I have been spending quite a number Hari Raya festivities over the years. I have been returning to Kuching for eidul fitr since the eighties. Over the past week, I was in Kuching again for this year’s Eidul Fitr celebrations. A number things of really caught my eyes this year.
1. The cost of living in Kuching is no longer more expensive than KL. It used to be in the old days where most things were more expensive. I do not know about other things but some routine items that I bought were definitely a lot cheaper in Kuching. A kilo of banana at the Satok market costs only RM2.99 as compared to RM4.99 or even RM5.99 in Chow Kit market. More remarkably it was “pisang emas” which is more expensive and quite difficult to find in KL these days as the banana plantations throughout he peninsular were ravaged by diseases. Ten stalks of serai costs only RM1.00 and five stalks of bunga kantan costs RM2.00. One kilo of siakap fresh from the Telaga Air jetty costs RM25.00
There is only one road in Kuching that traffic has to pay toll and you have several other choices if you do not want to pay the toll. The Demak- Pending road is the only road in Kuching that charged toll. On top of that, there is always the “penambang” that you can take to transport you across the Sarawak River in no time for RM1.00 one way.
The parking charges is only 20 sen per half an hour. I forgot to top up the parking coupon on three occasions and for that I was fined a total of……RM6.40. That would not be enough to cover half an hour parking in the Jalan TAR or in most of the KL city malls. Even more “ridiculous” is the airport parking charges – RM1.00 per hour! And do you know that The Sunday STAR in Kuching is only RM1.20, that is 30 sen cheaper than in the peninsular. We had to take ferry to cross the Sampadi River in Sampadi on our way from Matang to Lundu, the ferry charges is only one ringgit. I believe the Government (either the state or Federal) should have built the bridge. It is just a seven minute crossing and I do not think the bridge would cost that many millions to build. I am sure they can sourced the funds somewhere. Well that is another story.
I do not think Kuching folks realised that they had it so good.
2. There is a Perodua in almost every household in Kuching. Little wonder why Perodua has overtaken Proton by leaps and bounds in total industry volume (TIV) statistics. As you drive along Jalan Astana or Jalan Semariang or any lanes in the many villages on the fringes of Kuching, you invariably can see either a Viva, Kancil, Kelisa or Axia on the driveways. Sparingly you would see other makes. Mostly Protons though.
3. While the baju Melayu is still the garbs of choice, the “jubah” is making headway.I see more men wearing the jubah this year as compared to previous years. The same goes for the ladies, more are wearing jubah compared to the traditional baju kurung. Is Sarawak fortress of Baju Melayu during the Eidul Fitr period is crumbling? Or maybe the jubah is just a passing trend that is not going to threaten the enduring Baju Melayu. But I must admit that I really admire their tenacity in preserving the Baju Melayu, especially among the youths. You can see them wearing the national dress everywhere even when they are doing their pacak stunts, in the cinemas, dating at the waterfront, or racing illegally in their modified kapcais.
4. Sarawak needs a better planning and promotions of their vacations spots.
I was in Telaga Air on Thursday. A little fishing village that has seen a few attempts to be developed as a tourists destination. Credit must be given to the Government for building a beautiful water front promenade cum jetty in Telaga Air. I heard the place is haven for anglers. But on Thursday, they were only a few tourists. Most of the shops were closed. By the look of it, they have closed down for good. The small enterprises business centre was dilapidated. The fresh fish market has only three stalls opened. Lucky that I stopped by, there were a treasure trove of fresh jenahak, kerapu, siakap, terubok, bawal hitam, bawal putih, puput etc. And the prices were reasonable too.
5. There is a new road from Semariang to Rambungan, the final portion just completed before the Eid. Part of the road was a dual lane carriageway on both sides. But such a big road leads to nowhere. At the end, the road looped back to Samariang – what an expensive U – turn. The road was supposed to take us to Rambungan and Sampadi but after the Matang/politeknik junction there is only a small hand painted sign pointing to the road leading to the Sampadi ferry terminal. It was the same in many other places, the signs are either missing or have faded beyond legibility. This part of Sarawak has many attractive places that is not quite known to outsiders. Most tourists would flocked to Damai/Santubong/Bako area, but the Telaga Air, Pulau Sibu, Sematan and Pandan area are equally attractive. I hope the new CM, who incidentally represents the area would do something about it.
6. In the those days, carbonated drinks, were commonly served to visitors during the Hari Raya celebrations. Families would stock crates and crates of F&N, Yeos or Sundrop of various flavours. Serving cordials would be frowned upon, let alone hot drinks. On my first Hari Raya in Kuching, I had consumed probably five or six litres of concoction of orange, apple, grape, ice cream soda, fruitade or whatever flavour of the drinks served on the first day. No wonder I had diarrohea that night. Over the years things have changed a bit. more and more open houses are serving cordials, iced water or even tea or coffee.