Sunday, January 17, 2016

Gems of the tourism belt

UNBEKNOWNST to many, Lundu and Kuching are linked by more ways than one.

It is quite usual to travel from Kuching to Bau, and from there, turn right to continue the journey to Lundu on almost 100km of smooth tar-sealed trunk road.

This has never been an issue to road users since the Bau-Lundu Road is properly maintained and flanked by captivating verdant scenery to make the drive very pleasant. Apart from good road connectivity, Lundu, after all, is also known for its scenic landscape and idyllic ambience. Its reputation as a holiday spot is further boosted by especially its proximity to the beach-fronting Sematan area, a popular tourist destination on the southern-tip of the First Division.

From a recent interview, the well-travelled thesundaypost journalists found, to their surprise, there is actually another way from Kuching to Lundu – via the road that cuts through Sampadi (so let’s call it Sampadi Road) and links up with Samariang area in Petra Jaya. The scenery is equally mesmerising as the Bau-Lundu Road, if not more.

Travellers get to soak up the picturesque countryside dotted with rolling plantations, sprawling farms and pristine secondary forests fanning out into the horizon, arrested in its timeless clarity, by jugged features of ancient and mysterious hills and mountains. It’s awe-inspiring.

As the road is still a well kept secret, cruising along it is both pleasant and relaxing – away from the flurry and chaos of urban traffic.

The road was once a palm oil plantation road, known for its rough gravelled surface. Back then, it was less travelled unless circumstances dictated. And recently, away from the fanfare of publicity, the road was upgraded and transformed — from a bumpy, dusty and danger-fraught route into a smooth motorway.

The only difference between this road and the Bau-Lundu Road is perhaps the fact that travellers, using the former, have to cross seven rivers. There are six bridges and seven waterways. No bridge spans the last link — Batang Rambungan — the biggest of the seven rivers – linked to both banks by a couple of ferries operating rain or shine.

For those who have the luxury of travelling at a leisurely pace, using the ferry could be an interesting experience. Motorists have to skilfully drive on deck and park as orderly as possible to allow more vehicles to join the queue. After parking, the travelling party can alight and watch the ferry driver manoeuvre across the river in a matter of minutes.

However, for locals such as 69-year-old Rujus Brahim of Kampung Sampadi Slenggok, it would be a dream come true if they could dispense with the ferry service.

“We do hope our YB — Tanjung Datu state assemblyman Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem who is also the Chief Minister — will build a bridge across Batang Rambungan to fix the missing link,” he told thesundaypost at Lundu Bazaar.

With a bridge, the journey from Lundu to Kuching will be shortened by at least 20 minutes to just within the hour.

Born and raised in Sampadi, Rujus also hoped to see more commercial centres and shophouses built in the financial, administrative and commercial hub of Tanjung Datu state constituency, Lundu town, for Bumiputera entrepreneurs.

“As you can see, the shophouses are mostly Chinese-owned. Not that we have anything against the Chinese but it would be good if the government could provide more business premises for Bumis,” he said, adding that right now, the Bumiputera community is lagging behind in trade and commerce as most of them are still dealing in primary goods such as jungle or sea produce.

Rujus pointed out that as a former private sector employee, life had been hard, especially without any pension.

“We hope the Adenan administration will look into the needs of struggling senior citizens like us and provide some assistance.”

Rujus and his fellow residents now feel very special and hopeful because their hometown Sampadi lies in Tanjung Datu state constituency, represented by the Chief Minister himself. His feeling is shared by many, including new Sampadi Kapitan Chen Khee Fui and resident Jee Fah Shin.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Gems of the tourism belt