Tuesday, May 11

Virtual tourism for the time being


‘Tourism at the fingertip.’ — Bernama file photo

HUMAN beings are a restless lot. By nature, they want to move about and do the things which they like most. That is why they resent any curb to their mobility even if it’s for their own good.

They are, supposedly, endowed with intelligence. Under confinement somewhere, they think of ways and means to deal with boredom. For example, many people, living under the ‘stay at home’ Order during the coronavirus pandemic, have begun to adjust their behaviour in order to cope with life under what is called the ‘new norms’ regime.

Travel restrictions have adversely impacted millions of people in many ways, the tourism business being the hardest hit. Yet most people have found ways and means on how to manage their lives. They are an innovative lot.

People who have caught the travel bug are mostly frustrated by the inability to travel. I know how they feel! One of the things that I miss terribly is to be able to travel outside Sarawak and, funds permitting, outside Malaysia for a while, always returning to base at the end of each trip.

Like many Sarawakians, I have relatives who live, work or study overseas, whom I have not seen for quite some time now. I think that they want to see me too. Although it is possible seeing them during a Zoom meeting, yet a virtual meeting does not allow for long enough time during which to talk. Touching, a human trait, is sorely missing.

In the circumstances, this is the only way by which to see and talk to each other. We have to put up with it as long as Covid-19 is still around. Blast it! One must never yield to the virus, though. As humans with higher intelligence, we must utilise the time during home confinement period to do something useful – read, write, listen to songs and music, participate in virtual meetings, plant vegetables, talk to flowers, etc.

Know your own backyard

Nowadays, travelling can be carried out virtually, thanks to the inventors of the hand phone and the Internet. For those who possess the wonder gadget, that is. Without spending a single Ringgit on plane tickets or hotel accommodation, one can roam far and wide in the world in the comfort of the home.

Ironically, this is the best time to travel. Online, of course. For instance, although I have never been personally to Danau Santarum or Ketungau or Tumbang Anoi or Tampun Juah, or Sungai Katingan – all in the Indonesian Borneo – yet, I have seen parts of these places from the screen of my hand phone.

In 1989, I was a participant in the Asean Conference on Settlement held in Solo, Surakarta, and the Workshop was held in Samarinda, Borneo. On a double-decker Russian helicopter, the workshop participants flew to a new Kayan/Kenyah settlement at Datah Bilang on the shores of the great Mahakam River. I would love to see these places once again, even online.

Historical places

There is another place that I would love to visit in Borneo: Tumbang Anoi, on the upper Kahayan River, Central Kalimantan. This is reachable from Kota Palangkaraya. It was here in 1894 that a Headhunters’ Summit was held. Sponsored by the Dutch government and, subject to correction, with some finance from Rajah Charles Brooke of Sarawak, the idea was to stop headhunting among the Dayak tribes in the Dutch Territory. The fear of losing one’s head had hampered the effort of the Christian missionaries and Dutch explorers. One such explorer, A.W. Nieuwenhuis, was commissioned to survey river systems by walking from the Kapuas watershed to the Mahakam – a journey from Pontianak to Samarinda. In effect, however, the summit was a peace treaty between the Dayaks in Sarawak and those in the Dutch Borneo, following the kayau between Batang Lupar Iban and the Kantu Iban in 1885. Since then there has been peace among these two groups of Iban.

I have seen Tumbang Anoi online, but nothing like being there personally. A video done of one man walking in the villages of people living in the upper reaches of the Kahayan River (middle of Borneo Island) is most educational. It reminds viewers of the contrast in terms of physical development in the interior of Borneo and that of the towns and cities. No government in the 21st century would expose this sort of under-developed state of their country to the public. But one gets a glimpse of the situation from a video made by a private individual mainly for fun. I have followed a man who walks around the remote villages in the Kahayan, apparently following the format similar to that adopted by the channel Jerusalem Dateline.

I have never been to Jerusalem, but I have seen several places which are mentioned in the Holy Bible via that channel. Seeing the pictures of those sites online is good for the soul for many Christians in this part of the world who have not been to Jerusalem.

Going to church

I can go to church at home! And after church, a home- cooked breakfast, instead of at the favourite stall in town. Missing the smiles of friends and the shaking of hands after the service.

Did you pray for the end of the pandemic? Of course, you did. So, for the time being, online church service is the best option in the circumstances.

Back to the smart phone now – enjoying the videos on the picnic on the kerangan (pebbled beach of a river) and the spearing of the fish in the Katibas by some young men of the district. Reminds me of my days fishing in the jungle around this time of the year (landas) while on holiday back in the village. Those were normal times.

At that time the video camera and the hand phone had not been invented! I would have done the filming of my adventures in the jungle, if these gadgets were available then.

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