Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo– Eric Hansen


So I made a mistake.

When I found this book at a used book store, I was excited to read about an exotic country named Borneo.

Turns out Borneo is NOT a country. It’s an island split into three sections administered by Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Oops.

Anyways, I liked this book so much I decided to write about it anyway and have a post about Borneo. This is my blog. I do make the rules.

It’s no wonder this book is considered a classic travelogue. Hansen is a fantastic writer and traveller. He considers things seriously as he steps through the jungle all while making his audience consider the same things. I stopped so many times to question my own choices. In the first few pages of the book I stopped to question whether people with good imaginations travel better? Or does an early defeat make the journey better?

I mentioned in my article about Denmark how their democracy was focused on community instead of individual. The same thing can be said about the community of tribes in the jungles of Borneo. Everything is about the community and an individual never comes above. For example, while spending time with the Penan tribe Hansen asks what a serious crime would be. One of the most serious crimes is see-hun which is being stingy or not sharing. To me this reads greed and puts individual over community. Hansen goes on to note that social behavior is based on how actions will perceived in feelings. Feelings of the others are important because they help the community stay intact.

One more thing I have to mention briefly is how different sex plays a role within the tribe. Since the focus is on community, childrearing is clearly the goal of intercourse. This doesn’t mean intercourse is done in a group setting however. Instead the people wait for heavy rainstorms and use specific outposts for privacy. What’s even more interesting is how sex is focused on the women. Men actually insert pins into their genitals in order to elevate pleasure for their female partner. In fact, women won’t copulate with a partner unless they have their “penis pins.”

I think from the above, you can tell I would recommend this book. It’s an easy read and very interesting. It’s also a great example of a true travel adventure.

However, I don’t have an interest in visiting the jungles of Borneo. And here’s a list why:
-> Jungles are like a hot, humid, rotting room.
-> The jungle floor is littered with leeches, snakes, fire ants, and beautiful but dangerous caterpillars that can destroy a foot in a moment.
-> One meal is eating a mouse deer lung which was compared to eating a dirty sink sponge both in texture and taste.
-> Some pigs can climb trees, some lizards and snakes can fly.
-> They make flour with their feet. THEIR FEET.
->And, last there is a delicacy called deer penis whiskey. And it’s made of what you think. I’ll stick with my Bud Light for now.

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