Saturday, July 25, 2009

Proboscis and Durian (Klias RIver, Malaysian Borneo)

Sometimes you have to give the people what they want. We think the people want more monkeys. Today, we had a car take us about 150km southeast of Kota Kinabalu to search for the very endangered Proboscis Monkey. The Proboscis Monkey is a very strange primate. It is known as the playboy monkey because the males keep very large harems, sometimes commanding a girlfriend posse of about 30. They swim like dogs, are clumsy jumpers, have huge bellies, make hilarious noises, and the males have a nose like Squidward from Spongebob Squarepants. So, by our estimate, we saw approximately 5% of the Proboscis monkeys that remain in the wild today. They tend to head towards the Klias river around sundown, so we arranged for a car and a boat to make it all happen.
We began the day with some scrump waffles at a little coffee shop called San Francisco Coffee Shop. I always find it odd when a restaurant has a very straightforward product naming structure with one or two gimmicky names that just seem out of place. At this particular restaurant, everything has conventional names except their fruit frappes. These frappes have the names: Mango Madness, Guava Goodness, and OJ DID IT. Yes, all the way across the world in northern Borneo, you can buy an orange juice called "OJ Did It." It is a little on the sweet side, but a refreshing beverage nonetheless.
We spent most of the late morning and early afternoon shopping at an excellent Malay mall here in Kota Kinabalu. We had to buy another bag to carry around all of our newly acquired Asian treasures, and picked up a few extras as well. The malls here are great, very big, random, and filled with all sorts of people watching delicacies.
Our driver for the afternoon picked us up at 2:00pm. On our way to the rain forest that lines the Klias River, our driver discovered that we desired to try a durian fruit. Like I said the other day, durian is a fruit that smells extremely strong, so strong in fact, that it is prohibited from hotels, public transport, and generally any indoor space. It looks like the end of a mace, with hard spikes out jutting in every direction. If your fingers touch one, they smell for days. If you eat a durian, then drink a bunch of alcohol, you will die. Our driver and guide told us so. It happened to a guy he knows. He told us we should wait 1 day after eating durian to consume alcohol. I kind of called BS on this, but he remained adamant. He insisted that he fasts from all alcohol for 1 week after he eats durian. This fruit is serious business.
Kristin actually enjoyed the durian, scooping fleshy goop out of its husk and dumping it down her throat like a Malay foodie. I nibbled gingerly, but took it kind of easy. After eating a bit, we both drank water out of the hollowed out husk, as it is said to lower your body temperature. Oh yea, I forgot to mention that part. Durian also raises body temperature when one eats it. If this fruit was sold in the United States, it would probably require a license.
Our guide also showed us some homemade fermented rice, and told us it gets you high. The rice sits in the bottom of a bottle, and you just add water. He told us that you can refill your bottle multiple times and the rice keeps fermenting. It looked dangerous, and after hanging out with some strange kittens, we were back on the road to the Klias River.
So, we had the opportunity to see 3 types of monkeys today, Proboscis Monkey, Longtail Macaque, and David Beckham. Yes, the locals have renamed a type of monkey David Beckham after the hair style of this particular monkey. You have not lived until you have cruised down a desolate river in the middle of nowhere with 6 Asians yelling out David Beckham and pointing at a small creature trying to find cover from the hecklers in the mangroves. For a connoisseur of the absurd like myself, it was truly a high watermark.
Any day you see an endangered animal in the wild is a good day. When you see about 30 of an endangered species, that is a very successful safari. We really lucked out today. The Proboscis monkeys were out in full force, falling out of trees, yelling at us, and swinging like maniacs. These creatures are truly a delight to behold, and we are both really glad that we took the time to spend a day tracking them down. Back at the jump off point we were offered a collection of fruit popsicles, Sweet Corn, Avocado, Red Bean, Durian, Cempedai, Yam, and Mango. Hilarious. Needles to say, I chose mango. We finished the evening taking a cruise along the river viewing the "Christmas trees" that line it. Fireflies that flicker like Christmas lights cover the trees at night, and it makes for an unbelievable show.

A roadside stand


The inside edible portion of the durian

Kristin getting down with the king of fruit

Drinking from the husk to stave off a temperature


Reusable fermented rice, looks deadly

A market cat

Bye durian, also, check out the jackfruit on the
same table

Our welcome tray at a Klias boat dock, donuts, fried banana, and
sweet peanut filled rice sweets

The Klias river

A river house, people still depend on the river for all their sustenance

Scoping for monkeys

Our first glimpse of a Proboscis, these are tough guys to photograph

They like to turn their back to you a jump around like maniacs

This one was surprisingly in the open

A very quiet place

They have unbelievabvle digestive systems, can eat practically anything

Got one mid jump

The female noses go up, male noses hang down

They frequently would jump for a tree and completely miss it. Since,
they can swim decent, this is not much of a problem.

You think you're cool but you're really not

Come on buddy jump

Yes. This is followed by a huge crashing noise and a broken branch

This guy seems pissed

I love their bellies

Tell us how you really feel

A couple of loons

A tree full of long tail macaques

Sunset time

A cute little female

I struggled to get this guy, narrowly missing the shot numerous times

You really have to learn to love bugs

Can you see the huge lizard in this picture?

Last night in Borneo

We were offered this Malay delicacy, grubs. We just said no. High
in protein though...


  1. Those grubs look like nose goobers. Those monkey bellies look some of our human fat bellis in America. Those monkeys dont look like they have much personalty like the orangatanges. Love Gram

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