John Bokma MexIT
freelance Perl programmer

Into the heart of Borneo

Thursday, January 21, 2010 | 2 comments
Into the heart of Borneo - Redmond O'Hanlon

In the afternoon I finished "Into the heart of Borneo" by Redmond O'Hanlon (ISBN 0-394-75540-5), published by Vintage Departures. Back in the 90's I had read the Dutch translation of this story, and I loved it. Hence sometime ago I had added the book to my Amazon wish list and later on asked for it to be ordered in exchange for some Perl help.

The book is simply fantastic. It has a lot of humor, enough to make me laugh out loud plenty of times. But also it provides quite some information about on the local peoples, flora and fauna (mostly birds) of Sarawak, Borneo. The author, Redmond O'Hanlon, really gave me the feeling that I was struggling along with him, his friend, the poet James Fenton, and three, less struggling (of course), local Iban guides: the Tuai Rumah (longhouse chief) Dana, Leon, and Inghai.

I can't recall if my father ever read the Dutch translation, I am sure he would've loved it especially since when he was 18 he stayed for some time in Papua New Guinea as part of his military service, and he learned a little the Malay language back then.

The two things that bothered me about "Into the heart of Borneo" is that I would love to have seen some of the photos Redmond O'Hanlon took, and the book ends rather abruptly. I really would've liked it if the book had another chapter or maybe even two. For example, I wonder if they brought the young Malay woman who had fallen of the pole, to the hospital in Belaga on the way back to Kapit.

Stranger in the Forest - Eric Hansen

In the night I started to read in "Stranger in the Forest: On foot across Borneo" by Eric Hansen, also published by Vintage Departures. I read the prologue, Child's Play, and the first chapter, Prelude to a Journey - Christmas with Mr. Das. The book looks very promising so far, and it has pictures. Although the writing style of Eric Hansen is very different in my opinion from Redmond O'Hanlon's, I do have the impression that the latter feels himself more at ease with the local people and the (mis)happenings during the journey, while Eric, so far, more a stranger. Which makes the title of his book aptly chosen, of course.

A reason why I am reading travel books, besides that I like to read, especially about exotic locations, is that I want to get better at writing about our hiking trips in Mexico. Since English is not my native language I often have quite a hard time to describe things we encounter during our walks off the beaten track. So if you can recommend to me authors that write similar books please post a comment, thanks!


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