Only 15 km from Kuching (and 5 km from the Damai Beach Resort (where I have stayed three times while at the magical, annual Rainforest World Music Festival) is the Kuching Wetlands National Park (2002) in the estuarine reaches of two rivers.
It’s also where I have twice planted mangrove trees as part of the “Greening of the Festival” which Sarawak Tourism does with all the festivals it hosts, helping offset the carbon I’ve spent getting to Malaysian Borneo.
The park is a mostly saline mangrove system of many waterways and tidal creeks connecting the two major rivers that form the boundaries of the park.
An important spawning and nursery ground for fish and prawn species and it also has a wide diversity of wildlife, including proboscis monkeys, long-tailed macaque monkeys, silver-leaf monkeys, monitor lizards, estuarine crocodiles and a range of bird life, including kingfishers, white-bellied sea eagles and shore birds, including the rare lesser adjutant stork. In 2005 Malaysia designated the park as a Ramsar site, a wetland of international importance.
To explore this park you need to travel on the river and a number of tour operators offer coastal and river cruises in and around the park.
To read more about eco-tourism in Malaysian Borneo see my small book (A love letter to Malaysian Borneo or, can this travel writer be green) which has been entered in the Malaysian Tourism 2015 Awards.
Many thanks to Rash (Jo’s Bamboo Cuisine) who really tried hard to teach me to get the insides out of these native snail while at the Sarawak Cultural Village and the Rainforest World Music Festival (#RWMF) earlier this month.
While she and other locals made it seem so easy, it became very obvious I need to practise sucking more, or, carry a pin to winkle them out next time!
“It’s easy, just suck, then eat.” As she also told me … they’re like rubbery chewing gum!
. . . “Two weeks later I’m on Penang Island, named after the betel nut so loved by many older men and women: all recognisable by their stained teeth and frequent spitting. It’s early in the morning: very early. Standing in the dawn light, at the colourful temple I’m unsure if I should go in. A few other tourists are also standing around, talking in low whispers, cameras around their necks.
It’s Thaipusam; a day of consecration to the Hindu deity Lord Murugen who is confusingly also called Lord Subramanian. Hindus who have made a vow to him carry frames decorated with coloured paper and flowers, fresh fruit and milk. When these tributes are placed at the feet of the deity, their penance or gratitude is accepted. Some 2000 people will carry the kavadi or silver milk containers, the 12 kilometres to the Natlukotai Temple in Waterfall Road, Penang Island on this annual pilgrimage.
The web page of the Confucius Institute at Victoria University says it “is dedicated to promoting artistic, cultural and intellectual exchange between China and New Zealand. Through exhibitions, concerts, festivals, lectures, workshops and courses, we bring you closer to the heart and mind of one of the most important and enduring civilisations in the world.”
Recently I went to Confucius Festival on the Wellington waterfront. I love attending events like these: it’s sort of travelling when you’re not travelling! (I’ve never been to China so these are a bonus)
I have just been asked for permission to use this for secondary students – which I have given. I’ve not put it on my blog before – it was published a few years ago as a guest post for 2camels about worldwide festivals. See their website for a couple of other festivals that I’ve written for them.
My weapon of choice was a bright green, double-barreled, pump-action, water pistol. Never has New Year been so much fun!
Everyone is armed. Old and young, all have buckets, bottles, hoses, urns, water guns and even the fire tender is on hand to add to the total sum of water. Much of the liquid is gold coloured and yellow flowers float in it. The crowd is sprayed, monks and police officers are as wet as everyone else is. The smiling Thais love to see Farangs (foreigners) joining in the celebrations and fun.
What is all this festivity about? It’s a festival called Songkran in Thailand and each April Buddhists observe the Buddhist New Year.
Buddha images are dowsed with water and carried in processions around the temple and streets to the accompaniment of music, laughter, and water water water! The water blesses and purifies everything. Homes are cleaned ready for family and friends visiting to celebrate new beginnings.
My first day, of the three of the fun and games, was at the temple Wat Phochai in the little city of Nong Khai on the banks of the mighty Mekong River (bordering Laos) and off the tourist trail, I was one of only five or six visitors there so became a real target for being constantly blessed – by being dowsed.
“Farang, farang” the cry goes up.
“No! No!” I join in the fun, “Khon Thai. Khon Thai” I call. They laugh at this visitor thinking she is Thai. By nine in the morning I’m soaking wet – long before I’ve reached the temple steps.
The atmosphere is a mixture of reverence and fun, prayers and laughter, dancing and music.
‘Come with us – come’ a woman calls. Captured, or adopted, by a family as they dance out of the temple grounds, I too dance after the pied-piper-like man playing his khaen, a flute-like reed instrument. . . .
Read the article on http://www.2camels.com/songkran.php#ixzz38zYdpHCj
The Rainforest World Music Festival has begun and this 17th event (#Sarawak, #Borneo) is the biggest so far.
* 22 bands
* 190 performers
* 27 workshops
The tree stage has been enlarged; a 3rd stage has been created as the ‘the theatre stage’ and this indoor, seated, more chamber music style, will have 2 bands performing each afternoon.
Another first is the RWMF Community Drum Circle which will be for an hour each late afternoon: I’ll check it out tomorrow!
Tonight the groups I’m particularly interested in are:
Kalakan – Basque country
Karinthalakoottam – India
Son Yambu – Cuba/UK
Will get back to you about the groups on my return to New Zealand!