The morning commenced with a quick breakfast, after which we met with Ms Kuvinn, the Programme Officer from GEC and the other ASEAN peatland photo contest finalists at the lobby of Dorsett Regency Hotel, Kuala Lumpur . Kuvinn gave a short briefing on the itinerary for the day before the van departed to Kuala Selangor. It was a morning full of expectations and excitement for the upcoming field trip.
The journey took us approximately 90 minutes. On arrival at Sungai Sireh Homestay, we were welcomed by Mr Faeez, who accompanied us throughout the trip. Without further delay, we boarded the boat for a cruise up an irrigation canal which connected to Sg Tengi. This was the first activity of the day. The weather was so ideal, allowing us to enjoy the day to the fullest. With little to worry about, I proceeded to capture the scene along the river banks.
As we went along, we learnt about the ecosystem and its interaction with life of the people around the vicinity. Thank you to Mr Faeez and Mr Zainon for your explanation about the importance of conserving peatlands for the survival of its flora and fauna.
One of the best things we saw on the cruise was the merging and waving of water flowing from the forest into the river forming heavy foam along its path. Its colour and frothiness resembled Coca-Cola. This is a photographer’s heaven for capturing the moment; unfortunately taking photos from a rocking boat proved to be quite a challenge!
By the time we came back from the cruise, it was already lunch time. We were served with “Nasi Ambeng” a mix of steamed rice, fried dry fish, noodles and rempeyek (peanut crisps) served on a tray of banana leaves. It also came with a bowl of exquisitely delicious, tender and mouth-watering chicken. There were no plates, forks or spoons provided; we ate off the leaves with our fingers. It was a little awkward, but it was certainly unique. This is a traditional dish which is enjoyed not only by visitors and tourists, it is a culture handed through the generations. I hope that this unique dish will not be forgotten in the name of modernisation.
Next, we rode on a carriage pulled by a modified tractor. Able to accommodate 15- 20 passengers, it is an efficient and innovative way to drive visitors around the village. Our first stop was at Pak Mat’s classic wooden Malay kampong house. We sat under the house where various old equipment previously used in agriculture, logging, padi planting and other activities were displayed. We were told that the house had been used many times for shooting dramas and movies. I can understand why, especially in scenes which portrayed the classic kampong idyll.
The next stop was an eel catching activity. I wasn’t too excited about that. On arrival, were welcomed by the owner of the eel farm who proceeded to demonstrate the way to catch eels with bare hands. Initially all of us were reluctant to actively participate, for obvious reasons. However, I did have a go and it wasn’t too bad; I managed to hold one despite the animal’s slippery, slimy body. I almost killed the poor eel though. One of the eels that we caught was fried for us to taste. Did I like it? Not really. The taste was all right; but the after-taste made me quite nauseous, effectively putting an end to any more eel-eating efforts.
Our last activity was extracting sugarcane juice using a motorised press. The juice that came from the stalks was fresh and naturally sweet, a welcome treat for my thirsty throat and a great way to flush the taste of that eel! It was a good ending for an enjoyable day in the field.