Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The sad thing about Kuching Waterfront

THE Kuching Waterfront — ah yes, the scenic attraction and ‘must walk’ for anyone who visits this little city of cats. Undoubtedly, the waterfront has some amazing sights, especially if one were to walk along it in a clear starry night.

The sight of the Astana across the river lighted up, the little handicrafts stalls that line part of the waterfront, the convenient drinks and food stalls where one can have a seat and chat with friends and the little twinkling lights from the kampungs across the river add to the romantic and laid back ambiance of the waterfront.

If you’re lucky, you will catch a spectacular sunset with the Astana in the forefront. If you’re the adventurous and curious type, you may find yourself lured by the calls of traders promoting aphrodisiacs of sorts (including Gambir Sarawak).

As much as Kuchingites make it a point to steer their out of town guests to a walk along the waterfront, they will also point out to “watch your pockets/handbags”. There have been just too many cases of snatch theft cases along the waterfront. One too many fights and the occasional fatality, even with the waterfront police on duty. Stoners who lurk in the corners of the Waterfront give those who want to take a relaxed stroll the creeps and make them think twice before doing so.

One unique aspect of the Waterfront is that one can get a crash course in the history of Sarawak just by walking along from end to end and reading the historical-walk plates that are placed on the ground. Unfortunately some of the drinks stall owners have placed their tables and chairs over these history plates, making it almost impossible for one to get a full picture of our history.

Just not too long ago, the Eye brought a friend from overseas for a walk along the waterfront. Armed with a camera, he happily started taking photos of each of the plates. As we reached the row of food stalls, we discovered that our history lesson was cut short. As we scoured the path for the remaining plates, we discovered that they were under the tables of these food stalls. The Eye actually had to approach some of the locals who were having their drinks with a sheepish grin and saying “sorry ngaco tapi boleh tolong gerak sikit sik? Kamek orang nak ambik gambar plate debah ya…” (sorry to disturb, but can you please move a little? We want to take photos of the plates under there).

Then there’s the issue of cleanliness. If you recall, the Eye once wrote about an encounter with the little rats that performed acrobatic stunts around these stalls and successfully turned away some tourists who happened to go by there.

Ideally, the waterfront would be a great place to take a jog or have a family evening out. There is a children play area around the corner from the Chinese Museum. Over the years, the Eye has noticed that the brightly coloured play area has gone from reds, greens and blues to gray and black. It seems like the play area is now an incubator for moss and goodness knows what other microbial beings. Just check out the soft mats that line the play area!

There are now plans to extend the Waterfront. The traders at the old market have been shifted to another location after a whole lot of brouhaha. The Eye and a friend took a walk in the empty market a couple of weeks back, reminiscing the days, where as a child, the Eye was sent on errands with orders to “beli sayur dan ikan kat sia” (go buy vegetables and fish). The solid stone slabs that were used to display the trade wares now seem so low as compared to when Eye was a child. There are also solid stone pillars at the back of the market which remind the Eye of the Old Kuching.

The Eye’s friend casually commented “they have enough problems trying to maintain the cleanliness and security along existing waterfront…now they want to have it extended up to here. I hope they will buck up and do a good job out of it, considering the all trouble so many parties went through just to have the market relocated.”

Eye think he had a point. We know who he referred to as ‘they’. What say you?



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