Adventures in Borneo: The Mountain

DSCN2500Where heaven and earth meet.

It might seem that I pine about leaving New York. I’d always thought it would be my home. Perhaps I don’t express it as often, but there are some things that make it a joy to be back in Asia. Sure there isn’t Per Se or Le Bernardin, but walk down almost any street in Asia and there will probably be something good to eat.

DSCN2519Market at Ranau

On our way to Mount Kinabalu, my family and I stopped by the town of Ranau for gas and lunch. As we were driving around town looking for the gas station, I saw a collection of tents with multiple plumes of smoke rising. I’d seen that familiar configuration before in Brunei and knew I’d find some good food there.

DSCN2521Charcoal Grill = Yum Yum in my belly

My parents settled for KFC, fearing the lack of hygiene standards at the open-air food stalls. I was a little more adventurous and was rewarded with a Ramly Burger, multiple sticks of charcoal grilled chicken butts and a huge skate wing rubbed with a spice blend that is as varied as it is ubiquitous in grilled food at these markets. I wash it all down with a gorgeous drink of evaporated milk, rose and strawberry syrup, unmixed so that the white and red swirled around like drifting wisps of smoke. There were countless other snacks and desserts that went into my belly as I walked about the buffet of delicious food.

DSCN2520Square savory egg crepes?

I’m amazed by the abundance and diversity of food in Asia. I took it for granted when I was growing up here, but I’ve realized that I’ve never seen such a lush profusion of food anywhere else in the world. I wonder if there is a sort of Wallace Line in our culinary geography.

DSCN2522Colorful Drinks! Wish I could try them all

DSCN2524More Drinks

DSCN2526I wonder if they knew about specific gravity before making this.

DSCN2525So many choices

DSCN2527My choice eventually

DSCN2529My chicken butts and skate wing

DSCN2530Delicious little rice flour “cakes” flavored with Pandan and i think baked then fried. So good.

DSCN2567Cross section, see how fluffy it is.

DSCN2534More markets on the road to Mount Kinabalu


DSCN2550Honey and royal jelly

DSCN2554A Kadazan fruit vendor


DSCN2591Its like a mini waterfall

Speaking of the Wallace Line, I’ve realized too, just how much I missed nature and the biodiversity in Asia. The only greenery I saw in New York was on my weekend trips to Prospect Park for soccer and rugby, which is actually more brown in the dead of winter. So stepping into the jungle again was such a heady experience, like tasting the first truffles of the year.

I didn’t want to leave but now I’m looking forward to being back.


DSCN2631Like Ted Nugent, I like dressing in camo. 


DSCN2647Yum! Mushrooms!

DSCN2657Looks inviting but its probably full of leeches.

DSCN2667A large female Trilobite Beetle feasting on cellulose matter of a tree. 

The common name of the Duliticola paradoxa is derived from the strange shape of its larvae which resembles that of the extinct, ancient trilobites. Interestingly, females remain in their larval form and do not undergo a complete metamorphosis when they reach maturity. (Whoa was that a burst of scientific geekness or what!?! Who knew!)

DSCN2668Reminds me of a lobster tail

DSCN2678Langsat, one of my favorite fruits.


DSCN2685A leech, thank god for gutters, socks and boots. They never made it on my skin.

DSCN2714Getting a leech off me

DSCN2717Leeches that I found by my boots where I had my pants bloused in. I hate leeches.

DSCN2720Mount Kinabalu at around 4000m, is the highest point in South East Asia.

DSCN2739Green Bumpy Logans? Had a floral taste and scent, almost like jasmine. Sweeter than the normal logan too.


DSCN2740More Mangosteen

DSCN2747The vividly pink pendulous inflorescences of the Medinilla speciosa coated with little gems of water after a rain.

Not to be a killjoy but I think that it’s important for me to say this. When we were in Ranau, we stumbled upon a little known World War II memorial for British and Australian soldiers that died as prisoners of war though the brutal treatment by their Japanese captors. I was appalled that of the 2,400 Allied POWs, only six survived captivity and the marches from Sandakan to Ranau, a distance of about 260 kilometers through marshland and dense jungle.

These men were captured while defending Singapore. As a Singaporean I’m grateful. I couldn’t imagine going though the hell that they did, not even for their home but someone else’s, mine. As a soldier too, the least I could do was to make sure that their story is never forgotten.

Read more about what happened here:

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