Roughly 60km from Mukah lies a small town that is full of juxtapositions and contradictions that it truly epitomises the spirit of 1Malaysia: no matter rich or poor, we both can live together.
On one hand, there are old wooden kampong houses like this dotting the riverside; this one looks as if it’s on the verge of jumping into the cool inviting river for a swim.
On the other hand, there’s these big factories so modern that it looks like a foreign body being wrongly transplanted here due to someone mistakenly interpreting the Sarawak map wrongly.
Balingian looks and feels like a sleepy hollow, with its row of 1960s wooden cowboy style shop-houses right by the river- an exact carbon copy of other little towns in Sarawak right to the ubiquitous Chinese temple. Occupants were seen lounging on wooden chairs, reading newspapers and bantering with their neighbours.
There’s also a new bazaar, but it bore semblance to a dead town – concrete buildings that had more swallows around it that humans. Most of the shoplots were unoccupied or closed – the one ones open this Sunday morning were a couple of coffee shops.
However be warned, despite its another-village-next-door unassuming facade, Balingian is literally an underdog powerhouse - home to a Metal factory, Aluminium factory and Coal factory. The polluting impacts of these factories on the pristine village are stuffs of urban legend – stories of dying yellowing trees and shrouding smokes that lives up to Balingian’s Chinese translation - 万里烟 (Ten thousand miles of smoke) filled coffeehouses chats in Mukah. Yet to my disappointment, throughout the whole road to Balingian, the only scenery greeting me were green trees and clear air.
Besides these factories, there are also some high class condominiums puncturing the continuous roadside greeneries. But instead of serving as dwellings for humans, these are condos for swallows. Bird nest is a huge business around Mukah. But i did wonder how does the caretakers and builders and villages living in dilapidated wooden houses with attap roofs nearby felt about their high class neighbours living in brick and concrete condos… Such was the difference between the haves and have nots…
This is Balingian’s Health Clinic.
Some patients having hypertension and diabetes follow-ups here had to go all the way to Mukah (to see me) for their medications because they do not have any pharmacy dispensers here. From today onwards I guess I won’t give them any more IOUs after seeing the distance they had to cover and the obvious lack of public transport. I guess this is called going down the field to step into the shoes of patients. =)