A trip up the tan, churning waters of 640km-long Batang Rejang (Rejang River) – the ‘Amazon of Borneo’ – is one of Southeast Asia’s great river journeys. Express ferries barrel through the currents, eddies and whirlpools, the pilots expertly dodging angular black boulders half-hidden in the roiling waters. Though the area is no longer the jungle-lined wilderness it was in the days before Malaysian independence, it retains a frontier, ulu-ulu (upriver, back-of-beyond) vibe, especially in towns and longhouses accessible only by boat.
The Rejang drains a swath of highland Sarawak that used to be covered in pristine rainforest. Today, vast areas have been logged and replaced by tree plantations and the ubiquitous oil palm, or are underwater thanks to the controversial Bakun Dam. To get a sense of the extent of logging, road building, inundation and oil-palm monoculture, check out Google Earth.