Monthly Archives: July 2010

31Jul2010

The 7 Link Challenge

links

The 7 Link Challenge is a piece of interweb genius that originates with Problogger. And, my lord, is it challenging. The aim? To find six posts from your back catalogue, and one from someone else’s, in seven different categories, and expose to the light of day some of the good stuff that otherwise just lurks […]

30Jul2010

The Coolest Fairground Worker Ever?

Illuminated fairground entrance with the legend UK Funfair, Bintulu, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia.

Of all the places in which to find a “UK Funfair”, complete with British registration plates on the lorries, Bintulu, Sarawak, would come pretty low on my list. Thailand? Quite possibly. Peninsular Malaysia? Conceivably. Borneo? Nuh-uh. Now, the nine year old and I love funfairs. The neon. The colour. The adrenaline rush. The cheesy music. […]

29Jul2010

The Big Race

Men from the Kayan tribal minority of Borneo carry a 32-man war canoe down to the Balui River.

Watching two women’s eights, one women’s sixteen, and a mighty war canoe paddled by thirty-two men powering their way up the Balui River in the interior of Borneo, with a cox yelling instructions through a megaphone, has to count as one of the most surreal experiences of our travels so far. Training for the Sarawak […]

28Jul2010

The Vanishing Forest

Three platforms laden with forest timber plough their way down the Batang Rejang, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia.

Some things, simply, look too big, too plentiful to ever be used up. The herds of bison that clouded the American plains; the trees of Easter Island; the ice sheets of the Arctic; the world’s great rainforests… But a trip up the Batang Rejang, the Amazon of Borneo, which runs from its estuary on the […]

26Jul2010

The City Slicker

asun and mimi

Asun and Mimi sit in a cafe off the waterfront in Belaga, a town of 2500 souls and the major trading hub of great swathes of Sarawak rainforest, a hundred and fifty-odd miles upriver from the coast of Malaysian Borneo. “Chinese wedding?! No!!!” Asun exclaims. “Chinese wedding, one day, you have one table, cost 350 […]

21Jul2010

Women of the Woods

Orangutan mother cradling her one year old child: Semanggoh Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia

The Malay name orang utan means “man of the forest”, and, after a visit to the Semanggoh Orang Utan Centre, it’s easy to see why. 30-ish kilometres outside Kuching, Sarawak, Semanggoh is, technically, am Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center. Not some kind of, erm, “rest facility” for the Lindsay Lohans of the primate world. But a […]

21Jul2010

Orangutans and Betel Juice

362135_gambierbooch1

They say you learn something new every day. And today I learn that gambier, AKA catechu, is a common ingredient used by Asians in chewing betel. Which nice for me, nice for my mother, and absolutely blinding news for the staff of any museums in our path across Malaysia. At the Penang Museum there are […]

20Jul2010

The Man who Mistook his Capital for a Cat

Astana, the fortress-like state residence of the Governor of Sarawak, illuminated at night, reflecting in the Sarawak River. Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia.

This is Astana, the little place which James Brooke, the first “White Rajah” of Sarawak, built for himself in his capital, Kuching (“Cat”). A Victorian adventurer somewhat in the mould of George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman, James Brooke spent his inheritance on a schooner, The Royalist. He stuffed it with cannons; crewed it with sailors who […]

19Jul2010

In Which the Family Dines in Considerable Style

It was my Dad who said it first. “That singer,” he whispered, over the sound of a particularly special Malaysian band. “Is she actually a man?” He is, I realise, very possibly still scarred from my parents’ last trip out to join us on our travels. That was the Philippines. A nation where he couldn’t […]

18Jul2010

Buddhism: the Planet’s Whipping Boy?

It’s often said, generally by Christians of the scary-to-very-scary variety, that folk can be far ruder about Christianity than any of the world’s “great religions” and get away with it. Now, when it comes to what my ma used to call “the People of the Book” but now terms “the Sky God religions”, this may […]