Monday, March 18, 2013

Borneo Week

It was last minute, but I'm glad I made it to Sarawak. Borneo is just amazing. Many times this week I felt like I'd stepped into Jurassic Park. The jungle is loud and enormous and teeming and also vaguely threatening. Well, sometimes it's just plain threatening, with all its pit vipers and leeches and millipedes and crocodiles. I never saw the latter, but there were big signs posted at the entrance to Bako National Park warning of crocodile attacks (rangers assured me all trails were safe, just don't wander off toward any brackish water...)

I'm not going to make it to Sabah (although most the state is safe, I was rather deterred by this little invasion...), I fly to Vietnam tomorrow, but I do think I'll be back. There's so much to be explored and the wildlife is incredible. I hiked to a beach and swam in the warmest ocean water I've ever experienced,  I walked through some of the world's biggest caves, I saw orangutans, proboscis monkeys, kingfishers, silvery lutung and all kinds of creepy crawlies. I was nipped (not hard) in the knee by a baby bearded pig and a macaque stole the curried chicken off my plate literally right from under my nose. We'd been warned about thieving monkeys, but I'd spent all day hiking and figured I'd eat too fast for anyone to steal my food - I was wrong. I don't think my photos quite do it all justice, but I'll get some up eventually. Unfortunately, I'm not sure what the upload/Internet speed situation will be in Vietnam.

This week I read a couple issues of The Borneo Post. There was a police blotter item, a woman reported the theft of a bra because she was afraid whoever stole it would use it for black magic. The paper said the woman became aware of the theft when her daughter told her the bra was missing. Me thinks: teenage girls + losing clothes... I'm not sure I see anything sinister there.

It was laughable how obviously the newspaper was the ruling party's mouthpiece (they've been running things for 50+ years). Elections are coming up and one article had a photo of Malaysians holding welfare coupons. The article was all about how well the party has been doing everything. And one official was quoted as saying something like "this welfare isn't an election gimmick, we gave the welfare last year too when there was no election." But then the next day there was another election lead up article, with more mention of these welfare coupons. Another article said officials weren't worried about the opposition trying to buy votes, since it was just an indication of their desperation. Still another article mainly consisted of quotes from an official advising media to be careful about spreading untrue rumors spread by the opposition on social media. 

Other interesting news items: Someone in the government said they needed a thorough survey to root out Shi'ite teachers who may be influencing Malaysian muslims (whom are mostly Sunni). Another article was about finding and punishing clerics who were openly campaigning for the opposition party, which I guess they aren't allowed to do since they're employed by the government. 

Next stop: Saigon!

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