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Advertise on the Tentacle

September 10, 2014

Kuching Regatta 2014

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – They trickled in at first. The tourists. Then, from all over Malaysia and some from foreign (white) countries, they flooded in to witness the spectacle.


The races began about a week ago. At first, the long canoes would line up at the starting gate on the river. They were usually about eight to 10 abreast. Then, with siren screaming a lone boat would race ahead of them. After that, two guys on jet skis also with sirens would course ahead next. By about the third day they had stopped, obviously bored with their tasks.


The long canoes with about 18 rowers paddled furiously as their turn was announced with a loud bang. They came by in a fierce pace with two or three in frantic competition while the others lagged far behind. One would usually break away toward the end to finish the race.


Behind these boats were a plethora of private boats, which followed the racers. There were about 12 of them, all less than 14 feet in length. The fire department had three rubber rafts with motors on the back; the police had a cabin cruiser and few other more modern up to date craft, while ordinary citizens (bless them) had ancient fibreglass scows. They were going to be part of the story.


The boys from Landas always took the first three spots. Landas is a field and survey department, and they have spent hours in the jungle each day and are very physically fit.


Both sides were lined with people. We walked down a cement boardwalk feature along the riverfront with everyone selling everything and anything. Anybody who could set up a stand did so. There were thousands and thousands of t-shirts, none saying the Kuching Regatta on them. Most advertised Qatar Airways, an airline out of Qatar, a Middle East natural gas rich principality. They own the TV station al Jazeera, which I read had recently made their way into the States


There were about a kilometre-long food stalls who sold various parts of chickens (the parts we in the west usually throw away) skewered on a stick and flame broiled. They were sold with a flaming hot red sauce. They were nicely arranged.


Other delicious treats were fried noodles, rice with a grilled normal chicken, rice with a cucumber, red fish paste, eggs and salted fried fish, a local favorite. Fruits, mostly Asian variety, and spiral deep fried potato chips and a host of other things I forget the name of. Peanuts boiled in water until they get soft. A few sold Western fare such as hot dogs and hamburgers, but they were marketed as an afterthought while they were dealing in traditional foods.


Then there were the bead stands. Hundreds of thousands of beads in every shape and size were arranged in necklaces, bracelets and ankle bracelets. Cups saying Sarawak and Welcome to Sarawak in the state colors of yellow, black and red seemingly everywhere.


The drink stands were plentiful, selling soya milk and an extract from sugar cane which was green. There were others that included a corn syrup from Australia with ice and a favouring added. All had the ubiquitous Coke and 100 Plus but sold very little because there were very few from Australia, Europe and the States.


We bought several delicates including a fish dish from the west Malaysian province of Trengganau. First they take the flesh of the fish and steam it. The fish is rolled in flour and deep fried. The slate grey colour is then wacked off into pieces. That was for my wife, Suriani. I got some fried prawns about a thick as a small flashlight.


We retreated to a local shopping center because our son Dzul was acting up and he promptly fell asleep. Then it poured rain. Not a little sprinkle but heavy thunderous rain that cleared the streets and sent everyone, including the food stalls and the bead makers, packing. It was a shame because they could have made some money.


Between deluges we umbrelled our way home and saw the president and the chief minister sitting under a canopy with other local dignitaries. Here the president is a figurehead while the chief minister is head of state.


There was a parade in their honor, but the deluges kept everything in disarray. Finally, the marching bands were lined up just before the dignitaries, played something in perfect harmony and then quickly disbanded after the march past. There were very few people watching under cloud-covered skies. We observed from our condo.


Today, Sunday, final heats of the Regatta are in progress while the Sultan of Brunei is here. I haven't seen him yet but with his recent announcement of Islamic law in his kingdom, I don't think I want to. I like my head. It fits me.


In all it was a successful event for everyone.


...Life is good. . . . .


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