Sarawak, Borneo, 2012

All images and associated pages copyrighted © by Don Chesnut, 2012

Orangutan at Matang Wildlife Centre. 
Orangutan at Matang Wildlife Centre.

I went to Thailand to attend the Tectonics of Northern Indochina conference in Chiang Mai in February. After the conference, I spent two weeks touring in Borneo. The following is composed of my daily journal entries and photographs taken during the trip (please excuse the tedious and poorly-written nature of the journal). Or you may rather go through my thumbnail catalog (pages J, K, L, M, N)

The part of my trip in southern India
The part of my trip in Thailand

28 February 2012, Tuesday

...The plane landed in Kuala Lumpur (KL) at 1:15, my next flight boards in another terminal at 1:30, so it's a tight connection without the delay. The counter lady said I wouldn't have to go through  immigration control in KL, but would have to in Kuching. I learned otherwise. I had to go through passport control and I hurriedly filled out my visa form. Luckily, there was only one fellow in front of me. It didn't take long. Then I walked very quickly to the gate in the A terminal and they were already boarding my flight. I got to my window seat without any problem. I sat in a row of three, but there were only two of us. A Malaysian man sat in the aisle seat. It was interesting to see the landforms as we flew over them. I couldn't take photographs because I was right next to the engine cowling. We were served a snack. I had three small skewers of beef satay, peanut sauce, little bit of fried rice, water, slice of cake, and the three pieces of Cadbury candy again. I saved the Cadbury and slice of cake for tonight. I put them in the empty seat right next to me. I looked out the window for awhile as we flew over the Malay Peninsula and then the sea between the peninsula and Borneo. I thought I would put the candy and piece of cake in the pouch in front of me, but they were both gone. The little bugger next to me had swiped my snacks. He was about 40 and refused to look at me. I made a big deal out of trying to “look” for them, just to make him sweat a bit.

We landed in Kuching about 4:30. I had to go to immigration control again, a bit of Sarawak independence. I walked out the exit and saw a man holding a sign with “Pandaw” on it. They are the boat company for my next leg of the trip. I was his only pick up. We traveled in a van for about 20 minutes till we got to the plush “Kuching Pullman” hotel (website). It took about 20 minutes to register because there was a problem with the booking. They solved the problem and I went to my room on the 13th floor, an auspicious floor, by 5 PM. My room was large and very, very nice. They even have free WiFi in the lobby and ethernet internet in the rooms. I unpacked, took a shower, changed shirts, put my Bahts up, and got out my Ringgits. I put my passport, tickets, etc in the room safe.

I went to the lobby bar and filled out my journal while having a GT. It was a small GT by our family standards. I then typed it out in my netbook. I'll send it out late tonight or tomorrow. I have my schedule for tomorrow and the next day.

I have my schedule for tomorrow and the next day. Looks like I'll be pretty busy. After I got my bill for my GT, I was staggered by the price. It was as much as a good meal! Never again. I returned the netbook to my room, I exited the hotel to look for cheaper venues. There is a small mall directly beneath the hotel, with an assortment of shops and restaurants. I had a Japanese spicy udon and I added a bunch of wasabi to make it spicier. It was OK, but was a fast-food restaurant. I had a Tiger beer at a restaurant/bar next door and then went to my room. I went to bed at 9:15 after watching a little TV.

29 February 2012, Wednesday (Leap Year)

I woke up at 5:30 and got up at 6. I took a shower and my anti-malarials. I went down to the included breakfast buffet. It was a very extensive spread of Japanese, Chinese, Malay, and western foods. I could have spent a day here and not get to every item. I had for my first plate, canned lychees, canned rambuttans, plus fresh papaya, watermelon, honeydew, Asian pear, pineapple, croissant, and eggroll. My next plate was a mixed-vegetable omelet. I found some nice red chilies that I added. For my third small plate, I had two pieces of sushi. I also had two big cups of coffee. Then I went to my room to get ready for the tour.

At 7:30, I met with eleven other travelers in our lobby. We met our guide, Francis, a native dayak from Sarawak (this is Sarawak state, largely Christian). We got in a bus and drove south for about 30 minutes till we got to the Semenggoh Wildlife Center. This is an orangutan rehabilitation center. We saw three orangutans that came from the forest to feeding stations. I saw one male in one place and a mother and baby in another. I hope my photographs come out.

Then we got back on the bus for our next and final stop for the day. We passed an outcrop of shale with thin beds of sandstone. It looked like a flysch deposit. Then we passed a limestone quarry, again with dipping beds. We crossed Kuching again and then went around the Kubah Mountains to the Matang Wildlife Centre. We passed outcrops of sandstones with channels.

At the wildlife center, we had a buffet “picnic” with steamed rice, stir-fried noodles, chicken-potato curry, shrimp, cooked mixed-vegetable, sautéed Chinese cabbage, good greens with baby corn, and juice. After lunch, we started our hike (on a boardwalk). It was hot and very humid and I wore jeans in case of leaches. This is a center that has rehabilitation parts and captive parts. Some animals are unable to be re-habilitated to the wild, and, so, must be kept in fenced areas. We saw gibbons, hornbills, orangutans, Lesser Adjutant Stork, Fish Owl, Brahminy Kite, False Gharial, Estuarine Crocodiles, civet cats, and sun bears.

We got back on the bus at 2:15, hot and sweaty. We headed back to Kuching. I got back to my room by 3. I took a shower, and then sent out yesterday's journal entry. I then typed out part of today's which I'll send out much later.

After the typing, I went down to the lower mall with my big Sarawak Star newspaper. I went to the restaurant/bar and had a Tiger. I spent a good hour reading the newspaper. Most of the stories are local in nature, but there were a couple of pages of international news, nothing about the U.S. though. I sat on the outdoor, but covered, patio. A passing thunderstorm blocked the sun and brought cooler breezes. It didn't rain where I was though.

After reading the newspaper, I went back to the hotel. I decided to look at the menu of the Chinese restaurant in the hotel, the Nu Er Hong. I was looking for something Sichuan style. I saw a couple of Sichuan dishes so I went in. I spoke Chinese most of the time and they had no question about it. However, some of their responses were too fast for me. I ordered a Sichuan braised beef in claypot, steamed rice, and wulong tea. There are lots of Chinese in Malaysia and it's the same here in Kuching, and they seem to understand my poor Mandarin quite well. Anyway, my dinner came. I ordered the xiao (small), but they had zhong (medium), and da (large). I was really looking for fiery Sichuan with ground red Sichuan peppercorns. I think I got more of a southern Chinese dish with a couple of pieces of red chilies. I added more chilies. It was good, but not Sichuan.

I went to the bar across the street for a Tiger beer and then went back to my room by 8. I filled out my journal and typed it up. I have another tour tomorrow morning and then travel to Sibu, so I have to pack again tonight. I went to bed at 9:15 after sending out an e-mail and packing.

1 March 2012, Thursday

I woke up at 2 and didn't go back to sleep. I got up at 6:30, took my anti-malarials, and went down to breakfast. I had the same thing as yesterday minus the sushi, but plus some European cheeses. I went back to my room, took a shower and packed up. I went to the lobby and checked out. I waited with our group for our guide. I'm the only American, the rest are from England and Australia. Yesterday and today are part of an extension, so we will meet others on the boat.

We boarded onto the bus and headed for the Sarawak Cultural Village. Our guide is Patrick, another Dayak, but from a different tribe than our previous guide. We got to the village by 9.

The Sarawak Cultural Village (website)(Google Map) is an area where all the different cultures of Sarawak are shown. Each stop represented a particular tribe or ethnic group. Some had longhouses, warrior houses, community houses, etc. Some were made entirely of the local ironwood, but many were made from bamboo. There was even a nomadic group with blow guns, and a Chinese farmhouse represented here. Several of the houses demonstrated cooking, music and dances. It was all very interesting. It was also hot and very, very humid. We are all wet from the dampness and beads of sweat are rolling down my glasses. I've talked with quite a lot of my fellow travelers and they all seem very nice and inquisitive. At the end of the tour, we had lunch at the center's restaurant. We had beef with gravy, fish steak in curry, chicken, mixed vegetables, sweet potato and greens curry (my favorite), fern fiddleheads (my other favorite), one dish I can't remember, and steamed rice in banana leaf. Some sort of fruit juice was for drink.

We were back on the bus by 11:40. We have an hour drive to the airport. We got to the airport about 12:40, got our e-ticket boarding passes, and then all 12 of us went through security. Once in the gate area, I got a coffee latte. Free WiFi was advertised in the gate area, so I connected to the router. There had been tornado warnings in Kentucky and I wanted to see if everything was OK. However, there was no internet connection (I can see why it's free). We boarded the plane at 1:30 and took off at 2. We landed at Sibu about 2:45 if my watch is working. I was the first out of the airport (I'm the only one without checked luggage) and standing at the exit was Ivona (?) with Pandaw company (website). We all boarded a big bus and headed for the Rajiang River and the Orient Pandaw boat. Sibu (Google Maps) seems to be almost entirely composed of Chinese people based on store signs.

We got to the Orient Pandaw, tied up at the Burung Bapu Wharf, around 3, boarded and had our briefing on the Sun Deck. We were also served some mixed fruit drink. I went to my cabin, 316, on the starboard side and moved in. Everything is just like the other three Pandaw boats that I've been on.

At 4, we started our walk around Sibu. It is much hotter here than in Kuching and just as humid. We walked first to a Chinese multi-religious pagoda. I climbed to the top and caught a nice breeze. Frankie was our guide (we divided into two groups). He is a Peranakan (half Chinese and half Malaysian) and speaks Chinese as well. After the pagoda, we walked to the market where there are as many as a thousand stalls (sometimes more). Many were closed for evening, but some were still open. I took photographs of some of the produce. I came back on board by 5:30. We took off by 6 and headed upstream.

I went to the Sun Deck with all the others and we had a briefing about tomorrow's events. Many of the crew were from Burma, two were from Cambodia. I'm not sure about the rest of the crew. I spoke two of the Burmese phrases that I remembered and they seemed surprised. The dinner gong rang and we went to the dining room. We had shrimp cocktail (excellent), a squash(?) soup, a fish curry, mixed vegetables and a duck curry, plus rice. I had red wine that was at our table. None of the food was spicy. I sat at a table with Brits and Aussies. There is a group here from America on a RoadScholar tour (it is an ElderHostel tour). There must be about 22 Americans in that group. Anyway, we had vanilla ice cream on pancakes and banana for dessert.

After dinner, we all went to the Sun Deck for drinks and conversation while a thunderstorm passed. The rain continued for awhile. I went to my cabin by 10, filled out my journal and went to bed.

2 March 2012, Friday

I woke up at 6, got up at 6:15, took a shower and my pills, and then went to the Sun Deck at 6:30, at first light. There were already about six fellows there, drinking coffee and watching the river. I started talking to a couple of them and introduced myself. One fellow had a white ponytail and was about 70. He asked where I was from and I said Kentucky. He said that he was from Clay County and I couldn't believe it. I told him I was from Laurel. His family had moved to Ohio when he was a young teen. He became an English teacher and worked at a school in California. We had a very interesting conversation about growing up in rural Kentucky. He was a Campbell and his grandfather was Moses Campbell.

I went to breakfast and had omelet with red, spicy chilies plus other vegetables, plus toast, coconut jam with yogurt and banana. I had coffee to drink.

The boat went up a small tributary called the Kanowit and then anchored in the middle. At 9, we transferred to the smaller chowua(?) boat that was attached along the side of the big boat. We continued up the tributary ten miles of so and stopped at an Iban village with longhouses. The locals fish, and have small plantations with rubber trees, peppers, cocoa, and other items. For their own use, they have pineapples, durian, rambuttan, citrus, rice, cassava and many other plants as well. Our guide, Alvin, showed us the many plants along the road. We then went to “Dorothy's Grandmother's”  house, where we were served rice wine. She is the elder of the village and, out of respect, is only called “Dorothy's Grandmother.”

We got back on our chowua longboat and headed back to the Pandaw. I saw Long-tailed parakeets, swallows, swifts, White Egret, and Grey-headed Swamphen(?). We got back to the Pandaw about 11. I went to my room and filled out my journal and took a quick shower. The Pandaw pulled anchor and we headed back to the Rajiang where we headed upstream. It rains here, off and on, through the day but I haven't bothered with my umbrella. While walking, I just need my hat to keep the rain off my glasses. I saw a brilliantly colored Stork-billed Kingfisher fly by. It was a large one with golden head and neck, large red bill, and blue body.

At 12:30, they rang the gong for lunch. I had Cangkuk manis with Pumpkin (Sarawak thin soup with green leaves and bits of pumpkin), a very nice assortment of salads including a wooden ear variety, and then for main course, I had Daging Asam (beef chunks with tamarind sauce), steamed rice, and a Chinese Bean Cake (a small piece). I had water to drink. Everything was very good, but I think I liked the salads best.

I went back to my room and typed out my journal. Later in the afternoon, Alvin gave an hour talk on the history of Borneo. It was very interesting and very funny as well. At 7:15, we had a briefing on the next day events and then the dinner gong was hit. We had a fern and shrimp-paste salad (excellent), a nice cream of vegetable soup, and then I had a Malaysian Nasi Goreng, a stir-fried noodle dish with a very large omelet on top. I could only eat part of it. I didn't eat any dessert at all, though it was available. I had a glass of red wine for drink.

After dinner, a movie was shown with Nick Nolte as star. It was set in Borneo. I kept giving up my chair to older people till there was no more room, so I left. I went to the Sun Deck, had a GT and talked to the guides. We have anchored downstream from Kapit, but we must not be too far away.

I went to my room and filled out my journal and then went to bed.

3 March 2012, Saturday

I woke up at 5 but got up at 6:15. I took a shower and my pills. It has rained off and on all morning since 4 or 5. I went to the Sun Deck and had a couple of cups of coffer in the early light. This is the first Pandaw I've been on that had WiFi. We only get internet connection when we are close to a cell-phone tower, which is not that often. I was able to send out one e-mail.

At 9 we boarded the fast launch (chowua?) and went to the town of Kapit (Google Maps). There are no roads that go to this county. All cars and fuel are brought there by barge. We went to the Teresang Market and looked at the produce. I even saw smoked bats for sale (I may try one later). I wish that I had bought one. I did take a photograph, however. I wonder how you eat them. They also had fresh butchered wild boar. In addition, one could buy a pungent boar meat preserved with a type of leaf. It will keep for one month. They say that you have to have a strong stomach for it. We then went to the local fort and museum. A big treaty was signed between the Urang Ulu And the Iban. The treaty prevented the Iban from going up the river to hunt heads of the Urang Ulu. We did see real human heads (skulls) hanging up in some of the longhouses in the region. I got an iced tea in a Chinese cafe for 1.8 Ringgit. We then got on our launch and returned to the Pandaw.

I took my notebook up to the Sun Deck and filled it out. I also had a cold beer. It's hot and humid again. The days seem to be in the upper 90's or even 100 degrees F.

At 12:30 the lunch gong rang and we all went to the dining room. I had three varieties of salad (their salads are my favorite) including watercress salad, bean sprout salad, plus rice, and a chicken curry, and a mixed vegetable curry. They also had spaghetti and marinara and other sauced, but I didn't get any of that. After lunch I went to my room for a quick nap.

At 2:30 we again got in the launch and headed for the jetty in Kapit. Then we got in one of seven minibuses and drove for about an hour over curvy mountain roads till we got to a traditional Iban longhouse. I saw a Greater Coucal bird, a large, almost crow-sized bird with chestnut colored wings and shiny black body. It's related to the coo-coo. It is another hot and very humid day. In the longhouse, the chief wanted to give us a welcoming ceremony. We were a group of 34. I was chosen along with Rollo, an Australian fellow, to be the chiefs representing our group. We knelt down and the chief presented each of us  with food in about 30 or so small plates. I would then take a few finger-fulls of each dish and put it in a bowl in a particular arrangement. We did this with each dish. The chief then held a live rooster in both hands and waved it three times over the food offering, making good wishes. Then the rooster was given to the two of us. I went after Rollo. I waved the rooster three times over the food wishing that all the people in the longhouse would remain healthy and happy forever. I didn't get any photographs. Then dancers came out and danced with the drum and gong music. Then we were asked to dance with them. I got up first and tried to imitate the male dancer and then others got up as well till there were about 8 or 10 of us dancing. I hope someone will send me some of the photographs. After that we were served palm wine and then walked along the longhouse looking at how they lived. It was all very interesting and I took a lot of pictures of this part. I also took photographs of the heads hanging in the longhouse. They were real.

Dr. Dakin sent me the following photographs...

L. Agama sent me the following...

At that point, we returned the way we came and got back on board the Pandaw by 6. I went to my room, took a shower and filled out my journal.

At 7:15, we had a briefing on the Sun Deck about tomorrow's events. We then had the dinner gong at 7:30 and went to the dining room. I had a very nice mixed vegetable salad, radish soup (I would call it turnip soup) Sapi Rendang (Malay spiced coconut beef), and red wine. I've met a lot of very interesting people and have had a lot of interesting conversations. The Roadscholars people are all highly educated and many are retired professors or teachers. Most are in the 70's or 80's. I didn't leave the dining room till 9:15 (as with most nights).

I went to my room and filled out my journal. I went briefly up to the Sun Deck to talk to the guides. I was interested in how one eats a bat. One told me that it was prepared only as a medicine for asthma and was fixed in a particular way. Apparently the cure really works. Another said that you get the smoked bat and smoke it again until it is crispy and you share it with friends. The other guide said that it is best in a soup, but you have to remove a particular gland first. You boil it and add some nice herbs and it makes a delicious soup. I told them the way we fix them in Kentucky. We get a thin hickory plank and put the bat on it, all spread out. We pour a broth of chicken (usually) and herbs onto the bat and plank. We put it in the oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes and then we throw the bat away and eat the plank. They thought that was pretty funny.

I went to bed about 10. We have an early day tomorrow.

4 March 2012, Sunday

Happy Birthday Nora!

I woke up at 3 and slept off and on till 6:15 when I got up. I took my pills and went to the Sun Deck for a cup of coffee. I talked to one lady who had been in the Peace Corp 50 years ago and she had been stationed in Borneo (Sabah) where she was the only westerner. She knew a lot about the culture, language and conditions here. Another lady, an MD, will be going to Kalimantan (on Borneo) to set up a mid-wifery clinic, and she is studying bahasa Indonesia. At 7 I went down to breakfast and had my usual, omelet with chopped vegetables, toast, yogurt and fruit.

At 8, we boarded the launch and went to Kapit (only 1/4-mile away) where we disembarked. We got in vans and drove for about 45 minutes. We got out of the vans and met the owner of the land. We started out hiking in the creek, which was very easy. He told us about the many plants and their uses. Then we had to go up and down the wet and clayey banks with very little footing. It was very slippery and many people got pretty muddy. I took a few photographs including one of a very large pill millipede (Wikipedia entry)(originally, I thought it was the superficially similar isopod pill bug, a crustacean, but then the nature of its legs bothered me.). It was rolled up into a ball about an inch in diameter. The excursion was all very interesting, but fairly difficult for everyone.

We returned to the vans, got back to the launch and were back on the Pandaw by 12:30. I took a quick shower, and then went directly to lunch. I had a very nice soup with dark broth. We could pick out things to put in our soup bowl, like rice vermicelli, chives, sprouts, dried fish, etc. And then I had four salad items, including a mushroom salad, a seafood salad, and a couple of others that are hard to describe. Then I had a chicken-squash-zucchini coconut curry over rice. I had a beer for drink. After lunch, I grabbed my laptop, went to the Sun Deck and rushed out an e-mail to Nora and sent out yesterday's journal entry. I filled out my journal after that.

At 2, we got back on the express launch and headed up the river. Instead of our usual captain, we had a pilot who specialized in the Pelagus Rapids. Our launch is large, metal, long and diesel-powered; nothing that you'd take on a rapids. We went upstream for perhaps 10 miles. Most people were in the covered middle section or in the somewhat open section in the back of the boat. I was in the covered section walking around, taking photographs. I edged up close to the pilot and then stood by the door to the bow, which was open. There didn't seem to be any objection to me being there. Then I just went on the bow. Later, Walt Kelly, a retired forestry professor from Auburn, joined me. We are the only ones on the bow. We didn't think we'd see much because the water was 10 feet above the usual high water for this time of year, but the water was running fast. The Pelagus Rapids (approx. Google Maps) is a series of cataracts and rapids extending for seven miles. Navigation is very treacherous because of the strong current, the abundant rocks and the many wrecks along the way. Apparently there are numerous fatal wrecks on this section. Anyway, the pilot pushed our 60-foot-long boat through many large rapids with high standing waves. I would have had a hard time on a raft. I took some photographs, but also took a lot of video. I was so excited that I may not have had the camera pointed in the right direction. We'll see. I was the only one to get extensive video from the front of the boat. Above the rapids, he turned the boat around and we went through them again. It was an amazing experience. Then we headed back to the Pandaw. I saw a pair of hornbills fly over the river, but I couldn't tell what kind they were.

Back on the boat, I took another shower, and then went to a lecture on big trees in Borneo, presented by Lilian, one of the guides. We then had a briefing on tomorrow's events. Shortly, we went to dinner in the dining room. I had a tomato and cheese salad with dressing, a carrot-ginger soup, a beef curry, steamed rice, and ice cream sundae with pineapple. I had red wine to drink.

After dinner, I went to the Sun Deck and talked for awhile, and then went to my room, filled out my journal and went to bed.

5 March 2012, Monday

I woke up at 3:30, slept off and on till 6:15 when I got up. I took a shower, and my anti-malarials, and got ready for the morning.

I went to breakfast at 7 and had my usual. One of the Australian ladies had some Vegamite and she offered me some, so I spread it on my toast. It went well with the omelet. I didn't bring any Vegamite or Marmite with me on this trip.

At 8, the Pandaw pulled anchor and went upstream several miles, close to the confluence with the Baleh River (we passed it yesterday, going to the rapids)(Google Maps). At 9, we boarded the express launch (this one is about 60 feet in length), and went up the Baleh about 10 miles. We stopped at Mujong and visited a mission school and a clinic. We spent a good part of the day there visiting teachers, classes and medical personnel.

For lunch, the Pandaw chef and crew built a fire and had several large bamboo segments loaded with food. This style of cooking is called Pansoh. They stacked the bamboo in inverted V-fashion over the fire and cooked the contents for 1.5 hours while we were visiting the school. When finished, they emptied the contents into serving trays. We had chicken and fern greens from one bamboo, fish and greens from another, sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves (and cooked in bamboo) from another. We also had sweet potatoes, and baked potatoes as well. It was called Pansow, which is an “Iban traditional style bamboo pot cooking.” I had rambuttans for dessert.

After lunch, we re-boarded the launch. I sat on the bow with the crew, and we headed back to the Pandaw. I was back in my room by 2:45. At 3, the Pandaw pulled anchor and we headed downstream for Sibu. I took a shower and filled out my journal.

At 4, I went to a lecture by Lillian Agama called the “Borneo Wild Live Icons,” about orangutans, proboscis monkey, pygmy elephant, Sumatran pygmy rhinoceros, clouded leopard, hornbill, and Brahminy kites. Very nice photography and nice presentation.

At 5:30, guides Alvin and Frankie gave demonstrations on blowguns and sarongs. They asked me to step forward (they introduced me as a hillbilly and Cherokee {undocumented}) and demonstrated the blowgun. They had balloons set up on a wall of the Sun Deck. I put a dart in the wooden blowgun and shot it out. Luckily, I hit the balloon, saving the reputation of hillbillies and Cherokees around the world. A few others got up and tried the blowgun too. I didn't have to try on a sarong, thankfully.

Then we had a briefing about tomorrow's events. A number of people are leaving tomorrow for another tour, including some of my new-found friends, so we exchanged e-mails.

At 7:15, the dinner gong rang and we all went to the dining room. I had Rojak (Malay mixed salad with peanut sauce), Sup Sayur (a nice but bland vegetable soup in a clear broth), Daging Masak hitam (Malay beef stew)(very good), Kari Ayam (Malay chicken curry), Sambal Ikan (Malay grilled fish with spicy sauce, excellent), Borneo vegetable (Chungkuk Manis with eggs), Nasi Minyak (Malay steamed rice with herbs) and a fried banana spring roll. I had red wine for drink.

After dinner, I filled out my journal. The Pandaw is still cruising down the river, even in the dark. There is enough scattered light to see, however. The Pandaw tied up at Sibu around 10. I stayed on the Sun Deck till they tied up and then went to bed.

6 March 2012, Tuesday

I slept off and on throughout the night. I got up at 6:30, took a shower, and my pills, and went to the Sun Deck for coffee, and at 7 I went down to the dining room. I had an omelet with mixed vegetables and two spoonfuls of fiery hot red chilies. I also had toast, and yogurt with fruit. After breakfast, I quickly sent several e-mails and learned that Kentucky had had the worst tornado outbreak in 40 years. There were lots of deaths and West Liberty was hit hard. My family was alright. I'll learn more when I get back.

At 8:30, we got on the launch and spent two hours going down the Igan River (A distributary?). We got to the Bungan Kecil Sago Processing Village. We went ashore and Alvin gave us the first demonstration. They cut open a sago trunk (Wikipedia entry) that had been left on the ground for one or two weeks. When they tore it open, there were hundreds of large, white Sago grubs (Wikipedia entry) wriggling around (larger than my first thumb joint, about 1.5 inches long and three quarters of an inch wide). He said that it was a delicacy. He held a wriggling grub by the head and put the rest in his mouth and bit down on the grub, leaving only the head to throw away. He chewed it up and said that it was very good. He got another one and said “hillbilly” is going to try this one. He handed the large, fiercely wriggling, fat grub to me. I held it by the head and chomped down on it, throwing the head away. I chewed on it and swallowed it, and I have to say that it was OK. Not what I expected. Then he induced a few others to try and several did. These are a delicacy and bring 50 cents apiece at the market. After that, we saw how the soft sago “wood” was chopped and fed into a shredder and then a device which squeezed the watery sap out of it. The fluid then entered a settling tank. We went to another house where they were heating the sago residue over flat ovens and converting them to pea-sized pellets of sago starch. There, the host served us sago starch-coconut cooked in a banana leaf. It was a stiff, gooey type of treat. We then entered another home where they gave us a cooking demonstration. They used sago-water mixed and added almost boiling water to it. It was then mixed by hand until it became a translucent, thick, gooey glue. Each of us then dipped our forks into the goo and twirled it and then dipped our goo glob into a mixture of spices and anchovies. We ate this along with cooked grubs and sago balls. The grubs had been cooked in oil with onion, garlic, and ginger (I liked the uncooked grubs better). We also tried sago batter cookies.

Lilian Agama sent me the following photograph...

After that, we had another long boat ride back to the Pandaw. Along the way, I saw one crocodile on the bank, but two had been spotted by others.

We got back on board the Pandaw about 2. We immediately went to lunch. There were about five salads, all excellent, plus they had cheddar, Camembert, and blue cheese. They had garlic toast as well. The entre was a noodle soup station. You picked out one of three types of noodles and then the chef put it in a basket strainer. The you picked out sprouts and a variety of mushrooms and chopped vegetables which were also added to the basket. Then you could point to shrimp, beef and chicken to add. This was placed in boiling water for about 30 seconds and then put in a bowl. Next, broth was added. At that point, you picked chives, onions, white pepper and other things to sprinkle onto the soup. It was very nice. For dessert, I had a sort of flan made with egg, beer and sago. Also good, but eggy.

After lunch, I went to my room and filled out my journal. At 3:30, I went to the lecture room where Lillian gave a lecture on her Kalimantan journey. Kalimantan is the Indonesian part of Borneo. Lillian is a good photographer and showed some beautiful slides of this region.

At 5:30, I took a shower and then went to the Sun Deck. I typed out my journal entries there. We are down in the delta region now and it is very hot, and, of course, flat. We are cruising, so there is a little breeze. Alvin talked about longhouses at about 6. Then we had a beautiful sunset, we all took photographs. We anchored near Sarikei.

At 7:30, a dance troupe came on board. They did the traditional Chinese Lion dance on the Sun Deck. It was accompanied by cymbals and a large drum. It was very interesting and entertaining.

After the Lion Dance, the gong was sounded, so we went to dinner. We were served Onion Salad Malay Style (very good), Gourd Soup (not much flavor), and I had (from a choice of three entres) Prawn Curry Myanmar Style. For dessert, we had fruit crepe purse and a cherry syrup. I had red wine for drink.

I went to my room, filled out my journal and went to bed by 9:30.

7 March 2012, Wednesday

I got up at 6:15 when the engines were started and the anchor pulled. I took a shower and my pills, and then went to the Sun Deck for coffee. I talked to Rick from Madison, Wisconsin, an environmental psychology professor. We pulled into Sarikei (Google Map) and tied up at Sarikei Jetty.

I'm writing this part with a very painful, throbbing right forearm and head. At 8, we boarded one of about five minivans and headed to the Sebangkoi Jungle, a park. We divided into two groups, one for hard hiking and one for easy hiking. I went with Alvin. We waded through creeks and walked through the jungle, much of it on very slick concrete paths or blocks (this was the hard category). Alvin pointed out the various plants and their uses. At the last climb, I brought up the rear to ensure that everyone could get through. Then a large insect started buzzing a couple of us in the back. Then we were being stung. I realized that we must have disturbed some hornets and that it would only get worse. I yelled for everyone to run, but most just kept swatting. I continued yelling “run,” and they then caught on. When I yelled “run,” the people in front stopped to see what was going on and they blocked us. We finally pushed our way through, but it was very frustrating. I got stung three times, one on the forearm and twice on my head. It was a very painful sting and just seemed to get worse. I had a bright red patch on my arm about 1/8 inch in diameter with a swollen platform about an inch in diameter, but it kept growing. Five of us got stung, two others got stung twice and the other two, only once. I had a reddish, swollen zone about 4 inches in diameter after 15 minutes. I had two swollen knots on my head. I could feel my right forearm tightening up from the swelling, up to the lower part of my bicep. I would also have chills periodically. We were almost at the end of the walk anyway and just proceeded to the park meeting area in the front building. Those of us that were stung got ice to put on our stings. I've been stung a lot in the past, but this is the most painful.

After the two groups met back, we got into the vans and went to a plantation where we observed peppers, oriental “spinach,” dragon fruit, cassava, pineapple, fighting cocks, betel nut palms, betel-leaf plant, etc.

Then we drove back to Sarikei. They said that we had some time to walk around before we got back on board, but I didn't have money with me and didn't feel like doing anything else. I got back on the boat and was in my room by 11:40. I took a shower and then filled out my journal. I also typed some of the journal entries.

Before I forget, I want to mention something about birds. While on the river, we have mostly seen swifts and egrets, rarely other birds. Along the river, I have photographed numerous large buildings with no windows. These buildings are much taller than houses. Some of them have loud speakers with very loud swift bird calls. The houses host the swifts for their bird nests. The locals don't harvest nests with eggs. The nests are collected and soaked in water. The small globs of swift saliva are collected with tweezers and the rest is thrown away. The saliva is put into small containers and then it is dried and sold to the Chinese to make birds' nest soup. To the Chinese, it is a very important soup as an overall tonic, good for everything. I haven't tired it yet.

We untied and pulled away from Sarikei at 1 PM.

I talked to Dick Mallott, the fellow from Clay County. He gave me a hand-written sheet with the names of his Clay County family. They were Campbells, but also mentions the Brittons, Bowlings, and Collinses. I'll look more into it when I get back. Dick is a very nice fellow to talk to.

Dr. Diana (the one who is going to Indonesia to set up a clinic) had a problem with her netbook computer. It was frozen and wouldn't even shut down. I showed her how to do a hard shutdown and then I turned it back on. It booted correctly. Now she knows how to fix that problem. She had also dropped her camera in the water and it wouldn't work. I gave her my old back-up camera that I had used last summer, because she'll need something that works when she is in Indonesia.

At three, we went to Lillian's lecture on the “Mangrove Delta.” We saw the plants and animals that we might see while we're here.

At 4:30, we boarded the launch in the rain and went through narrow distributaries till we got to a spot where four or five people were waiting in small boats with outboard engines. We got in these boats while wearing life jackets and ponchos. We set out through even smaller channels looking at mangroves and watching the wildlife. We saw twenty whimbrels, a large woodpecker, a Black-and-Red Broadbill (black with wedge-shaped turquoise bill, I didn't see it myself), sandpipers, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, and a variety of other birds. Nypa palms (Wikipedia entry), which live in the water, were common in this mangrove community. It rained the entire time. We headed back to the launch and then back to the Pandaw. I spotted a dolphin along the way.

We got to the Pandaw by 7:30. I went to my room to change into dry clothes and to fill out my journal. At 8, I went to the Sun Deck where they had a BBQ going on (what we would call grilling, not BBQ). We had shrimp kabobs, chicken kabobs, cheese dog kabobs, fish steamed in banana leaf, several salads, and lots of condiments. I had red wine to drink. People kept asking me and the other stingees, if we needed this type of medicine or that type of ointment. Everybody was concerned about us. Dick and Rollo have red patches that cover all of their afflicted arms. Mine, although painful, doesn't seem to be expanding at this time. I'll see what tomorrow brings.

I went to my room by 9:45 and went to bed by 10:15.

8 March 2012, Thursday

I woke up at 6, got up at 6:15, and took a shower. My right arm is starting to itch, which I think is a good sign. I went to the Sun Deck at 6:30 for coffee. I saw another dolphin while talking to the other guests.

I went to breakfast at 7 and had a mixed-vegetable omelet and toast. Dr. Diana said that I needed to watch the white patch where I was stung. After breakfast, I went to my room to get ready for our morning excursion. I also bought several songket woven pieces with my store credit. I have a $200 credit because I have been on other Pandaw cruises.

The Pandaw tied up at a long concrete pier at Rajang Village, a Muslim Melanau tribe community. We walked through the village looking at all the flowers and colorful houses. We stopped at a Songket weaving workshop and we saw the ladies making beautiful cloth for ceremonial sarongs. We also saw their masjid (mosque), and a graveyard. We walked back to the Pandaw in the heat. The tide was low, so we could see the extensively exposed tidal mudflat with abundant mudskippers, crabs, and Avicennia (Wikipedia entry) mangrove trees.

We got back at 10:30 and the Pandaw pulled away at 10:45. As we were cruising, I saw two more dolphins. I washed out a couple of my shirts and hung them out to dry. I've had my laundry done twice on the Pandaw, but I'm afraid there is not enough time to launder these.

At 12:30, we went down to lunch. I had pre-ordered duck as an entre. It was de-boned and rolled and then cut into slices. It was good, but there was not much meat. We had a buffet salad and soup. The salad selection was great as usual.

At 3, we went to the Sun Deck where Lilian gave a lecture on tribal marriage customs and assigned guests roles to play. The two male guides played the roles of negotiators for the two families, to determine how many water buffalo, money, and other items the husband's family would have to play for the bride price (reverse of dowry).

Then at 5, Alvin talked about courtship customs among the Iban. It also involved a little acting by Frankie. We then had a briefing about disembarking the boat tomorrow. Everyone, but I, leaves in the early morning. I'm the sole passenger till 2:15 in the afternoon.

We pulled into Sibu again and tied up. At 7:30, the dinner gong was rung. I had Tempura Prawn brought out on a plate with hollowed pineapple as a lantern (the room was darkened). The shrimp was served with a sweet chili sauce. We had French Onion Soup and then my entre choice came out. I had beef tenderloin with Sarawak Pepper Corn Sauce (we're in Sarawak) with veggies. For dessert, we had several types of ice cream with fruit. It was a very good last meal.

At 9, we went to the Sun Deck where the crew preformed dances and songs. I had to get up a couple of times to dance with them. I normally go to bed shortly after 9, but the entertainment went on till about 10:30. We all said our good byes and then I went to my room by 10:45 and went to bed at 11, after filling out my journal.

9 March 2012, Friday

I woke up at 5:30, but got up at 6:30. I took a shower and then my pills. I have to take anti-malarial pills for several weeks after I get back.

I went to the Sun Deck for coffee. It's been raining for hours and looks like it could rain all day. At 7, I went down to breakfast and had a mixed-vegetable omelet and toast.

The inside of my entire forearm is very itchy and I still have a weird 1/8-inch patch in the middle. I have a couple of lumps on my head that itch a little, but not like my arm.

I hugged several of my new friends as they were leaving.

While docked at Sibu, we have a slow internet connection. I went to the Sun Deck, where the router is located and sent out several e-mails. I learned more about the tornado outbreak in Kentucky and Tennessee. There were lots of deaths and a funnel cloud was spotted over our neighborhood. Our family and friends are alright though.

I went to my cabin and started packing. I'm leaving my old shoes here (my kids made fun of the anyway).I only have sandals at this point. I bought some souvenirs which will take the place of shoes in my pack. I'm also charging my laptop for the last time. The rain stopped about the same time that I finished packing.

I sat on a dry chair on the Sun Deck and watched fishermen and birds. Most of the birds are House Swifts, and there are plenty of Eurasian Tree Sparrows (closely related to the House Sparrow), but I also saw a Chestnut Munia collecting straw for its nest, and a White-Breasted Woodswallow. The wood swallow looked much like the slightly-smaller House Swifts, but had a white belly. The Munia was the same size as the tree sparrows, but they kept chasing it away. I also saw one dove, but couldn't see it closely, probably a Spotted Dove.

At 12, I was called to lunch. I had a nice tomato and onion salad, carrot soup, and a club sandwich with mixed-vegetable slices, cheese and meat on toast. It was served with french fries and tartar sauce. They were going to give me dessert, but I declined. Alvin came in and talked to me awhile and then Frankie stopped by to say goodbye. They both leave before I do.

At 2:15, a driver for Pandaw picked me up and took me to the airport. She handed me my boarding passes for the next two flights which makes it a lot easier for me. I went through airport security and was in the departure lounge by 2:50.

The plane was late but we boarded quickly. I got to Kuching about 5 or so and went to Sarawak immigration control. They were an independent nation, but joined Malaysia, maintaining their rights to control their own borders within Malaysia. My plane doesn't leave for a couple of hours, so I went to the Coffee Bean and got a large-sized Chai Tea Latte. I got some hat pins, Sarawak music CD and T-shirt at a souvenir shop next door.

We were supposed to board at 7:35, but of course, the plane was late. I think every plane here is late as a standard rule. I only have a few hours to sleep in KL tonight as it is. We boarded around 8:15 and arrived in Kuala Lumur about 10. I wandered through the airport till I found the shuttle waiting area for the Concorde Inn Klia. It was not easy to find. After about 15 minutes, a bus pulled up behind a very large pole which hid the sign on the bus. The bus driver saw us waiting and decided after awhile to stroll over and shout to us that this was the bus for the hotel. He was one lazy dude. There were about twenty of us on the bus. After a 10 minute drive, we got to the hotel and a number of us registered. I got to my room about 11:10. It's an industrial-grade, single-level series of wings. You have to read a chart on a map to see where your room is in the maze of wings.

I filled out my journal and got ready for bed. I went to bed at 11:30.

10 March 2012, Saturday

I got up at 5:15 and took a shower. I checked out at 5:45 and got on the almost full shuttle bus, which left about 6. I got to the Emirates Airlines counter at 6:30. There was a young Parisian couple in front of me. I told them about my daughter who just spent a semester in Paris. The counter was closed, no staff and there was no indication about when they opened. They finally opened at 7:15 and the young lady not only got a boarding pass for me on the Emirates flight to Dubai, but also passes for the Delta flights to Atlanta and Lexington. I was pleased about that. I went through security quickly and then immigration control after about 15 minutes. I took the robo-train to the C terminal and walked to my wing. There are a huge number of shops here. I went to a Starbucks at 8, got a Cocoa Cappacino and a breakfast pizza-type thing. I had skipped the included breakfast at the hotel in order to beat the crowds at the airport. Starbucks has free WiFi. I sent out an e-mail entry for yesterday. At about 9:15, I went through another, more thorough security screening and then I waited in another gate waiting area.

I boarded at 9:15 and the plane took off about 10. I watched four movies, “Cowboys and Aliens,” “Tower Heist,” “The Immortals,” and “50-50.” We landed before the last one finished. I was served two meals, the first was something like BBQ-sauce chicken with rice, also served with bun, cheese, crackers and a cake-like thing. The second meal was a veggie bun sandwich and a ground chicken(?) bun sandwich, plus cake-like thing. I could only eat part of it. I haven't been hungry for weeks. We flew over the Malaca Straits, northern Sumatra, Indian Ocean, southern India, Arabian Ocean, and across northern Arabia.

We landed about 1 PM or so in Dubai, and I went through more security to get to the next departure terminal. It's a very long terminal with lots of shops. I must have walked two miles to get to my next gate and got their by about 2. I have another eight-hour wait before my next flight all the way to Atlanta. I think it's about a 16-hour flight.

I found an Irish bar and restaurant and ordered Colcannon soup and a Pedigree beer. The beer was terrible, so I got a Guinness instead. I sat there for hours, filled out my journal and re-read it from the beginning. I couldn't finish my Guinness, so I just left it. I went to the gate area and started the additional security screening and boarding around 9:30 PM. While standing in line, waiting to go through security, a fellow behind me said “That's an old-school pack.” He was about 28-34, had a beard and a pack too. I told him that it was 40 years old and had been all over the world with me. I told him the brand and mentioned that the company no longer existed. This may be the last trip for this old pack. The leather straps are getting worn and cracked. Sort of a metaphor for me, now that I mention it.

The flight was delayed some, but I don't know by how much. I sat in the middle row of seats and had an aisle seat. The fellow that sat next to me was a big fellow and his legs and arms were well into my space for much of the flight. He slept most of the time. English was not his first language. I watched a bunch of movies including “Hangover 2,” “Rum Diaries,” and “The Tourist.” I tried sleeping between movies, but you know how that goes.

11 March 2012, Sunday

This was an overnight flight. The first meal was probably early in the morning. I had chicken with some veggies, bun, and tabbouleh-like salad. I had water to drink. Later in the morning, I had an omelet with spinach(?), cheese-hash browns, mushrooms, croissant, cut fruit, and strawberry yogurt. I had water to drink. We got into Atlanta late, about 6:30. I went to Passport Control and was one of the first there, so that didn't take much time. After that, I turned my customs card in and then went through more rigorous security screening. Then I was in the departure area. I took a train to the D terminal and found my gate area for Lexington. I still had some time, so I got a Starbucks Skinny Mocha, or something like that. I sat down in a quiet area, filled out my journal and sipped my drink. My eyes feel like someone has thrown salt and dirt into them. I feel greasy and tired. This is my third day of travel. The overnight flight was 16 hours long and the “day” was about 34 hours long because we followed the sun. The rest of today should be better.

The flight to Lexington has been delayed due to late arrival of the plane. The plane boarded about an hour late and we arrived in Lexington about 11:30. Mary was at the airport to pick me up and drive me home. We had a powder-blue sky and 65 degree F weather.

The End.