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Published: December 23rd 2006
side street near Gunung Kawi, river temple
The wife and arrived in Bali for the second time this year, more due to logistics (with her benefits as a flight attendant) than for an unquenchable love for the place -though we spent some time in a part of the island that I really hadn't seen before -Ubud.
Ubud, an artists' town up in the foothills of the volcanoes, charmed us with its narrow winding sidestreets lined with temple-like homes. Nearly all of the homes and guesthouses in Ubud are in the traditional Balinese style of red tiled roofs, red brick construction, walled in from the roads with brick, and rising just over these attractive barriers, black-topped shrines made out of what looks like thick thick horse hair (but it couldn't be, as they'd had to slaughter about 600 ponies to make one of those, and these Hindus would never dream of doing such a thing, I am sure).
It was the rainy season, but we didn't see a drop of rain till the day we left. Beyond it being quite hot at of 87+/- degrees each day, there were also very few tourists there. I kept struggling between appreciating the solitude of empty beaches, empty chairs at
the poolside, our pick of table in restaurants, and ridiculously low prices on everything -struggled against this and the obvious (tho warmly contained) dissappointment and nervousness of the local people about whether their business would ever recover from the two terrorist bombings in the past few years.
If fact, when we went to Jimbaran Beach for a seafood bbq on the sand for sunset (which we ravenously devoured in deliciousness, even tho we had to take turns fighting off flies), I noticed that the large (former) restaurant next door was completely charred, glass blown out, wood beams blown to pieces. I have no doubts that that was the buffet restaurant in Jimbaran that was hit with "Bali bomb #2".
In spite the the eerie feel of the lack of visitors and the shell of the Jimbaran restaurant, we liked the town of Ubud so much that we decided that, some day, we'll rent an apartment for an entire summer up there, rent some motorbikes, and roam the hills, the coffee shops and narrow temple-home lanes for a few months, maybe longer... The Heart of Borneo
Flying south from Taiwan to Bali, I sat on the left side of aircraft
so that I could see the islands of the Philipines and Sulawesi, Indonesia. I was not dissappointed, and you'll see some pix of them here.
Nothing could prepare me for what I was to witness on the flight back up north, also sitting on the left side of the aircraft (window seat, of course) -for some reason, the pilots chose to fly straight over Borneo island (known as Kalimantan in Indonesia, Borneo in Malaysia, and I don't know what in Brunei).
I've been poring over news stories about the rapid destruction of the Borneo jungle this year; the ancient forest is being cut and burned, and the orangatans who live within these great forests are meeting either fiery deaths or are driven into palm plantations where they are attacked by people, often severely maimed or killed by angry farmers.
But we passed DIRECTLY over The Heart of Borneo (link above in the sub-heading), the untouched, sprawling, mind-blowing chunk of paradise jungle.
As our plane started over south Kalimantan the view was typical; I won't even bother to use a word like "deforestation" -let's just call it "converted" earth for man-use. Ugliness, compared to the writhing forest
ahead. After about 45 minutes or so of flying the landscape became more mountainous, and suddenly, thru fine breaks in the cloud cover, a distinct green jungle canopy same into focus -a rolling forest literally undulating under the heavens, seemingly without end, in all directions, north, east, west and south. Orange and blood-yellow rivers cut wild gorges thru the hills. No roads in sight, no man-made structures, just miles, and miles and miles of tropical green forest.
Never have I beheld a sight like that.
And it didn't stop -or only momentarily- for a long time. Our plane would then re-enter thick clouds, blocking the view. After 10 or so minutes of bumpy air, the sunlight shone thru the clear patches, and I instantly strained to see below, thinking we'd already be over palm oil plantations or some other manmade atrocity. But I was proven wrong. Again. And again. And again.
So vast and magnificent is the forest abode to wild elephants, orangatans, gibbons, clouded leopards, and numerous new animal species
that I couldn't help but dream that the chainsaws, pulp makers, slash-and-burners and corrupt military land-grabbers will simply never be able to penetrate this natural wonderland.
The Heart of Borneo
A river cuts thru the majestic Borneo rainforest
as we approached the far north of Borneo, at the border of Malaysia, forest fragmentation, human buildings, roads, clearings
came into sight. It was depressing. Hope returned tho, if fleetingly, as we entered clouds again, and then emerged over thick jungle once again.
Companies like Asia Pulp
, corrupt military and park officers, and various other selfish, viscious human scum want this entire natural treasure "converted" to palm oil plantation, and in the "process" log all of it for its highly valuable tropical hardwood. They should, to the last of them, be lined up and shot.
Finally, we were over the sea, and the The Heart of Borneo was behind us. Next trip to Indonesia: do I need to say?
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