Travel Gears

December 25, 2008

Kalimantan Barat Expedition: In Search of Lost Kingdoms of Vampires #6

The Sultanate of Sambas

The keraton of Sambas, royal family, continues to preserve its palace and other royal regalia.  Sultan Tengah, the first and last sultan of Sarawak, founded the Sambas Sultanate.  He was the younger brother of Sultan Jalilul Jabar of Brunei who challenged the throne.  To solve his predicament, Sultan Abdul Jalil finally relented and anointed Tengah to be the Sultan of Sarawak, a rich province in the opposite end of Brunei city.  Tengah brought with him a thousand followers and upon arriving in Sarawak, now Kuching, built a palace at Sungai Bedil, the present site of the Astana.

Being young and still a bachelor, the adventurous Tengah, sailed off to Johor to see his auntie.  During a dance party a misunderstanding occurred and Tengah with his followers sailed home.  However the prince encountered devastating storm and found himself in the Sukadana Sultanate, now Ketapang in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.  They rescued by the sultan and took him to stay at his palace.  Tengah made a big impression on the sultan so as to give one of his princesses’ hands for marriage.

After several years in Sukadana, Tengah was assigned to Sambas to be its founding sultan.  The royal couple built their palace at the confluence of Sungai Sambas and Sungai…..  When their prince, Pengiran Sulaiman reached the mature age of 25 years old, Sultan Tengah felt it was time to go home to Sarawak and sailed with some followers soon after.  When they were about to enter the Sarawak River at Santubong, Sultan Tengah wanted to ease himself at Batu Buaya but was attacked and struck by one of his followers at the opportune moment when the sultan had taken off his talismans that gave his invincibility.  Subsequently the people of Sarawak, led by Datu Patinggi and Datu Bandar, managed to get the royal body and gave him a proper burial at the foot of the legendary Mount Santubong which was a thriving port-city from the 7th to the 10th centuries.

December 12, 2008

Kalimantan Barat Expedition: In Search of Lost Kingdoms of Vampires #5

Who is this man?  Any resemblance of Mr. Dracula in Pontianak, the City of Vampires?  I think there is. This painting is found inside the centre of the earth, the Equator Monument.

December 9, 2008

Kalimantan Barat Expedition: In Search of Lost Kingdoms of Draculas #4

In Search of Dracula of Bornneo 

26  November 2008

Drs. Lisyawati hosted us a dinner of Tom Yam river prawn.  What a surprise in the City of Dracula, you could find Thai food.  It only proves that this Thai food is a global dish; several years ago I found many Thai restaurants in Paris and I orderd this “the hotter the better” soup.

After dinner everybody disappeared into their rooms.  The new Orchardz Hotel provided satelite TV programmes, mostly Indonesian and free wifi access to Internet that I did not really expect to find in the jungle of Borneo.  I got carried away surfing the internet and went to bed late.

The alarm in mobile phone failed; most probably I forgot to reset it.  Somehow I woke up this in time for a quick breakfast and discovered the rest of members of the expedition were waiting for me.  We checked out from the hotel and speeded off to Sambas, the furthest kingdom.

I joined Drs. Lisyawati and two of her staff in a 4-wheek Toyota Terrano while my others were in Ford Econovan.  It was going to be a 6-hour drive and we planned to reach the old Kingdom of Sambas in the early afternoon.  Pontianak, the City of Dracula, was already in the early morning traffic chaos of cars and motorcyles,  like the small Honda Cubs.  Not traffic rules here, it was the rule of the horns creating a cacophonous adn rioutous street scenes.

The only road to the kingdom of Sambas was not too bad; narrow and in several stretches there were potholes.  Electricity line runs parrellel to the road.  In fact the road runs along the coastline and tidal peat swamp almost all the way but there are endless row of villages of tiny houses.  The swamp is ubiquitous and I felt it is drowning the life of the people.  So not football fields or playgrounds to be found instead there are wet paddy fields.  I felt sorry for the kids and young people.

After about an hour drive I lost sight of the van behind.  Somehow Abdul Halim’s mobile phones sudenly worked; since our arrival our mobile phones failed to work despite having roaming capabilities.  I told Abdul Halim our plan was meet in Sambas town for lunch and not to be tempted to stop at Mempawah, Singkawang and Pemangkat along the way.

We drove to the palace of the Kingdom of Sambas, a sultanate founded by the Sultan Tengah of Sarawak in the middle of the 17th century.  It thrived to become one of the more important kingdoms in Borneo and to the  Malays of Sarawak it ranked second only to Brunei. Except of some parts, the wooden palace is still in good condition situated at the confluence of Sambas and Spanduk Rivers.  With many legends and the myth of a husband and a wife cannons that bore seven baby cannons it has been a very popular tourist attraction. Unlike in the palace and holy grave in Pontianak, here in Sambas there was no beggars. 

December 4, 2008

Kalimantan Barat Expedition: In Search of Lost Kingdoms of Draculas #3

Pontianak:  The City of Dracula

In Pontianak, the capital of Kalimantan Barat/West Borneo, we stayed at the new Orchardz Hotel on the Gajah Mada Road.  On the 25th November we made a courtesy call on the Director of Balai Sejarah dan Kebudayaan, Mrs. Lisyawati, who carries research on history and culture of the province.  The city of dracula today is a big sprawling third world urban landscape consisting of the old town and the new town of 1 million people.

Later in the morning, with an officer from our Indonesian counterpart as our guide, we went to the palace of the former sultan of the Al-Qadri Dynasty across the Kapuas River, the longest river in Borneo.  The dynasty started in early 18th century with Sultan Hamid after he succeeded in defeating draculas in the areas as the name Pontianak attests.  The dynasty ended when the Japanese massacred all West Borneo's royal familes and 21,000 others during the Second World War.

The palace of the sultans was made of hard Borneoan wood called belian is still standing and is a very popular tourist attraction.

November 25, 2008

Kalimantan Barat Expedition: In Search of Lost Kingdoms of Draculas

I found a free wireless internet in Hotel Orchardz in the City of Draculas.

We left Kuching at 7.30 am for Pontianak but stopped at Serian to refill the tank with more diesel. We reached the border post at Tebedu and Entikong at 1030 am for immigration and vehicle checks. Thanks to letters from our counterparts we had no problems at all. There were many changers hanging around the border post and some of us changed for rupiahs.

With the border formalities done, I thought we would have more pleasant journey. There were houses on the sides of the road, decent houses and good but narrow road. After reaching the Sanggau junction trouble began. Amin, our driver was not sure which way to turn and had to ask a small boy for direction. After an hour trouble began when we entered a dirt, rocky and rough road. It was very bumpy road and later after asking a passerby we were going to have hell for 3 hours. Rough, rocky and lonely road in the middle to thick and swampy rainforest jungle.

November 22, 2008

Kalimantan Barat Expedition: In Search of Lost Kingdoms of Draculas #1

I am organizing an expedition to Kalimantan Barat/West Borneo in collaboration with friend from there.  The capital city of Kalimantan Barat is Pontianak that literally means DRACULA.  A legend tells of a forest full of pontianak/draculas that terrorized the people in the villages nearby.  The forest was pacified by the arrival of a holy man from Hadramaut, now in Yemen, from the family of al-Qadri.  My expedition maybe be called In Search of the Lost Kingdoms of Draculas!

The past weeks I have been preparing another expedition to Kalimantan Barat, western Borneo. I can't call this one trekking because four friends and I will be driven in a van, Ford Econovan.  We had a meeting last Thurday to work out shorter and safer route from Kuching.  The plan is to go to the past in search of old Malay kingdoms in western Borneo such as Sambas, Mempawah, Landak, Pontianak, Montrado, Kubu and may be others.

This expedition to the past will be joined by Professor Abdul Halim Ali from University Malaysia Sarawak;  Raslie Sahran, a cultural activist;  Aswandi and Awang Abdullah from the Sarawak Museum.  Later Antoni and Hasyim from the West Kalimantan Museum will be our local facilitators.

In the meeting we studied several maps from various sources including from Google, Lonely Planet, West Kalimantan Tourist Office and Sarawak Tourism Board.  As I lost my Nikon Coolpix camera, the others will bring their compact cameras such as Sony Cybershot and Cannon.  Other important tools are our mobile phones; I have a Nokia and Blackberry Curve with GPS capabilities.  A laptop too to store videos and pictures from the compact cameras will be essential.  And do not forget to bring medicines and vitamins and a torch light with Everyday batteries.  Here we go; we will leave at 7.00 am on the 24th, Monday.

This expedition maybe more expensive as we will be staying hotels and lodging houses.  The old kingdoms have been replaced by human settlements.  What they are like today will be reported in this blog when we come back in a week time.  Cheerio...

September 10, 2008

Tattoo For Your Hands: Exotic Design For New Fashion Trend Pt.3

This is the final part on tattoo for your hands showing the mystical motifs and designs created by the indigenous Dayaks of Borneo.  It illustrates the upper and lower hand that will completely cover your hands and make them real cool and fashionable.  Something unique and mystical to show of when you shake hands with other people.  You can add rings with large gems for your fingers, be it diamond, gold, ruby or American diamonds.  

September 1, 2008

New Book

This book covers constitutional history and discusses the Federal system of Government under the Constitution involving, inter alia, the distribution of Legislative and Execuitive powers, the rights and responsibilities of Federal and State Governments, the sharing of revenues and financial burdens and functions between the Federal Government and the States, the special protection for Sabah and Sarawak and the amendments.

The book is published 45 years after the formation of Malaysia at a time when it is so vital to carefully reflect on how this nation is moulded by the many historical events and challenges ... that preceded its birth, and by a Constitution so carefully and skillfully crafted to provide for the emergence of a strong, stable and functional Federal system of Government best suited for a multi-racial society.

It is published by Sweet and Maxwell Asia, a division of Thomson, Kuala Lumpur and launched on 29 August 2008 in Kuching, Sarawak.  The book would be of interest to political leaders and administrators involved in the management of Federal-State relationships, judicial officers, legal practitioners, politicians as well as teachers and students of laws, history, politics and government.

August 19, 2008

Borneo Book Specialist

Mohamed Yahia & Sons has been a Borneo book specialist for over 30 years.  It is going to the internet to market his books so that new and old customers can have access to the latest books on Borneo anywhere and anytime.  At the same time anyone, anywhere and anytime  can also promote their books on Borneo.  It sells and buys any book on Borneo.  It is conveniently located in Holiday Inn Hotel Kuching and can be reached by its website at; telephone +6082 416928.

This company is also a licensed Money Changer that accepts major currencies and travellers' cheque.

August 17, 2008


This is Jason Brooke and a friend who came to say hello to Sarawak and I.  Jason is the grandson of Anthony Brooke, so he is great grandnephew of Sir Vyner Brooke, the last white rajahs of Sarawak.  This was his first trip to the former kingdom of his ancestors and was so happy to be able to see the people and the state in person after hearing and reading so much about them.

He was here for three weeks and managed to visit Simanggang the only royal district as Charles Brooke had his stint here for 10 years in the early 19th century.  Later he visited Betong near by and Kapit in the Rejang.

If you have been following my postings, history of Sarawak is alive and kicking.  Please give me hints and get your camera, or get your ticket an travel by Malaysia Airlines or Air Asia.

August 14, 2008


The Hustlers are really an adventurous family.  Here they were crossing a rope bridge over prestine clear water of a river.  The family had a great vacation travelling in Malaysia Airlines, cheap Air Asia and of course on foot in the rainforest jungle.  Their advise is to travel light.  They were also lucky this teacher and university professor has many students and friends around the world.

August 5, 2008


My VSO teacher, David Hustler, came back after 40 years with a wife and a son.  One of the place they visited was the headhunters' trail, far in the interior of the rainforest connecting the ulu Limbang and Baram.  The Kayans in the past crossed over from the Baram River to the Limbang River making headhunting raids.  The route was then called Penarikan, from the Malay word tarik, to pull; in this case they pulled or rather dragged their longboats over the watershed. Here they have reached a longhouse along the way.

July 19, 2008




This image is blurred by too much beer...
Why RWMF is so hot? I think it has some potent elements of mystical tribal rituals and the modern culture of wild parties.  Even more tantalizing when performed at the foothill of Princess Santubong Moutain.  Thousands from all over the world come here on an annual pilgrimage to worship the beautiful and powerful princess in the middle of a virgin forest, in the middle of the dark night with real thunder storm and rain and later bath themselves with the purifying mud ...and drunken with music, beer and tuak.


RWMF, the famous acronym for Rainforest World Musice Festival, aptly began its 11 edition on the 11th July 2008.  11 years ago, a Canadian musician, I now only remember as Randy, chatted with me on his idea of world music festival.  Later I hosted his talk at the Sarawak Museum where he sold the idea by playing several Borneoan traditional musical instruments in either a western country styles or pop rock tempo.  He came back last year but I missed him and the show.

The local media rated this year festival as the best.  The number of audience too is higher coming from all over the world.  The hotels and flights were full, especially the Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia.

Its success may also becomes its downfall.  The officials want more tourists, a bigger crowd and that means the present site at the foot of the legendary Santubong Moutain, that creates an outstanding ambience and setting, will be moved somewhere else.  Nonetheless enjoy it will it lasts, it seems nothing is permanent.  So get your cameras and videos to preserve the great show.

May 1, 2008


This is Zainal bin Latif, the great grandson of Datuk Patinggi Hj. Abdul Gapur.  Abdul Gapur was one of Sarawak's earliest nationalist who opposed James Brooke as rajah.  Together with Sharip Masahor, fought James Brooke from 1850 to 1860.  They were arrested and were banished;  Abdul Gapur to Umbai, Melaka while Sharip Masahor to Singapore.

Zainal said his family was only reunited with his relations in Kuching in 2003.  One of his daughter was married to one of his distant relative.

Zainal came about a week after a great grandson of Grant, an offficer with James Brooke appeared in Kuching.


Grave diggers began their work

April 20, 2008


You hope to see many exotic plants when trekking in the virgin rainforest.  My fellow travellers and I came across these.  At the top is the protected but familiar exotic pitcher plant, in Malay periuk kera - monkey cooking pot! Perhaps not so exotic but more frightening because this plant eat up insects that fall inside it.  Carnivorous plant, so be careful.  A real big one may swallow big animals.  The second photograph is real exotic; real wild orchid and friendly too as it grows near to the ground.  The third photograph is a giant fern.  I have not seen it before.  A real giant and real exotic this one.  It is harmless too.

Have a camera will travel really. I  brought along the new Nikon Coolpix, very light and easy to use.  But there many models in the market to shop for a camera for travels.

April 2, 2008


David Hustler came back with his wife, Helen and son after 40 years. He came as young British Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) to teach us in 1967. Some of Class 66-68 student came back for the class reunion with him and family in Lawas. Liaw Kah Ho took this and other photographs with is digital camera and emailed them to me. David, now a retired professor in education at the Manchester Metropoliton University, told confessed he was inspired by us to become a professional and trained teacher when he went back to England in early 1968. He has written a number of books on education, simply search him in Google. If Richard Schatz was remembered more for buying horses from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and trekked down to Lawas, might be that he wanted to show off American cowboy spirit, David left his mark by starting the Boy Scout and the first whiteman to reach the top of Mount Hustler just across the school compound.

During the day they were taken to the local market place. Here David savoured the aromatic, delicious and punget durian, the king of tropical fruit. But Helen and his son could not enjoy this bizzare food.
David is a real survivor too like Richard from Whitworth University in Spokane. They still keep in touch. David and his family are spending a few months travelling and touring the world. They flew from London to Singapore by Malaysian Airlines and to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Liaw Kah Ho met him there and took them to Lawas. David and his family later trekked to Mulu National Park from Limbang using the Headhunter Trail in the rainforest. From Mulu they went to Miri, the famous oil town, where Cikgu Ibrahim and Bob took care of them. Later they continued their tour to Bintulu, the gas town and met Alias there. After two days in Bintulu the took Air Asia, low cost airlines, to Kuching. A few of us in Kuching entertained him after David and his family spent a few days in the first national park, the Bako National Park within easy reach from the city of Kuching. They then left for Thailand, Kampuchea and Vietnam. Now maybe their back in Manchester, England. Richard is coming back in May 2008.

March 31, 2008


After a lunch of wrapped Bario rice, jungle ferns and sardines at about 12pm we continued with our jungle trekking. It was cool and fresh even in this tropical afternoon. After meeting the young Japanese man with a camera and a young Czech couple, we now met school children, about 15 of them. They were student of the Bario Secondary School, a government boarding school from the children of the rainforest in the middle of Borneo.

March 23, 2008

Travelling and Trekking in the Rainforest of Borneo: A Young Czech Couple

At about mid-day of our first day of trekking from Bario to Bakelalan in the middle of Borneo rainforest we met this young Czech couple. Like we did, they also engaged a trained tourist guide. They were well covered with long trousers and real jungle boots. Get the right travel and trekking gears and equipment. Cameras, now very light and user friendly, a handy campanion. As you can see the traditional travel gear and equipment is the staff, or tongkat from cut of a small tree. It was very useful to me either going up or going down steep and slippery slopes that sometime took more than an hour.

March 19, 2008


In the rainforest jungle of Borneo I expect to see dracula of the rainforest, the leeches, snakes, hornbills, big trees and exotic plants. I least expected to meet people from other countries except for the strange German guy.
Soon after we started our trekking, an hour of so later we met with this Japanese young man walking alone along the jungle road with the friendly camera. I brought along my Nikon Coolpix camera that can take more than a thousand shots some you could see them here. Preserve and share your memories and sceneries.
This planet of ours is really just one global village. Let us be friends and live in peace.

March 8, 2008


These se are the draculas of the rainforest, the leeches or pacat. Now you will appreciate our football socks (panty hose is even better). Trekkers cannot escape from these sucking animal, so the next best thing is to prevent them from getting to your skin, especially your legs. The other parts of your body seem to be safe. Short sleeves shirt, t-shirt is okay. In my case, however, it could crawled upto my neck like the real Bulgarian dracula (I have read the bestselling novel, The Historian). The crazy German from Munich wore only shorts and stingy socks. Malaysians even treat the dracula with Dunhill cigarettes, sprinkle the tobacco on the socks and shoes. Who are more crazy in going trekking? Both the German and Malaysians are all crazy. That German guy is Berhard. More crazy things in the next postings.

February 23, 2008


Here were 4 members of Bario-Bakelalan Rainforest Trekking expedition while one was taking the snapshot and another guide has left earlier with our extra luggage.

The white guy is the German fella whose work is jalan kaki, walking/travelling. He has been travelling the past 20 odd years to Asia but many times to Malaysia and Indonesia. He was here last year but this year he plans to challenge of Mt. Murud. He must be a crazy guy with short pants exposing himself to mosquitoes and the leeches, the Dracula of the rainforest. In fact one leeche managed to crawl up my neck and sucked me.

So who were more prepared for the 3-days trekking? The local dressed as if they were going to play football in the jungle and did not look fit as the middle bulges showed. I will tell you more of my adventure in the next posting.


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February 17, 2008

SWEET FRESHNESS: Trekking in the virgin rainforest of Borneo

I DID IT!!! Trekking from Bario to Bakelalan. This is for real. I have actually walked from Bario to Bakelalan for three days and nights from the 7th February to 9th February 2008. Our guide-porter, Ridi , a trained guide, told me that the stretch could be considered Level 1, very tough but I enjoyed the walked. I was with two other colleagues and each has a porter.

There were leeches, of course; scarry but harmless unless they crawled into forbidden places. No snakes. But I met a young Japanese strolling alone; a couple from Czech Republic; returning school children and an American couple at the end of the journey.

A German guy we met at the lodge joined us part of the journey who has been travelling in Asia for twenty odd years. I will tell the full story of my adventure in the next postings soon with pictures too.

February 3, 2008


Two of my teachers came back after 40 years. This is Mr. Richard Schatz and I at Merapok Bazaar, now as you can see is abandoned. It was here that he made the last stage of taking two horses to the school in a logging barge with the help of two dazed school boys.

He came as a Peace Corp teacher from 1966 to 1968. He remembered our names and that we were very small. We never said good-bye then, we were so young so he came back in 2007 and I organised the Class 66 Reunion and then finally said good-byes on 9th February 2007.

Richard now is a Professor of Economics at Withworth University, Spokane, USA. And we are doing well too.

Down memory lane of the secondary school with those students. Note that there are air-cons units now while we had only fans.

February 2, 2008

BORNEO BOOK SERIES 1: The First Survivors

Judith M. Heimann, The Airmen and the Headhunters, Harcourt Inc, New York, 2007, pp. 209, 15 pics, 2 maps. Tagline is A true story of lost soldiers, heroic tribesmen and the unlikelest rescue of World War II.
Three months ago I was lent this book to read by a old friend of the author. It was a autographed copy of the author sent from New York. I came to meet the Judith when she dropped by my office in Kuching many years ago and gave me her earlier book on Tom Harrisson, The Most Disgusting Man Alive; my much earlier predecessor.
I enjoyed reading the book. It turned out there was not much of a war after all in this remote jungle of Borneo. The plane flying from Morontai got shot by the Japs in the Brunei Bay and crashed somewhere in the Sarawak and Kalimantar Timur, upper reaches of the Kayan River. They were rescued and cared by the Lun Dayeh. They were the real survivors and experienced near death fall, diseases and the Japs. They survived and fell in love with the wild people and their wild culture of Borneo. They were finnally rescued by a guerrila outfit led by none other than the disgusting man, Tom Harrisson and flew out from Long Bawan.
It is interesting to note that there were alread Americans there long before the war as missionaries who brought along earlier converts from Menado. They introduced the bamboo band culture in Sarawak. Also there was a plane that came down at Kampung Talahak, Limbang. This confirmed my earlier information as I am interested in salvaging these wrecks for the museum.

January 29, 2008

Borneo Ink

I have created a separate blog for Borneo Tattoo. For your convenience, please check my link on the side bars. It is such a great subject that deserves a separate place so that more information can be posted there for your pleasure. Enjoy the old culture in a new trend and fashion. I have posted an item there. See you there.

January 12, 2008

Borneo Ink ... the original tattoo

Coming soon on tattoo of Borneo ...the original ... before Miami Ink ... and ... now ... the LA Ink!

January 1, 2008


I would like to wish all surfers, explorers, adventurers and friends everywhere in the world A HAPPY, SUCCESSFUL AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR.
It drizzled the whole day on the last day of 2007. As night fell it was pouring rain until dawn. Its been a wet new year here. The real rainforest of the world until it lasts. Lets make it last.