Marudi timber trade fuels local economic boom in the 70s and 80s. But the timber companies have since closed as all the primary forest have been logged and planted with oil palm. The population of this town has dwindled to less than 5,000 now, crippling the town’s economy and its pride. However, the legacy was constantly reminded.
Timber was the staple of Marudi trade for much of the 70s and 80s. Fueled by world demand, the timber trade brought immigration and fostered economic development, which transformed regional environment far more radically. However, the heavily depended on timber to fuel its economic boom has ended as most of the timber was harvested.
The timber industry seems to be blamed for business being slow and the streets in this town are quiet. New commercial and housing development have come to a standstill.
While the Baram Regatta which held once in three years is the biggest gathering of people in the Baram River basin, started since the peace-making treaty to end tribal wars some 115 years back. It has always been attractive, upgrades and added programs and events activities such as cultural performances, traditional sports competition, Baram Idol, eauty pageants, exhibitions and many more have made the area a draw in itself for tourists to the festival.
Baram Regatta has its social and historical significance. It was first held in Claude Town (Marudi) from the 9th to 10th April 1899, marking the great peacemaking on the 3rd of the regatta.
Charles Brooke believed that the Baram Regatta would be a solution to their predicament, having hosted the first regatta, the Sarawak Regatta in Kuching in January 1871; Rajah Brooke mooted the idea and decided to promote it to the tribes living in the interior.
The controversial idea was conceived by Marudi British Resident Charles Hose who wanted to find a solution to end tribal conflicts and head-hunting activities among the various ethnic groups in the Baram district.
Charles Hose realized that with the exception of the Penans, all other tribes in Borneo utilize rivers extensively to traverse and to create boundaries as they expand their lands. The idea was taken on eagerly and soon felling of large forest trees was seen and war boats were carved from a single tree trunk, normally from the “engkabang” tree that could seat 30 warriors.
The tree trunk was normally hollowed out with the use of fire and adze. Its masthead was shaped into a head of the majestic hornbill, given that the hornbill is highly revered in the Orang Ulu culture, regarded as a vessel for the spirits to communicate with the people.
The great peace marked an end to subjugation by the Madang; Kayans (Upper Rejang) and Lirong (Ulu Tinjar) of the Kayan and Kenyah of Ulu Baram. The focus of the celebration was to forge peace among the people and loyalty to the Government, pledged by every rival group leaders before the Resident Claude.
Hence, the event has over the years transformed into an event that allows visitors and locals to have the opportunity to experience the authentic rich cultural and historical heritage of Baram.
Marudi is famous for three things:
i. Lai Lai Coffee Shop Marudi Char Kueh Tiaw has claimed the title of the town’s best Char Kueh Tiaw since it opened many years back. It’s next to Mount Mulu Hotel. This is the original homemade Kueh Tiaw fried with bean sprouts and egg. The Kueh Tiaw is thicker that give the noodles a stronger bite. This is the difference between a handmade and a machine made. To serve, place a fried egg on top of the Char Keuh Tiaw. It’s simply delicious.
ii. Marudi freshly and fragrant baked Bread, a remnant of the White Colonial Days. Most people order loaves of bread to bring back to Miri or other parts of Sarawak whenever they make a stopover in Marudi. This special bread is made by the Phang family and the texture of the bread is reminiscent of the bread made by the Colonial Officers who enjoyed their English breakfast and afternoon teas. It has a special shape and most government officers continue to have some toasts every day in the shop.
iii. Tapah Fish, the river catfish locally known as ‘Ikan Tapah’ or its scientific name Wallago attu. It was common for the dwellers to catch 100 to 150 fish each spawning season from November to December. The fish could range in weight from 5 to 30 kg. Big ‘tapah’ fish are sold at RM40 per kg while the smaller ones are sold at RM30 per kg.
Mount Mulu Hotel