Headless coconut ‘pillars’ of Maludam (Travelogue Day 2)

Headless coconut trees at Tanjung Riong of Maludam.

By D’Drift Team

SARIKEI, Oct 12: The D’Drift Team decided to visit Tanjung Riong this morning, but of course, without accomplishing our earlier mission of catching a sunset.

It was in our evening plans yesterday but due to heavy rain, we had to cancel the trip to this so-called ‘beach for the best sunset’ proudly recommended by locals, including its ‘special coconut trees’.

Indeed, the coconut trees there were very unique — they were all headless! No leaves, no coconuts, just the trunks standing and most of them half submerged in the sea.

If you’re wondering, yes, the headless coconut trees are already dead. Due to beach erosion, the coconut trees could no longer survive in saltwater and thus, dozens of them stood along Tanjung Riong like pillars guarding the coast of Maludam.

Birds were also seen flocking to the top of these coconut pillars, using them like rest stops. One thing to note about this ‘beach’, however, is its muddy and definitely not sandy ground, especially after rain.

Two birds seen resting on a dead coconut tree trunk.

Camping or picnicking would not be ideal at Tanjung Riong, definitely. But indeed, the amazing scenery perfected with a light breeze made our early wake-up call at 6am worth the while. It was as if the gentle wind blew away our disappointment for not seeing the 20 hornbills feasting on one gigantic pokok ara, as promised by our friendly tour guide-cum-unofficial Maludam ambassador Kiing Sie Kai.

There was no way to know the exact height of the tree, but it was about five storeys high according to estimation. Hornbills, monkeys, squirrels, and other birds would sometimes gather at that particular tree for their breakfast from 6am to 6.30am, said Kiing, so it would take luck to watch hornbill ‘mukbang’ (eating show) in real life.

One of the D’Drift Team members managed to spot a hornbill pair through the back window of his hotel room yesterday (Oct 11), but the pair took off before a photo could be snapped.

For non-Sarawakians and those who don’t already know, the hornbill is Sarawak’s State emblem and an important cultural symbol. That explains Sarawak’s nickname: Land of the Hornbills (‘Bumi Kenyalang’). It is also believed by locals that if a hornbill is seen flying over dwellings, it will bring good luck to the local community.

D’Drift Team’s birdwatching at dusk to spot a hornbill on the renown ara tree.
Fruits growing on the giant ara tree are the reason why hornbills tend to flock there.

Tuak or air tuak?

‘Air tuak’ is apparently not the rice wine better known as ‘tuak’.

Instead of getting drunk, one would be intoxicated with sugar by drinking air tuak, a type of syrup produced by boiling the sweet sap harvested from nipah palm trees until it becomes concentrated. Cooking air tuak longer will basically produce palm sugar (‘gula apong’) when it caramelises.

The locals will drink air tuak raw before performing labour, to get a sugar rush and energy boost. The D’Drift Team just had to try it too.

Just the first sip already introduced a burst, or even an explosion of sweetness in the mouth. There was no specific smell to the clear syrup at first, but our tastebuds were instantly woken by a roasted kaya-like fragrance along with the overwhelming sweetness.

Surely, if you find it too sweet, air tuak, like any other syrup, can be mixed with other drinks like coffee or tea. The only difference is its distinctive scent and refreshing, natural sugar taste.

Cheers! to D’Drift Team’s first sip of air tuak.

We did go on a hunt for Maludam’s best gula apong producing joints which are mostly home-based, but none of them were cooking as it is not the season. One of the sellers said his gula apong would most probably be available for sale at RM7 to RM8 per small container, around December this year. Gula apong lovers, do note that down in your calendar!

After a fruitful morning visiting at least three of Maludam’s most recommended attraction spots, it was only 8am, just in time for coffee and a roti canai breakfast at Maludam Kopitiam. Then, we headed back to the hotel to pack up and check out before proceeding to our next D’Drift destination.

Next stop, Kabong!

At 10.10am, the team embarked on a two-hour drive along the coastal road to Kabong Beach Resort. We had to take two ferries namely at the Batang Saribas Ferry Point (10.55am) and Sungai Krian Ferry Crossing (11.30am).

Both ferry trips took about 15 minutes and D’Drift Team was once again lucky to have boarded the Wawasan II ferry to cross the Saribas River right on time. However, it was a 10-minute wait at the second ferry point of the day.

Wawasan II ferry that carried the D’Drift Team across the Saribas River.

Due to the wait to take the ferry, the drive took a total of 2 hours 40 minutes to travel from Maludam new township to Kabong beach. The bumpy road ensured driving fast was out of the question.

It was 12.50pm when our pickup came to a stop right in front of the ‘Kabong’ signage which was surrounded with flags of each State in Malaysia.

A welcoming sign to tourists when arriving at Tanjung Kembang beach, Kabong.

We were not alone despite the scorching sun.

There were groups of people and some families enjoying their afternoon at the beach under the shaded rest stops while others were frolicking in the sea. Although the Kabong Beach Resort is not in operation anymore, the beach’s actual name which we later found out to be ‘Tanjung Kembang Kabong’ is still receiving frequent visitors.

While resort decorations were still intact, none of the facilities and chalets seemed to be functional. With tall grass and rubbish laying scattered, the place looked almost abandoned, if not for the number of visitors we saw.

D’Drift Team had wanted to check out the Kabong Beach Resort as we had heard and read so much about the annual three-day Kabong International Kite Festival, usually held in March, that would involve about 30 countries and attract hundreds to the beach.

As expected though, one of the locals said the festival had been postponed for two years now, due to Covid-19. But if there ever is an improvement in situation, he said the festival will definitely be resumed as it is already part of Kabong’s culture.

Members of the public are seen having a fun time at Kabong beach despite the afternoon heat.
A broken swing.
Abandoned chalets at Kabong Beach Resort.

We only had a short stop at Tanjung Kembang as there was nothing much to see except for the unrestricted view of the entire stretch of beach, even as the glaring sunlight meant we could only squint at the sight.

We then stopped by the township of Kabong for a breather and lunch. A surprise was waiting for us there. City dwellers like us must not have expected to find milk tea franchise Sharetea at Kabong town! A quick Google search located at least one Sharetea branch in each and every of the nearby sub-districts such as Pusa, Saratok, and Roban.

Milk tea and boba cravers, no need to fret. Sharetea has got you covered even when you’re on a vacation to this part of Sarawak.

Other than coffee shops, grocery stores, shoplots and a salon that provides only haircut services, there was also, besides a primary school, a marketplace called the Kabong Hawker Centre (Pusat Penjaja Kabong) where local stallholders could trade safely shaded away from the sun and rain.

There were about 28 to 30 stalls there, but not all of them were open at the time of our visit at 2.30pm. Some traders had already finished selling off their goods or food for the day, so they left in the morning, said one of the stall owners who chose to stay on until the closing time at 5pm.

Stalls at Kabong Hawker Centre selling dried seafood, tidbits, and other local delicacies.

By 3pm, it was time to call it a day.

After another one-hour drive passing by Nyabor and Roban to leave Kabong, the D’Drift Team finally arrived at a hotel at 4.20pm where we could finally rest our feet.

Again, we’re not going to spill the beans about our schedule tonight and tomorrow, at least not in this travelogue. So, stay tuned as always (wink!). — Dayakdaily

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