What am I doing here? What the hell am I doing here? I mean that in a positive way! Pinching my arm thinking what am I doing here? Title is Bruce Chatwin’s but the experiences are all mine. Very surreal and a new world for me as I have never been to Southeast Asia; a smorgasbord of new experiences! Having first been to Malaysia for 6 days I am presently on Borneo working for United Plantations; shooting for them on their massive palm oil plantations. I have little time, so enjoy this quick recap of some brilliant experiences from the past 9 days!

Malaysia

A culture shock that would register on the Richter scale is what I experienced landing in Kuala Lumpur straight from the Australian outback: The sights, smells, sounds, the amount of traffic and people, the tropical humidity in the middle of Summer – all senses overloaded! On the 4 lane freeway the motorbikes overtake cars left and right like a computer game. The 400 meter tall Petronsas Twin Towers tower over the city. The mega massive shopping malls from hell. The bustling, dynamic street life where every other house is a restaurant as it is cheaper to eat out than cook. Ending up sleeping two nights in the guestroom of famous Danish author Jørn Riel and wife Annette (thanks so much for your kindness and hospitality!). Kuala Lumpur is a thriving very modern city, very clean and well planned, extremely cheap to live in and I always had a feeling I was witness to the future. Far too busy for me to want to live there, people, cars and motorbikes everywhere, but a fascinating place.

Indonesia, Borneo

The river town of Pangkalan Bun is like stepping 100 years back in time. The river houses thousands of people living in wooden sheds right on the river, all connected by a network of planks and walkways intertwined like some organic network. People do their laundry in the river, take showers, brush their teeth, small two stroke engine powered traditional boats chug along the river, the engine spewing black smoke. Not a single tourist anywhere and certainly I am the only tall blonde Scandinavian, something which causes many smiles from the very friendly very interested locals. A few snapshots of life on the river:

Pangkalan Bun. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Pangkalan Bun. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The shoot and 5D Mk II’s video

I have the pleasure of working with the crew of Danish reporter Michael Rastrup Smith, Georg from Livingfilms and Michael’s amazing multi-skilled assistant Kai from Thailand. We make a great team and I am learning a lot about producing video! I even ended up as camera operator a few times. We did a few tests, and the video on my Canon 5D Mk II absolutely blows their JVC proHD camera away! So my 5D has seen quite a lot of action mounted on a big video tripod and I am practicing my smooth panning skills. While they shoot video for United Plantations, I shoot stills, landscapes and whatever they need.

I must admit as a landscape photographer in love with untouched nature, there is absolutely nothing beautiful about a plantation. Nothing. It is just ugly man made landscape. Endless straight rows of oil palms as far as the eye can see does not get me high. United Plantations are at the top and doing many great things to run a sustainable operation but as a whole the industry as a whole is a rogue under the radar out of control industry that really needs to be regulated by law. 10% of the things you buy every day contain palm oil yet the industry is totally unregulated. But the people at United Plantation are amazing, I must thank Danish CEOs Carl & Martin for endless kindness and hospitality, the experience is great fun, great opportunity and a good learning experience shooting appealing photos of things you do not find appealing.

Randomness

  • Pocari Sweat…is the name of the Indonesian isotonic energy drink I am having while writing this. It has a nice taste and according to the can it is an “ion supply”. Can only be good, although I do not wish to know what the sweat of a ‘Pocari’ is!
  • At the Jakarta FM7 airport hotel there is a massage menu in the rooms. You can order all sorts of massages, with or without various versions of  ‘happy endings’ or a special bonus massage called ‘tit relief’ !?!?!???
  • Also in the room is a sign saying “Please Complain” !
  • Food here is fantastic, incredibly good. Am trying to gain back the 6-7 kilos I seem to have lost somewhere in the wild (as revealed by fancy bathroom weight in fancy Singapore airport hotel).
  • Laws of physics do not apply here in Indonesia as there seems to be no limit to the amount of people and things you can fit on 1 single motorbike!
  • Copenhagen is next stop after Borneo. Can hardly remember the place or the language. Have thousands of RAW files to develop and a very long to-do list, then a new plane ticket is high on the shopping list!

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12 thoughts on “What am I doing here?

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  1. SebastianP 10 years ago

    Nice colors on the boats and river shots . It will be nice to see some of the videos 😉 , and check what the 5DII is capable of.

    Good luck with the oil palms!

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 10 years ago

      Thanks Sebastian. When I find the time I will upload some 5DII video to Vimeo.

  2. thomasparkes 10 years ago

    Sounds like an interesting landscape.
    How do they measure progress?, and what are the goals of their Government? As the world cannot sustain this way of living.

    Hopefully the populations will start to plateau and policies decrease the environmental vandalism that exists.

    I don't mind plantations, but they should only replace land previously cleared. Surely tourism opportunities would be a more sustainable income, especially with the orang-utans.

    Here in Victoria the last of the wilderness is still being logged, policies of a third world country, primitive.

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 10 years ago

      Hi Thomas. Palm oil plantations is not exactly interesting landscape. But a very interesting industry. 10% of everything we purchase contains palm oil, that is amazing, it is a huuuuge industry and mindblowing when you consider that this industry is still totally unregulated by law. The governments in Malaysia and Indonesia try and protect the primary jungle, and you are breaking the law if you clear any primary forrest for any purpose. But there are always rogue Chinese palm oil companies who care nothing, timber pirates etc. that cut it down, bulldozer operators who can't tell the difference and plow through primary jungle. This industry as a whole really needs heavy regulating, like the timber industry.

  3. mervfrench 10 years ago

    Very interesting .

    I'd like to see video as well when you get time.

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 10 years ago

      Thanks Merv. When I get the time I will upload some of the videos to Vimeo.com

  4. al 10 years ago

    I'm pretty sure that Pocari Sweat is a Japanese, rather than Indonesian, drink.

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 10 years ago

      Did a quick google and indeed you are 100% correct. But it is certainly on sale everywhere in Indonesia as well.

  5. Cain Doherty 10 years ago

    it's unfortunate logging goes hand in hand with palm oil plantations. when i crossed the muddy rivers in borneo i often wondered what was going on upstream seeing all those logs piled up on the shoreline, what was being destroyed essentially. let's hope their governments get organised someday.

    1. Flemming Bo Jensen 10 years ago

      There are some Indonesian laws re. what type of forrest you can convert to plantation. Any primary jungle is of course illegal to touch. Still, even with the best of intentions from the good companies, sometimes the bulldozer drivers just don't know what is what, sometimes the timber is cut illegally. And sometimes it is just rogue palm oil companies who only care about profit. Borneo is a sad sight, habitat conversion is about the most devastating thing to the eco system.