Monday, July 06, 2009

Borneo discovery

THE word Borneo has somewhat become a rarity in our vocabulary, especially when most Malaysians from the peninsula refer to that part of the country as Sabah and Sarawak.

But for most Westerners, Borneo is still very much alive, and usually romanticised and mentioned in the same breath as untouched virgin tropical forests, men in loin cloth or giant apes.

We had a first-hand excursion into the our two eastern states' interior last month under Isuzu Malaysia's Dura-Mission, and are pleased to inform that the former may ring true but the rest are probably the result of over-imaginative Hollywood movie script writers who have never set foot on the island.

The mission, on a convoy of 10 Isuzu D-Max 4x4s, involved a 700km plus drive from Ba'Kelalan, Sarawak, to Maliau Basin in Sabah and finally to Tawau airport for our flight back to Kuala Lumpur.

Flying over Ba'Kelalan on a 19-seater Twin Otter from Miri, we could see pockets of settlement scattered over the green forest of the Sarawak highlands before the aircraft swung around to land on an airstrip.

The villagers are a closely-knit community of a few thousand and they are bound to give a rousing welcome to outsiders, complete with a musical ensemble.

Ba'Kelalan is a group of nine villages in the Bario Highlands. At 1,000m above sea level, it is cool in the day and can be chilly at night.

Indonesia's Kalimantan border is just 4km away. Don't be surprised that the Malay the locals speak has an Indonesian twang.

With no mobile phone coverage, the latest Nokias and Blackberrys are pretty useless in these parts except for taking pictures.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Borneo discovery
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