This is my fourth Gawai and as usual it was a long early morning drive from Taman Midway ( Kota Samarahan to Kampong Lipat Ulu in Betong. The long drive was a charming experience itself as chivalric trees guard the road handsomely from both sides; frequently allowing to peek into the serene kampongs that appear periodically.
Grandiose pepper plantations, pompously past by telling the tale of a swanky by gone era when pepper was the main source of income.
Occasionally one will get to see people waiting patiently for bus or van in a relaxingly reclined position against worn out wooden platform in age old bus halts. Sometimes one can get glimpses of people squatting on the green while their children running around merrily and waving cheerfully returning your smile.
The images keep changing just like in an art movie; from rustic old houses to the transcendent mountains, imposingly majestic and mysteriously resplendent, taking one into a journey of soul and heart parting the opulent Land of Hornbills.
After almost 2 hours drive I reached my usual stop over; Sungai Tenggang ( 1.04' 50' 08' N / 111 03'33'93 E). I prefer this over Lachau for 2 reasons; Lachau is overly crowded and secondly only in Sungai Tenggang I can savour what has became my favourite delicacy: "Sarawak Fried Taufo With Peanut Soy Sauce".
As a life time vegetarian, it was a great discovery for me as it is impossible for one to get vegetarian food along the way to Betong. Mui Fah restaurant is the second shop upon entering the small one row town that serves these highly desirable delicacy.
At 8.15 am the taufo still steaming fresh from frying wok, was sumptuously refreshing and ambrosially delectable. The nectarous soya sauce, not only makes the taufo savoury but it gives a scrumptiously piquant, sweet and spicy taste. A cup of hot Sarawak coffee goes well with this and that's exactly what i need to keep me moving ahead for few more hours. (Don't miss this.)
Reaching Rumah Panjai Cherang Lipat Ulu, Betong (1 '16 23' 26N / 11'32' 55 ' 55 E) is like entering a paradise. Remember the saying : house is made of wood and home is made of heart..?
That is why this place which cuts itself out from hustle and bustle of city life, maintains the old way of life. They cultivate most of their grains and vegetables. Most catch their own fish and rear poultry for own consumption. Many still use their boats to reach their paddy fields and other plantation. Until three years ago, boat was their only means of trasnport and that was the time when "speed" (speed boat taxi) was ruling the rivers.
Many still wash and bath in the inviting river which itself a refreshingly exciting activity for me. A dip in the heavenly cold river that flows from deep virgin forest will transport one back few centuries and allow to relive the pleasure of age old river bath.
Gawai in Kampong Cherang Lipat Ulu is always an enchanting experience. Once again..its the people factor. They are the ones who gives the unparalleled hospitality, showering one with food and unlimited drinks, pamper visitors with magnanimous smile and infectious laughter and go the extra mile to make sure ones stay there is comfortable.
Its the people..its always the people who will make a place unforgettable . Here, they are unbelievably friendly and their bright loving eyes speaks the unpretentious
bond that they feel towards visitors and it sparks a riotous festive mood immediately.
Their laid back approach to life, their unhurried pace. their openness towards visitors is a lesson 101 in treating people from different culture.
Counting the days for the next Gawai already....