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Friday, September 3, 2010

Unbeaten Tracks in Islands of the Far East by Anna Forbes

This book was first published in 1887 and described by the author, Anna Forbes, as 'experiences of a naturalist's wife in the 1880s'. It narrates the story of the author who was accompanying her husband across the islands of what is known today as Indonesia. At the time of writing the islands of Indonesia were mostly colonised under Dutch Settlements. The islands of Simatra and Java were then known as the Sunda Islands. Even at that time, the region was still generally referred to as the Malay archipelago.

Unbeaten Tracks in Islands of the Far East: Experiences of a Naturalist's Wife in the 1880s

A map of the region during that time period was really interesting. The Malay peninsular was marked with Penang, Perak, Salangor-e, Malacca, Johore and Pahang. Kedah and Tringano were then still part of Siam (Thailand). Sabah was still British North Borneo and the Sarawak region was marked as the larger Brunei.

Another interesting narration was that of the population of Batavia (now known as Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia). In it she describes the Chinese, Arabs, Javanese, Sundanese and coast Malays.
  1. Batavia contains many thousands of Chinese inhabitants. Without this element, indeed, she might almost close her warehouses and send the fleet that studs her roads to ride in other harbours, for in every branch of trade the Chinaman is absolutely indispensable.
  2. Some of the most elegant mansions in Batavia are owned by wealthy Chinese and Arabs; but strong restrictions are laid upon both nationalities because of their intriguing disposition, limiting even the number of horses that may be run in their carriages, while they are prohibited from trading in the interior of the island.
  3. The Javanese do not perform the most menial work. They have an exceedingly refined cast of feature, are highly intelligent, have a different bearing and wear a different dress from the natives, as one calls the Sundanese and coast Malays.
  4. .. the natives, as one calls the Sundanese and coast Malays. These natives are vehicle-drivers, small traders, and assistants to the Chinese, but the bulk of them are coolies. The more intelligent are household servants, but as a rule their intelligence is not of a high order, while they are very lazy and inclined to dishonesty.

Reading the book and those that were written more than 100 years ago, makes for a fascinating observation of the changes and progress made.

Selamat Hari Kemerdekaan Malaysia !

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