Sarawak’s Telok Melano, ripe for development

It was an unexpected journey, not in the manner of ‘The Hobbit’, but just as thrilling, nonetheless.

There were no dragons, but the trip to Telok Melano – some 140km from Sarawak’s capital city of Kuching – was not devoid of excitement, as we followed in the footsteps of a king!

In September, Telok Melano welcomed the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, his sons the Regent of Pahang Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah, Tengku Panglima Raja Colonel Tengku Amir Nasser Ibrahim Shah, and Tengku Ahmad Ismail Mu’adzam Shah and their entourage, as the final stop of their 11-day ‘Kembara Kenali Borneo’ tour.

The Raja Permaisuri Agong, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, missed the last stop after falling ill.

How times have changed for this ‘bay’, thanks to the state’s former chief minister, the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem.

According to local history, Kampung Telok Melano was once a shelter from sea storms for traders from Sambas, Indonesia, to Kuching.

Previously only reachable by sea and inaccessible during the monsoon season (October to February), Adenan convinced former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to include Telok Melano in the Pan Borneo Highway project.

Initially, the plan was for the highway to go from Semantan – 33km away – to Miri, but Adenan wanted to leave a legacy for his constituency.

That was how Teluk Melano – Sarawak’s southwestern-most tip – became known as ‘Km Zero’ of the highway. The 33km road, which has a two-lane single-carriageway and leads to Semantan, was completed in January 2019.

Honestly, there was nothing grand about the beach, but it offered a breathtaking view of the crystal-clear blue South China Sea – and most importantly, it was clean!

The beach is underdeveloped, with a scattering of local traders offering meagre fare, but there are several homestays in the area.

We only spent a couple of hours there as it was a last-minute decision to visit the area – but the kids had fun swimming and riding the all-terrain vehicles.

There were surfboards for rent – although the waves were not huge – and several lifeguards on duty. We even saw a vessel, although it was too far away to tell if it was a privately owned yacht, or belonged to one of the nation’s uniformed bodies.

There is plenty of potential for eco-tourism as the beach is near the Tanjung Datu National Park – which has a turtle conservation – and Samunsan Wildlife Sanctuary.

We were informed of a hiking trail from Telok Melano to Tanjung Datu.

Thanks to the Pan-Borneo Highway, it only takes two hours from Kuching, making it an appealing journey for tourists who prefer to stay in the capital.

On the way back from Teluk Melano to Bau, we stopped at Lundu – my mother-in-law’s home town – to visit relatives.

We had a sumptuous seafood dinner at one of the restaurants to celebrate my brother-in-law Wilson’s wife’s (Angelice’s) birthday.

The journey was pleasant, although it was tiring because we had decided on it too late. We intend to return next year but must leave early in the morning to have more time to explore Telok Melano.

SERANI DELICACIES IN BAU!

On Wednesday, the family visited Jeffrey Nerat’s home in Kampung Pokap in Bau.

His wife, Jessie K. Balasubramaniam’s relative was among the original residents of the Portuguese Settlement in Melaka.

I learnt Jessie has relatives named Nunis – we are everywhere – and she promised to cook the famous Serani dish – Devil’s (or Debal) curry for lunch.

And in true Malaysian spirit, it was a spread of many races as we had Biryani, Indian chicken curry, kari kacang, and nasi impit (peanut curry and steamed rice cubes), a cabbage dish that went well with the Devil’s curry, fruits, chocolate cake, pudding and tarts from the Portuguese Settlement.

I had “no choice” but to top up my plate more than once!

BUTTERNUT BIRYANI

As crazy as it sounds, some people may want to take a break from all the meaty dishes during the festive season. So, here is a vegan recipe from Nigella Lawson – Butternut Biryani. Enjoy!

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