When you are lucky enough, maybe you will meet a kind and generous person in your journey. I did. His name is Reddie. He is an experienced Malaysian bicyclist. He hosted me when I was in Nibong Tebal and he introduced me with Malaysian daily life that never been described by tourist brochures. It’s interesting.
Reddie brought me and South African’s couple walking around pottery maker, salty eggs production, nira warong, fishing market in Sungai Udang, and many more. But the most impressive for me was trekking on the palm oil plantation. It was not because of the scenery, but I knew many Indonesians work there.
Reddie told me that after harvesting season, one kilogram palm oil fruits would be sold for 9 ringgits. That’s why in the past many forest and rubber plantation owners change the tree into palm oil. More profit! And now, palm oil trees are everywhere. Even when local people talk to you about forest, they mean palm oil forest. So, all I can do just ‘Ha..ha..’
In Kuala Kurau I saw a highway that cut across palm oil area. When I turned my head left, there were worker’s huts, made from woods and iron sheeting. When I turned my head right, the palm oil plantations reach until meet the shore.
On the way to the temple, suddenly I went down from Reddie’s motorbike; want to get near the worker’s huts. I read the sign plank, ‘Sime Darby Plantation’. There were so quite. It was almost midday. Well, probably the workers was still working in the forest, collecting the fruits, or just cleaning up the plantation.
‘Once upon a time,’ Reddie said, ’there were five thousands Indian here. They worked in rubber plantation. But now as you see, they remain thirty families. Most of them moved to the city, worked in factories.’
‘Oh… that’s why many immigrant workers like Indonesian start to work here,” I reply. Reddie nodded his head.
‘Don’t worry. They get well salary. More then a thousand ringgits a month.” He smiled at me.
‘Really?’ I doubted it.
In Sabah and Sarawak, two Malaysian states in Borneo, many Indonesian work in palm oil plantation. They get around 400-500 ringgits a month. They have many problems, works in long hours, their children get no proper education, and most of them have no working permit or illegal.
I was curious about Indonesian workers there. So I walked to see a hut closer. Many clothes were hanged around one room. It looked like many people live in a hut. Then I heard the sound. Two men talked in Javanese. Then someone touched my back. “It’s time to go home,” Reddie said. I walked back, followed Reddie’s step.