For a lot of modern Semenanjung kids, I’m assuming Dalat is the only place they know in Sarawak besides Kuching, as it was featured in the secondary school’s literature curricular.
It was also because of “How Dalat got its Name” that I was intrigued to go and find out how does the real Dalat looked like.
A little bit of geography - Dalat is located approximately 40 minutes or 50ish KMs by road from Mukah.
The first impression of Dalat was that it was quite modernised.
The market square was full of modern shop houses, market stalls and even a fuel station.
However there do exist little enclaves of time warped images of yesteryears, like this quaint hair-dressing salon neatly juxtaposed by the modern-defining VCD store next door.
This is Dalat’s most famous and sacred landmark – the Jerunei. It is the place where ancient Melanaus put the corpse of a dead king – and together with it a fair maiden was left to starve to death on top to accompany the king into the after-world.
The Jerunei was craved out of a Bellian tree and intricately designed.
Like many small towns in Sarawak, Dalat is situated next to a river, with a jetty filled with plying boats offering to send passengers to the kampungs across river.
There was also the ubiquitous Chinese temple by the riverside. This one looked newly refurbished and somehow reminded me of a koala bear.
And of course, being a Melanau-dominant town, there’s this big Melanau umbrella offering lepaking kids shade from the sun .
So there goes the mystique and allure of Dalat, another place unfortunately torched by fast-paced modernisation. I guess I expected the town to look like Oya, situated between Mukah and Dalat, where the town square consists of a row of colourful wooden shops with flies buzzing around in the lazy afternoon sun.
There was no lingering signs of the kampungs and warriors of the story in Dalat – confined it is, to be a fairytale of a bygone era, forever.