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Full Circle

Day 106: Sandakan

Michael Palin - Full CircleWake to the steady, persistent sound of rain plopping onto my balcony. In the smartly tiled coffee shop the waiters serve breakfast while deftly adjusting towels to catch drops from a leaking ceiling.

For some reason Philip and I are talking about the most revolting things we've ever eaten. He suggests that every culture has its 'test' taste (some defining food, prized by locals and generally repelled by outsiders). In his part of the world, South-East Asia, it is the durian, a fruit much sought after for its sweet creamy texture and powerfully foul smell.

'And in Britain?' I ask him.

Philip has no hesitation.

'Cheese!'

Underlying all discussion of affairs in Borneo since half of it became part of the Malaysian Federation (now simply Malaysia) in 1963, is the highly charged subject of logging. The products of the lush tropical rain forest are in great demand, and over the last thirty years generous logging concessions were granted to foreign companies to help provide materials for the expanding Pacific Rim economies, especially that of Japan. Environmentalists say far too much has been cut down, the government protests that the clearing is sustainable and controlled, businessmen wait to grab what they can at the best price. Sandakan once boasted the greatest concentration of millionaires in the world; almost all of them Chinese timber-traders.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 106
  • Country/sea: Malaysia
  • Place: Sandakan
  • Book page no: 149

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