A mum, dad and their three kids from Tasmania, go on an epic adventure in Borneo for 3 weeks in December

Permai, snake head and seafood.

A forced rest for the kids on our last afternoon is only partially successful. I lie under the fan upstairs with the boys and close my eyes while they draw in their writing pads. Abbey is downstairs and I have no doubt the little dynamo rabbit not resting.

A couple hours later Mark and I decide to try and find a pond or drain that might host the snakehead. Deb and the kids tag along. We buy ice-creams at reception and head out of the park. Just outside mark spots a troupe of wild monkeys feeding in a low fruit tree and I tell the kids that if they don’t talk and walk slowly with no sudden movements they should be able to stalk up quite closely. Amazingly they manage to get almost underneath before the adult primates begin to move away to higher or further branches. I stop the kids and we watch. The black furry monkeys with tails longer than their bodies are in serious feeding mode grasping bunches of small green nuts or fruit and stuffing their faces dropping as much as they eat. They make a noise I would never have expected. It’s the sort of noise we make when we’ve bought our favorite drink or chocolate and go to eat it and find the kids got to it first leaving an empty bottle or wrapper and we groan with a mixture of disappointment and frustration “ohhh who did this??!!” The monkeys made this soft moan.

As we move off Mark says it was lucky they were wild and I realize instantly why he says that. The kids we’re eating icecreams right underneath. If they had been fed by humans the kids would have been under siege – which would have been funny for us but not for them.

Spotting a golf course we ignore the private property sign and look for the water traps. A caddy in a golf cart makes a beeline for us and we make a lame story about a short cut to the clubhouse. One large pond has a worker on his motorbike checking on a pump house so we ask about the snakehead. We see movement on the surface and small heads pop up. Lizard? Turns out they were a group of Malaysian otters. Fish don’t stand a chance in here.

He says that if we ask at the clubhouse we can get permission to fish another pond. I do this and they say no. A bit of arm twisting later and they agree. We start fishing and a security guy arrives on his motorbike with big sunglasses (remember the TV show Chips?) and for the entire time we fish he watches us. I’ve never had a security detail while fishing before. Turns out the presence of mangrove indicates the water is too salty for snakehead so I remain luckless. The kids on the other hand have found an even better hermit crab called Victor. Herman gets superseded.

Up at the club house we grab some contraband Tiger beer and some sandwiches and cool off admiring Malaysia’s first Arnold Palmer designed golf course. John and Hui Peng are bringing cars to take us out for dinner but are running late. It’s dark before they arrive and the rain has started. Rain that doesn’t stop for the entire night. They drive partway back to Kuching to Buntal Kampung. A rough small Malay village with ramshackle buildings, huts, shacks and lean-to’s. Dogs and cats wander about trying to keep out of the gentle drizzle and people smoke under their dimly lit verandahs.

We pull up at Lim Hock Ann Seafood which is a raised giant galvanized roofed shed with no walls, rough sawn plank floor fluro lights and ceiling fans in the unlined roof cavity. The entry is like a fish market with whole freshly iced fish of all kinds, crabs, clams, oysters, prawns and lobsters. Fish mongers deftly slice huge whole fish and halve live crabs with one whack of their sharp cleaver on the block. The halved crabs keep squirming.

Mark begins negotiating the dishes (I don’t see any menus) and this takes some time. Wooden plywood topped tables and plastic chairs are arranged in the eating area and tea is boiled in great steel gas fired urns and served in 2 litre alloy jugs. It reminds me of being in a woodshed. I feel at home and excited about a seafood feast.

Before the meal we all tuck into a small round fruit about golf ball size. Peeling the tan colored thin outer shell reveals a white segmented translucent flesh which is the texture of aldente pasta. Two or three segments contain seeds which are sour like lemon so these are studiously avoided. At some stage Abbey who is sitting with her ‘sis (Mark and Deb’s Joleen) peels a whole heap and wraps them in serviettes for a midnight snack.

The dishes were divine. Teo chu style steamed whole fish with mountains of fresh ginger and preserved plum, wok fried crabs that we pick slowly pick over for their sweet white flesh, whole prawns, black bean straw clams, deep fried crispy squid, stir fried vegetables in garlic with tea and steamed rice.

Turns out John is a PhD in chemistry from Monash Uni and Hui Peng did economics there too so the conversation is a good complement to the food. A dog fight outside is the only incidental entertainment and I get over there to take a happy snap but the loser had already retreated under the building looking all hang dog (joke). I snap the winning mongrel sniffing a pile of festy garbage just next to the eating hall.

We walk through the rain back to our cabins for our last sleep before making our way to Bako NP tomorrow. I check our clothes line and the clothes that I’ve been drying for the last 36 hours are still wet. I hadn’t really planned for this and we’re nearly out of clothing so fingers crossed I can fix up something at Bako.

Oscar releases Herman back into the wild at the same spot he was apprehended. We hope he finds a better shell. Victor meanwhile is being housed in posh imported euro digs – a Heineken box courtesy of Lim Hock Ann Seafood.


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