Quote Today

    If you pretend to be good, the world takes you very seriously. If you pretend to be bad, it doesn't. Such is the astounding stupidity of optimism.
    - Oscar Wilde

    Friday, May 1, 2009

    Kuala Balai - The Road Less Travelled Share

    Evidence of abandonment on signboard

    For almost two weeks now, I've been trying to come up with a sentence that is uh, let's say, easy on the 'eyes', non-hypocritical, pleasant and maybe even something that wreaks the whole "Tourists, welcome-welcome!"-kind of vibe. 

    But nothing is more saddening, more truthful and unfortunately, more fitting than this -


    Just off the junction to Mumong (roundabout) on the highway/bypass towards Kuala Belait (tea-pot roundabout) or en-route to Miri, it's easy to miss the junction to Kuala Balai on the left if reading signboards is just not what you do while driving. En-route the 21km-drive to the village, you'll see signs of development with housing areas (that occasionally makes the news headline come rainy season and the whole area becomes inundated with flood) and few industrial sites along a few kilometers in, but as soon as you hit the end of the paved road, civilization suddenly seemed so distant.

    The road trip seemed forever

    Civilization looking so distant now

    The road trip to was already as sloowww as it shouldn't be with uneven terrains that were supposedly should have been fixed when they built the model Belait ethnic house in 2000. Sure it has been nine years, but I was there some time in 2005 and it was still acceptably okay. Now four years on, gravel-road and potholes offer you a "jerking-and-bumping" ride experience, even on a four-wheel. On the other hand, maybe that's what you're looking for in your adventure...

    Casting for luck

    Black-water pond

    A friend hovering in...

    The village, being on the banks of the Belait river, mostly sees its fair share of fishing-enthusiasts (for example, my boyfriend, shown above) and the occasional bird-watchers. But for most of the time, Kuala Balai sits alone and abandoned. The ethnic house, ambulong factory and the wooden walkways were once living testaments of  an effort to keep Kuala Balai on the map. But  with overgrown shrubs and grass, all have been left to languish - even the houses across the river stand void of its occupants.

    Abandoned houses across the river

     Covered wooden walkway

    Boyfriend emerging from the thick growth

    I was in Kuala Balai for a Science Camp in 2000 when it was undergoing re-development and I remembered thinking that in a few years time, Kuala Balai will be a tourist hotspot, what with the ethnic house being built and the fishing platform and the mini cultural stage underway in construction at that time. Looking at it today, it is a far cry from what I personally had hoped and what really struck a chord with me is the dire state it is "allowed" to be in. I get it that Brunei (and the government) is big on development and infrastructure, and is always promoting the country as THE tourist destination. And yes, talks have not merely been talks only - it is obvious that efforts have been made to re-develop Kuala Balai. But I guess the major step that Brunei needs to give as much attention to is the whole notion of MAINTENANCE. I'd like to think that one of the most vital component in Sustainable Development is this exact necessity for maintenance. But, I am not going to delve into that any further...yet.

    Languished wooden walkway leading toward the abandoned ethnic house & stage platform

    Anyhow, my boyfriend and I were up there to do a little fishing (well, at least he was) and we tried going in as much as we could on the planks but as you can see from the pictures above, them planks don't offer much safety as I would like it. While my boyfriend cast away on his rapala-hooked fishing line, I tried being "Indiana Jones"-sy to venture beyond the trees, as in the third picture above, to get to the ethnic house. But being afraid of what lurked in the thick foliage around me, I had to retreat. But I did come across a few lovely blooms of the Bird of Paradise flowers.

    Bird of Paradise

    Despite its rundown state, Kuala Balai is still a great place to explore. Amongst those who'll love it there would most probably be fishermen and bird-watchers. I googled for information on the area and I stumbled upon a list of birds compiled by Moore, Hessels and Bloem in their 2005-2007 sightings survey that actually identified more than 160 species of birds on the stretch of the Kuala Balai road. Good enough a reason for bird-watchers to take a road trip down Kuala Balai? I sure think so. 

    Our impromptu fishing trip had to be cut short because the rapala lure my boyfriend was using got stuck on an underwater tree branch and after much yanking and pulling, the line snapped. No fish, $15-rapala lure gone - gosh, what luck, eh?

    On the way back to Mumong, I saw something that made me think "Now that's OFF THE BEATEN TRACK!" A junction post indicating the road to ... nowhere. Something else caught my eye as well on the way back - this real life-size helicopter. You don't see that lying around all the time!

    Junction post: Jln. Kecil Ujong Daun     


    Note: Kuala Balai Road Trip - 20th April 2009


    fiz said...

    Eh siuk baca your writings ani! Hehe i like the travel log tone of it. Bah go and have more adventures and write about them so I can have more armchair traveling adventures.

    LeRissa said...

    Will definitely try to explore other 'desolated' areas.. I can only go on Mondays and milih tempat mesti pikir dlu..=D...any specific place you'd suggest?
    btw, which fiz is this? hehe
    Thanks for your support!

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