Friday, 16 October 2015


The Island of Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world located in Southeast Asia. In fact it is the largest island in Asia. Three countries owned Borneo; Malaysia (Sarawak and North Borneo), Indonesia (Kalimantan) and the tiny kingdom of Brunei. Seventy percent of the island belongs to Indonesia. Borneo is surrounded by South China Sea in the West, the Sulu Sea in the north, the Celebes Sea in the East and the Java Sea in the south.

The Manau Rattan used to make furniture
The Borneo Jungle
Borneo is unique because it has the oldest rainforest in the world (about 140 million years old!) with 15,000 species of flowering plants, 3000 species of trees, 220 species of mammals and 420 species of birds. It is among the most endemic species of plants and animals in the world. For example, the Proboscis Monkey can only be found in Borneo. Their elephants are so tiny that they are called the Pygmy Elephant; only found in Borneo. But sadly, because of the inability of the governments to take serious action to save these flora and fauna from extensive logging and land clearing, the natural paradise of Borneo will one day be extinct! Every year thousands of acres of land are being burnt to make way for oil palm plantations. Many people of Southeast Asia had to endure the annual haze that enveloped the continents because of open burning and land clearing. By the way, even the surrounding seas are home to the most diverse species of sea creatures! Yet nothing much is done to prevent over-fishing and the menace of fish-bombing activities.

Probably the few big trees left in Borneo

Wild flowers of Mount Kinabalu
Borneo also have interesting history and culture. Probably the first true settlements ( people who stayed and thrived) are those who migrated 3000 years ago (see Tribes of North Borneo). The culture of the Borneo people are quite similar to those from Indo-China. But I cannot help myself wondering why does the early tribes of Borneo do have striking similarity with the natives of tropical South America. The way their men trim their hair, the dress they wore, the used of blowpipes to hunt animals and of course, the tradition of the head-hunting! According to ancient manuscript, traders feared going deep into Borneo but these islands are once an important source of gold, shells, ivories (from hornbills, elephants and rhinos), rattan and of course bird nests. Believe it or not, the Chinese colonists set up a Republic in Southwest Kalimantan when United States got their independence from Britain in 1776 and lasted for 100 years! Only the Dutch was able to defeat them in 1877. The history of Borneo became more colorful when they were colonized by the Dutch and the English in the 1800's. Just imagine the native of Sarawak accepted James Brook to be their White Rajah (King) in 1842. Japan invaded Borneo in 1942 and surrendered it back to the respective government of Netherlands and Great Britain in 1945. Kalimantan is now part of Indonesia, while Sarawak and North Borneo formed Malaysia in 1963, and Brunei got its independence from Britain in 1987.

Tribes (Dayak) of Central Borneo

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