Sunday, February 27, 2011

Windthrow or Oops, There Goes Another Shade Tree!

We seem to be losing a lot of trees lately.  Most of the them are cut down by the City Council (called Majlis Perbandaran Kuantan - MPK) to make way for improvements to street-side drains.  Sometimes, however, Mother Nature takes the decision to take one of her own in a process called windthrow.

Windthrown Casuarina

Early last month, a giant, beautiful Casuarina (Rhu in Malay) tree was knocked down during a heavy wind-storm only minutes before work let out at my school.  It came crashing down across one of two popular access streets so that traffic was slowed down significantly until the tree was removed.  But, of course, I walk to work so it was no big deal except that I lost a favorite shade tree of mine, that gave me precious seconds of shade at its corner while I waited for a break in traffic in order to cross the street.

Stump and Hole
Windthrown trees often break off above the stump, but this one uprooted out of the soil and had only minor breakage above ground.  Moving in for closeup, I spied the culprits: termites.  Yes, it seems that my magnificent friend had been taken down by the tiny white "ant" variety of termite.  Too bad.  Without the shade from my departed friend, it is a hot corner now so I don't linger as much as before.

Blame it on the Termites!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tenun Pahang Diraja

Tenun Pahang Diraja (Royal Pahang Weave) is one of the specialities of the cottage industry in Pahang, especially the Kuantan area.  Up until recently, I did not know where to find it except for when an exhibition was being given in one of the local malls.  But on my Sepat Highway trip last summer, I came across the factory/show-room in the small village of Sungai Soi.

With a relative visiting in January, I decided to return to the factory for a tour.  The kampung of Sungai Soi is only 15-20 minutes from the centre of Kuantan along the road that crosses the Kuantan River and takes one through the area called Tanjung Lumpur (which is also where the Adina Batik shop is located).

The factory/show-room appears to be closed but one only needs to go ring the doorbell and someone will come and let you in.  There is a "factory" in the back that is basically five or six looms where apprentice and experienced weavers are creating material in 2- to 4-meter lengths.

Cotton and silk are woven on the looms adding in gold, silver, copper and other accent threads.  Unfortunately, I did not get any photos of the accent thread spools, but these are kept in a small basket on the side of the loom from where the weaver can grab and add in a thread from time to time. The apprentice weavers can take from 1- to 2-days to complete a 2-meter length of material (widths are a standard 45 inches).  The most expert weaver in the factory that day was a lady with ten years of experience, and she could complete a 4-meter length of cloth in one 8-hour work day!  Needless to say, she was the one weaver NOT willing to stop and chat with us tourists!

In addition to the factory, which is only two years old, there is a showroom (gallery and gift shop) whose opening was sponsored by Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah, the head of the Royal Family of Pahang (it IS after all, the Royal Pahang weave).  In it were examples of clothing and other uses of the woven material.

All in all, the Tenun Pahang Diraja factory and showroom is one of the best tourist sites in the Kuantan, but unfortunately not all that well advertised.