Friday, January 23, 2009

Last stand on Mount Singai

Since I've posted the main focus part of my travel to Kuching, Sarawak, this will be the last post on this trip just to round things up.

I am interested in macro photograph on subjects such as insects, flowers, and the like and one of the reasons I opted for this trip was that I was hoping to find some interesting subjects up on Mount Singai or along the way. But in this aspect, I was very disappointed. I did not find anything really unusual. Maybe it was because I did not venture out of the beaten path. The most interesting subject captured on this trip was this spiny spider, found near the Mother Mary Grotto in CMPC.

The other subjects were quite common and can be found everywhere else, if you care to look. First, three varieties of dragonfly. Don't know their names so those who know please drop me a comment.

A very common, photogenic wild flower and wasp.

I have visited many major churches in Western Europe and they are all very grand and awe-inspiring. So how do the much simpler churches in Kuching and especially the one on CMPC compare? Of course they cannot compare in terms of size and scale and the grandeur they project but then again there's beauty in simplicity. Maybe, the simpler churches are less distracting for after all, the main purpose of a church is a place for people to reach God and you'll find Him in the grandest church as well as in the simplest.

Ronald Kwok

p.s. My next post will be on my travel to sunny Spain. So keep viewing.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Assault on Mount Singai, Kuching, Sarawak

So finally, this is the missing day and the main focus of my trip to Kuching - the visit to the Catholic Memorial & Pilgrimage Centre (CMPC) at Mount Singai.

It was with great expectations that we had our breakfast and then we set off for Mount Singai. The journey took about 45 minutes when we reached the foot of Mount Singai where we were greeted by the sculpture of Christ the King.

Nearby we saw bags of neatly packed sand and we were told that whoever wanted to carry this sand up to the Centre they can do so and this is the only means for getting building materials up. Previously, there were bricks and now it is sand. Those of us who were physically able, grabbed a bag each and started our way up the hill. Note the plastic bag of sand that some of us are carrying in the photos.

The 14 Stations of the Cross are located along the way up the Centre. As the pilgrims stop at each Station to pray, they can catch their breath, admire the jungle surroundings and take a rest as necessary. This breaks up the climb into small doses and is physically less taxing, what a great idea. Here's our group photo at the First Station.

Do you notice something? Apart from the accompanying priest (our spiritual director in cap) all the pilgrims are ladies and I was the only other man in this group so I was really outstanding! (OK, you won't find me in the photo as I was the one taking it.) There were 25 of us in total, in various shapes and sizes.

So we made our way up gradually and it was getting tougher as we progress........... (Somebody counted, there were 1010 steps, not audited!)

............and thank goodness for the Stations and the rest stops.........

and finally we arrived at the last Station and we reached the Centre! (The large blue drums are for storing water.)

What a relief when we deposited the extra load which will be put into good use. Later we were told that each bag of sand weighed 2kg but it grew heavier as we climbed higher. Below are some of the bags that we laboriously carried up.

The sand will find its way into this long house or dorm that is still under construction. Notice the bricks in the foreground? These were also brought up, piece by piece, by previous pilgrims or visitors to the Centre.

There's also a plan of the area at the entrance to the Centre.

I think I have never sweat so much before so it was really refreshing to have an icy cold shower with the water from the hill. (No, we didn't do it in the open, we had communal bathrooms and the water was piped in.) The accommodation was in the long house or dorm, 7-8 in a room. My wife and I, being the only couple in the group, were given a "bridal suite" which is a whole dorm to ourselves. No 5-stars facilities but is perfectly acceptable.

Lunch was simple, basic cooking but it never tasted so good after the workout that all of us had on the way up. After lunch we looked around the Centre.

There was another sculpture of Chris the King by Petrus Alfred.

The Grotto of Mother Mary............

..........and her close-up.

Here's the remains of one of the Belian stump of the original church built in 1885.

There's even an amphitheatre.

The centrepiece of the Centre is the Church of Christ the King.

The simple altar of the Church.
What is amazing is that all these were designed and built under the supervision of one man, Vincent Eddy Sireng, a Bidayuh. We had the opportunity to meet this remarkable man in the afternoon when he gave us a history of the centre. He is a teacher by profession and he makes his way up the Centre everyday!

After spending a wonderful day (and night) at the Centre, we made our way down the next morning after a simple breakfast. The descent was much easier compared to the ascent, as we did not carry any extra load and probably the spiritual burdens were lightened after the visit to the Centre.

At the foot of the hill, we found many new bags of sand eagerly waiting for the next group of visitors to bring them up the the Centre to begin a more meaningful existence eventually and be part of the larger scheme of things.

Ronald Kwok

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cultural Village, Kuching, Sarawak

After breakfast, we made our way to the Sarawak Cultural Village that is about 45 minutes away from Kuching. It is located near the Holiday Inn Damai Beach Resort. As the name suggest, it is a showcase of the various cultures of the major ethnic population of Sarawak. Here you'll find the reconstructed dwellings of the seven major races in Sarawak.

1. Chinese Farmhouse
2. Malay House
3. Melanau Tall House
4. Orang Ulu Longhouse
5. Penan Hut
6. Iban Longhouse
7. Bidayuh Longhouse

Here are some snap shots of the Cultural Village.

The artificial lake......

The bamboo bridge to reach the Bidayuh longhouse

The Iban longhouse...........

The Orang Ulu longhouse.......

The Penan hut..............

There are also various stone sculptures by artists from around the world as well as many ethnic wooden sculptures, especially just after the main entrance.

The main entrance to the Cultural Village

Ethnic wooden sculptures.......

One of the many stone sculptures all over the village, this is Caterpillar.....

"United in diversity, one body with many heads"

At about noon we watched a cultural performances featuring the dances of the various ethnic groups.

A harvest dance.....

A dance with mortar........

Another cultural dance......

A blowpipe demonstration.............

After the cultural show, we left the village and had lunch at a restaurant on the way back to Kuching. The afternoon was free, and those who did not had enough shopping went back to the main bazaar to shop till they dropped.