Monday, April 08, 2013

Arrived in Kapit, Borneo

After a month of living on Borneo, I am still alive, I got used to the quirks of living in the jungle and I even enjoy it.  Hence I thought it was high time I share the initial experiences, primarily about life in Kapit.

Most important fact: it is not accessible by car. The nearest bigger (meaning real) city is Sibu, from where there is no road, the only way to get here and get out, is by boat. A three hours relaxing journey upriver, in an ice-cold boat as a result of blasting aircon. It might be an explanation for the nickname “floating coffins”, but I fear it has also something to do with the long and flat structure, with the windows being at around water level.

Should anything sinister happen, there isn’t much you can do to get out.  But the scenery along the way is really nice, if you are lucky and your window is not sprayed with some grey paint or some smashed corpses of some gigantic insects do not obliterate the view. Of course, you can always go up to the roof to get the maximum out of the panorama, however, I haven’t had the courage yet to try while the boat was doing 80 km/hr going in a zigzag as it is following the turns of the river. You can sit on the top at the beginning, but there is no shade and three hours out in the sun is not really what you want to do 2 degrees from the equator.

Even so, what I saw of the forest was impressive. The trees are getting bigger and bigger as you get further upriver, the shrubbery more extensive, less and less penetrable and you hear more and more wild noises from the jungle. The first time I came here I couldn’t stop thinking about Heart of Darkness while I was sitting in the boat and whether I would find Kurtz or not. Or something worse.

After I arrived I had to realize that Kapit was not actually as bad as I thought it would be. The centre is very small, that’s true, you can walk around it in five minutes. Still, there is a big market and a night market, there are banks, many restaurants and guesthouses and there is a proper 50 metres swimming pool. There are many karaoke bars, but as I learnt they are not really the same as in Vietnam, people barely go there to sing. They are discos at best, but more like brothels.

The market is really interesting, every time I want there I saw something I wasnt familiar with. It makes me sad though, as they are not supposed to kill the wild animals, most of them would be protected, but here nobody really seems to mind.

I was really relieved to see that people were drinking beer in restaurants. Based on my previous experience in Malaysia, that seldom happens. However, the majority of the population here are Iban, the local tribe, the rest are Chinese and they have no problem with drinking. So having a beer with my dinner is no issue at all.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Arrived in Kapit, Borneo