Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hari Raya and Merdeka

Hari Raya (literally 'big/great day') is the feasting time at the end of the fasting month of Ramadhan. So even after the holiday part (when we went to Sabah) is over, there is still a lot of serious feasting and celebrating to be done at work! And then there is also Merdeka (Independance) Day which happens about now.

Everyone gathered in the large meeting hall.

A couple of young students had been selected to act as MCs. (This girl looked more nervous and less confident than they usually are!)

The director took his place on the stage to say some words. Of course he is wearing his special Malaysian gear (and not pyjamas, as it appears to some of us).

A musical group of students presented some very pleasant musical items.

And then it was time for the feasting to begin.

Unfortunately (and rather oddly) it was raining, so everyone had to huddle under the canopies which are usually provided to shelter from the sun.

After that each individual department made their own offering of food - but we headed back to our office.

During the week before when very few students were actually in the IPG, the young Foundation class students decided to hold an 'Open House' in their classroom - bringing along food and inviting everyone who was around.
Lots of nibbly little cakes and things.

And, of course, good company.

So that was Sabah!

This was our last holiday period before the end of our (first) Fellows Project, and we had travelled over most of Malaysia - but not Sabah. At exactly the same time as we were booking fares and accommodation in Kota Kinabalu, we heard from an Australian friend of more than 20 years that she could be there during that time. So it was going to be a good time.

Our hotel - the Klagan (not a pretty name!) - is beyond those trees - nice and central, so we could walk to the shops, markets, seashore etc.

The city of Kota Kinabalu is way more upmarket than Kuala Terengganu - they have pavements, and the drains are mostly covered, and there are even several huge shopping centres.

From our hotel window we had a lovely view of the sea, and the islands, fishing boats and island taxi-boats zipping back and forth, and the foreshore where the markets were held.

And if we twisted a little further to the right we could see (through the very dirty glass) the distant Mount Kinabalu - on the days when the weather was fine. Unfortunately our planned trip to the National Park at the foot of the mountain fell through - it turned out to be awful weather that day, so maybe it was just as well.

It was the Hari Raya (end of Ramadhan) holiday period and school holidays, so things were fairly jumping with markets and celebrations of all kinds. Our taxi driver told us that on the previous day he'd had a day off and returned to his home village where he had attended ten (10) 'Open House' celebrations (eating events).

Monkeys and Fireflies

Borneo is famous for its wildlife, and so we booked a bus-trip out to the 'wilds' to see the Proboscis monkeys, as well as the fireflies putting on a display.

First there was rather a lo-o-ong bus trip.

Except of course we had to stop at a chocolate factory for everyone to get out and buy lots of chocolates. Here is a cocoa tree that was growing outside the factory. Actually I'm not at all sure that it was a factory, really just a sales room - but our Chinese fellow-travellers sure bought up big.


 So eventually we got to a river village with a jetty.

We were all loaded into boats and went a few minutes down the river. (I think this is the first time I saw the kid in the green shirt sit still since we left KK!)

 They took us to this restaurant and gave us a snack - it had been a long time since the chocolate shop (and some of us hadn't eaten anything there!), and much longer since breakfast.

 Then we were loaded into boats to go and look for the proboscis monkeys who would hopefully be out in the trees feeding now that the sun was getting low.

 Everyone was very excited as we headed off up the river. Our guide had told us to keep our eyes peeled as these are wild monkeys and you just have to find them in their natural habitat.

We hadn't gone long before we noticed these little chaps peeking out from among the palm trees.

Of course, these are not the proboscis monkeys we had come to see, just regular monkeys - but kinda cute all the same.

And then, up in the big trees further away we saw these amazing monkeys. The very large male with his enormous snoz ...

 ...what a profile! And he's very much the man in charge of his troop.

 And the smaller female with her cute turned-up nose!

The weather was starting to look unfriendly, and the boat drivers hurried us back to the restaurant. We had barely clambered out of the boats before it bucketed down!

We all donned cheap plastic ponchos, and headed out again right after dark. At first there was not much to see as we puttered along the dark river, but the boat drivers had torches with a green-coloured cover over the light. They waved their torches about at the same time as running their hand back and forth across the light, thus creating a green flickering display, very similar to that of the fireflies. Very soon the trees along the river-banks lit up like Christmas trees, and some of the little flickering lights even came out into the boat to investigate.

Eating Out
In Kuala Terengganu there really is only one western restaurant, but of course Kota Kinabalu has restaurants of all kinds.

So one evening we went down to the boardwalk, and indulged in an Australian restaurant meal at the Aussie Barbecue place.

It is run by a friend of a friend of our friend from Australia, so we were really there to meet the folks. It was a nice enough meal ... but it was definitely Australian prices! (There are about 3 ringgit to each Aussie dollar.)

And then of course it was time to fly back to KT.