At a coffee shop in Behrang, two polite gentlemen asked to share my table. We introduced ourselves, chatted and ended up becoming friends; exchanging phone numbers and all. They even invited me to their village to eat durians.
They are Orang Asli of the Semai tribe (aboriginal people) from nearby Kuala Slim. Sal (left) was busy writing lottery numbers to place bets on. I asked him if I can go to his village to ask for lottery numbers from the tree spirits. The Orang Asli are traditionally animists.
Mon (right) told me to drink up and the numbers will come. Haha. The Cap Rusa (Deer Brand) Chinese ‘Rose Road’ herbal liquor is potent stuff with alcohol content stated as 20%. Not clear if it is measured by proof or volume.
At extreme left, is waitress Vivian originally from Surabaya in Indonesia. It was her cooking that lured me into this shop. I caught whiffs of enticing ‘mee hoon kueh’ boiling when I was on the street outside.
Such wonderful and friendly people, all of them. Listening to their life struggles, stories and beliefs is humbling and enriching at the same time.
Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 2000, f4, 1/60 sec.
In building the dam and subsequent flooding of the jungle area, 2 Orang Asli villages, comprising 84 families, were relocated and re-settled. They moved from their traditional jungle homes into a colony-like housing area with brick houses and relatively modern amenities.
Going up and down a hill behind the dam, I came upon one of the settlements. It has been more than 10 years since, and some of the houses are a bit worn. Saw only kids playing outside but there was an adult.
I asked him if I can take his picture. He nodded affirmatively. Then he nodded to every question I asked, like as if he was lost in his own world. Maybe it was the satisfaction of the long cigarette draws or blissful daydreaming. As an ex smoker, I understand the feeling.
Wall graffiti aside, there is so much to read silently here. The floor mop is a symbol of different abode and lifestyle. There is a bridging symbol, too. Parts of the rusted and broken metal stair railings were replaced with bamboo from the jungles.
Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 100, f5, 1/320 sec.
The inhabitants here are of the Temuan tribe and indeed there is a dog at every turn. Aboriginal dogs were originally kept as hunting dogs and were lean and mean.
Acting also as guard dogs for those staying deep in the jungles, they alert human companions to approaching wild boars, bears and other aggressive wildlife. Importantly, they provide endless fun and companionship for Orang Asli children growing up without toys, gadgets and electricity.
Here at this village, the dogs are mostly lethargic and sleep in the middle of the road. So do be very careful if you drive through the village.
I was enchanted by the rustic settings and asked a village elder if there is some kind of homestay hut. Although he speaks impeccable English, just like the aboriginal character in Crocodile Dundee, he didn’t understand the term ‘homestay’. I mentioned ‘hotel’ and he smiled.
Me, him and the dog ended up hiking up a steep jungle trail. Panting under the weight of my equipment, I stopped him to ask if this mysterious, fabled jungle place has a porter to help with my luggage.
Not surprisingly, he said “No!”. But then he added: “They have a Nepalese sherpa”. Haha. What unfolded next is mind-blowing.
Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 125, f4, 1/500 sec.