Kapit surprises me pleasantly in so many exciting ways.
There are so many public telephones all well fixed to the shophouse posts along the five foot way. And I tried everyone of them. All of them were in good working conditions!
The Public Phone is Kapit's lifeline to the outside world as it is 150 miles inland along the Rajang River. Although it is situated more 500 feet above sea level a flash flood can inundate the whole town up to four feet. Most of the five foot ways are actually about 3 feet above the road level.
Kapit is a town of extremes.
Our first evening was full of memorial moments as I have not been there since 1968 which may seem like a century ago to many. Yes I can say that I was really in Kapit last century!! I was there as a young bubbling girl with rich bright and black hair and starried eyed to perform in a play. I was in love with life and ready to conquer the world.I had everything in my hands or so it seemed. Life was good and I was at the top of the world. I wanted to be like Tom Dooley ready to go and save the world. But then some how disaster struck and I went to U and became part of the common world. It seemed as if life took me to a fork on a road and I had to choose. Robert Frost could not be more right.
Kapit was just a small bustling town then perhaps with only two rows of new concrete shop houses and the rest old wooden double storeyed Chinese shophouses built in the 1920's.
Today the town remains the typical square in shape with probably 1.5 km x 1.5 km of built up modern concretized area .
It is really busy by day or by night. Very busy by day as the population swells by more than 5 times when the expresses and boats and Hiluxes come in from the timber camps and longhouses! It is really a sea of people moving shoulder to shoulder!
Then there is the market which teems with all the jungle produce and frozen food. You cannot imagine the big range of food on display unless you see it. I do not think you can find a supermarket in any part of the world which can display such a variety. I bought a homemade honey wax candle for 5 ringgit. At the other end of the range there was an Empurau (best fish in the world I must say) which weighed in at 10 kg. The price - heart stopping no doubt - at RM 7000. Take it or leave.
I took a photo of it and the fishmonger lost interest in me as a consumer! He had that look in the face and eyes -" I was a loser"! Nope I need that money to educate my son.
taxi driver told me that "no need to say Kapit has too many rich people of all races". Almost all the Hilux and pickups are owned by Ibans. The West Malaysian cikgus drive Toyotas and Kancils and park in every possible car parking lots in the town. The shops of course are obviously owned by the Chinese who have prospered here for more than five generations.
Food is terribly pricey here for a small town. A good bowl of "se pe shall" (special) Mee Hoon Soup is RM6.00 served by Indonesian waitresses. Kampua without meat is RM2.20 at another stall can be brought to you by a pretty Iban girl. We had a reasonably priced Deep Fried Roti Canai at RM2.00 each prepared by a soft and gentle Malay proprietor.
Mobile and Internet Connectivity with the outside world is difficult because of the mountainous nature of the valley. Upriver and ordinary longhouse folks do not need handphones (which are rendered useless in the ulu) if they are not involved in business or the professions. Also Yamaha generators which supply almost 100% of the electricity to the longhouses here can destroy Nokia or any other branded headphones easily when charging.
To make things simple the longhouse folks just come to Kapit to make public phone calls to the rest of the world. I think Telekom Malaysia has done a wonderful job! And Syabas to the Kapit people for being so public spirited - no public phone vandalism in view!!