Tabi basa and greetings friends and family,
On this beautiful Thursday, I want to share about my mini adventure to a place close to my work area, which is at Lutong. Sarawak, as all of you know, is a land full of its own stories and tales, where to cover all of the area in Sarawak is an equally challenging and exciting adventure on its own. However, today, inspired by the things that I have saw and experienced on my own, the topic of my story is about “bubuk” or its English name, shrimp.
Introduction to Bubuk
When I talk about “bubuk”, I am sure all of you know because this thing is quite famous and well-known throughout the region. Just like how Rantau Abang in Terengganu is famous for its turtles, Miri (and Bintulu) is famous for its bubuk. I keep on typing bubuk because it is the best word to describe it. The word shrimp doesn’t have an emotional touch because it reminds me to whale’s food.
Bubuk’s scientific name is Acetes intermedius and Acetes indicus, where the name Acetes belongs to the group of small shrimp that has the length of around 1 to 4 cm. These little things are the main ingredient of “belacan” (shrimp paste). Bintulu’s Belacan, made from bubuk is highly sought after, and that on its own deserved another topic of discussion as it is quite a detailed and intricate process.
Thursday Bubuk Market Story
Bubuk market place at Miri is usually at the Pondok Area, at Jalan Lutong-Kuala Baram, which is only comes alive when bubuk season is around the corner. To know more about bubuk, I pay a visit to the place and noticed that there is a lot of people over there. Usually, there is much more, but today’s crowd is not too bad as well. There is always market for bubuk, and I can see a mix of peoples there – from Ibans, Kedayan, Orang Ulu to the local Malays. I think I am the only Bidayuh guy there. Anway, doesn’t matter – we’re all Sarawakians, so I used our favourite mother tongue, except when I am certain that the person I am talking to is an Iban. Then I will switch to “jaku Iban’.
When I was there, I noticed a group of photographer/videographer in a white van. Out of curiosity, when my inner photojournalist took control, I managed to spoke to one of them, who would like to be called Arif, from Raku and Roll group. I learned from Arif that they doing coverage about Miri Bubuk, which will be aired in Miri before Ramadhan, i.e. sometime around April this year. His buddy seems to be occupied, so I do not disturb him carrying out his job. Instead, I took few shots of him and the other bubuk-buyers gathering around the newly-arrived bubuk stock, which was just landed onshore. I am in for a good luck today.
After she was no longer busy, I approached her to know more about bubuk. She introduced herself as Sanisah. Kak Sanisah can’t recall when she first started doing bubuk business, and that means she has been doing this for a very long time already. Well, it is in the family. From her, I learned quite a lot about bubuk, which I will explain later.
Miri Bubuk Market
Miri Bubuk Market concentrates around the shoreline areas, where Lutong is one of the most active, as it also attracts customers from Brunei, who is willing to cross border just to get a supply of fresh bubuk. Bubuk market at Pondok area, next to Sribima Maritime Traininc Centre (SMTC) is only alive when it is bubuk season. There is no exact date when bubuk season is, but according to Kak Sanisah, it is after Chinese New Year and ends around a month later, when the sea picks up and winds are getting stronger. Even now, as we speak, every day Mirians can sense that the wind is getting stronger, which signals the end-days of Miri bubuk season.
I also learned from there that there are two types of bubuk, red and white bubuk. The red bubuk is no longer available at Miri shoreline recently, but there are reports on red bubuk sightings at Bintulu. To make it clear, I sketched what I heard in the form of pictures for ease of understanding. Red bubuk is better, but it is also more difficult to catch and only available at the earlier part of bubuk season. As the bubuk season draws closer to the end, white bubuk is easier to find and it is cheaper, around RM 7~8 per kg, where red bubuk costs about RM8~9 per kg. However, I heard that bubuk price reaches about RM30 per kg. That is one of a craziest price that I have heard.
To start with bubuk, one needs to have their own “bubuk boat’, which costs around RM7~8k. In the past, bubuk fisherman uses wood to fabricate their own boats. However, as time goes by, cheaper and safer alternative material, fibre are widely used because it is safer and does not sink straightaway whenever bubuk boat hits the seabed or rock as it has emergency floatation mechanism in the middle of the boat. That boat is usually maned by 3-4 person, though using 2 crews are possible.
To catch these bubuks, there are plenty of tricks. However, the one that was revealed to me was the “sobor” method, which is using the front net as you can see in the image below. That is the tool used to cateh the red bubuk which is floating near the surface of the sea.
Another method is to use the beam trawl, where this method is used by the fiherman to catch the white bubuk. Beam trawl is the net that is being casted at the sides of their boat, and slowly it is drawn to catch more bubuk. Another method that is used at the earlier days of bubuk is “lengkung” or “purse-seine” net, utilising multiple boats. This sometimes can yield up to 10 trays of bubuk, each easily contains RM500 worth of bubuk,
The biggest challenges of this bubuk industry is season. It is something that only happens once in a year. Therefore, they have to make full use of the time as much as possible. Weather is also another thing that affects the fisherman. If the weather is bad, then they cannot go to the sea as it dangerous for the small boat. Furthermore, bubuk is hard to come by in bad weather. Also, it is about marketing. A lot of people were not happy with the price, but otherwise, the bubuk fisherman and family will not be earning much as it is not an easy task for them to catch it. It is all abotu supply and demand, and RM7~8 / kg seems to be sitting nicely at the sweet spot.
To conclude this story of bubuk, I am quite proud to be able to cover this story although it is a short duration. Thank to the ladies and gentlemen who entertained me while I was doing this “photojournalistic” job at Lutong. Should you have any other nice and interesting story that you would like me to cover, do let me know. Thank you!
Photography Gears Used
In this blog, I am using my favourite gears, my Leica M10-P black and APO-Summicron 50mm as it is the smallest gears in my set-up, and it fits nicely with Leica’s theme, of being nice and discreet. My advise is, if you want to buy these kind of items, be it Profoto or Leica, don’t talk about it to someone else and just go buy it. Otherwise, if you delay it, you will not be buying because 1) you will talk yourself out of it, or 2) someone else will, or 3) you will use that capital for something else. Either way, just don’t be a victim of G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome). Just buy the thing that can last a long time. In that way, you will buy that item and will not waste long hours reading reviews, which is an even greater loss because unlike money, time cannot be gained back.
There is something about Leica that I am always passionate to tell about to others. For me, I just love to be part of the history of Leica. Period. Of course, there is a lot of camera gears out there that comes with its own bells and whistles, that can do ultra-fast frame rate, that has blazing speed auto-focus, but none can give the experience that my Leica M gave. Only Leica can fill the vacuum in every Leica M shooters. That probably is another reason why I never bought any SL because all I want is an M. For me, M9 is good. I love the colour. However, after 10 years, it requires an upgrade. Having skipped M240, I opt for M10 instead. I never regretted it. It is like an M9 on steroid, with a permanent effect. M cameras are small too. It is dicreet enough to be carried here and there. Some might argue point and shoot like Ricoh GRIII is the best, but for me, M gave the best experience. To each their reasons, I do love my M.
The thing about using a manual camera, or any other camera, we need to teach our camera how do we see the final images. Our perception has an auto-correction that is done real time, such as auto-colour temperature adjustment, auto aperture control or even auto-ISO control, which makes our eye as the best photography tool ever existed, and inspired the birth of many cameras. That is why we do final touch-up in our post-processing, because, for various reasons, the camera did not managed to produce the image that we see in our mind. Hence, need to tweak it a little bit. But not too much though, otherwise it will look fake.
Your Tukang Rantek,
Claudius Weson a.k.a Del
Note: Claudius Weson is a “tukang rantek” (photographer in Bidayuh Pichin) based in Miri, mainly doing portraiture (indoor / studio / outdoor photoshoot), weddings and event photography.
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