Monday, July 27, 2009

Bario, a pictorial summary

This is by no means an exhaustive account of Bario, The Kelabit Highlands. This is meant only as a short introduction to Bario that would hopefully bear fruit to all kinds of other subsequent possibilties for first time visitors to the area.

De-Havilland Twin Otter flight operates twice a day to Bario and back. Actual fly times depend on weather conditions and circumstances of a previous connection. On a good sunny day, expect smooth sailing with no particular major hassles. In Bario the temperature is cool, and the air crisp with freshness.

First important stop in Bario, the MASWINGS counter to confirm and book seats for your flight out of Bario. Failure to do so may result in dire consequences for those on a schedule, ie. a long wait back to where you came from. To those oblivious of timetable, it may afford you a few more extra days in Bario with a great excuse for the boss back at the office. Be mindful as well to the $10 Bario airport tax to fly out.

The only posh ride in Bario, another option would be a two wheeler in the form of a kapcai or enduro cross county motorbike. There isn't a single saloon car in Bario, get used to riding in 4WD either inside of one or outside at the back. Great opportunity to scan the landscape while taking in all the fresh air that Bario can offer.

De Plateau Lodge, a homestay/guesthouse located 20 minutes away from the airport, operated by Douglas, Munney and family. Wooden structure witha spacious living room and an extensive garden. Soon you'll find yourself attached to the gazebo next to the main house and the view outside from the bathroom window.

The living room which has seen numerous visitors from all over Sarawak, exudes an understated warmth. A small collection of local crafts and books scattered about for those curious for something to do indoors.

The simple dining area where guests are feted to Munney's home cooked meals. Expect plenty of fresh local vegetables and Bario rice. Bread is hard to come by in Bario, if you must have them pack some from Miri.

Douglas, enterpreneur and co-owner of De Plateau Lodge.

Lian, enterpreneur, homestay operator and guide.

Reddy, enterpreneur and guide.

Phillip, enterpreneur and guide.

Samuel, a Penan elder and guide from Pa' Tik.

Bucolic scenery which can be seen at every corner of Bario. This is along the main road to Bario Lama.

Bario Baru, the junction to Pa' Umor site of a salt lick where the famous Bario salt is made and the other fork the junction to Pa' Ukat and Pa' Lungan.

Paddy fields in Bario Lama. Kelabits and Penans from nearby converge to Bario to work the fields during harvest and planting season. Most of Bario's own sons and daughters work outside of Bario in places like Miri, Kuching and Kuala Lumpur.

Paddy fields in Pa' Ukat. Here harvesting and planting are still excuted the traditional way via gotong royong. Whole villages can be seen working the fields in turns in a communal fashion.

Do not expect a stewardess on your flight to Bario, the pilot himself might be making the kind gesture of offering sweets to passengers if his hands weren't too full with other important tasks.

For those first timers to Bario, it'll definitely not be their last. Once Bario gets into you, you will surely be back.

Malaysian Nature Society will be converging for a 3D/2N visit to Bario as part of a post-AGM trip for attending delegates. The National AGM itself will take place at Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort, Lambir Hills on the 26th September. The Bario visit will commence 27th September, return to Miri 29th September.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

MNS Miri Branch AGM 15th July 2009, KRP

This is our 13th AGM since our inception Mar 1996. Seventeen people attended with two members acting as observers. We received several nominations via email which made AGM this year rather interesting.

The AGM itself went unexpectedly fine ... we went in with nomination papers for several committee positions. Unprecedented in MNS Miri Branch 13 year history, we had 2 and 3 corner fights for several positions. All ended amicably with a very strong team set up to run the branch and our activities for the term 2009/2010.

Our new incoming office bearers and their tasks:

Nazeri Abghani
(Nature Education-CEP, Birdwatching, SPC, Website)

Sara Wong
(Treks-Trips, Birdwatching, SPC, Website)

Grace Siew Yee Len
(Nature Education-NEC, Talks)

Amer Matridi Abu Mansur Matridi
(Nature Education-NEC, Marine)

Musa Musbah

and Special Interest Group focal points to drive our activities for the coming term.

Coopted Committee:
1. Ernyza Endot (Astronomy)
2. Puteri Shariza Megat Khaled (Nature Education-KMA)
3. Sim Yuh Thin (Trips)
4. Charlie Lee & 5. Fara Abdullah (Geology)
6. Verma Vitales (Turtle Monitoring, Marine)
7. Nazur Riza (Curtin Liasson)

The Committee thanks members and friends for their support for the past term and look forward to further work on branch synergies and activities for the benefit of members and communities at large.

Here's to an exciting year a head!

Rocketeers, blast-off!

Each team were given two opportunities to launch their rockets. The first attempt was the launch of their prototypes, the second their best design after picking up and fixing minor design flaws from the first attempt. All did an excellent job taking their Coke-bottle rockets off the ground.

The Youngest Team with their consultant in the background.

Team Chung Hwa working hard to perfect the design of their rocket.

The Dream Team adding final touches to their creation with CK's and Ernie's help.

"Hmmm ... will it fly or will it disintegrate to pieces?" Chung Hwa Team.

Rocketeers and their rockets, 1st prototype from each group.

Team Chung Hwa's successful take-off. Photo by Musa Musbah.

"Whoo-ho!" A perfect launch! Photo by Musa Musbah.

A successful first attempt by the Pustaka Team, the first rocket to reach for the skies. Photo by Musa Musbah

Group photo.Photo by Musa Musbah.

Participants after an extremely successful blast-off of their respective 2nd attempts. Photo by Lo Kiun Sin

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stargazing at Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort, Lambir Hills

Our astronomy talk ended at 1600hrs followed immediately by preparations for getting our Overnite Astronomy Camp participants over to Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort. All participants were taken onboard a bus which took them directly to the resort.

Seven students from SM Chung Hua, one from Riam School, three Pustaka Negeri Sarawak Miri Branch, the rest are MNS Miri members which in total make up the twenty six participants to the overnite camps.

Upon checking into their bunk beds at the hostels, participants were feted to a buffet dinner at the restuarant.

Stargazing started immediately after dinner, with six refractor telescopes set up for everyone to have an opportunity to peer into the dark but brilliant skies. The stars complied to our fervent prayers, the skies was clear with no clouds present during the major part of the stargazing session.

Excitement from the camp spread rapidly to other visitors at the resort. As CK took everyone through a tour of the stellar casts, the crowd grew significantly to include parents, siblings, resort workers, owners, family members and tourists.

We took it easy on the tarmac enjoying the brilliant view.

We waited for the moon. The moon didn't come out till 2330, but it only afforded a nebolous view of itself, wafting in cloaked in cloud cover. The view of Jupiter was brilliant!

Setting up the big glass to peer into the heavens, young and not so young waiting the turn at the telescopes.

CK going thru the constellation with a sizable audience, some are our astronomy campers, others are just curious visitors wanting to get a peek the the stars. Photo by Lo Kiun Sin

Telescopes, highpowered binoculars, laser light pens, cameras and tripods ready with the crowd.

You are never too young to be awed by the universe, we are all little people in that regard.

Pustaka Negeri Sarawak Miri Branch staff getting a go at the big guns. Photo by Lo Kiun Sin

For once staying up late is good for you. Claudia and Rebecca enjoying the cool nite air in the accompaniment of a zillion stars up above.

The Milky Way as rendered by Lo Kiun Sin.

The was slightly nebulous with thick cover of clouds by the time it appeared around 2330 hrs. The little bright object to the right is Jupiter.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Astronomy Talk and Slideshow at Pustaka Negeri Sarawak Miri Branch

Approximately 200 people turned up at CK Lim's talk and slideshow on general astronomy, stars and our universe which took place at the Auditorium of Pustaka Negeri 1400hrs. During the talk, audience learnt about the stars, the suns and moons, planets as well as our minute place in the supersized schemes of things within the bounds of our universe.

Using images he took and processed himself, CK kept the attention of the audience glued to the subject matter and did it without breaking a sweat. Now and again he effortlessly deleivered his subject matter in English and Bahasa Malaysia. "Lohong Hitam" and Black Hole are one of the same ... Musytari, Marikh and others were also received a mention or two.

The talk and slideshow ended just before 1600hrs with a short Q & A from the floor. Most from the floor were interested in extra-terrestrials and existence of life in other universe, some with questions closer to earth. We learnt the name of a type of sand on the moon that kepts the moon luminous always.

Kong Lih-Shan, Ernyza Endot of MNS Sabah and Miri respectively were on hand to assist CK in fielding some of the more obscure and mind-bending questions such as folding universe, worm-holes, time travel and the like.

At the end of the talk, MNS-BTRR Astronomy Camp participants gathered for a briefing about our overnite astronomy program before departing to Borneo Tropical Rainforest for another segment of our Astronomy Weekend. To Round Three.

Round Two : Astronomy - 1 , Weather - 0. It was still raining cats and dogs outside the auditorium, it's obvious that you can't keep dedicated astronomers down. If we can't be outside observing the stars, we can always stay indoors, talk about them and have a lively discussion on the universe without ever mentioning the crummy weather outside.

The passionate, affable and ever ready to share CK Lim, presenting materials close to his heart. This is CK's second visit to Miri and have nurtured fast friends with those in Miri since his last visit, all sharing the same passion for astronomy and educating the young about the subject.

Among the audience were Pustaka staff, Regional Manager of Pustaka Puan Salina Zawawie, representatives from SMK Lutong Astronomy Club and their adviser teacher Ms. Yee Hui Pen.

Sam Ting, an avid Miri astronomer also turned up for the talks amidst his busy schedule after having helped us at the 'show and tell' earlier in the morning. His family attended and actively participated in our overnite astronomy camp at Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort later Saturday evening.

Our overnite astronomy campers (Michelle, Chai, Freddie and Eileen) took front row seats during the Pustaka talk eager to learn more about the universe. We learnt about regolith from this bunch during our Q & A session.

The youngest in our audience must have been about four years old sketching while her two elder sisters and mommy were fully engrossed with the subject of astronomy and distant stars.

A portion of the student audience listening intently to CK Lim as he expounds on the stars and the universe.

CK also briefly covered the moon, as well as salient points on why you shouldn't use the surface of the moon as a simile to someone's "smooth" facial features.

Monday, July 13, 2009

We engaged the public, we stargazed and we launched rockets 300 feet into the air ... all in a weekend!

Saturday morning didn't look a promising day for anything at all much less for Sidewalk Astronomy, with rapidly darkening sky and impending storm front that wouldn't let up. The sun was nowhere to be seen. It looked grim. It looked even more grim when the downpour finally came down on Miri City two minutes shy of 0900hrs ... the time Sidewalk Astronomy was supposed to start on the grounds of Miri City Fan Park.

This is the second year MNS Miri Branch has engaged CK Lim, an experienced astronomer, avid educator from Penang for our Astronomy Weekend. Together with Kong Lih Shan (now based in Sabah), Ernyza Endot and Sam Ting, we've gathered all the stargazers we need for an exciting 'show and tell' to the public. Aside for the pouring rain of course. Our astronomy program in collaboration with Pustaka Negeri Sarawak Miri Branch through it's SMART partnership and Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort seemed hopeless by 0930hrs. We did not count on crummy weather.

Our astronomers being the lot with patience made of steel and fortitude forged from carbon fibre perservered. We set up all our gear consisting of 6 telescopes indoors inside the main Pustaka building, all determined to engage and awe the younger Mirians with astronomy. There were no shortage of lamp posts, leaves, flowers and car plates to illustrate the reaching power of a refractor telescope. Shiny chrome and pristine big glass also played their role well in attracting the public. Pretty soon our corner was filled with curious, enquiring minds bent on finding out what the fuss was all about.

And everyone knows, you only need one person to ask one question to get the astronomers going. The rest was easy ... this session is practically in the bag!

Round One : Astronomy-1, Weather-0.

CK showing a parent the components of a telescope used for stargazing, this time around we had to rely a lot on the imagination having no stellar objects to point the sights to.

A young would be nebulae hunter in the making.

Musa giving a helping hand with the knobs and turns.

Crowds gathered indoors from another function stopped to take a peek into our telescopes. Even a political secretary of someone important made a prolonged pit-stop!

Ernie's "V" for victory as if to say "Yep! We got them alright, all the way from 6 years old to 65!"