A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Wardsan

Sopi trip


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On the way back diving in Ambon Bay our boat was flagged down by the police. We were boarded by two armed policemen.

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Travelling around poor countries it is wise to be cautious about contact with policemen. The more corrupt the country, the higher the proportion of their income public servants derive from bribery and fines, often levied at the point of a gun.

But they weren’t after tourists. ‘No problem, mister,’ they said to us. They were on the trail of smugglers. Presumably they had a tip-off, as they knew exactly which boat they wanted. We rounded the headland and approached a fishing vessel, which the policemen boarded.

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After ten minutes’ searching in the hold, they found two petrol cans, each filled with a palm distillate known in the Moluccas as sopi. The police confiscated the cans, but did not take the further actions you might expect, like fining or arresting the hooch-runners.

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From the cans there drifted a fruity alcohol aroma reminiscent of that in a bodega in Jerez. I had seen a bamboo sopi still in the Siwa Lima museum outside Kota Ambon and wanted to try some. I wondered whether it would be pushing it to buy the contraband from the policemen.

But it wasn’t necessary. As payment for the use of the boat, we received a bottle of sopi. One of the dive guides took it. (All of the guides at Maluku Divers were Muslim, but some more than others.) One of the policemen took my water bottle. I thought I was getting a share too; actually he was just borrowing my bottle. Indefinitely.

We three divers – the others were from Hockenheim - tried it. ‘Very strong’ pronounced the locals. Under 30% abv, concluded the tourists. It was OK, but still by far the best rice wine or palm wine I have tasted was in Kim Sơn in northern Vietnam.

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Singaporeans are among the most myopic people in the world. There are lots of opticians, but they are as expensive as those in London. Lasik eye surgery is a big business here. You see Lasik clinics in the shopping centres, and procedures are advertised at less than S$1000 an eye.

I have thought about having it done myself, and looked into the details of the procedure. There is nothing terrible about it, although I don’t much like the idea of being able to smell my burning eyeball during the procedure. But you also need periodic check-ups afterwards, and that is not practical while I’m travelling.

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I still don’t feel like travelling, however. I still haven’t decided where to go next, and that’s partly because I don’t really want to go anywhere or travel around Christmas. It’s also down to ignorance, as I don’t know anything about Thailand outside Bangkok. I’ve spent the afternoon trying to find a good bookshop in central Singapore, without success.

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Kota Ambon seems to specialise in hairdressers. The males are flamboyantly gay, often plastered in make-up. My barber was dressed in a tight t-shirt with pink hearts, which highlighted his paunch.

Generally speaking, Indonesians are a different build from people in Indochina. They are no taller, but are much stockier, putting on both muscle and fat easily like Samoans. The average Vietnamese man probably weighs 50 kg, while many Indonesians weigh as much as me. The bigger men look just like Oddjob from Goldfinger.

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On the way from Bitung to Manado I had an interesting chat with Sami, a retired teacher from Malaysia. Sami is ethnically Tamil and told me at great length about Malaysia’s discriminatory policies. He says that it is a requirement that bumis must own at least 30% of the equity of any private business; the best primary and secondary schools are reserved for bumis; Petronas is run by Malays for Malays; the bumi discount on property prices applies not just to the poorest band of properties, but to all; etc.

He also lamented the rise of conservative Islam in Malaysia. He says that article 4 [actually article 11] of the Malaysian constitution – which was drafted by the Reid Commission in 1957 - protects freedom of religion. But article 153 states that Malaysia is a Muslim country. The courts and government cite the latter article frequently, and never the former. [In fact, article 153, as amended in 1963, gives to the king the responsibility of safeguarding the special position of the Malay and other indigenous peoples of Malaysia. Inter alia, it permits the use of quotas for entry into public education and the civil service. It was originally intended to be reviewed in 1972, but the review never took place. Under article 160, a Malay who converts from Islam loses his bumi rights.]

He also says – although I don’t believe it at the time – that non-Muslim publications are not permitted to use the word Allah. Instead they use other words, like Tuhan (Lord). It turns out that he was telling the truth. The government has said that use of the word Allah by non-Muslims would confuse Muslims. The government and the National Fatwa Council must think that Malaysian Muslims are very stupid.

Fresh from this triumph, the Malaysian National Fatwa Council has prohibited Muslims from practising yoga, because elements of Hinduism would corrupt them. More recently, after protest and derision, the PM clarified that practising yoga is acceptable so long as the person does not chant religious mantras. The Indonesian Ulema Council, which follows Malaysia, is now investigating the practice.

[By the way, how many ordinary British citizens could quote articles from the constitution of the UK? A trick question of course, since we do not have a written constitution.]

Posted by Wardsan 18:03 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Rotten pot


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I have passed a couple of ordinary English days at home, reading The Economist, listening to things like Pomp and Circumstance Nos. 1 and 4 and Radio 4 podcasts, deleting photos, surfing the Amazon and blogging. On this trip, though, these are extraordinary days. When I say ‘at home’, I mean at the apartment of Tassos, a friend of mine from Cambridge who ensures he is out of the continent when I visit Singapore. It is in a somewhat higher-rise version of Surbiton (Urbiton, presumably), to the east of the centre. It is lovely being able to potter about a place with a kitchen, a washing machine… Although Tassos forgot to mention the cats. I am confined to the bedroom; if I stayed in the sitting room I would be dead within a few hours.

The money I am saving on hotels I have spent in Carrefour. The night before last I had my first taste of an English beer in nine months: a bottle of Young’s London Ale. I have never heard of it, and perhaps it is export only – it weighs a whopping 6.4% abv. It was simply better than any beer I have drunk while travelling. Last night I had a Fruit Défendu, also not bad, and a spicy Peranakan meal as a nice change.

For lunch yesterday and today: French country (style) bread, a coarse terrine, Roquefort, Gruyère, St Félicien, and a glass of chilled (yes) Wolf Blass red. OMG.

I am wasting time, but I think it is important to do so. By the end of my time in Indonesia the small irritations had started to get to me; a few days in Singapore and I’ll be ready to travel again, although I don’t yet know where: Thailand, New Zealand, Micronesia? The first step is to decide where to stop over Christmas: take the sails down and point into the wind. Half the shop assistants in Makassar (the Christian half) were wearing Santa hats by the time I left. Christmas is a big festival in Singapore, although not as big as Chinese New Year. I ate on Orchard Road last night and the place was heaving with Christmas shoppers, much like Oxford Street (but much nicer).

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An interesting - and needed - article in The Economist on the deep-seated problems in Thai politics.

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The Competition Commission has ruled that BAA must sell Gatwick and Stansted. Quite right, and not before time. Since it was privatised as a monopoly, BAA has consistently and massively underinvested in the London airports – an outcome entirely predictable from the flawed market structure. In ten years time, with a bit of luck, we may have large airports in London that are not a national disgrace.

Asia, meanwhile, possesses most of the airports regularly voted the world’s best. Even Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta is nice. I am now in a good position to judge, having taken off – and landed – twenty-five times in the last six months.

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(This is Gate 1 at Makassar Airport.)

Notwithstanding the constant hopping, my carbon footprint is bound to be smaller than yours (although the concept is useless in my opinion, since it ignores the productivity or otherwise of the carbon-burning activities). Travelling in the tropics I do not drive; take public transport everywhere; never use heating, eat food locally sourced (except in Singapore) and rarely use aircon. The UK government should subsidise me.

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According to an article in Ecology Letters (my nightly reading, ahem) in 2006, up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for the fins alone. Live sharks have their fins and tails removed and are then thrown back into the sea. In some places, the livers are also removed, but not in the Moluccas. (Needless to say, I didn’t know this when I ordered shark’s fin soup in Malaysia.)

At auction, fins from a shark of average size sell for $500. Yet the value of a living shark at dive resort destinations is estimated at $10,000-$20,000 a year. (I do not know the method used to estimate this, however. And is it an average value or a marginal one? In fact I do not find this figure credible.)

There is also an ecological cost. When large sharks disappear, there is an increase in the population of small sharks and rays. These, in turn, may be voracious predators of commercially valuable species such as scallops in North Carolina. The absence of large sharks may also allow other undesirable predators such as crown of thorns starfish to grow in number.

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Silly animals to eat, Part VIII: Napoleon wrasse. Napoleon wrasse, also known as giant humphead wrasse or Maori wrasse, are a favourite of divers. They are three feet long or more, green with blue marbling. They weigh up to 20 kg, and are a favourite dish among the Chinese, who eat it for, well, the usual silly reasons.

Fishermen in the Philippines and Indonesia spray reefs with sodium cyanide, the substance used to execute Texans. This stuns the wrasse, which can then be transported alive to Hong Kong and Singapore. (Hong Kong eats its way through 15,000 tons of reef fish a year.) While it stuns the wrasse, the cyanide kills anything smaller, so every time a Napoleon is eaten, hundreds of reef fish have died.

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Companies all over the world – with a few exceptions I suppose, such as Iran and North Korea – like to advertise with snippets of English. In Indonesia, Wings Air says “fly is cheap”. Lion Air boasts “we make you fly”, which seems unnecessarily coercive.

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A few months ago I dived in Tulamben, on the east coast of Bali. It is known for its wreck, the USS Liberty. Divers are delivered to a car park next to the beach in the van from the dive shop. The gear is carried to the beach by local women. They are all members of a cooperative, Sekar Baruna. As with many businesses in the area (laundries, shops), the business was started with a microloan.

More than 75% of microloans go to women. The average loan is about $180 and the repayment rate is about 95%, which compares with credit cards.

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On the Java-Bali-Lombok tour we spent a night at Sengigi. It is an unremarkable port, except for its beach, which is composed entirely of forams. The group Foraminiferida, belonging to the phylum Sarcomatigophora, are single-celled organisms with chambered shells. They range in size from 100 micrometres to several centimetres. Like hard corals, and coralline algae, they have calcium carbonate skeletons, and like many corals, and some clams and nudibranchs, they host symbiotic algae. It has been estimated that 50% of the Earth’s calcareous sedimentary rock formed on sea beds is made up of forams. Much of Kent, for example is chalk: forams in rock form.

Posted by Wardsan 12:11 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Here be dragons

Komodo National Park Part 2

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The largest lizard, known locally as the ora, lives on four islands to the west of Flores and on the western fringes of the mainland. The four islands are Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motang and Gili Dasami, and the reptile is the Komodo dragon. There were rumours of dragons in the area for centuries, but the first scientific description arrived only in 1912. The informal name was given in 1926.

The second-largest monitor, Varanus salvator, grows to 25 kg. The largest, V. komodoensis, grows up to five times that or more, partly because it is much chubbier. The heaviest recorded weighed 160 kg, and the average adult weighs 90 kg. The average adult male is 3.1 m long. (The longest lizard is V. salvadori, which lives in New Guinea.)

The dragon may be a descendant of an Australian lizard, Megalania prisca, aka V. priscus, which grew to seven metres in length and lived until humans arrived. (This is a slightly roundabout journey: the genus Varanus originally came from Asia.)

The dragon used to be more maritime than it is today. It used to swim between the islands of Nusa Tenggara, although during the last Ice Age it could walk or take a taxi. But now the currents between the islands are very strong, and the dragon swims only reluctantly.

Rinca is slightly nearer to Flores than Komodo, so I went to Rinca on a day trip with a couple resident in New Zealand. The chartered boat took a good three hours to get there at a slow plod, so we had plenty of time to look at the islands off the coast.

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They look brown and dry (it’s the driest place in Indonesia, in fact, with average annual rainfall of 650 mm); not a place where anything would live. But they do: to name just mammals, there are goats, monkeys, wild pigs, deer and buffalo on the islands.

The dragon is at the top of the food chain. It will eat anything else that lives on the islands: insects, lizards, snakes, birds, deer, boar, monkeys, turtle and megapod eggs, juvenile dragons, and even buffalo. It usually eats carrion, including human corpses, but is happy to hunt. In an article in Nature in 1987, Jared Diamond (of whom more in a later post) proposed the theory that in prehistoric times it may have lived off pygmy stegodonts - small elephants, now extinct - which lived in Flores. It has even killed small humans and attacked large ones. Dragons can stand on their hind legs to attack tall prey, on which occasions it must seem at though Godzilla has attacked.

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They can eat up to 80% of their body weight in a single meal (often in a single mouthful – a goat can be swallowed whole). And they have very slow metabolisms, so they can go for a month between meals.

Their saliva carries many kinds of bacteria, and is so poisonous that even a small wound will kill a buffalo in a few days by septicaemia or gangrene. They are happy to wait.

As the lizard moves it flicks the air with its forked yellow tongue, like a snake. The scent particles that stick to the tongue are passed through openings in the mouth into the Jacobson’s organs in the nose, where they are analysed. It can smell carrion from six miles away.

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Not surprisingly, the population is small, estimated at 4,000 in 1990. It is protected under CITES Appendix I and is officially vulnerable. Unlike other monitors it is active throughout the year. During the dry season (most of the time) it displays bimodal activity: that is, it moves around in the morning and evening. In the middle of the day a dragon will find some shade and flop into it, limbs any old how. If it doesn’t want to move, it won’t. The dragon is afraid of nothing. If it doesn’t like where you are standing, it will issue a sibilant, unvoiced exhalatory admonition, at which point you get out of the way fast. If it does attack, it moves very swiftly.

We disembarked at a small jetty and walked through a parched mud flat to a hut that marked the entrance to the national park.

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After paying a large amount to enter, we were assigned a ranger and set off walking. We walked through sparse low woodland and scrub. But we saw most of our dragons at the beginning and end of the walk. There is a set of cabins on stilts – you can stay the night in a cabin – and the space under the cabins offers convenient shade for the dragons. We saw perhaps half a dozen in this way. You could get fairly close, because once parked, they did not want to move.

As we walked towards the wood, a fairly large dragon walked towards us, and then past us across the volleyball court.

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It moved reasonably swiftly, without in any way displaying haste, and lay down in the shade next to a favourite football.

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When they want to hunt, the dragons lie in wait. You can’t see them. But for our guide, Paul and I would have walked straight into a two-metre ora without ever seeing it.

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Courtship and mating take place between May and July; the male uses one of its two hemipenes to enter the dragon. Egglaying occurs between July and September. They use abandoned nest mounds of orange-footed scrubfowl, of which we saw several pairs on the island. Incubation takes eight months. Females are capable of parthenogenesis, producing male offspring thereby, like Mary. (This could be observed in two ways: when females without male company give birth in a zoo; and by DNA fingerprinting.)

We saw a juvenile moving cautiously through the brush. It was dark with green spots; the adults are a dusty brown. Juveniles are arboreal. They have to be: adult dragons get a tenth of their calories by eating juveniles. Sometimes juveniles must approach a corpse, after their seniors have eaten, and before doing so they will roll in shit to deter cannibalism.

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After an hour’s walking we reached a dried up creek with a few small mud pools in it. Here a few water buffalo had congregated. Thirty metres away, in another pool, a dragon rested, arms podgy as a baby’s.

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But there were long claws at the ends of the fingers.

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It lifted its head every now and then to look at us, without every really displaying any interest.

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A buffalo walked past. It had a bloody wound at the top of its tail from a dragon attack. The wound would soon kill it; it was a dead cow walking. It walked straight past the dragon, but the dragon still did not move; perhaps it could smell the wound.

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Posted by Wardsan 15:46 Archived in Indonesia Comments (2)

Manta Point

Komodo National Park

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The island of Flores has two good reasons to visit, both in the far west: the diving and the reptiles. You stay at Labuanbajo to see both. In this post I'll describe the diving.

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I dived for three days, I think, and snorkelled for an afternoon. The diving is world-class. The currents can be strong and there are washing machines, but there are also large pelagics: sharks, trevally and manta rays. I dived with Bajo Dive Club, a shop run by a saturnine German; my dive guide throughout was Kira, who did an excellent job.

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At Tatawa Besar, I saw boxfish, pufferfish, groupers and a few hawksbill turtles, some baby snappers and a school of black surgeonfish. This is a spotted boxfish.

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This is a pufferfish.

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At Manta Point I saw the biggest lobster I’ve ever seen; a huge moray eel, being cleaned; lots of clown triggerfish; several bumphead parrotfish and a Napoleon wrasse; a sleeping white-tip reef shark. A blue-spotted fantail ray swam right under me. I got very close to an angelfish, fins extended in ecstasy, being cleaned. These are fox-faced rabbitfish receiving the same treatment. Fish at cleaning stations typically hover, facing diagonally upwards, and extend all their fins. I have seen black snapper open their mouths so far for the cleaner wrasse that you can see through their gills from in front of their mouths.

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Oh, and half a dozen manta rays. I got within about three feet of one. In fact, at one point, I was taking photos of something small when a ray came right up behind me. You cannot communicate underwater, so I didn't know. This is me taking photos once I had come to my senses.

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The biggest was about 5 metres across. Another was being cleaned and I could see it up close: they have a long tail, a tiny dorsal fin, and the feeder aerofoils (which give the ray its Linnaean name, Manta birostris) are flexible. A great dive.

At Batu Bolong there were strong and variable currents, washing machines, and cold water. It was a rich wall reef, as rich as Sipadan. Several hawksbills; a couple of white-tip reef sharks; some large grouper and sweetlips; a mantis shrimp; a white-margin unicornfish; giant pufferfish; six big-nose surgeonfish; two lionfish, swimming freely; two kinds of nudibranch; and bluefin, silver and giant trevally.

At Sabolon Kecil I saw lots of bumphead parrotfish – one swam right beneath me as I fiddled with a camera.

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Yellow and spotted boxfish; nice gorgonians; a sandy patch of garden eels; red-tooth triggerfish. These are the garden eels; come any closer and they retreat into their burrows.

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I took several photographs of banded boxer shrimp, up close, before realising that my hand had been only inches from the maw of a moray.

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Best of all, a white manta ray joined us and circled around.

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At Sabolon Kecil, again, I saw more bumphead parrotfish; several blue-spotted fantail rays; the same patch of introverted garden eels; fantastic gorgonians and ever-grasping octocorals.

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We also saw two juvenile shaded batfish. When younger still, they have an even more exaggerated pinnate shape, and are black with a ready-brek orange margin.

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And a spotted eagle ray, black with white dots. It had a very long tail and was perhaps 6 metres long: it drifted very slowly, and then when it saw us it shot off very rapidly, flapping quickly.

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At Castle Rock, we swam against a strong current and I never recovered, having to vomit slightly into my regulator. The current was occasionally downward. Nevertheless it was not a bad dive. We saw a bright white scorpionfish; a school of motionless ribbon sweetlips; a small Napoleon wrasse; tobies; spotted boxfish; clown triggerfish; a school of long-fin batfish; a big hawksbill, feeding; a blue-spotted fantail ray; several sizable reef cod; and a white-tip reef shark. But best of all were the trevally: schools of silver trevally, plenty of bluefin and lots of huge giant trevally, very dark, with big teeth.

And at Crystal Rock, it was a very good dive although we were restricted by washing machines at both ends of the dive. The divers’ bubbles go in weird directions; the fish shoot downwards and then struggle up against the current. We saw two hawksbill turtles, one I watched for a long time, feeding, a rusty stain on its rear shell and flippers. A huge Napoleon wrasse cruising slowly. A baby white-tip reef shark under a table coral. A lot of lionfish swimming free. Blue-spotted fantail rays and lots of unicornfish. Two huge fat Phyllidia nudibranchs, together, and a small Chromodoris.

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Finally, strangest of all is a network lamellaria, sitting on Kira's tank-banger. It is about a centimetre long. It is not, as it appears, a nudibranch; in fact it is more closely related to cowries.

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On the Sabolon Kecil dive, a guy called Matias was stung by a lionfish on his first ever open water dive. He went very grey, and his hand swelled up and his finger went black in patches. He was in real pain for a while. But he bravely persevered and dived again a couple of days later.

If that was a lionfish (and that was speculation), imagine a stonefish wound. Its venom, a myotoxin, is ten times stronger. The pain is very severe, and may last for hours, days or months. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, delirium, vomiting, shock and cardiac arrest. Without treatment, the tissue at the wound inevitably becomes infected, ulcerated, abscessed and gangrenated within a few days.

The treatment for a puncture wound from a venomous fish is hot water, poured over a towel to hold in the heat. The hot water is thought to denature the proteins in the venom.

I read about this is a book called something like Indonesian Reef Guide, by Helmut Debelius, available in German and English. There is an extract from a 1951 article in a South African medical journal, in which Dr J L B Smith describes the symptoms after a stonefish punctured his thumb.

Many African victims had lost fingers and toes, which had become gangrenous and fallen off. Dr Smith did not suffer from this because his wife gave him 1,000,000 units of penicillin, repeated a week later. And it was she, I believe, who came up with the hot water treatment.

Even after this treatment, after 80 days Dr Smith reports:

Hand still weak… thumb barely moveable, toxin has had a marked adverse effect on my general health and condition.

Given the extraordinary toxicity of the spines, it is a shame that the stonefish is perfectly camouflaged – much more so than lionfish.

Posted by Wardsan 15:50 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Lion City

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I’m back in Singapore. Five months ago I found it boring. Now, after four months in Indonesia, I am very glad to be here. Singapore: cheese; wine; wifi; English language cinema; English language bookshops; metro; Indian and other restaurants; cheese; hygiene; privacy; hot water; drinkable water; pavements you can walk along; cheese. A relative absence of: hawking and spitting (illegal); blowing your nose into your fingers and then flicking them; uneatable sugary bread; sucking your teeth loudly; litter (illegal); smacking chops while eating; malaria; hissing at someone to attract their attention; potholes; shouting ‘hello mister’ to any white face.

Here is a typical sign in Singapore.

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Flying into Jakarta this morning, the landscape looked very different from four months ago. The fields looked like flooded fens.

I recently read Empire of the Sun by J G Ballard. It is a fictionalised account of the author’s childhood experiences in Shanghai and in a Japanese civilian prisoner camp. It was perhaps even more interesting as an insight into the childhood experiences of Dirk, my roommate on the Papua tour. Dirk was born in the Dutch East Indies – his father was a Resident, or Collector or something – and Dirk was interned in a Japanese camp during the war. His father was interned in another camp and died during the war. After the war, the remainder of his family barely escaped the violence of nationalist Indonesia, sailing to Holland, where Dirk went to school with children four years younger than him, and learned to speak proper Dutch.

The book is beautifully written. Ballard describes a sunset thus:

The sun fell towards the Shanghai hills, and the flooded paddy fields became a liquid chessboard of illuminated squares.

It’s a nice image, and perhaps it works for paddy fields seen from ground level (padi, incidentally, is Indonesian for unharvested rice). From the air yesterday morning it did not work so well, because the fields lack the required rectilinearity. The dikes look more like the filigree pattern of a dragonfly wing, the fields like mercury.

This is an old photo, taken near Makassar; the fields were not so flooded here.

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(And here is a cicada from the Baliem Valley, Papua, decorated in Australian colours.)

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Ack, gek, ptaw: durians are on sale on the street outside. I thought the season had finished for a while.

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I have been mildly worrying whether the butterflies I purchased in Sulawesi were protected by law. As I understand it, four species of Papilio and all Troides are protected by Indonesian law. The only one of my twelve specimens protected is the Troides helena. Actually, this one came from a butterfly farm, not from the wild, and is therefore the least objectionable of the specimens.

Which doesn’t quite make it all right.

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Who first formulated a theory of atolls? Charles Darwin. He suggested that an atoll started life as a fringing reef, around a volcanic island that subsequently sinks. The coral builds higher in order to stick close to the surface, forming a coral ring around a central lagoon. He was right. At Enewetak Atoll in the central Pacific, the volcano is 1,219 m below sea level.

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I wondered, a long time ago, why they drive on the left in Indonesia, which came under Dutch rather than British suzerainty. The answer seems to be that, while the Dutch were busy in Europe with the Corsican upstart, the British managed their possessions in the East Indies. Stamford Raffles was Lieutenant Governor of Java between 1811 and 1816, being appointed at the age of thirty. He published A History of Java in 1817 and received a knighthood in 1818.

Here is a statue of Raffles in Singapore, erected at the point where he landed in January 1819. In the background is the financial district. Although his name is for ever associated with Singapore, he only spent a few weeks here. He spent much longer in Java and Sumatra.

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The Republic of Indonesia has reasonably amicable relations with Papua New Guinea. The reason is simple: it is the policy of PNG that Papua, the western part of the island of New Guinea, should be part of an ‘integrated’ Indonesia. A border post between the northern towns of Jayapura and Vanimo should open early next year (although, naturally, people cross all the time and families straddle the border).

Although there are arguments about alleged incursions into PNG by the TNI (Indonesian army), and alleged harbouring of OPM members in PNG, PNG is actually the only neighbour with which Indonesia does not have a border dispute. Indonesia contrives to have two border disputes with stamp-sized Singapore, one on the west and one on the east side. It has dozens of arguments with Malaysia, especially over the border in the Melaka Strait and the Ambalat oil and gas field in the Makassar Strait (both countries have awarded concessions in the territory of the field). With Timor-Leste, most of the land border is agreed, but the sea border is not. Indonesia’s northern border, with the Philippines, is also disputed.

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While we were dining at Two Fish Divers, on Lembeh Island, a tiny gecko fell from the ceiling and landed on the table, missing all the food. Unlike its bigger relatives, it was entirely unafraid. Put anything in front of it and it jumped on to it: so it happily jumped on to fingers, heads, shoulders... and noses. It tickled.

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Posted by Wardsan 09:30 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

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