Monday, 17 June 2019

NORTH BORNEO: The New Beginning

Sun rising from Labuan in 2018

Hello! There everyone. Especially those who followed this blog. You might be wondering why I had not written for such a long time. As many of you should be aware; Malaysia including North Borneo (Sabah which is part of Malaysia) was going through a politically perfect storm before the Malaysian 14th General Election on May 2018. By hook or by crook; citizens had to be political, whether they like it or not.  Like the picture above; daybreak had at last arrived for us in Malaysia!

Had the Malaysian voters voted for the previous government, I believe and many others shared the same opinion; Malaysia will end up in the abyss of darkness without any hope of redemption. There were many bad things the previous government did. My concern was the environmental plundering where the government at that time turned a blind eyes towards illegal logging, forest clearance, marine life destroyed due to over zealous developments and fish bombing activities, poaching and many other similar sad situations.

That was why I lost interest in blogging and many other activities preferring to focus on the nation political development. Everyone from both sides of the political divide were anxiously and nervously waiting for the outcome of the election on May 2018. Thanks God the Malaysian came to their senses. They voted out the Kleptocratic government and the new government took over. The platform of the new government is Pakatan Harapan; which mean Pact of Hope.

At best, we can only hope. What the new government can do is yet to be seen. However, what I can say is at least nowadays bloggers and journalists could freely express what they want to say without any fear of retribution by the government. At this moment (still too early to say), the new government seems to move in the right direction when comes to the environment. Hopefully they will do more. Borneo like the Amazon, is like a green lung for the world. If humans destroy the Borneo environment, then the world must be prepared to face breathing difficulties; slowly choking to death.

The political hangover is now over! No more celebration and back to work. Many friends advised me to have my own website for my blog. Which I did. However, TRAVEL LEISURE IN BORNEO is still a wonderful blog and I am very sad to let it sleep permanently. I am indebted to Google Blogspot for giving me the opportunities to express my views. I am slowly letting it go. By the end of this year, I would say; this site will be put to rest. For those of you who followed me, I would like to extend my deepest appreciation. Once again, thank you.

Please see my new website DON PETER'S WEBSITE for my new blog post. Have fun! Hope you enjoy them.

Monday, 30 July 2018

PYGMY: The Exotic Elephant from Borneo

Pygmy Elephant at the Lok Kawi Zoo

Pygmy can be an adjective used in names of plants and animals that are much smaller than more typical kinds. In Borneo, you could find pygmy rhinos, pygmy pythons and pygmy elephants. Sadly, pygmy rhinos had gone extinct in 2017 and the other pygmies are also facing extinction; if no efforts are made to protect them. 

I used to think; in order to see elephants in the wild we have to go to either Africa or India. It never crossed my mind that this magnificent creature is roaming in our own backyard in Borneo! Actually elephants can be found not only in Africa or India, but also in most parts of Southeast Asia. In India and Thailand, elephants are tamed so that they could be used as a transporter of people and cargos. In ancient time, they played the role as armored tanks in battle. The most famous story was elephants used by the Carthaginian against the Roman in the Punic War. 

Our Pygmy Elephant also known as Borneo Elephant is a subspecies of the Asian Elephant. Presently, it is confined to the northern parts of Borneo; in the east coast of North Borneo (Sabah) as well as northeast Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). Wild elephants in Borneo seem to roam only within these areas despite having access to suitable habitat elsewhere. Some researchers say that Borneo Elephant is endemic to this island and therefore unique. Others said it was an introduced species brought in by the Sultan of Sulu in the 18th century and later released into the wilderness of Borneo. But DNA testing made confirmed this animal indeed had been in Borneo for a very long time but this issue is still debatable.

But one fact remains true; the population of wild elephants in Borneo is rapidly diminishing. There are only 2000 Pygmy elephants left in the wild and captivity. In North Borneo, there were unfortunate series of elephant deaths happening within the last few years. In 2013, there were 14 elephants that died after being poison. In early 2018, 6 elephants died due to an unknown disease and later a juvenile elephant was found death after being shot at close range. 

Expanding human population is creating habitat loss for these elephants as the human disrupt their migration routes and deplete their food sources. Thus these elephants had no choice but to encroach into human settlements in search of food; creating human-elephant conflicts. The major culprits for the elephant misery are the logging activities as well as the land clearing for palm oil plantations. 

The government of North Borneo says they want to promote tourism because of the unique and endemic diversities of Borneo rainforest that offers a lot of interesting sights for tourists and visitors. Yet they destroy these sceneries by giving a free hand to logging and plantation companies to rape the environment! I implore to the government to stop the expansion of logging and plantation activities; once and for all. The remaining forests should be protected at all cost. The government must also rehabilitate wide swath of lands that had been destroyed due to these activities and replaced them through reforestation exercises using local species of plants. Only then can we hope to see the return of wild animals to our forest and reverse the possibility of their extinction. 

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Monday, 23 July 2018

THE EURASIANS: Review within Review

It had been slightly over a year (March 2017) that my novel, The Eurasians had been reviewed by Blueink Review. It was a mixed review and only this year I understood the weaknesses and the strength of my story. I wish to thank them (the reviewer) for this and now I have tips of how to write my next book.

“However it is missing a clear definitive plot to drive the novel” was one of those negative feedback. It went on to say, “But despite such enhancements, the story lacks a powerful narrative arc.” In other words, my romance-thriller novel is unpredictable. So unpredictable that it cannot “Provide a spark that sustains audience interest this failing will likely prove hard for readers to surmount.”
But the review also mentioned, “Betrayals, deception and corruption drive The Eurasians.” As you continue reading you will find, “This sprawling story shifts often from action scene to action scene, and the narrative perspective changes from chapter to chapter.” From these statements I can conclude indeed this book is a page turner. 

As I said before; my story beginning with the first several chapters are rather flat. There is nothing exciting to sustain readers’ interest. But if they are patient, they will discover the spark, and then; bang! Fireworks all the way until the end! Here are those chapters that shift from action scene to action scene. 

This is the first English romance-thriller novel from Borneo that mostly takes place in Malaysia since 1964. “In the book’s opening scene, British soldier Aaron Johnson is wounded while assisting Malaysian soldiers in battling Indonesian troops. Elsewhere, Mei Ling decides to escape her dismal life of poverty to gamble, drink, and sleep around, renaming herself Elaine for her job as a night hostess in Sandakan. After Aaron meets Elaine, he decides to marry her. But his troubles begin immediately as Elaine continuously gambles away all the money Aaron makes.” The backdrop of this novel is historical, political and environmental which help to summarize what Borneo is all about. Thus this book is also useful for people who want to know more about this enchanted island.

THE EURASIANS by Don Peter is published by Partridge Publishing since 2015. It has 296 pages and printed in paperback, hardcover and e-book format. Please log on to my website at for more details.

Friday, 1 June 2018

TENOM: The Coffee Capital of Borneo

Coffee products for sale

WILLIAM STEWART CAME FROM a small town called Tenom, a remote place in Malaysian Borneo. His father, David Stewart, was a successful real estate broker. William’s grandfather was an American planter from California. THE EURASIANS Chapter 9, Page 39

I imagined Fort Birch is like a besieged pioneer settlement surrounded by hostile tribes and animals. But that is just what we saw in the movies about the American Wild West!  This fort however was actually once a remote outpost deep in the heart of Borneo during the 1800s. When the British arrived at Fort Birch, they immediately saw this place having potential to be an agricultural center; not only to feed the North Borneo population, but also introducing cash crops for export. That was why they built the railroad from Jesselton (now known as Kota Kinabalu) connecting to this place in the late 1890s. They brought in Chinese laborers including new recruits from China to help opened up this wild frontier. The reason why the British saw Fort Birch as a potential agricultural center was because it had access to ample supply of fresh water from the mighty Padas River and the soil is good. The Chinese laborers later on became farmers who owned their own plots of land and planted fruits and vegetables. The British introduced rubber, tobacco as well as coffee. Today Fort Birch is called Tenom; an important food basket for North Borneo (Sabah) and most importantly it is now known as the Coffee Capital of Borneo.

The showroom interior
Most people drink coffee for its taste and its caffeine jolt, but hey! The aroma of coffee is believed to be brain stirrer which eventually improves its genes and proteins. As a result the brain will received 18 benefits! These are claims being made by coffee lovers. I myself rarely drink coffee so sadly I will not be able to experience what they claimed. Among the benefits of coffee aromas are reductions in stress, improving sharpness and also lower the risk of diabetes. 

People nowadays are more interested to know where does coffee come from and how is it made. Well! Coffee was first noticed by the Arabs in the 15th century probably when their traders were doing business in Abyssinia (now known as Ethiopia). Thus the origin of coffee can be traced back to the sub-Saharan Africa including the Tenom Coffee. The Tenom Coffee is the Robusta Coffee (coffea canephora). It is a sturdy species with low acidity and high bitterness. It is less susceptible to disease and has high contents of antioxidants. There are so many methods and techniques how a coffee is made. Each country had its own ways of roasting this bean. 

The exterior of the showroom
Why the Tenom Coffee is so special? I was informed that the coffee powder manufacturers in Tenom still use firewood and drum rotation methods in preparing their coffee; a tradition that had been followed from the early days of coffee production. The Tenom Coffee doesn’t have artificial coloring or preservation. That’s what makes it so special. Their technique of preparing coffee is a deeply guarded secret; because they won’t allow anybody just to walk into their backyard and see how they manufactured their coffee! But I had to admit that as I search for the coffee showrooms in Tenom, all I found all over the Tenom Town was coffee aromas. It was indeed so pleasant and intoxicating which made us forgets our immediate problems or annoyance. 

After searching frantically, at last we found one. This one is the Yit Foh Tenom Coffee established in 1960. The showrooms were so presentable and inviting and many are captivated by their adverts. They even give out small cups so you could have a sip of their sample coffee. I am not a coffee drinker; but the taste is fantastic! The aroma; even more extraordinary! I would encourage visitors to try out visiting these showrooms. Even a non-coffee lover like me could appreciate such magnificent products!  

The first English romance-thriller from Borneo. 
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Monday, 21 May 2018

TENOM: The Sabah Agriculture Park

The Cannon Ball Fruit tree

WILLIAM STEWART CAME FROM a small town called Tenom, a remote place in Malaysian Borneo. His father, David Stewart, was a successful real estate broker. William’s grandfather was an American planter from California. 
THE EURASIANS Chapter 9, Page 39

North Borneo (Sabah) offers many interesting places to see. And yet many of us; both local and foreigners are not aware of it or simply not bothered. There are the famous spots like Mount Kinabalu, which is among the highest mountain in Southeast Asia and also the wonderful islands of Gaya and Mantanani which have crystal clear seawater displaying diverse underwater creatures. There are also the lesser known ones, such as the Kokol Hill and the Salt Trail in Tambunan. I consider the Sabah Agricultural Park (Taman Pertanian Sabah) also to be one of the less known places.

The Sabah Agricultural Park is located at a 400 acres site at Lagud Seberang; just a 15 minutes casual drive from Tenom Town (Pekan Tenom). Tenom Town itself is 176 kilometers from Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu), the capital of North Borneo. Traveling from Jesselton to Tenom Town takes about 3 hours drive. We can also reach Tenom by train. According to the Sabah Railway Department schedule available on its website, the train leaves Jesselton at 7.45am and reaches Tenom at 10.30am daily. The train will leave Tenom at 4pm to go back to Jesselton. The site is maintained and developed by the Sabah Agriculture Department. The park indeed offers useful recreational and educational activities.

The Giant Water Lily

The most interesting thing to watch at this park is the Cannon Ball Fruit Tree. Fascinated at watching the fruit my friend who also visited here told me that the Cannon Ball Fruit looks like “Kiwi Fruit on steroid!” Many visitors marveled at the sight of these fruits and its trees and it would be a waste if nobody comes here to take pictures of it. I was informed by one of the officer that the name of this unusual fruit is Courouptia Guianensis and it originated from South America. Believe me; taking portrait with these trees is indeed awesome. Another species that is unique and interesting is the Giant Water Lily. Victoria Amazonica is so big that a baby could easily sit on one of its leave! It also originated from South America and many people come here to see this plant. Unfortunately, this plant is slowly disappearing from this park. I had visited this park three times and every time I came here, I see less of this plant. Probably with my next visit, the plant will no longer exist.

Honolulu creepers meant to attract bees

If you visit this park with your family, your kids will definitely enjoy this place. The park itself is very big. So in order to get around, the Department used this circus train to bring the visitors around! I am very sure children will be very excited to get a chance to ride this train. Even adults! The train moves on schedule every half an hour. The train will bring you to the Cannon Ball Fruit trees and the Giant Water Lily. It also stops at the Orchid Garden. This garden display about 400 species of orchids and among them is the rare Elephant Ear Orchids. The train also stops at the Ornamental Garden and Model Garden.

Riding the circus train around the park

Since my family is also involved in landscaping and gardening, I am impressed by the way the agriculture department planted the ornamental plants along the train route. In some areas they mixed these flowers with wild native vegetation; and indeed it looks awesome! What I love the most is the abundance of Honolulu Creepers. The department deliberately planted a lot of this creeper because the flowers attract bees. So if you are walking around this huge garden, you will also notice that there are many species of bees flying around. If you have the time, you could also visit the bee farms. If you are afraid of being sting, then go to the stingless bee hives; definitely you will not be sting! Then you have this huge open space where your kids could run freely. Nearby you have the lake which is so pleasing.

The wide open space inside the park

To my readers, I implore upon you to visit this park. If you are locals, please set one of your weekends to visit this place. For foreign tourists, please make the visit to this park as one of your itinerary. The agriculture department officers and their workers had done a good job to beautify this park. Remember; parks provide intrinsic, environmental, aesthetic and recreational benefits for visitors. It will definitely help to reduce your stress and who knows; lower your blood pressure.

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