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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Sunday, 14 May 2017

LIKAS BAY: The Dragon Boat Festival


A Chinese festival but celebrated by all; with zeal! This is a unique Borneo heritage that you would not find any where else in Malaysia. Other races are also waiting for this celebration with enthusiasm; for example, the Bajau from Mengkabong, Tuaran. Considered to be once a seafaring people, they now seems to accept this festival as theirs. Every year hundreds of associations from within and outside North Borneo (Sabah) took part in this wonderful event by sending their best rowers to compete in this boat race.



During the Dragon Boat Festival, thousands of people both locals and foreigners thronged Likas Bay to watch the contenders beating their drums as to help the paddlers synchronize their strokes as well as motivating them to increase the boat speed. Not only were the paddlers motivated; even the spectators were mesmerized by the warlike rhythms of the beaten drums.

The North Borneo Dragon Boat Festival are held every year in conjunction with Duan Wu. Duan Wu is a traditional holiday originating in China; occurring near the summer solstice which is on the fifth month of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. Based on the solar Gregorian calendar, it will always fall on either May or June. It is just 10 minutes drive from the Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) city center.

What is the story behind Duan Wu? Well there was a legend in ancient China that says a member of the Chu royal house, Qu, was said to oppose his king alliance with a powerful state of Qin. Because of his opposition, the king had no choice but to exile Qu. During his exile, Qu wrote a lot of poetry. Then, 28 years later, Qin betrayed and captured Ying, the Chu capital. Saddened by this incident, Qu committed suicide by drowning himself. The local people who admired him, raced out in their boat trying to rescue him or at least retrieve his body. Today, not only the people of China celebrated this festival, but even non-Chinese far away from Qu ancient homeland are enjoying and sharing the celebration. Wow! Such immortality!



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Friday, 5 May 2017

HIKING UP THE SMALL HILLS: Bukit Perahu with Liza

My club members on top of Bukit Perahu

Hello! Everyone. My name is Liza Suriana Peter. Sometime people call me Mona. Maybe due to the fact of the famous painting; Mona Lisa. I operate a fitness center at Kingfisher, about 5 miles from Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu). After those exciting aerobic session, we then drink a nutritious dietary shake and everybody is happy! Besides fitness exercises, I also like to explore my surrounding areas. To my surprise, there are many interesting places that I never heard of despite the fact they are all in our backyard! Thus me and my buddies nowadays practiced fitness as well as sightseeing.

Sunrise at Bukit Perahu
One interesting hill worth mentioning is Bukit Perahu; sometime also called Bukit Ruhiang by the locals. The reason why this hill is call Bukit Perahu maybe due to the fact that there is a huge rock up here that looks like a boat. Hence they called it Bukit Perahu or Boat Hill. Bukit Perahu is located in Tamparuli, about 45 minutes drive from Jesselton city center; provided there is no traffic jam. You can either come in the evening to see the sunset or early in the morning to see the sunrise. Your call!

Sunset and the Tamparuli Town view
Bukit Perahu is about 885 feet above sea level. It is all the way elevated. There are no flat grounds along the way for a proper rest or for you to inhale air comfortably. That means you really have to be fit climbing this hill. I am not saying it's hard; but neither is it easy. I heard paragliders used to glide down from here to the Tamparuli Town open ground. But they gave up because the flights were too brief. But the reward for reaching up is really great. The views from up here; Wow! SO COME AND JOIN US TO EXPLORE OTHER SMALL HILLS OF BORNEO.



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Wednesday, 3 May 2017

THE EURASIANS by Don Peter: REVIEW

"Betrayals, deception and corruption drive The Eurasians"
"This sprawling story shifts often from action scene to action scene"
blueink review


At last I got the review that I was waiting for! It was a mixed review from blueink  and thus for me, a mixed feeling. Waiting months for it was tense enough and finally when it came, it caught me delighted but not too satisfied (on myself). Another positive comment I got was
"The author does offer occasional skilled descriptive moments. For example, he notes that when the sea breeze blew into the needle-like leaves of the thousands of tropical pines known as Casuarinas,....the sound of the wind made beautiful rhythm."

And then came the negative feedback,
"....despite such enhancements, the story lacks a powerful narrative arc."

Lacks a powerful narrative arc! What I understand about narrative arc is a chronological construction of a plot in a novel or story. Example of a standard narrative arc; a Kung Fu student learned martial art from his wise old master. One day, the master was badly beaten and killed by a thug who also took control of his village. The student ran away but vowed revenge. He completed his training with another old master hidden deep in the mountain, came back, defeated and killed the man who murdered his master. He then restored harmony to his village.

A publishing consultant once told me they preferred looking for fiction writers outside the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand and I asked him why? He told me; those writers are predictable! Until today I am not sure how serious is he or what he actually meant but I think it got to do with the standard narrative arc just like the example I mentioned. Probably to the reviewer, I didn't follow those rules.

For example; there was nothing wrong with Raymond Johnson as he was growing up but why does he suddenly switch to become a bad guy? The story was supposed to be centered on Aaron Johnson but why was William Stewart also an important character? The plot seems flawless, yes; but yet something about the narrative is not right! I think this is the reviewer's frustration; unpredictable!

Anyway, I got a very good one by michelonline29 from ONLINE BOOK CLUB which is four out of four stars!

"While reading the book, I feel different emotions like anger, hate and love"
"The book was very entertaining, and it gave lessons to readers"
online book club




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Sunday, 23 April 2017

PARAGLIDING WITH CHRIS LAMMERT




The pilot (my cousin), Chris Lammert started paragliding since 2002. In 2007, he went to South Korea to take up a certified course from Jonathan Paragliding School under FAI. The course took one month. In 2010, he got his certification from MSAF in T2 (tandem). He is also a certified para-motor pilot, and also AFF certified Base Jumper. He started full time being a tandem pilot since 2014.

Sunset gliding
 Chris told me the most wonderful moment to fly is during the approaching sunset. But this is rare because you need a lot of luck to have this opportunity. You need a right wind speed and direction, good thermal and dynamic and of course perfect weather. On few occasions, Chris get this opportunity to bring couples gliding into this romantic scene as the sun goes down and the sky turned red and orange.


Chris preparing to fly
The paragliders preferred location is at Kokol Hill Take-Off Base, about 2800 feet above sea level. It is only about 35 minutes drive from the Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) city center and the views from up here is awesome because you could see the whole city of Jesselton and also the wide South China Sea. It takes about 10 minutes to walk from the nearest road to reach this place. Walking inside the jungle is also a unique experience especially for tourists. 


Chris Lammert can be contacted at CHRIS KOKOL PARAGLIDING or call him at +60 138645606










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Sunday, 16 April 2017

SAINT MICHAEL CHURCH OF BORNEO

St Michael Church Penampang
According to legend, the missionaries who brought Christianity to Penampang, North Borneo (Sabah) were harassed and haunted by local evil spirits. So powerful were those spirits that they have to say their rosary and seek the protection from the Archangel Michael. The devils were successfully warded off and the priests decided to name their church here as Saint Michael Church.

Inside the Saint Michael Church
Activities to bring Christianity seriously to North Borneo was started by the Mill Hill Missionary in 1886. It was led by Alexander Prenger who initially set up base in Inobong but later decided to move up to Kampong Dabak where the place was closer to the sea and the location very near to the Moyog River. In those days, rivers were the most important means of transportation. In the 1920's the number of Catholic increased in Penampang and the surrounding areas and more missionaries came to carry out their mission. In 1930, the building of the stone church began which was initiated by August Watcher. Construction was postponed because of the Second World War but the building was completed in 1947.


This church is unique because it is one of the oldest building in North Borneo and it is made from stone! I do believe not many buildings in those days were made from stone. Stone buildings were common in Europe and America but not here in Borneo. Most building materials in Borneo those days were made from timber. After the Second World War Borneo were using bricks and cement for their construction. That's why this church is historically significant.


And another unique feature of this church is that it was built on a steep hill. From the top looking downward, one could visualized the suffering of Christ like the Stations of the Cross as he struggled towards Mount Calvary. Penampang is about 15 minutes drive from the Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) city center. BLESSED GOOD FRIDAY AND THE EASTER HOLIDAY.


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