Tuesday, 13 March 2018

JESSELTON: The gateway to Borneo


Fountain at Gaya Street at the heart of Jesselton


It seems it is a normal occurrence for fishermen to butcher giant stingrays and sharks in front of horrified tourists in the east coast of North Borneo. These news often goes viral and finally caught the attention of the state authority. They became upset and issued a directive; IN FUTURE NO TOURISTS ARE ALLOWED TO GET CLOSE TO FISHERMEN SITES! Huh???
So? What about those stingrays and sharks? Anyway... no more sad stories for a time being.

Jesselton's Lok Kawi Zoo


JESSELTON, THE CAPITAL of North Borneo, had a population of approximately five hundred thousand people. It had some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and islands. The most famous were Pulau Gaya and Pulau Tiga. Both of these islands were national park. Within two hours after enjoying the sunny beaches there, visitors could reach the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, Mount Kinabalu. They could spend the night there and enjoy the temperate coolness.                                                                   THE EURASIANS Chapter 19, Page 74

Kota Kinabalu and Sabah used to have beautiful name. Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying the names we have now are not good. It’s just that the older names are more nostalgic and historical; more appealing to promote overseas. Nowadays many tour companies here used the old names to sound more enchanting; Jesselton Waterfront, North Borneo Express and so on. Kota Kinabalu used to be called Jesselton; in honor of Charles Jessel, the Vice Chairman of British North Borneo Company which administered Sabah. Sabah was the new name for North Borneo, when this state got its independence from Great Britain in 1963. North Borneo, together with Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya went on to form Malaysia that same year, where Malaya took over the trusteeship from Great Britain. So Jesselton is the capital of North Borneo.

Simpang Mengayau at the tip of Borneo, Kudat

If I could have my ways, I would definitely convince the people of this state to revert back Kota Kinabalu and Sabah to Jesselton and North Borneo respectively. In reality, due to politics, it is difficult. But for me, I will always continue to use these beautiful names; Jesselton and North Borneo in my blog.

Jesselton is indeed the gateway to Borneo. First of all, it has an international airport; the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA). Conveniently, it is accessible for direct international flights from cities in China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. It takes less than two hours to reach Jesselton by plane from Manila, Philippines and slightly more than two hours from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. From Bandar Seri Bagawan in Brunei, it takes only 30 minutes. The Kingdom of Brunei is a fellow independent Borneo state.

From Jesselton we could take domestic flights to Miri and Kuching in Sarawak and also to the Pearl of Borneo; the island of Labuan. From Jesselton too, we could fly to Kudat, the tip of Borneo, to Sandakan, sanctuary for orangutans at Sepilok and also to Tawau, which is another gateway to Indonesian Borneo. From Tawau too, we could go to the marine paradise of Sipadan Island.
As I mentioned before, North Borneo is indeed Borneo within Borneo. Almost all the floras and faunas found in other parts of Borneo are also found here in this state. In fact we have something the other Borneo states don’t have. We have one of the highest mountains in Southeast Asia; Mount Kinabalu. We have a long line of sandy beaches that stretches from Kudat right down to Karambunai. And we have many beautiful islands that are considered a diving paradise; example Matanani, Labuan, Gaya and of course Sipadan.

Atkinson Clock Tower built in 1905, Jesselton

But North Borneo is also covered with exotic small hills and jungle treks which are good for hiking adventures. Watch out for leeches lurking on the trees as they could sense human or animal heats. But this is nothing compared to the joy of discovering waterfalls, wild orchids, rafflesias and monkey cups. BORNEO IS INDEED MYSTIFYING, AS WELL AS ENCHANTING!




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Monday, 5 March 2018

BORNEO: Why I only write about this place

Waterfall in Tuaran



JESSELTON, THE CAPITAL of North Borneo, had a population of approximately five hundred thousand people. It had some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and islands. The most famous were Pulau Gaya and Pulau Tiga. Both of these islands were national park. Within two hours after enjoying the sunny beaches there, visitors could reach the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, Mount Kinabalu. They could spend the night there and enjoy the temperate coolness.                                                                        THE EURASIANS, Chapter 19, Page 74

Hello there! I saw many wonderful travel blog posts written by fantastic writers. Many of them inspired me. I noticed one thing in common; most articles were written about traveling far away outside the writers own country. They shared experiences about new places which were enchanting such as beaches of Fiji or Maldives; historical and nostalgic places like Rome and Jerusalem.

There are people who asked me; why do you always write about your own backyard? Why don’t you go outside your own country and write about new places, cultures and people? They told me in that way, I will have more stories to tell, instead of only talking about the same place all the time. My answer to this is; well! Not that simple! Because they are right!

Matanani Island

OK! Let me explain; Borneo is a vast island and it is considered to be a world within a world. Anything the tropical earth have, we can find it in Borneo (not everything though; we don’t have New World monkeys, tigers, chimps). This island has many of the tropical world floras and faunas, marine life and the culture of the people are also unique and their history is fascinating. Now for North Borneo (now known as Sabah), I consider it is Borneo within Borneo; whatever can be found in Borneo, definitely can be found here. At this moment, North Borneo alone has so many sceneries to offer that it seems stories told would be endless. 

Mount Kinabalu view from golf club

But the most important reason why I want to cover only Borneo is because Borneo is like a runaway train waiting to crash! We just lost our last pygmy rhino, an endangered and endemic species and soon we will be losing the proboscis monkeys, orangutans and the pygmy sun bears. We will also have barren seas around Borneo as all the corals and marine life will soon perish because of unrestricted fishing activities and fish bombings. The endemic tropical jungles will soon be wiped out as it is being replaced with palm oil and rubber plantations. This is not only our problems but also your (readers) problems. As I mentioned over and over again; we are in a small crowded room full of people call earth. A bad guy smoke cigar and the whole people in this room choked!  
  
That is the reason why I only cover stories around Borneo. I want you to come; as many people as possible and visit this place. One day, this might not be around for your next generations to enjoy. So at least you could take pictures or write about your visits here and who knows these will be the only materials left for the future to see. 




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Sunday, 18 February 2018

BORNEO ORANGUTANS: Road to Extinction!



"Shhh! Sam said, and both kept quiet. Aaron and Sam kept their eyes fixed. A furry red mammal slowly came out from the undergrowth. It kept itself partially hidden. Sam snatched a bunch of ripe bananas from the backseat, opened his car window, and threw it towards the creature... Sam nodded. "Yep! A female orangutan. She knew the timing of my arrival. The jungle was supposed to be protected. But some tycoon jerk played golf with the authority, gave them a lot of Christmas presents, and the orangutan is now homeless."                       THE EURASIANS Chapter 37 Page 151

In my previous blog posts, I wrote about Borneo: How do we save our environment? and also Borneo: Rape of the environment. In my novel THE EURASIANS, Aaron and Sam was talking about the plight of the orangutans way back in the 1980's. Now we are decades in the new millennium but things haven't change; in fact it's becoming worse!

Oil palm plantation in Borneo
I came across an article, MONGABAY news, quoting a study made by Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, published in February 2018; according to their study, the most disturbing news is that the island of Borneo lost nearly 150,000 orangutans (pango pygmaeus) between 1999-2015! They also warns that another 45,000 orangutans are doomed by 2050! The main culprits are land clearing for logging and palm oil plantations. Even in intact forests, orangutans are disappearing due to being killed.

And here comes the interesting suggestion; the researchers have called for more effective partnership between the government, industries and local communities to ensure the Borneo orangutans survival! What a joke! Hoping for the governments and the industries? There is a famous Malay proverb that say; like giving a beautiful flower to a monkey!

There is no other way; only the international communities can put pressure on the Borneo governments to stop the environmental destruction. As I said before; the planet earth is like a small room. Eventually everyone inside this room will suffer when one person smoke cigar!





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Thursday, 15 February 2018

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR: GONG XI FAT CHAI

Imago Shopping Mall, Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu)

A shop in Labuan Island

The above pictures showing the people of Borneo getting ready to celebrate Chinese New Year.
WISHING YOU AND YOUR FAMILY A HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS CHINESE NEW YEAR.






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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

HAPPY VALENTINE DAY! From Borneo


William took Susan out for a candlelight dinner that evening. Everyone in the restaurant could see a mismatch. William was well dressed in coat and tie, as if he were handling a BOD meeting, while Susan was in a T-shirt, jeans, sporting shoes, as if she'd just come from a college library. After sipping their last drink, they looked at each other. Both smiled. Susan took out a single beautiful rose from the vase on the table and sniffed it. William watched in amazement. 
THE EURASIANS Chapter 48, Page 212


I was once asked by one of my fans, which chapter is my favorite? I told her; all the chapters! But when I pondered deeply, and be honest to myself; I cannot deny that chapter 48 indeed is one of my favorites. Why? Because everyone of us do experience a romantic situation like what William and Susan are having. So...  HAPPY VALENTINE DAY to everyone and do buy a book for your love ones. By the way, THE EURASIANS is the first English romance-thriller from Borneo. 




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Thursday, 8 February 2018

SUNSET: Benefits of watching

Purple Heron and the Blazing Sunset
Taken from another angle few minutes earlier


I took quite a number of sunset photos around North Borneo also known as Sabah (see Sunset over Borneo and The Sunset Music Festival) but I have to admit to myself; this is the most spectacular among the photos I took. Of course millions of pictures had been taken about sunsets and many, many more are much better than these; but I am happy with these ones. The paradox is; it reminds me of Hollywood movies of fiery hellfire and a dead tree! But yet it is so like paradise! I am not shy to mention a common idiom; A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS!

According to Psychology Today, article posted on July 16, 2014, studies had shown that appreciating natural beauty (e.g. captivated by sunsets) have a number of psychological benefits such as emotional well-being, concern for others and satisfaction with life. I truly agree with this. But I would like to add more; it shows how gracious and merciful is our Creator that watching all these make us human marveled with His creation.





The first English romance-thriller from Borneo
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Monday, 5 February 2018

BORNEO: How do we save our environment?


Unrestricted land clearing
Irresponsible waste disposals



“When I was young, after it rained, my house would be swarmed by millions of frogs, big and small. Ii 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 developer 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 river polluted, the plains are flooded, and the weather patterns are changing…”
                                                From THE EURASIANS Chapter 49 page 215


Anyway, please refer to my previous blog; Borneo: Rape of the Environment

A visitor from Canada told me that he should have heeded the advice of his friend 10 years ago; coming to Borneo at that time. According to him, it was one of the most beautiful places on earth! He told me this is his first visit to Borneo, while his friend, the second visit. His friend was very disappointed; as the beauty of this place he once admired were scarred. 

The Borneo environment is facing deterioration at alarming rates. Iconic species of wildlife such as the orangutans and pygmy elephants are facing extinction. Scientists are warning that these animals population are dwindling fast. Just recently, the pygmy rhino of Borneo had been officially declared extinct! Unrestricted land clearings in the name of development were a norm nowadays. Water are polluted not only by the oil palm plantations but by irresponsible waste disposal (plastic especially) made by ordinary citizens. 

How long will this last?


Remember; these problems we now face in Borneo are also the problems of the international communities. Planet earth is like a small room packed with people; humid and hot. Then one person at the remote corner started to smoke cigar. Very soon all the people inside this room will suffocate if this one person is not stop from smoking. The same thing with our precious planet; it is a collective responsibility of everybody to ensure the Borneo governments toe the line and not simply do as they please. 

Plastics chocking our ecology
How do we stop or reduce the threat to our environment? One way I can think of is by visiting this island in droves. The more visitors or tourists come to Borneo, the more the governments are compelled to be more responsible and sensible towards their environment. Who knows, they will come to their senses and start seeing the ecology of Borneo as assets worth protecting. After all, it was the tourists who alerted the international media about a destructive development happening on the fragile island of Sipadan; an underwater paradise in Borneo way back in 2006. After the highlight was made, the government put a stop to that project. If it were the locals who made noise, the government will simply ignore them.




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