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By D’Drift Team
KABONG, Oct 14: There are encouraging signs of economic activity picking up as well as some semblance of normal life returning to the small towns of Sarawak, including Kabong, as people are getting back on the road after spending some 20 months of being grounded by Covid-19.
Following the announcement of a significant easing of inter-state travel restrictions, more people have been flocking to small towns for recreation such as beach visits, to shop for local products or just to enjoy the great outdoors.
The laidback coastal town of Kabong, located 126km from Maludam which takes about two and a half an hour drive, is seeing an increase in visitors, both near and far.
The Kabong Hawker Centre is once again buzzing and lively with economic activities with locals and visitors trickling in to buy local food products and produce like ‘kuih-muih‘, snacks, dried fish, fresh vegetables and fruits even at 2.30pm.
Hajibah Golong, who operates two stalls with her sister Salehah at the centre, sells a variety of locally-made food products including snacks, cookies and biscuits, crackers or ‘keropok‘, dried fish or ‘ikan salai‘ and dried banana.
“There are more people coming in from nearby towns like Pusa, Sarikei and even as far as Samarahan since cross-district restrictions have been eased recently.
“We have just started our businesses after a two-week closure as part of Covid-19 precautionary measures. We are of course happy to see so many customers coming back.”
As it was noon when D’Drift Team arrived for a short stopover, the 53-year-old entrepreneur said that a lot of stalls have already closed as they only operate for half a day and many things have been sold out, especially the dried jellyfish (obor-obor salai) which Kabong is quite popular for.
In return, she highly recommended another unique local-made snack which can be found at her stall – the dried sweet red lumek (a type of soft-boned fish) in slices and floss – that visitors must try.
Aminah Ramli, who helps our at the stall, said many of the customers bought the products especially the dried fish in large quantities so that they can enjoy it at home for months on end.
“They are not buying one or two packets but up to 10 packets in one go since they have managed to come to Kabong. Sales have definitely gone up.
“We are very happy as we did not expect to see so many people coming in and we are surprised as well. There are also many people visiting the beach already,” she added.
Stallholders like Hajibah previously traded their products in the carpark of the town, but have since moved into the sheltered open market when it was completed quite some years ago.
Hajibah, who is a grandmother of eight grandchildren, had worked many different jobs in Sibu before moving back to Kabong with her husband and started trading three years ago.
Besides the commercial area, there were also plenty of people going to the Kabong Beach Resort or properly known as the Tanjung Kembang Beach even on a weekday for a picnic or just to enjoy a relaxing day, with families and children playing in the sand and water despite the dazzling hot weather.
The beautiful long stretch of beach is a famous site for the annual Kabong International Kite Festival, usually held in March, that attracts a huge number of participants and visitors from around the world including countries like China, Ireland, Germany and more.
Local man Ali Mohamad hopes that the kite festival, which had been postponed for two years now due to the pandemic, can be revived soon to bring crowds and more economic activities to the town and local community.
“The kite festival would normally take place for three days and the town will be a hive of activity, with a lot of people flocking to this beach. In the past, the foreigners would set up tents along the beach. This is a unique event for Kabong,” he shared.
The beach-wide celebration of kite flying culture would also feature sales of local products, various exhibitions, beach sports competitions and a night festival. — DayakDaily