Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Amazing Race 24, Episode 4

Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia) - Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) - Batu Caves (Malaysia)

The Amazing Race went to Borneo this week, for the second time in the history of the race. As when the race first visited Borneo a decade ago, the racers’ gateway to the island was the city of Kota Kinabalu in the Malaysian state of Sabah.

Borneo — in case you weren’t paying attention in geography class — is an island that includes all of one country (Brunei) and portions of two others, Indonesia and Malaysia. Brunei has a small population, large oil and gas reserves, and is ruled by an autocratic Sultan (imagine Kuwait but with jungle instead of desert) making it wealthy but expensive and not attractive to many tourists.

Most foreigners who fantasize about a trip to Borneo think first about a visit to the larger portion of the island constituting the five Indonesian provinces of Kalimantan. But Malaysia is significantly wealthier than Indonesia, with much better infrastructure, and it’s generally much cheaper and easier to arrange flights to Malaysian Borneo than to get to Indonesian Kalimantan.

So it’s not as surprising as it might seem that The Amazing Race has chosen to visit Malaysian but not Indonesian Borneo. It’s a little more unusual that the race has twice gone to Kota Kinabalu in the state of Sabah, but not yet to the other main city of Malaysian Borneo, Kuching in the state of Sarawak. Kota Kinabalu is a modern city mainly known as a center for oil, mining and forest products. Kuching is an older city, with more cultural attractions, less dominated by extractive industries. It’s typically the least expensive place on Borneo to get to from mainland Asia, and the hands-down favorite among cities on Borneo of clients I sent there in my time as a travel agent.

If your interest in Borneo is primarily ethnographic, you’ll need to get out of the cities anyway. All of the cities of Borneo are dominated by people from other islands and/or the Asian mainland: Javanese, Malays from the peninsula and elsewhere, “overseas” Chinese, etc. The tasks the racers had to perform were, as usual, hokey, but served to demonstrate how much the status of the indigenous peoples of Borneo resembles that of native Americans.

Link | Posted by Edward on Sunday, 16 March 2014, 23:59 (11:59 PM)
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