In Search Of Wallace – Part 5: Simunjan, Borneo

In-Search-Of-Wallace-Simunjan

Alfred Russel Wallace spent 15 months in Borneo from November 1854 to January 1856. After exploring in the vicinity of Sarawak town (Kuching) he made a journey into ‘a part of the interior seldom visited by Europeans’.

This is how he described the area in The Malay Archipelago:

“In March 1865 I determined to go to the coalworks which were being opened near the Simunjon River, a small branch of the Sadong, a river east of Sarawak and between it and the Batang- Lupar. The Simunjon enters the Sadong River about twenty miles up. It is very narrow and very winding, and much overshadowed by the lofty forest, which sometimes almost meets over it. The whole country between it and the sea is a perfectly level forest-covered swamp, out of which rise a few isolated hills, at the foot of one of which the works are situated. On the slope of the hill near its foot a patch of forest had been cleared away, and several rule houses erected, in which were residing Mr. Coulson the engineer, and a number of Chinese workmen. I was at first kindly accommodated in Mr. Coulson’s house, but finding the spot very suitable for me and offering great facilities for collecting, I had a small house of two rooms and a verandah built for myself. Here I remained nearly nine months, and made an immense collection of insects.”

Click on the expand map symbol in the top right corner to view a larger map.

I thought I would have little chance of tracing this location based on such a scanty description but I found on the map the small town of Simunjan where the Simunjan River meets the Sadong River. A couple of miles from the town is the only hill for miles around which is today known as Gunung Ngeli (though it is more of a Bukit than a Gunung given its modest height).

Further internet searches revealed that this hill was once a coal mining area and this was indeed the place where Wallace spent nine months in 1865.

It is a 170km drive (each way) from Kuching and it took me about 3 hours to get there in my Perodua hire car. But the trip was worth it as Gunung Ngeli was, a few years back, converted into a recreational park with a trail and steps all the way to the top, so I was able to have a good look around.

I made this short video to show how Gunung Ngeli looks today.

Wallace stayed such a long time here because it was so rich in insect life. He adopted the practice of paying locals one cent for each insect brought to him and this yielded great results:

“I obtained from the Dyaks and the Chinamen many fine locusts and Phasmidae (stick insects) as well as numbers of handsome beetles.”

Phasmatodea

Stick Insects On Display at Putrajaya Natural History Museum.

“When I arrived at the mines, on the 14th of March, I had collected in the four preceding months, 320 different kinds of beetles. In less than a fortnight I had doubled this number, an average of about 24 new species every day. On one day I collected 76 different kinds, of which 34 were new to me. By the end of April I had more than a thousand species, and they then went on increasing at a slower rate, so that I obtained altogether in Borneo about two thousand distinct kinds, of which all but about a hundred were collected at this place, and on scarcely more than a square mile of ground. The most numerous and most interesting groups of beetles were the Longicorns and Rhynchophora, both pre- eminently wood-feeders.”

REMARKABLE BEETLES FOUND AT SIMUNJON, BORNEO

Remarkable Beetles Found At Simunjon, Borneo. Image from The Malay Archipelago.

Coleoptera

Beetles in Putrajaya Natural History Museum.

“My collection of butterflies was not large; but I obtained some rare and very handsome insects, the most remarkable being the Ornithoptera Brookeana, one of the most elegant species known. This beautiful creature has very long and pointed wings, almost resembling a sphinx moth in shape. It is deep velvety black, with a curved band of spots of a brilliant metallic-green colour extending across the wings from tip to tip, each spot being shaped exactly like a small triangular feather, and having very much the effect of a row of the wing coverts of the Mexican trogon, laid upon black velvet. The only other marks are a broad neck-collar of vivid crimson, and a few delicate white touches on the outer margins of the hind wings. This species, which was then quite new and which I named after Sir James Brooke, was very rare. It was seen occasionally flying swiftly in the clearings, and now and then settling for an instant at puddles and muddy places, so that I only succeeded in capturing two or three specimens.”

Brookeana

It was while Wallace was at Gunung Ngeli that he hunted and killed more than a dozen orang-utans, which nowadays would be a despicable thing to do but in his era would have been the only way to study the species in detail and besides, he financed his trip by selling skins and specimens to museums and collectors.

FEMALE ORANG-UTAN copy

FEMALE ORANG-UTAN The Malay Archipelago

He describes these encounters in considerable detail. Here is one such excerpt:

“On the 12th of May I found another, which behaved in a very similar manner, howling and hooting with rage, and throwing down branches. I shot at it five times, and it remained dead on the top of the tree, supported in a fork in such a manner that it would evidently not fall. I therefore returned home, and luckily found some Dyaks, who came back with me, and climbed up the tree for the animal. This was the first full-grown specimen I had obtained; but it was a female, and not nearly so large or remarkable as the full-grown males. It was, however, 3 ft. 6 in. high, and its arms stretched out to a width of 6 ft. 6 in. I preserved the skin of this specimen in a cask of arrack, and prepared a perfect skeleton, which was afterwards purchased for the Derby Museum.”

I enquired with Derby Museum to see whether they still held any of Wallace’s specimens as I though it would be interesting to visit next time I am in UK. This  was their response:

“Derby Museums do not hold any orang-utan specimens collected by Alfred Russel Wallace. This is despite his book, ‘The Malay Archipelago’ (1869), clearly referring to material being killed and collected for Derby Museum. We now know these specimens are in the World Museum Liverpool which was then known as the Derby Museum, named after the main donor, the 13th Earl of Derby (resident of the nearby Knowsley Hall), whose bequeathed natural history collection formed the basis of their collections.”

Orangutan

Once stuffed and mounted at the museum, Wallace’s orang-utan skins might have looked something like this sorry specimen on display at Putrajaya National History Museum.

After my climb up and down Gunung Ngeli, which took about 90 minutes, I drove on to the small town of Simunjan. which was probably non-existent or just getting established in Wallace’s time. No old buildings survive as the town is situated on a bend in the river and is prone to erosion. The earliest structures were washed away and the present town of around 60 shophouses dates mainly from the 1960s.

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Simunjan Town Centre, May 2016

There are various theories as to how Simunjan got its name. The most plausible, and the one which Wallace might have found interesting, is that it was named after a bird called the Munjan as shown on this billboard.

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There was not a lot to see in the town but I had a light lunch and was warmly greeted by the friendly inhabitants.

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School kids playing in a beached boat at Simunjan.

Next Instalment: Bukit Peninjau

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Rip-Off Britain?

Amazing fact:

Cost of 1 minute mobile phone call from Malaysia to UK landline using Hotlink (Malaysian mobile company): £0.02 (RM0.12).

Cost of 1 minute phone call from UK mobile to Malaysia landline using BT Mobile: £1.20.

Perhaps BT could explain why UK consumers have to pay sixty times more than Malaysians. Presumably to pay for those over-inflated senior management salaries.

 

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South Sumatra – Friendliest Place in S.E. Asia?

South East Asia is a friendly part of the world. The Malaysians are famous for their friendliness. Thailand is the ‘Land of Smiles’ and the Philippines is full of laughing, cheerful people. But I have seldom been to a place where the locals are quite as welcoming as the good folk of Palembang and Bengkulu in South Sumatra, Indonesia.

Everywhere I went it was ‘Hello Mister’, ‘Where are you from?’, ‘Take Photo’.

It was difficult for me to take photos of places without somebody wanting to be in the photo and even more wanted to take selfies with me on their phones. Very strange. I can only assume they must have very boring Facebook pages.

Here are just some of the smiling faces I encountered.

 

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Bencoolen’s British Relics & Other Attractions

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“This is without exception the most wretched place I ever beheld. I cannot convey to you an adequate idea of the state of ruin and dilapidation which surrounds me.”

So said Stamford Raffles when he arrived in Bencoolen to take up the post of Governor General in October 1817.

A bit harsh? Probably not at the time. Even today, after 200 years of progress, an air of torpor hangs over the old part of Bencoolen, the part that Raffles would recognise, though to be fair the town (now called Bengkulu) has grown enormously and the newer districts are more vibrant.

By the time Raffles arrived, Bencoolen had already been a British possession in Sumatra for 132 years, having been established as an East India Company (EIC) trading post in 1685, reporting to the Bengal Presidency.

A combination of rampant malaria, depressingly damp climate, lazy and corrupt officials, economic mismanagement, earthquakes and a local population unwilling to toil unnecessarily for foreign masters meant that Bencoolen was one of Britain’s least successful colonies.

Raffles had just arrived from a successful stint in Java and despite his negative first impression of Bencoolen he set about making a go of it with his customary talent and energy. He abolished slavery and gambling, he planted nutmeg and coffee, freed up the pepper trade and repaired strained relations with local chiefs.

Eventually however even Raffles was worn down by Bencoolen. The nutmeg and coffee crops were losing money and four of his children died here from fever, presumably malaria, which almost took his life too. Gradually his attention shifted towards a new settlement that he had established on a small island called Singapore which he saw as having greater potential.

Bencoolen was soon afterwards handed over to the Netherlands as part of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 in exchange for giving up any Dutch claim to Malacca and Singapore. The Dutch East India Company may have been master traders but they were less canny when it came to swapping territories. Not only did they swap Bencoolen for Singapore, the Dutch wanted the tiny nutmeg growing island of Run so badly that they exchanged it for New York! Of course I am over-simplifying.

On my recent trip to Bengkulu I looked for the remnants of British Bencoolen together with any other tourist sights. Here is what I found.

Fort Marlborough

Fort Marlborough Bengkulu in 2016

Bencoolen’s top British relic is undoubtedly Fort Marlborough which was built by the East India Company between 1714 and 1720. It replaced an earlier fort called Fort York which had been built in the wrong place and was later abandoned. Despite its age and its location in an earthquake prone area Fort Marlborough remains in remarkably good condition with thick, robust walls arranged in a star shape and surrounded by dry moats.

Tombstone of George Shaw at Bencoolen

Three large tombstones are propped up against a wall just inside the entrance. This one remembers George Shaw who served as a factor in Bencoolen from 1699 until he was ‘removed by death’ in 1704.  The other headstones are of Richard Watts and Henry Stirling.

ancient graffiti at Bencoolen

A piece of ancient graffiti has been carved into the wall of one of the former cells or barracks. Written in Dutch, presumably by a soldier or prisoner, it has been translated as “Whoever observes this compass, don’t get angry to the one who makes this scratching. Remember that the misery and time make me scratch here, and when I write this.”

View from Fort Marlborough

Nice views from the walls of the fort.

Parr Memorial

Parr Memorial, Bencoolen

A short distance from the fort is the Thomas Parr Memorial. Parr was the British Resident of Bencoolen, one of Raffles’ predecessors. He arrived in town in 1801 with instructions to cut costs, thereby alienating a lot of the locals who depended on EIC handouts, including his Bugis bodyguards. He was murdered and beheaded. The memorial looks rather shabby and serves as a skateboard park for the town’s youths but I suppose he is lucky to be remembered at all after all these years.

Hamilton Memorial

Hamilton Memorial

Another Brit has his own memorial, usefully serving as a traffic roundabout. The plaque on the memorial reads “Underneath this obelisk are interred the remains of Captain Robert Hamilton who died on the 15th December 1793 at the age of 38 years in Command of the Troops and Second Member of the Government.” Promotion in the EIC would have come fast In Bencoolen where disease was rife and long term survival prospects for the British inhabitants were bleak.

British Cemetery

British Cemetery, Bengkulu

Those Brits who succumbed to malaria, cholera, dysentery, small pox and the rest ended up here, the Makam Inggris tucked away in the back lanes next to a church. Hundreds would have been buried here over the centuries including Raffles’ four children but probably less than 50 graves are still visible. and many of these no longer have any inscription. After Bencoolen was handed over to the Dutch this became their cemetery in the same way as the Dutch Cemetery in Malacca became used by the British after the Dutch left.

Raffles’ Residence

Raffles’ Residence in Bengkulu?

This grand house in the heart of town is the Bengkulu Provincial Governor’s Residence.  Some say that this was Raffles’ Residence which I suppose is a possibility allowing for a few renovations over the years. It is certainly the sort of location he would have chosen – very close to the fort and facing a padang, now used partly as a deer park and partly as a public space with a rather stunted and tatty modern observation tower in the middle.

Bencoolen-Raffles-Country-House-Pematang-Balam-Bengkulu

Raffles built himself an idyllic country house called Permatang Balan at a place called Bukit Kabat (Hill of Mists) some 12 miles out of town. He retreated here with his wife and children and spent some of the happiest times of his whole life. Unfortunately I was unable to find out exactly where this house was and whether any traces still remain.

Bengulu mountain

There is a spectacularly shaped hill close to Bengkulu, like Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain, as shown in this photo taken from the Fort. Perhaps Raffles’ country house was in that direction.

Rafflesia Arnoldii

Bencoolen-Rafflesia

While Raffles was stationed in Bengkulu the giant, stinky parasitic flower now known as Rafflesia arnoldii was discovered in tropical forests near Lubuk Tapi. An excursion to visit the flower is one of the top things to do in Bengkulu but they only bloom in November/December so my timing was wrong.

Kampoeng China

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In the shadow of the Fort is this gateway decorated with dragons marking the entrance to Kampoeng China.

Kampoeng China, Bengkulu

China Towns are often the most lively and bustling parts of any city in South East Asia but that does not appear to be the case here. Admittedly it was a hot Sunday afternoon but it seems in Bengkulu the centre of gravity has moved away from Kampoeng China to newer districts.

Bung Karno’s Residence

Bung Karno’s Residence, Bengkulu

Soekarno (Sukarno), affectionately known as Bung Karno, was Indonesia’s first President and he led the country’s struggle for independence from the Dutch from the 1930s onwards. He was a thorn in the side of the Dutch and they exiled him, first to Flores and then to Bengkulu where he stayed in this house from 1938-1942. It is now a small museum and contains his well-thumbed book collection, his bicycle, his furniture and various photos and portraits

Ibu Fatmawati Soekarno House

Ibu Fatmawati Soekarno House

In a nearby street is the house of Fatmawati who Sukarno met during his exile and later married.

Fatmawati Soekarno

It is said that he was unable to attend his wedding ceremony so he sent along his dagger to represent him and she married that. Perhaps that explains her somewhat sad look in this picture. She is accredited with sewing the first Indonesian flag from two strips of red and white cloth and her sewing machine is one of the exhibits in the house.

Bung Karno Mosque

Bung Karno Mosque, Bengkulu

This mosque, also called Masjid Jamik, was remodelled under the guidance of Sukarno who was an architect among his many talents.

The Beach

The Beach at Bengkulu

Bengkulu has a very pleasant beach called Pantai Panjang (Long Beach) stretching about 7km with a brick and concrete footpath running its entire length. Needless to say I walked from end to the other. I didn’t see anybody swimming. Dangerous currents perhaps?

On the horizon is Rat Island. It is the best place for snorkelling in this area.

Turtle on the beach at Bengkulu

I was excited to see a turtle on the beach but sadly, on closer inspection, it was dead.

Dead turtle in Bengkulu

Pantai Panjang beach at Bengkulu

The beach is pretty empty in the heat of the day but gets busy with the locals in the early evenings who come to sip a coconut, have a meal or just enjoy the sunset and cooling breezes.

Bengkulu's malaria problem

I hope I have not painted too negative a picture of Bengkulu. It has improved a lot since Raffles’ day. It is a nice place to visit and the people are super friendly. They need to do something about the malaria though. This newspaper headline while I was there says that Bengkulu tops the league table for malaria cases in Indonesia. Plenty of insect repellent required.

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Palembang Attractions

Palembang does not rank highly on most lists of ‘things to do in Sumatra’. It’s a bit off the tourist trail being far from any beaches, waterfalls, scenic lakes or spectacular volcanos. But for those who make the effort to reach the city there are a few attractions worth seeing. Here are the highlights of my recent trip.

Dutch Influence

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Although they are not promoted as tourist attractions there are a few buildings left over from Dutch East Indies days, mostly clustered around a small lakeside park called Kambang Iwak, one of the few green spaces in town.

Textile Museum

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This once-grand building is said to have been built in 1883, I would imagine as a home or office for senior Dutch officials. Its most recent use was as the Province of South Sumatra Textile Museum which explains the sign over the entrance and these statues but it now appears to be empty and in need of some restoration.

Kantor Walikota

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This strikingly unusual building is the Mayor’s Office or Kantor Walikota Palembang. You might think the tower section is a recent addition but the building was designed this way in the 1920s by the Dutch administration who wanted a 1200 cubic metre water tank above the office to provide sufficient clean water to the surrounding colonial district. It is now nicknamed the Office of Plumbing.

Kantor-Walikota

This photo from the 1930s shows it hasn’t changed much. By the way, the Indonesian word kantor originates from the Dutch word for office, kantoor. Although Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia stem from the same Malay language there is quite a variation in vocabulary between the two countries and Indonesia has borrowed a number of words of Dutch origin.

Masjid Agung

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The Great Mosque of Palembang, with its Chinese-influenced roof and pagoda style minaret, is one of the city’s more historic landmarks. The older parts of the complex were completed in 1812 but it has been expanded and remodelled a number of times since then.

Masjid-Agung

This vintage postcard shows how it looked before all the recent additions. Better then, but it was too small to accommodate the growing number of worshippers.

Monpera Monument

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This monument and surrounding square commemorates the independence struggle against the Dutch and the suffering of the Indonesian people during the Japanese occupation.

Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Museum

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This museum is named after the 8th Sultan of the Palembang Sultanate who ruled from 1803 to 1821 and is now regarded as a national hero. The contents of the museum are nothing special but the building itself is attractive, completed in 1842 by the Dutch on the site of a former palace.

Benteng Kuto Besak

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Down by the riverside is a fort whose origins date from 1780. It was largely destroyed by the Dutch in 1821 who later rebuilt most of the walls we see today. It still serves as a military camp so entry is not permitted.

Ampera Bridge

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Palembang’s most famous landmark is probably the Ampera Bridge which was constructed in 1962 and paid for by the Japanese as part of their war reparations to Indonesia. The name Ampera is an acronym for Amanat Pendiritaan Rakyat meaning Mandate of People’s Suffering – not the most catchy name for a bridge.

Ampera-Bridge

As this old photo shows, the central span was designed to lift up using giant counterweights to allow tall vessels to pass underneath.  However it is no longer raised for safety reasons.

The Musi River

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Palembang is a major inland port and the busy waterfront is an interesting place to watch boats being loaded and unloaded.

The above video shows the little boat I hired (with driver) to take me to Kemaro Island. Somehow I managed to pick the boat with the slowest and noisiest engine on the river.  At first the rickety wooden boat rocked precariously in the choppy river and I was slightly concerned that we might be tipped into the stinking brown water but the driver regained control and once I got used to the mild deafness from the engine noise I enjoyed the trip.

Kemaro Island

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The boat trip passes a large industrial plant (urea) before arriving at Kemaro Island where there is a Chinese pagoda and temple and not much else.

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There are a few more attractions in Palembang and I have plotted all their locations, as well as the above spots, on a map in case you ever want to visit Palembang in the future.

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In Search Of Wallace – Part 4: Palembang, Sumatra

In-Search-Of-Wallace-Palembang

Alfred Russel Wallace visited Sumatra only once and stayed a relatively short time, from November 1861 to January 1862, which is perhaps surprising given that the island is massive (more than double the area of Great Britain) with, at that time, vast swathes of barely explored rain forest.

Wallace's Route from Batavia to Palembang

This is how he described his journey to Palembang:

“The mail steamer from Batavia to Singapore took me to Muntok (or as on English maps, “Minto”), the chief town and port of Banca. Here I stayed a day or two, until I could obtain a boat to take me across the straits, and all the river to Palembang.”

The tin mining island of Bangka was for a time annexed by the British and it was Stamford Raffles, in a blatant act of sycophancy, who renamed Muntok after his East India Company boss Lord Minto, Governor General of India. When the Dutch resumed control of Bangka the name Minto was quietly dropped.

On his voyage, Wallace would have passed by the island of Billiton (now Belitung), another former tin mining centre whose name lives on in the giant mining company BHP Billiton.

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The Musi River at Palembang.

“A good-sized open sailing-boat took me across to the mouth of the Palembang river where, at a fishing village, a rowing-boat was hired to take me up to Palembang–a distance of nearly a hundred miles by water.”

That’s a long way in a rowing boat!

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Map of Palembang in 1885.

“The city is a large one, extending for three or four miles along a fine curve of the river, which is as wide as the Thames at Greenwich. The stream is, however, much narrowed by the houses which project into it upon piles.”

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Palembang is a much bigger city now with an area of 142 square miles and a population of over 1.7 million. The Musi River is still the life blood of the city and its banks are lined with houses, mosques and shops on stilts.

“Palembang is built on a patch of elevated ground, a few miles in extent, on the north bank of the river. At a spot about three miles from the town this turns into a little hill, the top of which is held sacred by the natives, shaded by some fine trees,and inhabited by a colony of squirrels which have become half-tame.”

Bukit-Siguntang

Wallace may have been referring to Bukit Siguntang, an archaeological site and the highest point in the city (just 37 metres above sea level). Didn’t see any squirrels though.

Wallace found little to collect in the vicinity of Palembang and went further inland for 50 miles or more to the south west on the road towards Bencoolen. He spent time near the villages of Lorok, Moera-dua (Muara Dua), Lobo Raman (Lubuk Raman) in search of specimens.

I decided not to try to replicate Wallace’s journey to these villages since I thought it would be irksome for little reward. Instead I flew on to Bencoolen (Bengkulu) which I’ll write about in a later blog.  However you can read the account of someone who did make the journey to Lobo Raman in 2012 here:

http://wallacefund.info/visit-wallace-s-sumatran-collection-site-lobo-raman-june-2012

While staying in the interior Wallace found time to write a letter to Charles Darwin expressing his frustration with the poor collecting conditions:

Sumatra, 100 miles E. of Bencoolen

Here I have had to come 100 miles inland (by Palembang) and even here in the very centre of E. Sumatra the forest is only in patches and it is the height of the rains so I get nothing – a longicorn is a rarity and I suppose I shall not get as many species in 2 months as I have in 4 days in a good place. I am however getting some sweet little Lycaenidae (gossamer winged butterflies) which is the only thing that keeps my spirits up.

long- tailed parroquet

Long Tailed Parroquet. Source: Gould, John, 1804-1881

While in Lorok he obtained a parroquet:

“The only bird new to me which I obtained at Lorok was the fine long- tailed parroquet (Palaeornis longicauda)”

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These dried mounted Papilio Memnon butterflies at Putrajaya Natural History Museum appear to have lost their ashy blue markings.

“During a month’s collecting, I added only three or four new species to my list of birds.In butterflies I was rather more successful, obtaining several fine species quite new to me, and a considerable number of very rare and beautiful insects. The first is the handsome Papilio memnon, a splendid butterfly of a deep black colour, dotted over with lines and groups of scales of a clear ashy blue.”

Leaf Butterfly

Leaf Butterfly Kallima Paralekta. Photo: D. Gordon E Robertson

He was amazed by the leaf butterfly:

“In its position of repose it so closely resembled a dead leaf attached to a twig as almost certainly to deceive the eye even when gazing full upon it. I captured several specimens on the wing, and was able fully to understand the way in which this wonderful resemblance is produced.”

CHIEF'S HOUSE AND RICE SHED IN A SUMATRAN VILLAGE

CHIEF’S HOUSE AND RICE SHED IN A SUMATRAN VILLAGE. Illustration from The Malay Archipelago

Wallace described the decorative Sumatran village houses.

“The houses are raised about six feet on posts, the best being entirely built of planks, others of bamboo. The former are always more or less ornamented with carving and have high-pitched roofs and overhanging eaves. The gable ends and all the chief posts and beams are sometimes covered with exceedingly tasteful carved work, and this is still more the case in the district of Menangkabo, further west.”

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Minangkabau Style architecture at Bukit Tinggi, West Sumatra

I didn’t see any of this type of building in Palembang but here is one I photographed in Bukit Tinggi near Padang in 2013.

“In all these Sumatran villages I found considerable difficulty in getting anything to eat…. fruit was reduced to one of the poorest kinds of banana. The natives (during the wet season at least) live exclusively on rice. A pot of rice cooked very dry and eaten with salt and red peppers, twice a day, forms their entire food during a large part of the year.”

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Happily things have improved and there is a wide variety of fruits on sale nowadays, at least in Palembang. And there’s always Pizza Hut.

The Siamang. Engraving from J G Wood's Illustrated Natural History (c 1850).

The Siamang. Engraving from J G Wood’s Illustrated Natural History (c 1850).

“A very curious ape, the Siamang, was also rather abundant. I purchased a small one, which had been caught by the natives and tied up so tightly as to hurt it. It was rather savage at first, and tried to bite; but when we had released it and given it two poles under the verandah to hang upon, securing it by a short cord, running along the pole with a ring so that it could move easily, it became more contented, and would swing itself about with great rapidity. It ate almost any kind of fruit and rice, and I was in hopes to have brought it to England, but it died just before I started. It took a dislike to me at first, which I tried to get over by feeding it constantly myself. One day, however, it bit me so sharply while giving it food, that I lost patience and gave it rather a severe beating, which I regretted afterwards, as from that time it disliked me more than ever.”

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In recent years here have been sightings of Siamangs on sale at Palembang’s main market Pasar 16 (sold illegally for meat/brains) but thankfully I did not see any.

“Another curious animal, which I had met with in Singapore and in Borneo, but which was more abundant here, is the Galeopithecus, or flying lemur. This creature has a broad membrane extending all around its body to the extremities of the toes, and to the point of the rather long tail. This enables it to pass obliquely through the air from one tree to another.”

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This stuffed Flying Lemur specimen is on display at Putrajaya Natural History Museum.

I would have to conclude that Palembang is not the best place to go in search of Wallace. There is little sense of him in this built-up city with few green spaces but there are a few tourist attractions in Palembang and I will write about these in my next post.

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The Ins & Outs of Asian Beverages

I’ve been sampling a few strange drinks lately.

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Whisbih Beer

In Taipei I spotted this Whisbih Beer which, according to the only English words on the can, appears to contain ‘beer plus whisky’. That is not a great combination in my view but I tried one for research purposes. The whisky content, if any, is not evident from the flavour although it has a little kick (5.2% alcohol). I don’t think I would make a habit of drinking this.

Much more healthy is white bitter gourd juice which seems to be a popular craze in Taiwan. The white gourd is much less bitter than the green variety and is said to have amazing health benefits. It tastes quite refreshing too. A spoonful of honey is usually added.

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Non Alcoholic Guinness – It’s An Acquired Taste.

Yesterday in Palembang, Indonesia I found this can of Guinness Zero ABV, a non-alcoholic version of Guinness. The Indonesian government banned the sale of beer in convenience stores in April 2015 which made a big dent in the sales of Guinness and other brewers.In response, Guinness concocted this brew especially for the Indonesian market. It is made in Dublin and shipped half way round the world and still retails for just Rp. 8,700, or around 50 pence sterling.

The ingredients include sucrose, caramel, roasted malt, barley and roasted coffee by-products. It has a sweet, coffee, malty taste. I found it too sweet but it is actually not a bad soft drink as long as you not expecting anything like real Guinness.

I doubt if it will catch on in Ireland though.

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Toilet Did Not Borrow.

All this drinking had its natural consequences. In Shifen, Taiwan I was unable to borrow the toilet.

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No Thanks!

When I paid to use the gents in Palembang Square Shopping Mall I was given a ticket for their ‘Toilet Lucky Dip’. I declined their kind offer!

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