Into The Heart of Borneo by Redmond O’Hanlon starts out his epic journey of bird watching and general bumbling with a visit from his professor in a thin-walled Chinese hotel room in  Kuching. If he was hallucinating, it must have been a mild one.

Eurocentrism has no place in Borneo where every experience is new and visceral.

My version was quaintly real when a local jumped through my ceiling.

‘Oh sorry, wrong room,’ he said.

He said he had lost his key and Mohammed, the hotel staff who looked a lot like Lurch, the Malay version, directed the drunk back to his room and placed the ladder in front of his door so he could do the monkey act all over again.

He actually had left his key in the room.

‘Sorry, wrong room mister,’ apologized Lurch. They are a pretty polite bunch Borneo way.

Michael West appeared from the room next to mine.

‘I’ll go back tomorrow,’ he said.

He was checking out the whores at the Long House Hotel.

‘They have Mitayu also.’

They are the local Dyaks, so much for the locals not selling themselves.

It only takes a bit of snooping around.

Michael is devoted to it.

He pulls out a sachet from his pocket.

‘I better take it now.’

I read the instructions, not idea for pregnant women and people with high blood pressure.

It’s a coffee beverage to give you a lift in other ways.

‘Only 7 Ringgit,’ he says.

He leaves me and returns to his room to take his ‘hard-on’ medicine.

He’s back in five minutes.

‘I found a room for 40 Ringgit.’

He’s waiting for a friend so decided to postpone his trip back to Sibu today.

I’m not playing guess his occupation but he’s a prime candidate for pimping the local massage parlors of his hometown.

Hey, I’m the last person to past judgment.

I’ve really got to get out of my hotel and do the rounds.

Did I tell you that Michael introduced himself as John West and was wearing a yellow fisherman’s hat?

Of course, I didn’t. I’m prone to making things up.

Michael West was real. He wasn’t a hallucination. You just can’t make up characters like that, even if you wanted too.

They’d go puff up in smoke like O’Hanlon’s specter of his Oxford professor.


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