SYNOPSIS:  About an overall disappointing day which turned at the end, after all. 

Wifi!  With the overall absence of internet cafes, young adults without facebook or email, the last thing I expected in this little river village Muara Muntai was wifi at this now one-year-old guest house.  It goes to show what money can buy.  The guy who owns it is the richest man in town and I was told this is the only wifi spot anywhere in most likely a 200 km radius.  Well, maybe only 100 km, but close. 

But if this guy can get it, then others could, too.  I am sure all it takes is money and a vision.  What a business opportunity for any young entrepreneur to open up a wifi cafe, for starters. I am sure the entire youth of this town would flock to it and soon the older and younger ones too.

And to think that I almost forfeited this entire experience! 

The day had not started on the right foot.  As usual, we got up by 7 AM — exactly the time I was usually asleep after listening to the inescapable mosque loudspeaker from 3-5 AM.  We were going to another village up another river with more wildlife along the way.  Frankly, this was a total waste of time as it added absolutely nothing to my understanding of this area.  The village was a village like all the others we had seen so far, the wildlife also was no different.  It felt like Jaylani was just trying to kill time.  If I had known what was ahead of me, I would have requested a revisit of Mancong to observe the funeral ceremony which would have been in full swing today.  That would have been worth my time and changed everything.  Forever, I will regret this.  But when I realized that nothing would be happening, it was too late to turn around.  Oh well, no point in crying over spilled beans.

When Jaylani mentioned that he had planned on a stay in a different village for the night (but one we had already passed on our way yesterday) and that we would have to get up extra early the next day (5 AM), to make it back to Kota for the van pickup, I was just as ready to plow all the way through to Kota, sleep in the next day and be done with it all. 

Thankfully, I asked if there was anything else on the “program”.  Yes, a visit of Jaylani’s sisters’ homes in Muara Muntai.  Oh, now that changed the picture!  A look behind the scenes was just what I had hoped for all along.  So, we stuck with the “program”. 

And when instead of my dark, sticky room in Kota, I was led into a friendly small room with AC and wifi and could sit on a Western style toilet instead of relieving myself into the river, I was absolutely thrilled.  It’s the little things that matter, always!

Both Jaylani and Odin were from this village.  This was Jaylani’s first stay at this guesthouse and I think he was almost as surprised as I was.  This used to be one of his sisters’ properties.  She ran a guesthouse there with her husband, a more “typical” one, I think…  But when her husband died, she sold the property and the richest man in town bought it and beefed it up. Great job!

There were two sisters in town.  The first one lived in a nice big house with a husband, children, visiting nieces and nephews — the place was hopping.  They had a small stand of coconut milk and shards and various flavored jellies which they would sell one plastic bag at a time to any of the customers who rolled by on their motorbikes.  It is a special treat that is only made during Ramadan as it is so nutritious; good for people when they break their fast.  They had no problem filling up two huge bowls for Jaylani and me to chow down right there (long before the fast was over).  One niece sported gold up and down both arms and when I asked Jaylani about it, he rolled his eyes and said:  “Rich husband”.  I guess this is the way to show to the world that you made it.

I was most impressed with the endless array of cooking pots that were stacked up in the kitchen at the end of the long and narrow house.  Those are for weddings and other large family events.  They seem to be standard around here for any and all households.  You can’t be unprepared when there is an event that warrants the invitation of all the neighbors who care to come.

One of the nieces’ husbands asked to scroll through my entire camera disk.  He seemed fascinated and was occupied for a good 1/2 hour with that.  Thank goodness, I did not take any compromising pictures…

The other sister (the one whose husband died) lived just around the corner.  She has an equally long and narrow house with almost as many pots as her sister.  But the house had an empty feel.  She lived all alone in it.  But she prepared a delicious fish-rice-vegetable meal for us.  The first truly delicious fish.  She got it right from the market, still kicking, and prepared it fresh for us.  Yummy, even though I am not used to seeing the fish I eat kicking just 15 minutes before dinner.  And then she insisted that Jaylani and I would eat at the table whereas she would eat sitting on the floor, as she always does…

I strolled through the village for an hour before dinner.  This is definitely a more prosperous village than some we have seen.  Behind the row of houses that line the river, there is actually solid land (that is not the case with the lake villages which are almost like floating villages just built on posts but in the water).  That solid land allows for small gardens, a football field, etc.  Roads everywhere around here are built out of wooden planks, at times raised the same way as the houses, just on pillars.  Not all the planks are tight.  The loose ones make a constant clapping sound when anything goes over them; and that would be motorbikes, constantly.  It’s a unique sound I will forever associate with these villages.

The owner of the guesthouse himself showed up to greet us and he recommended a traditional massage by Midi, the husband of the wife-husband team who managed the guesthouse for him.  He was known as one of the best in town.  How could I turn down such an opportunity!  Well, get ready for the pain.  And I mean PAIN!  I am used to rolfing and pain, but this was two notches up the pain scale. But that is how it’s done around here.  Jaylani, Midi’s wife and 4-year-old daughter had their fun with me lying on the floor squeaking when it got unbearable  I now remember that even in my guidebook they warn you of this kind of massage and mentioned the blue and black spots you might find all over your body the next day…  But what an experience.

The big, still unfinished mosque was only 100 yards from the hotel; its loudspeakers fully functioning.  But what is another night of lost sleep.  I had to get up by 5 AM anyhow.  This was a good final stop.

Good night, sort of.

3 comments so far

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  1. hallo, tochter, mein letzter nachmittag hier. morgen früh gehts los nach benz. es hat kräftig gewittert und die temperatur ist um 10° gesunken auf 25° Das kann ich aushalten und an der ostsee wird es noch kühler sein. Also kann ich eine weile deine blogs nicht lesen und nichts dazu schreiben. pass auf dich auf!!! Mutter

  2. I am curious, is there any difference in values and life style between the rich and the poor or money is the only differentiating factor
    miss you

  3. Is this river into which one relieves oneself the self-same river with Pythons hanging from the trees??!!!!!! Pass. Aghhhhhh!!!!!