Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Yakkity Yak on Sarawak (Part 2)

On 12th July 2009, right after the finale performance at the Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak, I lost my digital camera. It contained almost 4 gigabytes of videos and photos taken over 4 days in Sarawak, which I had planned to put together for my first big little personal montage project.

The loss has not been felt entirely yet; I cannot compute how such trigger-happy efforts can be rewarded with such a brutal blow. In the meantime however, in a bid to document the memories in any form I still can, I have been compelled to write the journal of my 5-day trip in Sarawak, complete with a sappy mention of the notable videos taken each day.

All things happen for a reason, and I hope you enjoy the long silly ride of this reason.

I forgot to mention in the last post that on our first night, Nur, Alfred, Mandra, Sam and I all stepped out for a late night walk along the beach, which was a 5 minute walk away from our cabin. There we marveled at the stars and kicked at the low tide. Sam and I started taking wicked long exposure shots of us writing our names and drawing hearts in the air with cellphone lights. We were having an absolute ball until some staff member from an adjacent resort chased us off the beach by order of his management; apparently to have people chillaxing by a beautiful midnight shore is ‘not nice’.
He damn right it’s not nice. It’s f**king brilliant.

10th July 2009

Town 'n' Out

I voluntarily plug some Jack Johnson into Nur’s speakers to enhance the joy of everyone waking up in our own time. We decide to head into Kuching town to meet up with extra bunkers Miranda and Jeremy and have lunch. The closest shuttle service into Kuching is situated at the entrance of the Sarawak Cultural Village, where the festival is being held. The venue is 20-minute walk from our resort. Nur and Alfred welcome the noonday sun with a generous slathering of tanning oil.

We redeem our access wrist tags to avoid the crowds later, and take a brisk walk around the village while we wait for the next shuttle out. The ride into town lasts an hour. Nur and Alfred hit the sack almost immediately, Sam’s jetlag keeps him up and both of us take pictures of rolling hills and shimmering lakes before I also let my consciousness dissipate into the tropical heat. When we step off the coach in Kuching, Alfred bumps into Paul and Marcie, two of his friends who happened to be walking in our direction. They’re also here for the festival and have rented a car to get around easier in. (I mention this point because it is imperative to an incident that happens just the day after.) We dine at a café that serves the greatest incarnation of ABC (Air Batu Campur = ‘Mixed Ice’ in direct Malay translation) I have ever sacrificed my sensitive teeth to: corn, lychee, jackfruit and apple mixed with pink sago and coconut agar jelly in a small mountain of shaved ice. Bliss in a bowl.

We walked around a bit around the city, including a quick stopover to the post office (which was a tourist site in itself) for Sam to send some postcards. On the way there, we pose by a hedge and I literally singe my hands on the afternoon pavement whilst attempting to pull off a baby freeze. We walk by a long strip of handicraft shops along the famous Kuching Waterfront and there are tons of things I’d want to buy. We’ll be spending the whole day in Kuching on the last day of the trip so I keep my purchases minimal – so far, just a couple of wood bracelets and an elaborate bead necklace that had ‘so totally beach party like omg’ written all over it.

We manage to buy food and drink supplies from a nearby grocery store, and take the next shuttle back to the Village. Little do we know though, that the coach has to check off a detailed schedule of designated spots around Kuching town before hitting the long road, stretching the hour-long journey by another 30 minutes. My nap is too scattered to offer rejuvenation, and immobile aircon vents are steering arctic winds into my frostbitten face.

Warming up
We finally reach the village and hike back to our cabin to prepare for the night’s festivities. Whilst gearing up at the cabin, a roar of thunder makes the wooden boards under our feet quiver. A sudden storm brings out the hydrophilic properties out of some mates and they cheer in anticipation. I don a big red disposable rain poncho much to the enjoyment of anti- and pro-rain advocates alike. The thing about rain ponchos is that the mini sauna effect they create from your body heat leaves you drenched all the same. I have always been one to place novelty before contradiction.

When we arrive at the village the crowd still seems manageable. We make a beeline for the food area. As with festival protocol, it’s hard to not pick a meal that doesn’t look nutritionally fulfilling. I end up making a slightly pricey but worthwhile purchase of Sarawak kolomee noodles done vegetarian style. I am even granted the request of extra veggies – judging from the overzealous helping of carrot and cucumber shavings, I take it that the guy manning the stall is very appreciative of me taking the chances on his meat alternative of tofu-mushroom mush. From the live projector screens we watch Noreummachi, an elaborately costumed percussion-horn troupe from Korea. Their appeal lies in their hats – they perform gymnastic ribbon routines entirely with their hats. They fling their heads about and twirl the ribbons above and around them in impeccable synchronization. All the troupe members must have very robust necks. Also imperative when it comes to dating a bumper car enthusiast or suffering from chronic nosebleeds.

After eating, we head down to the field where the two main stages are. The rain has now demoted itself to a drizzle but its wrath has left the ground in a diaper gravy state – brown, viscous, strangely putrid, and deep enough to induce a voracious appetite for loose-fitting footwear. I resort to stashing my slippers away into my drawstring bag with a clean-looking plastic bag I salvage from an open garbage bin.

The drawbacks of going cheapo and choosing ‘Heavy Duty’ over Alkaline
I type this out however I cannot recall much of the rest of the evening, despite the festival pass being the biggest investment of the day and embodying the whole idea of going to Sarawak in the first place. Perhaps because the rest of the performances that night were not really up my alley. Perhaps my memory is selectively appalling. All I do remember is my right foot aching immensely from the unleveled ground (an old injury re-ignited through physical exertion at work and a bad move in indoor soccer); walking out of the field as the final group of the night (Poum Tchack from France) began and thinking, damn, I would so stay on and dance to this funky accordion stuff if my eyelids weren’t so heavy and my feet weren’t so buggered, having my mate Dave Beasley (I must write his name out in full because I think Beasley is one of the most awesomest surnames on the planet) for company at the stoney pavement rear end of the viewing field, passing out in an upright fetal position and occasionally waking up to remind myself that I wasn’t in bed at home and then checking that noone had stolen my bag from between my legs.

Strange how I don’t drink and I can’t even remember how I got back to the cabin. But in the morning I did find in my pocket a fare ticket for a snowmobile.

PHOTOS / VIDEOS TAKEN: Making fun of Nur and Alfred sleeping on the bus, Sarawak Cultural Village by day, the empty stage area, Sam climbing halfway a coconut tree and making it bend, mud mud mud

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