Thursday, October 1, 2009

two heritage places in kuching

wow, even when in kuching also cannot forget about heritage. sure sign of a diehard heritage blogger. (victor's comment)

i was in kuching over the hari raya puasa weekend for my elder daughter's wedding. her husband is a kuching boy. this wedding has been a long-drawn affair. after the sarawak's wedding, we flew back for the singapore's celebrations on monday. on thursday, we travelled to melbourne for the actual marriage ceremony at some vineyard in the dandenong mountains.

in kuching, one day after the wedding, while the others in the entourage went shopping and for body massage, i opted to get away from the city to an old village, some 30km from kuching. siniawan is a village with two rows of shop houses. it had a population of about 2 to 3 hundred chinese at the beginning of this century. today, because of development, with the new road to bau bypassing this settlement, most of the residents have moved elsewhere and the shops appear to have been sadly sidelined.

my guide and host, who drove me around, used to visit this area when she was a young girl. her grandfather owned one of the grandest houses in the siniawan village. the house, more than a century old is still in good look and shape. it was a house built big enough to accommodate her grandfather's families of four wives.

we had a light lunch at yong tai cafe, one of the few shops that is still operating. that was when i discovered a strange language peculiarity in sarawak. in kuching, everybody speaks hokkien regardless of his dialect group. however, in seniawan, hakka is the lingua franca. even the dayaks use hakka when ordering their bowls of kolok mee.

this area is prone to flooding. once every three or four years, there will be a great flood. my host, katherine, told me of one she had witnessed. the water level reached the first storey of the grand house. as the rambutan tree was fruiting at that time, her uncle swam from the house to the tree to pick the fruit.

this grand two-storey building in siniawan known as 'tai guan' belonged to katherine's grandfather. today, it is considered a heritage building and it gets visitors from all over the world. the living rooms are all upstairs and the hall downstairs is spartanly furnished because of the flood situation.

from siniawan, we drove on to bau. bau has been a gold-mining town for centuries. katherine's late grandfather operated a gold mine and she related to me how her grandfather struck it rich. one stormy day, a tree at the mine was hit by lightning. when the tree fell, it exposed a gold seam....a literal pot of gold.

bau also has an interesting history. today, bau is the only town in malaysia that has a statue of buddha in the middle of the town. it is customary for every driver, who visits the town, to drive from one end of the road to the other where the statue is located. although my guide is a christian, she also subscribes to this practice.

two attractions in bau are the fairy cave and the wind cave. we did not have the time to explore these caves.


simPerBlog said...

Kuching seem to be left behind in time, everything the same as in 30 years ago, very rustic laid back feeling. By the way congratulation on the marriage of your daughter.

nah said...

Yg, how nice to have a rich lady as your guide and host to drive you around, then have lunch together. You may strike gold there too. It is a pity that you did not have the time to explore the fairy cave and the wind cave. Anyway, from what I read, these two caves are not as huge as Niah caves which I visited in Miri, a week before your grand celebration over there.

yg said...

thks, simPerBlog. kuching itself has seen quite a lot of changes and development but away from it, some places have been bypassed by growth and change. however, that's what make these places interesting.

yg said...

nah, these small caves in bau, you can explore on your own. niah caves, you may need a guide. anyway, all caves are about the same..stalagmite, stalatite, column, underground river, etc.

Lam Chun See said...

Last year when I holidayed in Kuching, I visited both the Fairy and Wind Caves. I gather that the Niah Caves and Mulu Caves are much bigger.

I also visited old shops in town area called Barrack Road. Took some photos to remind me of the shops in Spore in the 60's.

Have to disagree with SimPerBlog that Kuching has not changed much. I used to go there quite often in the 90's for my consultancy work. From what I can see last year, there has been quite a lot of changes esp. the Harbour side and the Airport area. The airport of course was completely upgraded from the last time I went there. Missed the wonderful S'wak laksa at the old airport.