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Borneo has always been very interesting to the West. Humid and exotic, densely forested and inscrutable, it used to be a traditional oposite to the rational and orderly Europe. Old travel reports tell about almost naked 'wild humans', which decorated their bodies with feathers and tatoos and whom high graded warriors kept themselves busy with creating heads from a log, which were used as sacrifice (...)

'While I removed the third leech from my groin, the unavoidable question raised: was it worth it? Earlier on the day I had disturbed a dozen leeches during their lunch when I took of my boots. Some were already finished, others were still eating, and some late ones were looking for a nice spot. We moved on, falling over tree roots, slippery stones, and bathing to fast-streaming rivers, which (...)

The nature on Kalimantan knows an exotic beauty, but unfortunately the special environment hides most of the rare animals and plants. The nature reserves do hardly have any facilities, and an expedition to the hinterlands demands a good organisation and the intent to spend a number of days in the jungle. Over there is seems that the leech (Haemadipsa zeylanica) is the only animal available. (...)

In March 1983 something strange happened in Singapore: Changi Airport had to be closed down for several days, because a thick yellow-brown haze made it impossible for planes to take off or land on the airport. End of times seemed to have arrived already when 1800 km to the Southeast the airport of Surabaya was closed down for the same reason. Borneo on fire The smoke w (...)

Kalimantan is bordered by the Sulawesi Sea in the northeast, due south this is Selat Makassar (Makassar Strait). South of the island is the Jawa Sea. The South China Sea separated Kalimantan from mainland Southeastern Asia. Kalimantan doesn't have any good harbours; big parts of the island are barely above sealevel, and the tides influences the hight of the rivers far inland. Borneo came abov (...)

Indonesia belongs to the area where humans have lived for over a milion years. In fact, this is assumed on the 500.000 year old remains of the Jawaman, discovered by the Dutch Eugène Dubois in 1893. It was assumed for a while that this should be the location where the first humans lived. But the finding of an even older skeletton in Ethiopia ('Lucy') put Dubois Homo erectus in the direct s (...)

In 1940, just before the Japanese invasion, Dutch Borneo had about 2,4 milion inhabitants and the British protectorates 800,000. Of the 7800 Europeans, 7000 lived in the Dutch part, concentrated along the oil-rich eastern coast. Most worked in Balikpapan, a small dynamic city with 30,000 residents. Others lived in Samarinda and Tarakan, where the pure oil didn't need extra procession. The Dut (...)

The first, reliable writings about Borneo which reached the West, came from Antonio Pigafetta, cronicle-writer during Magellan's journey around the world. Magellan himself was murdered when he was in the Philipines; his fleet had to go on without him and finally arrived in Brunei in July 1521. The welcome was overwhelming. Royal dressed servants were waiting on igafetta and his men on elephan (...)

Besides the headhunting, there was nothing as shocking for the Europeans as the communal living habits of the Dayak: the remarkable long houses on pillars, which house entire villages of bees, were seen as obscure places of promiscuous and loose sexual behaviour. Nothing was less true. However the rules for what sex concerned were more strict in the Victorian world than among the Dayak, all c (...)

The Greek geographer Ptolemeus, which worked in Alexandria, has said something in the 2nd century, which was probably related to Borneo., but there are not much other things that point to the island in such an early stage. Only centuries later many texts were found in China, because of the trade agreements. Influences from India The history of Indonesia has been influe (...)

The best traditional Dayak art can compete with the most beautifull pieces from Melanesia and Africa, which are seen as the best by authorities of traditional arts. The expressife woodcarvings, the weavings and the colorfull beads of the Dayak are imaginary all over the world. But not all Dayak have a big artistical tradition, and styles and motived vary strongly with every population. Unfortunate (...)

However dozens of western visitors were impressed by the natural beauty of the Dayak, they didn't stop there, but they reached a hand to nature. Men and women decorated their bodies extensively with tatoos, pierces their ears and stretched their earlobes to wear as much earrings as possible. Men used the famous penis pin or palang for enlarging the possibilities of the penis. The stret (...)

In the beginning of the 19th century the inaccessible inlands of Borneo was entirely unknown to the Western people. The untouched, unknown terrain and the dangerous Dayak made explorations very difficult. In 1825, George Müller, major of the Koningklijk Nederlandsch Indisch Leger (KNIL , Royal Dutch Indian Army), lead the first expedition to the catchment area of the Kapuas river. He followed (...)

Wearing a black pullover, blue vest and black hat, the gentleman was very modest in appearance. With graying hair and moustache, he had a firm expression on his face. That evening, he was one of a dozen poets from Kalimantan whom the Jakarta Arts Council had invited to read their poems at the Cakrawala Sastra Indonesia 2 (second Indonesian Literary Horizons Forum), held in mid-September. (...)

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