A sunny picture of rice fields (Malaysia to Indonesia)

My friend from the Tarakan Customs office (We became friends after my bags were searched thoroughly for drugs) He was courteous though and bought me Gado Gado, Rice with peanut sauce and Sago chips to welcome me to the country

My friend from the Tarakan Indonesian Customs office (We officially became friends after my bags were searched thoroughly for drugs) Afterwards he bought me my first local meal of Gado Gado, Rice with peanut sauce and Sago chips. Welcome to Kalimantan, Indonesia

The city roads give way to a dirt jungle path winding through palm plantations and eucalyptus groves. Day 1 on the road to the Indonesian border

The city roads give way to a dirt jungle path, winding through palm plantations and eucalyptus groves. Day 1 on the road to the Indonesian border. Leaving Kota Kinabalu

Bananas, Mangos, Coconuts!! It is 2 pm and I am a few km outside the city of Kota Kinabalu. The yelling of fruit vendors can be heard from all sides of the street, and I look out to see a row of stalls leading into the jungle. Fruits and vegetable of all types are being sold in large quantities and I contemplate filling my panniers before setting out. A few locals squatting on the corner selling durian catch my attention, and I stop to buy a bite of my fathers favorite fruit only to leave with half a kilo and two bunches of bananas. Yellow and ripe or green and firm bananas are by far one of the most difficult items to carry of a bicycle. These two bunches would be left to rot in my rear right pannier only to be discovered days later when fruit flies started flying out of the zipper.

DCIM102GOPRO
The clouds slowly covered the blue humid skies as I prepared to again leave the busy metropolis and be alone in the jungle. In the last few days I had connected with a few solo travelers and felt like I had had enough human interaction to last me until reaching the next city, Tawau 500+ km away. The road suddenly started climbing and after hours of sweating in the humidity I met two brothers waiting near their over heated car. The interior was filled with flowering orchids and the two offered me cold water, beer and cigarettes. After another hour of pedaling I came to the only market in the village where I bought a dinner of bitter squash and rice. For the first time in months I used my sleeping bag and slept well in the cool evening breeze.

The high jungle, 1500 meters above sea level, my only mosquito free night

The high jungle, 1500 meters above sea level, hours after my first mosquito free night

Malaysian’s are some of the friendliest and most hospitable people I have met. It seems that everywhere I go I am in the company of friends, and I had very little concern when camping in the wild. The eyes of the people from Sabah emote such kindness that I have no doubt many would give you the shirt off their backs, and they conduct themselves in a way that reflects an understanding that life is often taken too seriously. Every evening I was invited into the homes of kind strangers, where warm home cooked meals filled the tables and children played n the dirt of the front and back yard.

Et and Bubu # 2, from friends from the local convenient store

Et and Bubu # 2, hosts from the roadside Kedai (convenient store) Sepalut

With the accommodation came the rain, and for the first time I wished I had brought a rain jacket. A hot day can quickly become rather cold when the rain begins to fall. Storms are quick and fierce with a down pour that quickly creates a flash flood. . Inside a tent the storm feels a lot like camping under a waterfall. Within minutes there will be nothing left that is dry and the humidity will stick around hours afterwards.

Shelter from the storm

Shelter from the storm

Shell Inc. Owns a large portion of jungle called Maliau Basin. They will not let you ride a bicycle on the roads, only oil burning transport allowed!

Shell Inc. Owns a large portion of jungle called Maliau Basin. They will not let you ride a bicycle on the roads, only oil burning transport allowed!

They do cook a tasty fried rice breakfast

They do cook a tasty fried rice breakfast

The land is full of natural resources, and as I pedaled through the jungle I watched as acres and acres of thick forest were being logged and burned away to make room for Palm plantations. There were many areas on the road to Tawau where Palm plantations were all that I could see. The African oil palm is planted on all the open land and within 3 years begins to produce a bundle of reddish like fruit called “sawit” in Malaysian. These bundles of “sawit” are then trucked to refining plants where they are processed into oil. Many of the locals who I stayed with were “sawit” farmers and on one lucky occasion I went to the processing factory.

Stack of roadside "sawit"   (Saw-wheat) Fruit of the African oil palm, waiting to be processed into oil

A Stack of “sawit” at the oil factory.
(Saw-wheat) Fruit of the African oil palm, waiting to be processed into oil. Locals are paid $75 USD per ton delivered to the neighborhood factory.

My friend and host Michael (from the Iban Jungle tribe) unloading his pickup at the processing factory

My friend and host Michael (from the Iban Jungle tribe) unloading his pickup truck on a hot day at the factory

Close up of the reddish oily fruit

Close up of the reddish oily fruit from the African palm.

Local Sawit factory, the fruit is steamed and refined into large tanks of oil then trucked to the port of Tawau or Kota Kinabalu for export

Local Sawit factory, the fruit is steamed and refined into large tanks of oil which is then trucked to the port of Tawau or Kota Kinabalu for export. Malaysia is the largest exporter of Palm Oil.

Port of Tawau

Port of Tawau

Tawau, is the entrance to Indonesia, and most of the city is filled with Indonesian immigrants and pirate like Malaysians fishing and selling commodities off the shore.
In my four days in the city I didn’t encounter any western foreigners and often felt like I was the representation of the western world. The restaurants were owned by the Malay and the shops were owned by the Chinese. Each evening the Pasar (Bazzar) took up the streets and fresh meat, vegetables, fruits and clothes were sold till midnight.

My Sikh friend Jas teaching me a few Indian songs

My Sikh friend Jas teaching me a few Indian songs

DCIM102GOPRO

While staying with my hosts (a group of 4 dentists who worked at the nearby government hospital). I made the acquaintance of a very special, spiritual girl from Punjab India. Shortly after eye contact with Jas, I was overwhelmed with a sense of love and joy, and quickly learned that she is a devoted Sikh. Her family had been “brought” to Borneo during the first world war and since then had never gone back. Though her family had been in Borneo for 4 generations she was still a full-blooded Punjabi. Jas had a very impressive understanding of life, suffering and samsara, and we talked extensively about Eastern Philosophy, Mediation and Yoga. One morning I even went with her to the Sikh temple.

The rest of the house, from the left KS, Evelyn, and Jas

My friends and hosts in Tawau, from the left KS, Evelyn, and Jas

It is not often that I am able to have such a wonderful connection with people, but since leaving the US in February I have encountered more than a few individuals that have become truly special to me.

Leaving Malaysia for Indonesia

Leaving Malaysia

My spirits are high and I am beginning to feel an under lying current guided by love and such joy!

I am now in Tarakan, Indonesia and will begin pedaling again tomorrow, as I make m way south to Balikpapan and on to Sulawesi.

7 thoughts on “A sunny picture of rice fields (Malaysia to Indonesia)

  1. So nice to have good news from you 🙂
    I am glad that you have a lot of good vibration in your journey :)))

    Be safe!
    Inese

    • Thanks man!! Just finished a rough 500 km section through north and east Kalimantan. The hills here are super steep! I am constantly shifting from my front largest chainring for down hills then to the granny! I recommend the challenge! Did you cycle the southern tier yet? How is the hunqapillar doing?
      -Julian

      • Glad to hear you faired through the rough terrain and that there’s ample gears to get you up and down those hills! I haven’t done the southern tier yet, life has thrown some twists and turns at me and I’m addressing them as the days go on. The hunqapillar has been great and holding up well, just waiting for another adventure!

      • Yeah the hills were ridiculous making me definitely think about throwing in the towel (more than once). But in retrospect I am glad I continued as now I have a good understanding of what the roads are like world wide. I am heading to Australia soon, and plan to cycle through the interior. Do you have any contacts that might offer some insight? Hope all is well man, take care -Julian

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s