Brunei is an unusual shaped country, with a large swathe of Malaysian territory (part of Sarawak) separating the western and eastern districts of Brunei. Even more unusual is that its borders are discernible from space. This Google Maps satellite image shows that the majority of Brunei’s territory appears to be a darker shade of green than Malaysia’s.
The reason for this is logging.
This close up of a section of the border reveals a tell-tale maze of dirt logging roads on the Malaysian side, built to extract fallen trees. The jungle on the Brunei side remains relatively pristine.
Here is another section.
This image shows how neat rows of oil palm trees have replaced the rainforest on the Malaysian side of the border.
Why the big difference in land usage between the two countries?
Conservationists would argue that Brunei has done a better job in protecting its forests by:
Reducing the number of licensed logging operators.
Increasing the area of gazetted (protected) forests to 55% of the total land area.
Enforcing laws with regular patrols by forest rangers.
Banning the export of raw logs and sawn timber and limiting exports to finished and semi-finished products such as furniture components, door frames, doors etc.
Economists on the other hand might point out that Brunei is so oil-rich (forestry only contributed a minuscule 0.14% to GDP in 2018) that it does not need to exploit its forest resources as aggressively as Malaysia. Furthermore, Brunei’s pampered citizens enjoy generous handouts from government such as free education, healthcare, pensions, housing schemes, subsidised petrol and utilities. Given these perks, there is less incentive for Bruneians to earn a living doing dangerous work in a steaming jungle.
Pos Malaysia has done a good job in preserving a number of Malaysia’s old post offices, some of which date back a hundred years or more. While most of the large cities in Malaysia now have large modern mail distribution centres and post offices there are still a number old post offices which can be considered heritage buildings.
In 2010 Pos Malaysia issued an attractive set of stamps featuring 28 post offices, mostly old ones.
The oldest surviving post office building in Malaysia is probably in Taiping. It was finished in 1884 and has recently been converted into the Telegraph Museum. My picture was taken prior to its restoration.
The old general post office in Kuala Lumpur (completed in 1907) still stands although it has not been used as a post office since 1984. Ipoh and Kota Kinabalu also have old post office buildings which are over a century old but they are now being used by other government departments.
The grandest post office building which is still being used for its original purpose is, in my opinion,Kuching’s General Post Office, completed in 1932. It proudly displays the Sarawak State motto, Dum Spiro Spero, meaning While I breathe, I hope.
Here are some arty images of more old post offices which I have snapped during my travels around the country.
To my knowledge there are only two surviving bucketline tin dredges in Malaysia. One is the Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge near Batu Gajah which I wrote about on this blog a few years ago. The other is located near Dengkil in Selangor.
I have seen the Dengkil dredge many times from a distance since it is visible from the main road when driving to the airport. Today I tried to see it from up close.
Thanks to Google Maps it was easy to find the best way to approach the dredge which is surrounded by lakes created by the dredge’s excavations. A gravel road takes you part of the way. This road is busy with rubbish trucks as one of the lakes is being used as a landfill.
I parked the car next to a lake and walked the rest of the way, a distance of about 1 km each way. The path is not too overgrown and I did not see any ‘no trespassing’ signs. There was a barrier blocking the way to cars but again no ‘keep out’ signs.
Finally I managed to get near the dredge which is an enormous piece of engineering. According to Liz Price’s excellent blog, this is the Sri Banting Dredge, built in Malaysia in 1974 (much newer than the colonial-era Tanjung Tualang dredge) and weighs 4,800 tonnes.
It was not possible to go on board as it was moored a few metres off-shore and there was no gangplank. Anyway it is private property. There were a couple of vigilant watchdogs on the dredge to deter trespassers.
No doubt this dredge is earmarked for sale at some stage. Many of the other tin dredges in Malaysia were sold off to foreign buyers such as this one which was towed to Bangka Island in Indonesia in 1987.
If no buyer can be found it would probably be sold for scrap and that will be the end of Selangor’s tin mining heritage. At least the Tanjung Tualang dredge is being preserved as a museum by the Perak State Government and should be open to the public, long overdue, at the end of this year.
I visited a dragon fruit farm today near Sepang, not far from Kuala Lumpur’s International Airport. The farm is called Multi Rich Pitaya, ‘pitaya’ being another name for dragon fruit.
Dragon fruit’s scientific name is hylocereus derived from the Greek word hyle (meaning woody), the Latin word cereus (meaning waxen). Woody and waxen doesn’t sound particularly appetizing but it probably refers to its cactus-like stems rather than the fruit.
The fruit is thought to have originated in Central America and was introduced into Vietnam by French missionaries in the 19th century.Cultivation has since spread to all corners of the tropical world and some Mediterranean climates like Turkey and Israel, though Vietnam is still the world’s leading exporter.
Types of Dragon Fruit
There are three varieties of dragon fruits grown in Malaysia:
Red skin with red flesh.
Red skin with white flesh.
Yellow skin with grey/white flesh
All varieties have edible black seeds, like kiwi seeds but softer.
The yellow sort is not common in Peninsular Malaysia, though it is grown in Sabah. The white flesh variety is still probably the most common but the red flesh sort are more sought after (and more expensive) as they taste better. The white flesh variety can often be rather bland and disappointing.
Multi Rich Pitaya only grows the red variety.
Uses of Red Dragon Fruit
Best consumed raw, preferably chilled, either by itself or as part of a fruit salad.
Mixes well with plain yogurt to produce a fantastically coloured dessert.
Can also be made into juice, smoothies or sorbets.
They are easy to peel. The skin is inedible but can be processed to make food colouring.
Reputed Health Benefits
High fibre content aids digestion and reduces body fat
Rich source of vitamin B, C, calcium and phosphorus
Helps control blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes sufferers
Boosts immune system
Improves skin conditions
Rich in lycopene, thought to help prevent cancer
Helps prevent gout and arthritis
Low in calories
If even only half of these claims are true it would seem foolish not to eat it!
Dragon Fruit Flowers
The flowers bloom briefly, for one night only. They are large and attractive flowers with a sweet tropical fragrance when in bloom. Unopened flower buds can be cooked like vegetables. Dried flowers can be processed to make tea.
Multi Rich Pitaya Farm
This farm welcomes visitors. You can wander round the farm and buy some fresh dragon fruit in their basic shop. The ones you can buy here have been allowed to ripen fully on the vine and taste much sweeter than those you find in the supermarket.
They also sell dragon fruit enzyme drink which is a delicious and healthy tonic.
Multi Rich has a family of caged monkeys.The large male monkey doesn’t look happy in that small cage and it would be better if they were released or rehoused somewhere more suitable.
If you want to visit you can find the contact details and GPS co-ordinates on this photo.
At Paya Indah Wetlands near Kuala Lumpur there is a family of porcupines who live in the same compound as a family of giant tortoises. In the heat of the midday sun they snuggle up next to each other in this shady shelter.
With their armour-plated shells, tortoises are one of the few animal species that are immune to spiky porcupine quills.
Unlike this poor boa constrictor in Brazil which foolishly tried to take on a porcupine with painful consequences:
I have been on two submarines in recent months. Not underwater thankfully but safely berthed on land and now serving as museums.
The first is the Submarine Monument in Surabaya, Indonesia. KRI Pasopati is a Whiskey-class Soviet-era submarine built in Vladivostok in 1952 and acquired by the Indonesian Navy in 1962.
It weighs 1048 tons and is 76 metres long. She was well armed with 6 torpedo tubes, 4 at the bow and 2 at the stern. I had not realised how huge these torpedo are – probably over 6 metres in length.
The submarine has seven cramped compartments housing the torpedoes, the diesel-electric engine, navigation, communication and other equipment as well as the living accommodation for a crew of around 50 men.
According to the museum’s brochure, this vessel participated in Operation Trikora,an Indonesian military operation to gain control of Netherlands New Guinea, which later became Irian Jaya (now Papua / West Papua).
The other sub I visited is the Ouessant which is now the Submarine Museum in Melaka, Malaysia. The Ouessant is an Agosta-class conventional (non-nuclear) submarine built in Cherbourg in 1978 for the French Navy. She was decommissioned in 2001 and from 2005-2009 she served as a training vessel and used to train Royal Malaysian Navy personnel, while still based in France. Since she was never really integrated into the Malaysian Navy fleet she maintains her French name.
This submarine is shorter than the Indonesian one (67 m ) and is designed for a complement of 5 officers and 36 men. She only has forward-facing torpedo tubes but can also deploy Exocet missiles.
Boys and girls considering a career as submariners should visit museums like these before they sign up. The claustrophobic working conditions would put most people off and the courage needed to serve in a submarine during wartime means that only a special kind of person need apply.
Jalan Bellamy, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, has been the home of Alice Smith’s Primary School campus since 1952. For the benefit of those Old Alice Smithonians who might be feeling nostalgic about their school days here is how Jalan Bellamy looks in 2017.
It is actually one of the better preserved streets in KL, with a number of old colonial bungalows still in use and lined by massive mature trees. You can even hear roosters calling in places. Most of the bungalows are of identical design so perhaps the former colonial occupants were all officials of the same seniority.
It is a short road (about 700 m long – it may have been truncated when the Jalan Istana highway was constructed) and it was named after H.F. Bellamy who was a civil engineer and director of the Public Works Department in the late nineteenth century. He participated in the construction of the famous Sultan Abdul Samad Building on Dataran Merdeka though he was not in charge since his boss wrote that he was lacking in talent and drive to execute such a major construction programme. A Mr. C.E .Spooner from Ceylon was brought in over Bellamy’s head to run the project. How terrible that poor Bellamy’s job appraisal report is still being banded about on the internet after all these years but at least he got a road named after him.
He also had other interests. He headed up the Selangor Volunteer Fire Brigade and he might well be in this old photo.
Next door to Alice Smith is a Hindu temple called Sri Thirumurugan.
We all know about scarecrows but what do you call this effigy, suspended high amid the trees in a neighbourhood garden here in Malaysia?
Perhaps it is a scaremonkey, intended to discourage our local macaques from stealing the homeowner’s ripening coconuts. But monkeys are pretty clever creatures. Will they be fooled by some empty clothing? They seem to have very good eyesight and are alert to the slightest movement. Maybe a scaremonkey flapping in the breeze will be enough to deter them.
Or perhaps it is just a decoration to provide atmosphere for halloween later this month.
Ever tried to eat Guinea Fowl? Guess what, they taste just like chicken, only better. More flavourful and more nutritious. At least, that’s what I’m told.
Yesterday I was invited by Mr. Caseh Teh, the owner of Ostrich Wonderland in Semenyih, Selangor, to revisit his farm and take a look at his guinea fowl and poultry business, which operates on the same site, under the official name of Mutiara Chicken.
It was nice to see the ostriches again, who were looking contented and well looked after in their spacious enclosures.
Since my last visit in 2013 (read blog here), one of the ostriches has become a celebrity. She’s named Chickaboo, the runaway pet ostrich who became a YouTube sensation when filmed jogging down Kuala Lumpur’s Federal Highway after escaping from a moving vehicle. It must have been a scary experience for poor Chickaboo but she is now enjoying her film star status at Ostrich Wonderland.
While ostriches are popular as a tourist attraction, Mr. Teh says they are not so profitable to farm commercially and in particular they do not like Malaysia’s rainy weather, being originally more accustomed to the arid regions of Africa. For this reason, Mr. Teh has diversified into farming guinea fowl, various popular and exotic chicken breeds, goats and other animals.
He currently has around 5,000 guinea fowls. They are mostly of the grey, helmeted variety.They are gentle and timid and you have to move slowly around them to avoid disturbing and agitating the whole flock.
Did you know?
The correct collective for a group of guinea fowl is a confusion which sounds rather silly but is quite apt given their skittish behaviour. The cute baby guinea fowl are called keets.
Guinea fowl originate from African tropical forests. They are hardy and disease resistant which makes them easy to raise. They are an active avian producing tender, nutritious meat which is more tasty than regular chicken. The meat contains more amino acids and less fat and cholesterol.
Mr. Teh told me that an ambassador from a West African country is a good customer of his for guinea fowl meat saying that the gamey flavour is more popular with Africans than white meat chicken.
Mutiara Chicken stocks a wide variety of free-range chickens including:
San Huang Chicken
Mini Cochin Chicken
Curly Feather Chicken
China Black Chicken
Wen Chang Chicken
Castrated Chicken – Ayam Sunat
White Silky Chicken
White Polish Chicken
Black Polish Chicken
The castrated chickens are said to be sought after for their flavour while the ingredients for Hainan Chicken and black chicken soup can be obtained here. All the birds are slaughtered onsite under hygienic conditions and frozen meat is on sale in the shop.
Ring Necked Pheasant can also be seen here as well as turkey (Ayam Belanda).Ayam Belanda translates as Dutch chicken. Malaysians like to name animals after the Dutch – the Malay word for proboscis monkey is Orang Belanda meaning Dutch Man!)
Gaggles of geese and ducks wander around the farm, giving a very tranquil, pastoral atmosphere to the place.
All the plants growing on the farm seem to have their purpose and uses. This clump of bamboo for example provides shade to the pony and chickens while dried bamboo leaves make comfortable bedding material for the hatchling enclosures.
Mr. Teh used to grow organic vegetables but he found that they require too much attention to prevent insect attack and, once ripe, they have a short shelf life. So instead he has given over the space to grow mulberry bushes which bear edible fruit while the leaves are used to make healthy mulberry tea.
Visitors are welcome to tour the farm as part of their Ostrich Wonderland admission. School excursions are also welcome by prior arrangement.
You can find details of location, opening hours and admission fee on my Malaysia Traveller website.