I was pleased yesterday to learn that a story I'd submitted to the 13th annual Solas Awards for Travel Writing won a Bronze award in the "Elder" division (Elder? Really? Did they have to call it that?).
Anyway, these awards are prestigious and provide daunting competition, so I am honored by the recognition.
"Saysha: What Happened?" is a true story of one of my travel escapades in Guatemala, written in the style known today as "creative non-fiction." I invite you to enjoy reading it as much I did writing it. (Pull down "More" in the menu bar above for a link to the story.)
Dieties on the march in Siniawan's Chinese Chop Goh Mei celebration.
Chap Goh Mei! Siniawan-style!
Last week I had the pleasure of celebrating Chop Goh Mei, the final day of Chinese New Year celebrations, in the rural town of Siniawan, near Kuching, capital of the Sarawak District on the island of Borneo, Malaysia.
My new friend James Ritchie, a veteran South Seas news reporter and accomplished book author, who knows just about everybody and everything there is to know in Borneo, took the time to show me around, and what a grand time it was!
Once again for me. the luckiest traveler alive, these are the experiences I live for on the road.
An Oriental Pied Hornbill who lived outside my cabin in Sukau, Sabah District, on the Island of Borneo, Malaysia. He tired of me following him around and finally let me take his photo. They are not all that uncommon but they look striking. We are friends now.
Sukau is now one of my favorite places, a village in the jungle on the Kinabatatangan River where wildlife is everywhere and people are unbelievably friendly.
A note on the Kinabatangan River: I mentioned in an earlier post that it is Malaysia's longest. Oops, wrong! It is the the longest in the district of Sabah. The longest river in Malaysia by a small margin is the Rajang River, also on the island of Borneo, in the Sarawak District.
Here are a few more Sukau pics:
A couple of Red Leaf Monkeys casually forage for treats in the grass outside my cabin one morning.
It rained heavily one day last week and things got a little swampy in the jungle. My cabin's the one in the middle. I wouldn't call it luxurious, but it provided everything I wanted except wifi and cost US$12.50 a night, including breakfast, and free coffee and tea all day. A slow internet connection was available with a Malaysian SIM card. There are many similar lodges in and around the village such as this one, the Sukau RB Lodge, and the one I stayed in a couple of weeks ago, Sukau River Homestay. I recommend either one. Prices vary among the rest but don't go expecting any five-star accommodations. Tour packages are available, though you can just get a room and take your tours a la carte, which is what I did this trip. They take you on the river in a boat with a guide for two or three hours to view monkeys apes, crocodiles, birds, snakes -- all kinds of critters. Previously I booked a three-day-two-night package at Sukau River Homestay for about US$220 which included three meals a day (excellent quality, well prepared, local-style dishes), several river tours and a night jungle trek.
Some pretty jungle flowers, I don't know what they're called.
And a view of the Kinabatangan from the river bank of the lodge at dusk. Life is good.
In half an hour, at noon, Mr. Choy's minibus will pick me up here in Sandakan, Malaysia, for my second sojourn to Sukau on the Kinabatatangan River, Malaysia's largest.
I've booked eight days at a riverfront hostel and plan to do a lot of trekking and river tours looking for more wildlife, orangutans like the one above photographed at the Sepilok Rehabilitation Center and with any luck, some pygmy elephants.
Meanwhile, here are a couple of other photos until I return with many more from the internet free zones of the Borneo jungle.
A blue-eared kingfisher at night, taken on my first trip to Sukau.
A frickin' leech on a tree waiting to jump on me in the jungle at Danum Valley Conservation Centre last week. Will be studiously trying to avoid these in Sukau.
Take care, my friends.
It’s been a while since I’ve visited a cemetery and Sandakan presented a two-for-one opportunity, Chinese and Japanese cemeteries adjacent to one another in a sprawling valley within walking distance of the Agnes Keith house and the downtown business area
My first orangutan sighting in Malaysia came Sunday at the Sepilok Rehabiliation Center about a 40-minute drive from Sandakan, where the red-haired apes are free to roam but get fed here twice a day as a spectacle for crowds of tourists who pay US$10 to photograph them. Here a long-tailed macaque monkey joins this lone orang for brunch. While Sepilok was interesting, it was not the orangutan encounter I'm still hoping to experience.
I took a chance on a trip yesterday and wound up with an unexpected adventure.
I was planning to go to the Danum Valley for a few days, continuing my search for Orangutans in the wild.
This is the kitchen and dining room overlooking the Kinabatangan River for guests at the Sukau River Homestay in Subah, Malaysia, where I spent the last three nights boating and hiking in search of wildlife in the Borneo jungle. Homestay owner/operator and family matriarch Marie Amit is feeding the chickens and ducks. I'm still looking for orangutans, though. Rainy weather -- it's the rainy season -- probably kept them in their nests, I'm told. But plenty of monkeys, snakes, crocodiles, bugs and birds about. And it's OK about the orangutans. I've got plenty of time.
A pig-tailed macaque, I believe, munching on some jungle fruit .
Buak Hard Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand. I 'm planning on using Chiang Mai now as my new travel base and will be returning to this lovely city after exploring Malaysia.
After spending two good months enjoying Chiang Mai, on Wednesday I’m heading south to Borneo, Malaysia, third largest island in the world, where I aim to see orangutans in the wild and witness the deforestation of their native jungle habitat by the palm oil industry. I expect to be in the region up to 10 weeks doing research, hoping to report what I find. If you don’t hear from me for a while, I’m likely to be in areas where there’s little or no outside communication. It will be interesting.
The distinctive mirrored tile mosaic on the front wall of the MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum, Chiang Mai, Thailand, was inspired by the centuries-old Lanna tradition of temple design in Northern Thailand. Opened in July 2016, the impressive, award-winning museum was developed privately “to brighten up the art scene in Thailand and the region as the first contemporary art museum of the country.” They have done a marvelous job.
Here are a few images that I wanted to post earlier before getting bogged down figuring out how to post the video. Now I think I got it. Let me know if any problems viewing it, though, because I want to start posting more videos. In the meantime, enjoy!
Three Kings Monument in the Chiang Mai historic center, earlier in the day on New Year's Eve.
Official city celebration, midnight at Three Kings Monument Park in old Chiang Mai. Unlike my former home in Hawaii and almost everywhere I've been in South America, where the private use of fireworks is rampant, practically out of control, I didn't see or hear any private use of fireworks by residents during the New Year celebrations in the old city of Chiang Mai.
Thousands join in prayers into the early morning hours of New Year's Day at Watchediluang Varaviharn in Chiang Mai.
Midnight at the the temple. What appear to be stars in the night sky are giant lighted paper lanterns released to welcome the New Year.
Here's a reveler about to release a lantern into the sky from the Iron Bridge in Chiang Mai during the recent Yee Peng (lantern festival), just to give you an idea of their size.
And after a long, glorious New Year's Eve celebration in Chiang Mai, it was time for an early New Year's Day nap for many of those who worked through the night.
David Hunter Bishop is a retired journalist from Hawaii who quickly tired of retirement life and hit the road as a solo traveler in August 2016. Since then he's traveled through 16 countries on four continents and is currently enjoying life in Chiang Mai, Thailand. For more about David's journey, see published interviews with Nomadic Matt and Expat Focus, and in A Confluence of Adventure Writers, with Sarawak (Kuching, Malaysia) Tribune writer James Ritchie.
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