Bag-snatchers of Borneo
I had been told to look out for the orangutans. Those cheeky chimps at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Borneo could nab a hat or pinch a wallet quicker than any fast-fingered crim. But after a couple of hours watching them swinging from trees and dancing along platforms, I felt it was okay to let my guard down and relax with a drink outside.
I had good reason to be ultra-careful. My friend and I were carrying a huge chunk of our holiday money – I had over $500 – to pay for a rainforest adventure. There would be Komodo dragons, proboscis monkeys, and night safaris down crocodile-infested rivers. The long boat left for the jungle camp that afternoon.
When my friend let out a guttural yelp, I thought it might have been part of the monkey routine she was performing with the banana she was snacking on. But what she was really trying to get at was, 'Your bag, which was on your lap, is now in the hands of that man speeding out the gate!'
I gave chase but even an early 70s Mercedes taxi blowing smoke out its tail pipe could go faster than my legs after having climbed Mount Kinabalu the day before.
So instead of cruising the Kinabatangan River I spent the rest of the day sitting with the local Chief of Police as he discussed the benefits of polygamy (wife number three came by to drop off lunch) while writing up the police report, which – aside from all my cash – listed two passports, my plane ticket, cheap sunglasses and a camera as stolen.
My much anticipated wildlife experience was off the cards as neither my friend nor I had much money left. We spent the rest of the holiday in Kuala Lumpur penny-pinching and waiting for the Australian government to replace my passport. What a waste.
A year later I got an exotic looking letter in the post from Malaysia. After going to some lengths to have it translated, I learnt that they'd found the man who stole my bag (and my holiday), and he had been sitting in jail for the last six months…Oh, and did I want my $5 sunglasses back?