Travel and Portrait photography and stories.
I think it was back in 1982, maybe 1983, I'd been spending some time with some people who knew the sultan and it turned out he needed some work done. I didn't usually do any freelance jobs, but this one coincided with our interests, so I took the assignment. Spent a couple of days in Seria, got to know a few people in the local oil industry. One or two of them mysteriously disappeared before I left. Ah, good times.
Ahh Sir Roger, I was only thinking today what a great place for one of your adventures this would be. Old colonial city, British influence throughout and the mystery of the cat for which Kuching is named and for which there are statues everywhere. I started the day with a jungle trek to see the old man of the forest, the rather shy Orangutan. Good thing I had the technology as my counterparts would barely have captured an image but I've got two keepers. Then a stroll along the waterfront where the boats ply their passage and shady characters sleep off the humid day. I stumbled upon some old Chinese temples and then to the markets where you could buy everything including inumerable things for your manhood - not that you'd need those Sir Roger. Certainly things I've never seen before - vials of strange fluid, animal parts, and curious circular things with tiny feathers around them. I declined the opportunity to look closer at the street vendor's wares, downing instead a cold limonuna and then wandering among the many stores - white shoes that might appeal to you but not sure how they'd go with the streets here; all many of dried and raw seafoods, spices, vegetables, trinkets and clothes. Very friendly people, I was somewhat of a celebrity at the Orangutans with the camera gear with one fellow even lining up to have his photo taken with me. There are many sultans in Sarawak but soon I'll be off to see one more of your ilk - the Sultan of Brunei. Certainly a place for you to visit Sir Roger - I'll contemplate your adventures while I take tea by the river.
Sir Roger, think I'm onto your missing oil men. At the museum today I learned that Shell started in Miri, Sarawak and was so named as before striking oil among other things they used to sell polished shells. Maybe the Iban and Batang will know more tomorrow.
Definitely onto something. Today I visited a number of different indigenous groups and saw how accurate the Penan are with the blow dart. I tried myself, three goes, but would be going hungry tonight if I was chasing my dinner! I also saw the Iban, Orang Ulu - with their guitar like instrument, the Melanau and the Bidayuh. There was much dancing, some impressive acrobatics and feats of strength - these oil men wouldn't stand a chance, and some rather impressive building structures - all close to the South China Sea past the mangrive swamps and near the mouth of the river. I'll see what I can find in Brunei tomorrow - I already know they share the well with Malaysia and it has about 20 more years of life left.
Now in Brunei for a while there I thought I was the only person staying at the hotel. I am the only person on my floor of the hotel - easy to tell as mine is the only door with a newspaper outside it in the morning. For a good while I was the only person at breakfast too - such a lavish breakfast and such an old worldly ornate hotel. A few more guests around at lunch time but I popped off to a local restaurant. Apparently the Empire Hotel is the place to stay where the naughty prince holds court. Some stunning mosques in Brunei, the Omar Ali Suiffadin is simply stunning and one of the most photogenic places I've seen. The proboscus monkeys very cute too but hard to catch a glimpse of. Tomorrow New Year's Day and back on the plane to Kuala Lumpur then home. Already the planning for the next trip begins.
Hmmm ... sounds like the local intelligence service is a little sloppy. Normally in this sort of operation you'll try and give the impression of life going on as normal - people wandering corridors, newspapers, cleaners. All the usual hotel trappings, in other words. If they've just cleared out the entire floor they're either very confident, very stupid or just about to move in. My advice: GET OUT NOW! If you absolutely must stay for whatever reason, make sure you have a foolproof escape plan (get those sheets knotted together and tied to the balcony NOW) and an impressive arsenal. BE VIGILENT. And GET OUT NOW!
You know I did overhear something about a countdown. Tis New Year's Eve but what better time eh? I'll be on the first plane out tomorrow although a quick check shows it delayed by an hour and a half. The flight in had to be blessed, no wonder they don't run on time, longest blessing I've ever heard and the seat numbering - a plane with 29 rows and I was seated in row 42! Business started at four, ended at even and then economy started at 26, skipped numbers periodically and me in the exit row at 42! I'll take your advice Sir Roger, be home in a few days. Might even have a special briefing document for you after I'm done with it "For Your Eyes Only" it's entitled.
Well Sir Roger while people were eventually moved into the rooms near me I managed to get out okay and bring the photos home. Soon they be available on www.suitcasephotography.com/asia/brunei.html and www.suitcasephotography.com/asia/malaysia.html. Planning starts for the next travel mission tomorrow - I wonder if you'll get a card from Russia with Love on that one.