Let’s try and talk about travel and foreign lands again. For a bit, anyway. I’ve got some more ranting to do soon, as well as a massive, I-told-you-so, victory lap about my last post. But for now: jungle.
The joke in Beijing was that it had climate, and environment, but could seldom be bothered to have weather. It once went 100 days without raining, and that wasn’t considered that unusual. Some days the sky was blue, some days the air was toxic; some days it was 30 degrees, some days it was -15; but it wasn’t windy, it didn’t hail or snow or sleet. Climate, but not weather.
This place has weather, though like everything here, it manages to be both impressively alien, and remarkably boring. Brunei, on the topside of the Island of Borneo, is nine degrees up from the middle of the planet. I don’t even live in the tropics anymore – this place is considered equatorial. It’s really, really hot here, and it doesn’t change at all. Not at all – the whole country is as consistent and predictable as a German railway timetable. The sun rises at six and sets at six. The temperature is between 34 and 36 all day, every day. There’s close to 100% humidity all day long. It rains, nine days out of ten, at about six in the evening, for about an hour. Every tenth day it rains for two hours. There are lightning storms about four times a week, and every fourth one of those is really impressive. Rich soil plus hot sun plus plentiful rain equals one thing; jungle.
I basically live in the jungle. We all basically live in the jungle. Monkeys root through my bins, monitor lizards mean I can’t let the cat out and my garden ends abruptly at a metal fence, beyond which is just, well, the rainforest.
Driving through Borneo is a weird thing because of the jungle. Bandar Seri Begawan is not an especially green city – certainly not compared to say, Singapore or even parts of Beijing – there aren’t that many trees and parks. But drive out of the city (I call it a city because they call it a city – you aren’t really allowed to have a capital village) and you realise that unless the trees have been intentionally cut down to build things, there’s jungle. The smaller roads run between impenetrable green walls, pulsing with life and radiating heat. The highways have wider clearance, because you can’t risk trees falling on motorways, and because of the regular forest fires (that lightning again) but even then there’s an eerie monolith, a greenish black barrier about half a mile from the road. It looks, for all the world, like The Wall from Game of Thrones, only it’s made of trees, not ice.
Here are some pictures of jungly stuff.