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.