Friday, June 4, 2010
Love in the Far East
So, we flew all the way, over the rainbow, to be a part of the celebration of their love.
Bintulu is a small town, quietly bustling and not in the least touristy. We planned our trip such that we would reach the day before the wedding, and I'm sure it would have been lovely to have a day or so to explore the quaint little place leisurely. However, Air Asia somehow decided to delay our morning flight till the late afternoon, so we reached only in time to check in to the hotel, have dinner and turn in for the night. Well, that's what one gets for wanting for fly cheaply, so...
Uncle booked for us rooms facing the river. He said we'll be able to see heavy traffic along it, in the mornings especially, because it's the Gawai holiday and many people would be returning to their villages via boats. He said we would be able to witness the real Borneo way of life. I must say, when I heard that, I felt so very excited! I envisioned watching tough, weathered men, shirtless and tattoo-ful, rowing their canoes loaded with basketfuls of goods through the early morning mist and admist gentle rays of the sun... and -
- I was wrong.
The little harbour was very busy - loads and loads of people embarking and disembarking, carrying huge bags and boxes of stuff - but nothing at all like how I thought it'd be. I guess I got carried away by wild imaginations, being on my first ever visit to Sarawak.
Uncle also told us of this shop right next to our hotel, which serves very good local I-forgot-what mee. He said it's so good that the place is always packed, sometimes to the point of having no place for waiting customers to stand (while waiting to be seated). It's a must-try. Fine, I told Mummy - let's go really early, like 7am! Mummy said OK. That night, we decided we'd wake at 6am the next day. Mummy said we don't need a whole hour to wash our faces and brush our teeth, so we can go down to the shop by 6.30am... (and I thought I was extreme).
We were so early the next day, the kitchen hadn't even fired up. So, we first took a short walk along the riverside, and then sat down for a hearty breakfast of that famous noodles which had people from near and far flocking to it.
It was good - well-worthy of its reputation, no doubt.
After breakfast, we took another walk down a street or two -
And we saw a chicken! Well, not just a chicken, but a steady, stalwart, beautiful rooster. Just as I was wondering why a rooster was pacing around in that part of the town (in a little space between two rows of shops), I notice a chain around its leg.
And I noticed there were others -
At a later time, exploring the town further, we stumbled upon more -
Presently, I was told that they were bred and kept for fighting. Imagine these magnificent, gorgeous creatures fighting! I do not want to criticise cultures and/or traditions, but still, a cockfight wouldn't be something I'd even consider watching.
Moving on to more pleasant sights - the tide was going out (I think) and we saw a fish with legs! What a cute little thing! Mummy said she used to see lots of them when she was young, and that they could even climb up trees. I am too lazy to Google it out, so do just be content with this photo:
We didn't have a lot of time to linger around town in the morning, as we had to be ready and be at the church by 10am.
The church was very beautifully decorated. The wedding entourage were all present and ready, and the relatives and guests pouring in.
It wasn't long before the pews were filled. The groom and his bestman took their places and stood waiting (im)patiently. Then, the pianist started playing.
The bridal procession started with the cute little ring bearers and flower girls, and with that, begun the wedding ceremony.
The pretty little program leaflet which was given to each guest listed ONE official photographer. However, a lot of people these days are very enthusiastic about photography, and often offered to be free freelancers. Thus -
Well, that's OK, I guess - if we guests present couldn't maintain a decent view of what's going on, we could always request to view the "pro" photos later... well, except for guests like me - I don't even know who they were. Oh, well.
By slightly after noon, the newly-weds were done receiving well wishes and congratulations, the guests done mingling cheerfully over a simple luncheon, and the bride done tossing her bouquet to a group of eager single ladies and gentlemen (yes, the guys wanted to catch it too). The wedding reception would be in the evening, so we had some hours to spare.
We got back to our hotel and I slept. I slept like I'd never slept enough in my life. If Sleepology was a real field of study, I'd have completed my postgrad (in Sleepology) before I was done with my undergrad. Fortunately, I didn't sleep the entire afternoon away, so we had an hour or so to explore a little more of the town we're in, before having to get ourselves ready for the evening.
There wasn't much, though - we saw a temple:
We saw a rather big square with nothing in it:
And we saw... (try not to fall off your chair) ...this (seriously ancient) photo of Leon Lai in a grocery shop:
When we first touched down, Uncle mentioned that Bintulu is quite a non-halal place. Eateries serving pork are plentiful - so I was sort of disappointed (ahem!) when I found out that the restaurant where the reception would be held was in fact, a halal place. I was so hoping for roasted suckling pig....but, hey, I wasn't there for the food alone, was I?
The wonderfully decorated stage:
See the multiple-tiered wedding cake? It was a real one! And how did I know that? Well, we were served wedding cake after it was cut! This was the very first time I actually tasted wedding cake at a wedding reception. How very pleasantly extraordinary!
Half an hour past the time the dinner was supposed to begin (which was really quite "punctual", based on Malaysian standards), the wedding party marched into the hall:
There were the little girls, the joyful new parents-in-law, the bestman and bridesmaid, and the newly-weds. See the row of pretty little girls? They presented several delightful dances during the reception. A few other close friends presented songs, both sung and played. The program was planned such that they were just enough, not too overwhelming, and no room left for auditory-nerves-torturing karaoke. It was near-perfect, if perfection in this aspect could be defined.
The couple so in love and so happy:
The "champagne" moment:
I wrote "champagne" because there were no champagnes, really - the reception was completely alcohol-free and the bottles there were actually sparkling juice. That was also my very first time at a liquor-less Chinese wedding dinner. How very peculiar! I wonder when I will get to experience a Chinese wedding reception without sharksfin soup! One can only hope.
We ended the evening by adjourning to a (very distant) relative's home. The men had a few beers and men-talk, the women had their women-talk, the children ran about playing, and I cuddled a (very cute and fluffy) little dog. The little fella was 13 years old - very old for a dog - and was so attached to her best-loved owner that she hasn't eaten a proper meal in days, simply because that owner was not around. How heartwrenching!
Our afternoon flight home the next day ended our weekend getaway, though, not before we had this, that all visitors to Sarawak seek, the Kolo Mee:
Oh, it was yummy alright =P