Friday, 26 October 2012

Borneo is an onion!

Within minutes of being picked up at the airport, the driver exclaimed:

"Borneo is like an onion, the more you peel back the layers, the more you weep"

Not a positive start I thought but he did have a point.

The rain forest is so beautiful and bursting with life, light and sound. Vibrant orchids, flowering ferns, fascinating pitcher plants and towering trees are abound. The islands of Bunga Raya and Lankayan are unrivalled in their natural beauty.


In stark contrast you have the towns where brash, opulent hotels and shopping centres shadow the seething slums beside them. Many of the slums house illegal immigrants from the Philippines and are water logged, filthy and diseased. Toddlers wade around knee deep and manged, skeletal dogs lie everywhere.

On every street corner there appears to be a MacDonalds or a KFC where teenagers from the slums like to hang out without a hope of ever being able to afford a Big Mac. Like teenagers from any culture in the world, they just want to fit in and be part of the "crowd" and this is the closest they will get. Many of them are off their heads from sniffing glue from plastic bags and I found that so sad and shocking.

It's desperate. Their sense of hopelessness is palpable.


This is a  different form of poverty from the kind we saw in Tanzania for example. Albeit, equally as appalling, you get the impression everyone is pretty much in the same boat and there is a sense of "lets get on with it" resignation.

Here in Borneo, these kids are taunted by the very things they haven't got every single day and a life they will never have. Affluent tourists and Malaysians pour out of the shopping centres draped in bags from designer outlets and straight into waiting taxis. No wonder they resort to crime and desperate measures for a piece of the cake we are privileged to eat.

You need a strong stomach for this.

Borneo was such a roller coaster.

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