My friends from Sibu drove me to Lubuk Antu in about 3 and a half hours, through mostly jungle terrain. The appraoch can be said to be good. But it is not a reflection of the roads to the interiors of this big constituency -area wise, where many parts need to be reached by boats. We waited for the local contacts in a local market-which allowed us a good walkabout in the town. The town is a 2-street cowboy town with refreshingly new look. There are 2 `hotels’ here, with a few rooms. The streets have 1 hawkers centre each, and a number of coffee shops. While there is little sign of campaign atmosphere here-the only party flags are PKR’s, who have a operation centre just around some corners, it is certain that some shopkeeper are catching wind of the impending explosion of campaign activities here. A bowl of maggi mee which went for Rm3.60 at 9.00pm, went up to Rm4.00 by 10.30pm.
The town centre is still good in terms of internet access -the wireless modem I use is still functioning, though admittedly slower than elsewhere. I am stuck with it because landlines internet would be harder to install and secure. Judging by the usual big satellite discs that propped up behind many shop houses the town is not entirely cut off from the trends of the world-or even developments in Penisular.
Our program was a training session for observers in a almost-100 door long house, located a bit out of town. After a while the tarred road turned into gravel road. After miles and miles of travel our handphones lines went dead here. This is something to expect when coming to this part of the world! And the little communication towers of the handphone companies would be jammed beyond capacities once the campaigning pick up!
Accommodation would be scarce -with the 100 over long houses here being a last resort for many less-endowed observers/campaigners. The well-endowed ones would probably stay in nearby towns like Seri Aman and commute to Batang Ai on daily basis.
The refreshing small town certainly compare well to the drubby old Bukit Selambau town in terms of the number of new buildings. Signs of government projects are staring onto passer-bys. And the different language used here is the surest sign of the distance we had travelled.
I am sure there are many more surprises/differences that we will pick up in coming days we are here.