Beliong dragons trapped in cages for 6 years and counting (Travelogue Day 1)

Dragon sculptures still kept in wooden crates.

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By D’Drift Team

MALUDAM, Oct 11: Dragons of the Beliong Chinese Temple are still being kept in wooden cages despite after six years of construction of the temple’s new wing.

The dragon sculptures (not real dragons) were meant for a new temple building where the ‘Tai Sui Ye’ will be moved. But with manpower shortage and transportation issues for construction materials arising from the Covid-19 movement restrictions in the past 20 months, the establishment is not near to completion.


Unfinished building of Beliong Temple’s new wing.

The lack of road or bridge access across the Sabang River from Kampung Tambirat made it difficult for the temple to receive cement, bricks and other heavy materials needed for their new wing.

The only mode of transportation available to reach from one side of the river to the other is through a five-minute ride on an 18-foot boat, costing RM1 fee per trip per person. Obviously not the ideal way of moving construction materials, the temple had to wait for occasional cargo boats (‘tongkangs’) that could carry heavy loads across the stream.

Boat ride across Sabang River to reach the Beliong Temple.

One of the temple caretakers Low Kin Boon, whom we met on this quiet afternoon, said it would take at least one more year until the new wing could be finished. With the main structure erected, he said the only thing left was minute works such as carvings and mosaic tile placings.

Additionally, with a minimal workforce of only two builders, there was no way the construction could have been quick. If only there was a bridge leading directly to the entrance of the temple, he wished.

When asked about the temple’s popularity, Low said it is uncommon to have more visitors on Mondays as most of the people are busy working. In the past Sunday since movement restrictions were lifted in Sarawak, the number of worshippers have reached up to 70 or 80 people.

Most of the visitors were from Kuching who wished to pray for abundance of blessings but more importantly, safety and health. Finding it out of the ordinary, he said he met with a family of three yesterday (Oct 10) who simultaneously prayed for the safety of one of their children who is about to attend physical classes soon.

Beliong Temple maintenance worker Low Kin Boon.

The Beliong Chinese Temple was D’Drift Team’s very first stop in Asajaya. Beliong, in Mandarin, is pronounced as Wen Long which literally means ‘kissing a dragon’. The fact that there is a Chinese temple in a mixed Malay and Iban community of nine villages, has been the reason why it is so well-known.

It is also the only Chinese temple on the Beliong island with over 3,000 occupants.

Beliong Chinese Temple seen from Kampung Tambirat on the other side of the river.
Beliong Chinese Temple main entrance.
Wall carvings at Beliong Temple.

 

130km journey from Kuching to Maludam

It was 35 degree Celsius when D’Drift Team departed from DayakDaily office at 9.50pm heading toward Asajaya, the very first stop of the 10-day D’Drift 2021.

Traffic was rather busy in the first half of the day along Jalan Kota Samarahan-Sadong Jaya, where arrays of fresh pineapples – which Asajaya is famous for – could be spotted by the roadside.

Asajaya is famous for pineapples which can be found along the road side stalls.

It was about 11am when we reached a wharf at Kampung Tambirat to take a boat, which is the only way to reach the Beliong Chinese Temple.

We’ve seen cars and lorries on ferries to get across a river, but have you ever rode a ‘sampan’ with not one but three to four motorcycles? Though a common practice for the local people, it must be an unusual sight and experience to urbanites.

Experienced motorcyclists riding up the ramp from the boat to Kampung Beliong.

After over an hour’s tour in the Beliong temple and nearby shoplots, we left the island at 12.25pm.

At 12.40pm, we were back in the car and on the road, heading to Maludam town. It was a two-hour drive from Asajaya, through the infamous Batang Sadong Bridge at 1.18pm and Triso ferry point at 2.00pm.

It was a lucky day for the Team as we managed to board the Triso ferry right on time. We were the last vehicle to go on the ferry before it took off on a 30-minute ride across the 17km-wide mighty Batang Lupar. If we were to miss that particular ride, it would be another 45 minutes’ delay to our schedule.

D’Drift Team about to go into the ferry to cross over the mighty Batang Lupar.

Touching down at the opposite side of the river on Kampung Triso grounds, it took us about another 20 minutes of a rather bumpy drive to reach Maludam’s new township where we check-in into the Maludam Hotel which was opened only recently.

There was no time to waste. We gave ourselves only five minutes to put down our luggages and powder our noses before heading downstairs to the Maludam Kopitiam just next to the hotel for a quick meal of Mee Kolok. The Team was already excited to start its venture into the town.

Locals including the hotel owner Kiing Sie Kai listed several must-visit places where we could see flocks of hornbills and troops of monkeys, fireflies, and even Irrawaddy dolphins!

It came as a surprise that Maludam, such a small place in Betong Division, could provide such varieties of animal sightings and potential tourism spots for the people, and these are definitely not featured online. Before embarking on this trip, we only learned about the Maludam National Park from the Internet, and there was no mention of dolphins in Maludam!

If not for the local people, we would not have known about these discrete and hidden tourist attractions.

“Maludam is already very unique by itself.” That was what Kiing shared with us when he went on and on about the tourism activities we must introduce to the rest of Sarawak. Small it may be, but Maludam is definitely a visit-worthy destination along the coastal area of Sarawak.

Even the sunset was exceptionally breathtaking, they said.

D’Drift Team originally planned to drop by a nearby beach the locals call ‘Tanjung Riong’, to see the ‘best sunset’ which they so proudly recommended. They said the coconut trees there are ‘very unique’ too, so it demands to be witnessed by Dayakdaily reporters.

Too bad, it started raining cats and dogs in the evening so we had to take a rain check on the sunset ‘date’. We’ll have to come another time, but here’s how the sunset looks like as shared by Kiing who has witnessed and adores it countless times. — Dayakdaily

The stunning sunset at Tanjung Riong beach in Maludam. Photo credit: Kiing