Friday, 8 March 2013

keningau............................part 2

It's 4pm. DO suggested we shift venue to Perkasa Hotel, a few minutes drive from where we are now. I remember that this was the place where we had our dinner hosted by SLDB (Sabah Land Development Board) while on the bio diesel project way back in 2007. This hotel belongs to the State Government. The one in Kundasang is also under the same management. The design of the hotel is a copycat, may be as a trademark to their chains. SLDB's core business is Palm Oil plantation. The only State Agency that has a large acreage of Palm Oil in the state. This hotel is one of the two biggest and most popular among travellers to Keningau besides Hotel Juta in the CBD.

When we reached the hotel, Rosli, Asmawas's friend is waiting for us at the lobby. Rosli is the one who recommended the Dukun for us. According to him, the Dukun is still in Penampang attending some patients. He'll be back in Keningau in an hour's time. DO suggested we wait for the Dukun while in the mean  time we are free to roam around the town. I've seen almost all and I prefer to be here chatting. It's our fault not to have an appointment prior to this. It's just a gate crashing, if we are lucky, we can have our treatments today. 

During fasting months most hotels are having Ramadhan carnivals, commerating the fasting month. Buffet sets are normally on offer for breaking of fast. According to the F&B manager, during this fasting month prices are set for RM28 with 8 kinds of food and beverages. It's cheap compare to other hotels which normally set the buffet prices for RM60-80.

Asmawas, DO's manager is relaxing after a tiring journey. For Sabahan travelling for few hours is not much of a problem. They are used to it. Sabah is big, the distance from one town to another takes hours of travelling. To others who are not used to this kind of travelling feel uneasy about it, but again that depends on everyone's preferences. It differs from one to another. I for instance don't mind travelling especially to  new places which I can gain varied experience. 

Asmawas is actually a crew for a production house for TV3, RTM/Radio,TV Malaysia and independent channels. He's an actor as well. Lots of his works have been aired by various TV channels. He's based in Sabah but frequently travelled to KL for meeting and business negotiations. It seems DO is the funder. It's good to know people in this creative line. Who knows one day we can collaborate mutually producing documentary films. 

Malaysians are not prolific in producing documentaries although it has a bigger audience compares to drama slots. Look at Nat.Geo/National Geographic as an example, they travel worldwide for filming documentaries and are aired by all TV stations throughout the world. We are still lacking in this sector where as we have a lot of talent scouts that we can tap for this purpose. 

I remember one Mat Salleh/White Man been to the interior of Sarawak doing documentary on 'tatoos' of Iban tribes. Nat.Geo. sponsored everything. Same goes to a group doing 'martial arts' documentary on Malaysian Silat/Self Defence. We have lots of materials to showcase the world but we don't really make use of it and other people are taking the advantages instead of us.

Buffet sets are ready. According to the person in charge, almost everyday this hotel is fully booked for breaking of fast. Infact for today three quarter of seats are already been booked.
It's a nice decent hotel. The lobby is spacious. It's a fair service for this standard of hotel. Most seminars, meetings or conventions are held here. For a town like Keningau I think this kind of accomodation is fairly justifiable. You can't expect a five star rating hotel in this kind of environment.

Rosli is a native of Keningau. He's a contractor by profession. It's interesting to listen to his tales that actually he's a reverted Muslim, still staying with his parents who are all Christians. In Sabah staying together in a house with different faith is nothing awkward, it's an accepted norms by all. He told us that during fasting month like this, his wife and him always do the breaking of fast at home with his parents but of course with a halal dish. 

His mother is the one who does all the cooking. In fact every morning his mother will wakes him up for "sahur". This is the first time I came across such a beautiful and touching tales. According to him family bonding will never parish although they are of different belief and faith. That's what I said integration and assimilation here is a precedent worth to follow. 

It's already 5pm. DO requested Rosli to make another call to the Dukun just to confirm where he is now and whether he stills got time for us. It's getting late and close to the breaking of fast. Normally during Ramadhan time, people are busy and time is short because every body will be at the mosque to perform Tarawikh prayers afterwards. Tarawikh is important besides as the rituals it is also as a form of exercise after heavy meals during the breaking of fast.

According to Rosli the Dukun is still in Penampang and say sorry for us that he cannot make it today. So we decided to go back to KK instead. Rosli feels a little bit guilty about it but that's not his fault. His sincere volunteering arrangements for the treatment is actually a blessing. If still we have time tomorrow may be we can summon the Dukun to come to KK with all the expenses paid for. Rosli excuses himself so do we. After exchange of 'salams' we parted ways.

We've to say goodbye to Keningau. Notice a Landmark standing tall at the main round about on the way back to KK through Penampang. Keningau is rich in Public Art and Street Furniture. Formerly this access is the gateway to Keningau. Still  lots of people are using this road daily. Some prefers this road due to the convinience of travel with lots of facilities along the way.We can find Kadazan Dusun settlements, their orchards, plantations, Chapels, Surau, Community Halls etc.

People from the east coast normally utilised Ranau-Tambunan road to reach Keningau. After Penampang the road converges back and using the same road that we are travelling now, so basically it's still a one and only access to Keningau. I really respect people of the interior, despite of all the difficulties, cut off from outside world, they are happily living and as if nothing perturb their livehood. I can't imagine if there's an emergency for the hospital, it takes hours before reaching the doctor. Urban folks with all the facilities, wealth, technological advancement etc. are still complaining this and that as if they are not being fairly treated. Come to the interior, experiencing oneself only then we appreciate how lucky we are.

DO told Asmawas not to rush. After all travelling at this hour is quite dangerous due to fogs. The visibility is poor, less than 5 meters. I wonder how people from the interior going in and out if the road is cut off due to mishaps such as landslides, fallen trees and other obstacles. 

Before the new Kimanis road was built, this is the only form of access. By the look of it, this road may be as old as Cameron Highland or Fraser Hill's roads, meaning it was constructed during Colonial times. The road is narrow and winding. Some parts are steep with dangerous bends and sharp corners. 

The last time I've been to this area was at night so I can't actually appreciate the views. We were travelling in a bus and everything outside was dark. Barely can see anything except for oncoming vehicle's light. Today I can enjoy, appreciate  the whole panoramic views though sometimes scarry with all sorts of funny feelings. I told myself not to be scarred as Asmawas is an experienced and careful driver. He knows almost every turns and corners.

On the way back we are using the old road going through Tambunan towards KK. We cannot take the road to Kimanis because there's no Shops or Restaurants along the way. Time for breaking of fast is almost one hour from now, so we don't want to get caught in the middle of the jungle without having anything for breaking of fast. Along this old road there's a lot  of settlements with Grocery shops and Restaurants.

Gunung Mas is one of the highest spot on this part of Crocker Range. Its weatherly cool and commanding majestic views over the valley makes somebody with a smart idea to build a resort taking into account on the sustainability factor. All chalets are nicely built following the contours with minimum manufactured slopes. 

The Cafe acts as a refreshment centre for travellers. If still to dwelve on the fresh cooling air, one can have a choice either to spend  longer time at the Cafe or just go to the reception counter for check in. Due to positive response and quickly becoming a popular stop over destination among travellers, the Cafe is temporarily closed for upgrading and refurbishment. The last time we stopped over, that was 5 years ago, the business was so flourishing. Loads of buses and private passenger cars stopped over for refreshments. This route is busier and more popular than Kimanis route. After all many kampungs/villages are on this route.

Harmonious living  is potrayed by the religious institutions located side by side. Lots of settlements are with this form of clusters. They are all family members, neighbours, differs only in preachings. They came from the same roots, same family tree. The concept of neighbourliness prevails in this community. 

It's getting darker and darker. The sun will set in a matter of minutes. Asmawas turns on the Sabah Suria fm radio, waiting for 'azan' time. I don't see any Surau or Mosque along the whole stretch except that I've just mentioned. That means in this part of settlement area, there's not many Muslim families. The time passed 6.30pm, and  in a few minutes time, the DJ/disc jockey will make announcements for breaking of fast. We are at the fringe of the jungle, after  a few corners and bends, still we can't find any shops. 

Throughout the whole journey DO doesn't participate much in our conversation. He's trying to contain his back pains. Luckily he's at the back seat alone, at least he has all the space for himself to do muscle stretching.

We passed few settlements. It's a cluster setting with groups of houses "flocks" together one after another. Kadazan people don't live in Longhouse as Iban of Sarawaks do. The Kadazan settlement do resembles the traditional Malay kampung settings.

The beauty part of travelling through this route is the feeling of adventure itself which cannot be translated into words. It comes with lots of thrills and surprises, you don't know what to expect next. Surprises are everywhere. At one instance, passing through a village, I saw a group of family members sitting on the verandah happily chatting, reflects the easy going, fun filled mood. It seems stress level is low, and everything is in laid back kind of atmosphere. Hardly see any cars at this hour. Peoples are busy preparing for dinner or in the midst of eagerly enjoying the meals for breaking of fast.

Asmawas is very familiar with this place, his house is somewhere in the vicinity. He told us to hold on for few minutes till he arrives at a kampung grocery shop that sells drink. At this point of time we don't need food, but  only drink. Somewhere near Kipuovo, a Kadazan settlement, Asmawas slowed down and halting at the road shoulder for a bottle of drink at the nearby shop. For me mineral water is more than enough, so do DO.

Minutes later Asmawas returned with 6 bottles of chilled mineral water, passed over one bottle each to DO and me. Asmawas hastilly finished the whole bottle within seconds. 

Actually if people ask what's the best drink in the world, the answer is the drink on the breaking of fast. For those who never had the experience of fasting surely miss the beauty of all this. As usual, DO and me slowly sipped the drink, allowing the liquid to first wetting the aesophagus. Don't ever drink in a hurry because it's not good for digestive system. I got down from the vehicle and do some stretchings. After a stick of Sampoerna cigarette, I felt as if I'm in a trance, and that's where the thrill is. Asmawas was complaining about dizziness and headache. That's due to his style of drinking just now. We continued our journey to KK. Sorry folks, smoking is bad for health but........

Kampung community is more on neighbourliness and family bonded kind of system. They are not individualistic, approachable, rich in "gotong royong" spirit, laid back, easy going and down to earth community. The kampung layout translates the whole system. Houses are next to each other, fenceless boundary, gone are all the setbacks and frontages. Gated and guarded system cannot find their place in this kind of community. 

The irony is, this is an anti thesis to the urban community. It could be due to lifestyles, standard of living, ethnicity and all sorts of urban social sickness, thus creates or producing an indivilualistic, selfish and may I term  "foolish" society or as Einstein said the society of "idiots"

Nowadays lots of people start to realise the importance of close knit society regardless of who you are, beyond the boundary of norm. I think a retreat to the interior will makes us aware, love and nurture our life to the fullest. People in this environment samples a holistic, nature intimacy, practice healthy lifestyle, learn and value good nutrition and natural healing. Regular escapes into great outdoors are now slowly taking its toll on urban folks. It's a good sign of nature and cultural interest and slowly hopefully one day, people will fall in love with it.

Nature is a form of rejuvenating getaway. Minutes ago I saw groups of oldies carrying kilos of farm produce on their backs using rattan baskets. Consider old biologically but still in good health. May be I'm not able to do that. Nature is truly the best healer, answer can be found around the farm on any ailment. Only lately scientists are talking about nano tech, herbal products, or anything to do with nature as a healing agent. Our ancestors of thousand years have been practising that. The setback about all this is that our ancestors don't produce records or documentations on any of that, it's somekind of passing down of knowledge generation to generation. They have the testimony but undocumented, nothing clinical or laboratory research as  has been  in the practise of modern scientist.

Modern urban generations are fighting for status quo, be a lifestyle hunter, fighting for top corporate ladder and trying hard to be part of the rat race. Come to think of it, it's the act of against the nature and nurture. Becomes a city dweller, breathes polluted air and living in glass and concrete jungle.

Kampung people is actually the champions of sustainability. A kampung guy leads a self sustaining life, he farms, plants, breeds and rears everything he needs, practice in a resourceful way, maximise usage and minimise wastage and tie in with the notion of waste to wealth. Organic practise is his daily culture, exchanging the life of urbanisation to life of quality.

As we are descending the hill downwards to Penampang, a beautiful ray of red yellow strikes over the majestic rolling hills in the far distant. It's a beautiful delightfully nostalgic and pleasant interlude. A pause in time.When will I get the chance to repeat this remarkable journey experiences. Missing the scene that greets and saying good bye to people like me. I was enthralled by the idyllic sights of colourful culture of people of the interior. I wish one fine day I can be part of the community though as a visitor/guest. The heartbeat of the community really lies in its people. 

As we are approaching closer to the town area, I can't resist the smell of mountain air with its richness of flora and fauna's aroma. I take  a deep breath and in hale as much oxygen available. In the far distant, lights through window panes of houses strike the beautiful faces of young kids in the house compound. It's like a time tunnel resembling nostalgically my childhood kampung days. Subdued colours of the impressive mountains leaving a delightful memory of a classic journey.

Penampang is a district with many government administrative offices couples with lots of residential and commercial activities. I don't know much about this place. I find it funny, as we are approaching residential estates, I notice that's not even a person with sarung and songkok. When I voiced out this to Asmawas,  DO who's all the while in his own sweet heavenly dreams suddenly joins in the conversation.

According to DO, it's true that Penampang doesn't have a town mosque. Most kampungs do not have any. All the residents here performing religious related activities in KK. That's quite a distant for the people here to perform prayers nightly especially during this Ramadhan month. 

This is the only district in Sabah that doesn't have a mosque. Dare not talk much over the matter. I feel so surprise and very sad over this news. This is not Cambodia. I never thought a rich Malaysia can't afford a mosque for its residents. I dare not say more....I'm not into politics...that's not my forte, better leave it to the experts.


After a beautiful and worthwhile journey, the closing chapter is not to my favour....leaving me with a mixed feelings......

.thank you folks for spending some time reading my visual diary