Saturday, 1 July 2017

BABY TURTLES OF BORNEO! (Part 1)

Baby turtles released to the sea
Aaron noticed there were not many turtle eggs sold on the open market. He couldn't find a single one. Aaron smiled. "At least the government is preventing the sale of turtle eggs," he mumbled to himself. "I'm afraid that's not so!" a voice suddenly appeared behind him. Aaron turned around an faced a British tourist. "The lack of turtle eggs is because the country run out of them, not because of government control. They don't care!" THE EURASIANS page 84.

My novel was describing a situation decades ago. At that time people consumed turtle eggs just like they were eating chicken eggs! I believed at that time people thought turtle eggs were inexhaustible. Nowadays, the constant reminder by the conservation and environmental societies through their educational programs at least made the people realized how important it is for us to protect our fellow living things. What made me marveled was these people were not urban people. They were rural dwellers and they understood the importance of conservation! I strongly believe that people should appreciate their efforts and assist them in any way they can.

Baby turtles taken out from the nursery

The nursery at Pantai Kelambu near Simpang Mengayau

The release

Success! First hurdle is over!
 It was indeed an emotional experience watching the baby turtles struggling at the beach to make way for the sea. At least, this time, humans are the one that protected them at the beach as they dashed towards the water and 100% of them got away. But in the sea, they are on their own. There is nothing much we human could do but hope. At least there are no casualties on the beach. Naturally, they will face precarious problems on the beach such as predators which include crabs and sea birds. Even harmless footprints could be an obstacle to them. Turtles are cold-blooded reptiles characterized by a special bony shell developed around their body.


PLEASE CLICK BABY TURTLES OF BORNEO
to watch on YouTube








The first English romance-thriller from Borneo
AVAILABLE AT AMAZON OR BARNES & NOBLE

Monday, 26 June 2017

PARAGLIDING IN BORNEO: Mid Year Flight


Towering high over the coastal plain of Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) is indeed an awesome experience; the scarred greenery (unfortunately), the city, the South China Sea can be seen as we glide higher and higher. The mid-year flights are the best because of the ideal wind speed blowing from the west which created a dynamic that pushed the wing upward. Most of the time it rains around this time and the sunny shine next day would heat up the ground creating thermal bubbles that also helps paragliders to gain more heights and thus extend their distance and time.


 North Borneo (Sabah) has many things to offer and one of them is paragliding at KOKOL HILL. The hill is about 45 minutes drive from the city center. Besides paragliding, this hill offers other scenery for travelers. Paragliding is a recreational adventure sport. It is lightweight, foot-launched free flying with no rigid structure. The pilot (and the passenger) sits on the harness suspended below a fabric wing.


I always say "flying would set you free" because you are gliding so high without the constrains of an airplane. Sometimes I feel like I am dreaming; just seating on the harness thousands of feet above the ground. It is scary at first, but later you will feel wonderful. Missing this experience when visiting Borneo is a big mistake. Anyway, I really thanks my cousin Chris Lammert for encouraging me to "fly" above Jesselton.




For me information about paragliding
PLEASE CONTACT  CHRIS KOKOL PARAGLIDING OR TRIP ADVISOR MALAYSIA







The first English romance-thriller from Borneo
AVAILABLE AT AMAZON OR BARNES & NOBLE

Monday, 5 June 2017

LABUAN: Hope for the Ocean?

Tugboats idling in Labuan 
On June 5, the world celebrated the World Environment Day. Such a day was created just to remind us that the world is living in a precarious situation; destruction of the forest, many species of plants and animals became extinct and of course ecological danger to the ocean because of over-fishing, fish bombing, oil spill, plastic pollution and global warming.

Victoria, the island capital
The island of Labuan too face these problems. To her west, is the vastness of the South China Sea. Not only her ecology is threatened, but her front door too. China had claimed almost half of all the sea based on a so called demarcation line called the Nine Dash Line. Arrogantly, they bulldozed their way by building bases on artificial reefs ignoring the sovereignty of other nations which also claimed the sea.

At first I was horrified by the attitude of the Chinese. Then, my point of view about them changed when the Chinese introduced Fishing Moratorium banning on fishing in all their national water including Bohai Sea, Yellow Sea and also South China Sea. Total ban was imposed except for conventional angling. The ban started from May and lasted until September. Many of my friends told me that buying fish from the market produced a new surprise; eggs found in fish! For decades this was a rare phenomena in Borneo. Maybe it got to do with the moratorium. It seems the Chinese were more decisive then the other Southeast Asian governments having access to this sea.

Recently, a new discovery was made not far from Labuan; the Vernon Bank. Labuan could well be the next underwater paradise for scuba divers from all over the world with more unique dive sites being discovered, including Vernon Bank according to Bernama reporter, Jailani Hassan.

The new dive sites has its own uniqueness compared with other internationally renowned dive sites. Vernon Bank was stated in the old British Admiralty Charts and Publication. The site have a number of rare marine species such as porcelain crabs and Bubble Goby. It is akin to a huge underwater atoll split into different levels.

The discovery was indeed timely. For a time being, the Chinese moratorium will be protecting the marine life in this sea. If this is China's attitude, why not let China runs the whole Pacific Ocean? I am serious; provided they are willing to impose ban on fishing for certain periods. Why not? Only then, they will be hope for our marine life. 



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Thursday, 1 June 2017

LABUAN: The Diving Site

Sea surrounding Labuan during sunset
"William brought Andy out to the sea, where a professional diver guided them to see two sunken ships. The watery tomb was now home to various species of marine life, especially century-old grouper fish which flocked together. After all Labuan was located in the South China Sea, which was home to endemic tropical marine life not seen anywhere else. On the boat, the diver told William and Andy that what they were seeing might not last another fifty years, so this is the best time to see it. He explained that overfishing and fish bombing would destroy the ecological balance unless the government put a stop to these activities. William looked at Andy. Andy looked away."

From THE EURASIANS page 250

I was talking about the two sunken ships, SS De Klerk (Australian wreck in 1942) and USS Salute (American wreck in 1943). It used to be an interesting diving site and indeed full of grouper fish. It was near the three beautiful islands; Kuraman, Rusukan Kecil and Rusukan Besar. These islands were gazetted as the Labuan Marine Park. Surrounding these islands are coral reefs stretching miles out in all directions.

Sadly, covering most of the island beaches are dead corals that look like bones. These beaches looks white and coarse because of the grinded dead corals littering the sea. Most probably this is due to human activities such as fish bombing which is still ongoing or due to the effect of oil spills. After all, Labuan is considered one of the biggest hub for the oil and gas industry. These islands are about 14 kilometer from Labuan capital, Victoria

Victoria Harbor in Labuan
  There used to be abundant of fish in Labuan. My late maternal grandfather used to tell me just half and hour in the sea, he could fill one keranjang (big basket) full of fish. Because of rare interaction with people, lobsters and grouper fish were friendly and playful when they encountered humans; and they were plentiful. Nowadays, they are few and difficult to find because of unrestricted fishing and trawling activities. Seafood restaurants could be considered one of the factors that fueled the demand for these depleting marine life. So... yes in 50 years time, told by the diver to William and Andy, all these will be gone!    


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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

TADAU KAAMATAN of North Borneo


Every year, the organizing and activities of the Tadau Kaamatan gets more colorful, interesting and exciting. So, if a visitor had came the previous year, he will not be disappointed coming back next year or the year after. Thousands of people; locals and foreigners came here to watch the cultural beauty of the Borneo natives. There are more than 250 ethnic and sub-ethic groups in North Borneo (Sabah) alone. I think there would be thousands for the whole of Borneo. Sarawak natives are also celebrating around this period. They call their celebration Gawai Festival; roughly the same meaning and theme as Tadau Kaamatan.


Tadau Kaamatan literally means Harvest Festival. As we all know, harvest festivals are celebrated all over the world with strong connection to bountiful harvests and also thanking God and the spirits for being graceful. Each country had their own unique way of celebrating but the theme would definitely be the same; dancing, music and wine.





The Tadau Kaamatan is actually celebrated throughout North Borneo districts and villages starting on the first month of May. Then all these celebrations will culminate towards the grand Harvest Festival at the end of May at Hongkod Koisan, Penampang, a 15 minute drive from Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) city center. The Hongkod Koisan is a building which symbolize the cultural capital of the North Borneo natives.


As I mentioned before, the celebration is colored by dance (sumazau) and music (using gong and bamboo instrument such as simpoton), followed by tasting and enjoying the rice wine called Tapai or Lihing. In the olden days the wine were kept in tajau (clay jar). The highlight of the celebration will be the crowning of the Harvest Festival Queen called Unduk Ngadau who will fascinate every onlookers! To learn more about North Borneo, PLEASE CLICK THE SABAH TOURISM BOARD.



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Sunday, 21 May 2017

BORNEO: Rape of the Environment

Forest being cleared on the hill
Destruction of mangrove forest
"When I was young, after it rained, my house would be swarmed by millions of frogs. big and small. It was like a plague of Egypt. Nowadays, I have to search thoroughly, leaving no stone unturned, just to find a few small frogs...."
"That's because the government didn't stop the developers from clearing and filling wetlands. To them, wetlands are wastelands. How many local and endemic species, which might be unique and endangered, will be lost forever..."
"They cut timber as if it were grass..."
"The rivers are polluted, the plains are flooded, and the weather patterns are changing..."
From THE EURASIANS page 215

Towards the middle chapters, environment is the backdrop of my novel, THE EURASIANS.The story started in 1963 and ends up in 1998. That were decades ago, and all over Borneo, the tropical forests were destroyed at an alarming rate. Not even the marine life were spared. Over fishing by foreign trawlers swept every creatures crossing their parts; immigrants from neighboring countries introduced fish bombing as an easy way to catch fish thus destroying the delicate coral reefs.

I thought that was the past. Nowadays the government and societies of Borneo are supposed to be more aware of the importance of their environment. Sadly, as we go out of our houses, we still see massive hill clearing disregarding the unique vegetation such as monkey cups and clearing acres and acres of mangrove swarms to give way for housing developments and also prawn farming.

The latest news I read in the press is that the government had awarded a company to harvest trees from the forest reserve of Trus Madi. Mount Trus Madi is the second highest mountain in Borneo; about 9000 feet above sea level. It should be a UNESCO Heritage site. It is the home to the Pitcher Plant. Where will their next site be? The Crocker Range? The North Borneo (Sabah) Tourism Board are actively promoting visitors to come and see beautiful Borneo. To see what? Cleared forest and mangrove swarms? Fin-less sharks? Destroyed coral reefs?

Concern local citizens are actually so helpless. Our voices are simply being ignored. We need more efforts from people around the globe to voice their concerns because in a long run, the destruction of Borneo natural environments will eventually comes to haunt them too.


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Monday, 15 May 2017

LIKAS BAY: Chakoi the Chinese doughnut!


These Chakoi are delicious! It's crispy, not oily and hot. I stumbled upon it during the Dragon Boat Festival at Likas Bay. It looks so appealing that I bought three "pairs" on the spot and within minutes finished all of them! When I was a small kid, Chakoi used to be sold everywhere; especially in any Hainanese coffee shops and also in wet markets. Nowadays it seems quite difficult to find them until I found it here at the festival. This stall was operated by the Euro Bakery and their Chakoi is good.


Chakoi originated from China where it is call Youtiao. Basically it is a Chinese cruller or Chinese oil stick. It is in fact a Chinese doughnut. Chakoi spread out to Taiwan, Vietnam and then throughout Southeast Asia following the Chinese diaspora during the 1800's and early 1900's. Actually it is known as Char Kway in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia but since large number of other races also make this doughnut, it is conveniently called Chakoi. Chakoi used to be Southeast Asian Chinese cuisines normally taken with soy milk and rice porridge during breakfast.

For a Chinese, Kway or Qui or Kui means ghost or devil. The Taiwanese call this food Cha Kui. The Cantonese call them Yau Ja Gway; which literally mean oil-fried devil! According to ancient Chinese folklore, Chakoi was made as an act of protest against a hated official of the Song Dynasty, Qin Hui. The reason Chakoi could be easily split in two (because it is lightly made) was to represent it with Qin Hui and his wife! Indeed this is a tasty little devil!



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