schedules for the year are booked to the hilt.

New Cool Collective
The band with the most musicians this year is New Cool Collective from Amsterdam. I’ve been dying to get them to come and play for a long time. They have a huge reputation, but I hadn’t seen them live till 3 years ago and  I had a big smile on my face the entire time they were on stage. We can’t get the whole big band in unfortunately, but I don’t think they are going to be any less effective as the smaller band. They are reputed to be hipper than hip. Totally true. Musically, as well as visually. Take note of their snazzy outfits!

Tropic Green
Tropic Green from Singapore is a recent discovery for me. Great arrangements. CD sounded terrific. Then I went to read the fine print on the CD - the composer (all original pieces) and arranger was Susan Harmer who’s also the pianist. I’m obviously top heavy on gutsy female pianists this festival. Don’t think anyone is going to complain much though! Anyway its a very rich palette of players she had in her band. They came from Singapore as well as from Cuba, Japan and the USA.

There was a moment of psychic link last October when the lovely Annick Tangora was emailing me at the same time I was emailing her to ask her if she was free for the Borneo Jazz dates. We both said YES! at the same time. Actually, she said yes before she even went to see if her powerhouse of a band was available. Unfortunately her pianist, the legendary Mario Canonge, couldn’t make it. He’s never going to forgive me for asking so late. His bookings usually run 2 years ahead. But Tangora said the equally formidable Jonathan Jurion could make it, so they are coming as a quartet together with Eric Vincenot and Tony Rabeson (she calls them her accomplices!). She’s a bubbly kitten off-stage, but transforms into a sensual siren with the most seductive voice on-stage. And the mix of Parisian chic with Caribbean down-and-dirty exuberance is intoxicating.

Then, something completely different to add that crunchy texture to the whole 2 nights show.  SLIXS from Germany - an a capella act that will have you falling off your chair. I’m a bit of a sucker for wonderful vocals, if you haven’t already noticed. Their manager and I had been in constant annual contact for years and years though we’ve never met and so it was very nice (understatement) to suddenly find that we had dates that could coincide at last.

So there are the 8 bands that are performing at Borneo Jazz.

Park Everly by the beach will be rather pleasant as a place to celebrate life.

Author: Yeoh Jun Lin, Artistic Director for Borneo Jazz Festival 2012

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Authentic Iban Longhouses in Central Region of Sarawak

In Sarawak, a visit to an authentic longhouse is considered a must.

In the Central Region of Sarawak, an Iban longhouse is one of  the main attractions for tourists. Several other ethnic groups traditionally live in longhouses, so expect a variety of ways in which you are welcomed. Traditionally the Iban do not shake hands to welcome visitors. Today, though, this is highly acceptable.

Tuai Rumah
 Longhouse headmen are respectfully addressed as “Tuai Rumah”.  Hence, when addressing him during conversations, he should customarily be addressed as “Aya (uncle) Tuai Rumah”.
Each longhouse is led by a Tuai Rumah. He is usually appointed by his own group of people; the criteria for selection include leadership qualities and success in life.
In the olden days, more was required. He needed to present proof of his bravery - a human skull or two would suffice as  credentials. This was when head-hunting was rife.  Succession was fairly straight-forward. Usually the eldest son takes on the mantle of headman if he possesses the same leadership qualities, and has the trust of his community.  If this isn't possible, the post goes to a younger sibling, or next-of-kin such as an uncle or cousin.

Thus the Tuai Rumah is not a dictator, as we understand in accordance to the definition what it is today.  His decision in all matters affecting his anembiaks (those under his leadership) is usually final but only after they are consulted. A good Tuai Rumah is exemplary in all his activities, a sterling example for his anembiaks.  Therefore, close rapport and dialogues, known as randau ruai (which means general conversation conducted in the longhouse verandah) is a daily affair, particularly in the evening. Normally, each longhouse is  named after the Tuai Rumah.

NgajatCultural Dance (Ngajat) - The Iban community is known for several  forms of cultural dances. In longhouse functions, the most popular dances are the Ngajat Ngelalu Pengabang (Welcoming Dance) and Ngajat Bujang Berani (Warrior Dance). Both men and women dancers are decked in full traditional costumes.
Sometimes, visitors are invited to join in. Be sporting enough to try. Poor footwork? You won't be penalised. Don’t miss this wonderful experience.

Tuak (Rice Wine)“Tuak” (Rice wine) - Tuak is brewed from glutinous rice (pulut) and yeast (ragi). First, the yeast is dried, while the  glutinous rice is soaked for up to ten hours. In olden days, this glutinous rice will be cooked in bamboo. In the heating process the bamboo cylinders will be repeatedly turned over until the rice  is fully cooked. The cylinders are then turned upside down to drain the water to ensure that the rice will not become stale even over a long period of time. After a few hours, the rice  is taken out and spread out evenly on a mat.

Fermentation begins by mixing the rice thoroughly with yeast. Then, the rice is  placed into a glazed earthenware jar. Make sure the jar has never been used for storing sour or salty food.
Before being used, the jar has to be washed thoroughly and left to dry.  The first brew (ai suling) should be ready after a fortnight.  It is extracted and bottled.  For a more potent brew, many Ibans keep them on racks above the fireplace in the kitchen.

Miring ceremony For the Ibans, the “Miring” (offering) ceremony is meant to make wishes known to  departed ancestors. It is to seek their protection and for the smooth organising of events. Usually, this ceremony is led by elders or VIPs.

Meal Times
The Iban normally have their meals in the main room; seated in a circle. Rice and accompanying dishes are served on plates or bowls.  It's self-service - pile on whatever you want onto your plate. Just make sure there are no leftovers. So it's best to have a little to start with. Go for seconds later. Sometimes the host provide extra helpings later on if he senses your hesitance during the meal time.  You will be excused for not finishing this extra helping.

Small talk is encouraged during meals. No vulgarities please. Your host is especially delighted to see you have a good appetite.

NgelanganThe Iban community practises several different ways of welcoming important guests. One is Ngelangan. It involves a ceremony before the guest enters a sort of tunnel festooned with pua kumbu (traditional woven fabric). Accompanied by the headman, the guest walks the length of the longhouse before taking his seat in the verandah.

RanyaiDuring Gawai Dayak (Harvest Festival) or any other festival held in the longhouse,  you will witness an intriguing dance around  bountiful trees known as the “ranyai”. The ranyai tree is usually made of nipah and is stationed in the middle of the verandah. Food and drinks are hung on it.
Visitors are invited to dance around the tree, select a food item, retrieve it, before taking a seat. It all climaxes with the felling of the tree, symbolising a bountiful harvest.

PUA  KUMBU The “pua kumbu” is a popular native handicraft of the Ibans. It literally means a blanket or a coverlet.  Weaving Pua KumbuThis colourful cloth, woven with intricate combinations of various designs and colours, however, serves more significant meanings other than that of providing covering.

In the olden days, the “pua kumbu” was very much an integral part of the day-to-day affairs and special rituals of the Iban society.  One or more pieces of “pua kumbu” are being hung prominently in the midst of joyous gatherings such as harvest festivals or weddings. For solemn events, such as farming rituals or healing ceremonies, the “pua” is used to veil structures containing charms and offerings to the gods.  When head-hunting was still a much-valued tradition of the Ibans, the “pua kumbu” are used by the ladies to receive the “prize” brought home by their warriors.

Modern Iban society now have more contemporary uses for the “pua kumbu”.  Cushion covers, handbags and wall hangings are some of the novel uses of this particular craft.

  • Aku   I
  • Kami or kita         We
  • Nuan You
  • Selamat pagi        Good Morning
  • Selamat tengahari  Good Afternoon
  • Selamat malam  Good Night
  • Selamat tinggal  Good bye
  • Ari ni penatai nuan? Where are you from?
  • Siapa nama nuan? What is your name?
  • Berapa pintu kita serumah ditu?
  • How many doors (meaning families) do you have in the house?
  • Sapa Tuai Rumah kita ditu?
  • Who is the Headman of your longhouse?
  • Tau aku ngambi gambar nuan?May I have your photograph taken, please?
  • Berapa umur nuan? How old are you?
  • Ulih aku nanya nuan? Can I ask you something?

  • Wear flat shoes and wear suitable clothing
  • Take off your footwear before sitting on the mat in the longhouse.
  • Ask for water for washing if you need it.
  • Do not stretch your legs when sitting on a mat.  If you have to do so for one reason or another, ask for the host's permission.  This also applies during meal times.
  • Do not spit, or blow your nose, or utter vulgarities  during meal times.
  • Do not feel shy but be at home with your host, particularly at meal times.
  • To keep your host happy, get into  animated  conversations,  and ask lots of questions.
  • Do not hesitate to ask for any information -  e.g. the Iban way of life, customs or traditions.
  • Do not hesitate to try speaking in Iban. This will give your host an impression that you feel at home.  The more you feel at home, the more you can learn about them.

Author: Visitor Infor Centre Sibu

Friday 16 March 2012

Jakarta big bikers love Sarawak open roads

A long, long way they came and Sarawak Travel thank them for coming. Bon voyage to our new-found friends from Indonesia. The convoy left for Pontianak this morning.

45 big bikers travelled all the way from Jakarta for a 8-day motorbiking holiday to Sarawak and Brunei using the route less used.

Crossing the Java Sea to arrive in Pontianak some twelve hours later, the riders eventually arrived in Kuching for the start of their 1000- km of cruising adventure along the Pan Borneo Highway.

They stopped at Sibu, Miri and Bandar Seri Begawan before back tracking to return home. The open roads of Sarawak and Brunei was a welcome change for this group of Indonesian big bikers who are used to the crowded roads of Jakarta.

Have a safe ride home! Sarawak welcomes you and your biking community another day :-)