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10 travel bucket list ideas inspired by Korean variety show Running Man

Now that international travelling is made possible again, are you looking for some unique travel bucket list ideas?

Korean variety show Running Man is a reality-variety show concept that focused on games.

It has been airing since July 11, 2010 making it one of the longest running Korean variety shows.

The show even made it to the list of Business Insider’s 20 TV Shows of 2016.

The current members are Yoo Jae-suk, HaHa, Jee Seok-jin, Kim Jong-kook, Song Ji-hyo, Jeon So-min and Yang Se-chan.

Over the years, the show has invited hundred of guests including Hollywood stars Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg and Ryan Reynolds.

On top of that, Running Man has also filmed in countless number of different locations both in and out of South Korea.

So here are ten travel bucket list ideas inspired by Korean variety show Running Man:

1.Shop at a Floating Market in Thailand

The first country that the Running Man cast visited for filming is Thailand back in 2011.

During that episode, one of their filming spot is the Pattaya Floating Market.

Located in the heart of Pattaya, this market offers delicacies and handicrafts from four different regions of Thailand.

Let say that you are not in Pattaya but in the capital city of Bangkok, you have up to 17 different floating markets to choose from.

This list include Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Amphawa Floating Market, Wat Sai Floating Market and more.

2.Visit the Great Wall of China

After the successful episode in Thailand, the Running Man cast visited another country in the same year, China.

Besides playing a string of games around Beijing city, the cast members also visited the Great Wall of China.

Do you know that some of these walls were built from as early as the 7th century with some of the stretches later joined by the first emperor of China Qin Shi Huang during 220-206?

This historical site is a definitely a must-visit place in any travel bucket lists.

3.Go for the highest commercial bungee jump in the world from Macau Tower

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Song Ji-hyo bungee jumping from Macao Tower

The episode that the Running Man filmed in Macau is one of the most talked about years down the road all thanks to one legendary scene.

The only female of the group back then, actress Song Ji-hyo was the only cast member who bungee jumped from Macau Tower in the 2013 episode.

With a wide smile on her pretty face while showing as many teeth that she could, Song was seen happily bungee jumped from a platform 233m above the ground point.

Apart from Song, there were many other celebrities who went for the same adventure including Edison Chen, Jack Osbourne, Xie Na and Joe Chen.

Watch the clip here.

4.Skydiving in Dubai

During an episode filmed in Dubai, Kim Jong-kook along with two celebrity guests Jung Il-woo and Lee Da-hae did something that only meant for thrill-seekers out there.

The trio did sky-jumping. After returning to the ground, all of three of them agreed that it is something that you need to do at least once before you die.

With majestic desert landscape, skydiving in Dubai is absolutely an unforgettable experience.

While you are in Dubai, might as well go for the world’s longest urban zipline.

Xline Dubai Marina offers adventurers an experience to ride on a zipline at 170 meters high from the ground, sliding up to 80km/hour for 1 km long.

5.Opt for a paranormal experience at Labyrinth of Fear; Japan’s Most Terrifying Haunted House

How about a dose of paranormal fear added on your travel bucket list?

The Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear (yes, that is the full name) is one of the two haunted attractions in Fuji-Q Highland.

It is a theme park located near the base of Mount Fuji.

The labyrinth holds the record for the world’s first and largest haunted attraction covering a two-storey building with 900m in length.

The attraction is inspired from a legend of a popular hospital where doctors were accused of selling internal organs of their patients. Unsurprisingly, the spirits of the dead victims came back to haunt and avenge their own deaths.

Running Man had done many horror-theme episodes before but this one definitely took the cake.

We were not surprised at all to see Jeon So-min in tears at the end of her scary labyrinth tour.

Watch the clip here.

6.Ride a manual wooden cable car over the crashing waves of Timang Beach at Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Timang Beach in Gunungkidul, Yogyakarta is like any other beaches in Indonesia at first glance.

What makes it different is that there is an island called Panjang Island which is a lobster habitat.

The island is the best place to catch lobster for the local community.

But due to the steep hill that is directly adjacent to the sea, crossing over to the island is not an easy task.

Hence, the locals built a wooden cable car fit only for one person which is driven on a rope connecting the beach to the top of the island.

The 200-meter long ride is not a big deal unless there is a raging sea beneath you and huge waves that keep on crashing on your cable car just like what it did to Lee Kwang-soo and Jeon So-min in the 369th till 371th episode of Running Man.

Watch the clip here

7.Get into the Cage of Death at Darwin, Australia

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Lee Kwang-soo inside the Cage of Death

During the 378th and 379th episodes of Running Man, Yoo Jae-suk, Ji Suk-jin, Lee Kwang-soo and Jeon So-min went to Darwin, Australia.

There, they had to complete the mission of going into the Cage of Death.

The Cage of Death is a tourist attraction known for being Australia’s only crocodile dive.

This unique experience offers swimmers the chance to get up and close and personal with saltwater crocodile for 15 minutes.

In that short (or long) period of time depending on how you see it, swimmers can stare into the eyes of this famous predator while witnessing the power of his bite force.

Watch the clip here.

8.Take a swing at one of the world’s biggest swing, Nevis Swing

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Song Ji-hyo and Kim Jong-kook riding the world’s biggest swing upside down.

While half of the team were in Darwin, the rest of the members were in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Flinging people in an arc out over 300 meters, Nevis Swing is undoubtedly catered to adrenaline suckers.

You can choose swing by yourself or tandem with a friend – forwards, backwards or upside down like Song Ji-hyo and Kim Jong-kook did during their trip.

Later, Song revealed in a show that Kim and her had to go on the swing twice because the first time they rode the swing, the camera was not rolling.

Watch the clip here.

9.Visit Switzerland to walk on the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the Alps

During the 540th episode of Running Man, HaHa and actress Kang Han-na were chosen to take up the mission of hiking the world’s longest suspension bridge.

Despite their fear and constant complaints from HaHa, the unlikely duo successfully finished the mission.

The bridge that they crossed is the Charles Kuonen Bridge. It is the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge, giving walkers the view of 86 meters above the ground at its highest point.

It is a record-breaking 494 meters long connecting Grachen and Zermatt on the Europaweg foot trail.

Located near the village of Randa, the bridge provides views of Matterhorn, Weisshorn and the Bernese Alps in the distance.

10.Wing Walking in England

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Yoo Jae-suk wing walking in England.

Have you heard of wing walking? Lee Kwang-soo, Yoo Jae-suk and Lee Da-hee had the opportunities to do so during their trip to England.

The experience took them 10-minute flying while being strapped to the top of a plane while flying 500 feet above the ground.

After the episode was aired in 2018, many viewers expressed their concern over the activities raising the question if the production team had went to far.

The then production director assured that wing walking is totally safe and it is a leisure sport that has not seen an accident in 30 years.

Watch the clip here.

So which travel bucket ideas would you pick? Let us know in the comment box.

How Rajah Brooke’s secretary is related to Johor royalty through Mads Lange

This is a story of two siblings; half-siblings to be precise, how they lost their family fortune and how one of them became a wife to a Sultan and the other worked as a private secretary to a Rajah.

And it all started from their father, Mads Lange.

Mads Lange and how he became the King of Bali

Mads Johansen Lange
Mads Lange Painted by unknown Chinese painter on Bali. Credit: Public Domain.

Mads Lange was a trader and entrepreneur who made his fortune in Bali so much so that he was nicknamed the ‘King of Bali’.

According to Henk Schulte Nordhort in his paper The Mads Lange Connection (1981), Mads Johansen Lange (Sept 18, 1806 – May 13, 1856) was born on the island of Langeland, Denmark.

He grew up in a merchant family and in 1824, when he was eighteen, he went to sea as a crew member on one of the ships of the Danish Asiatic company.

Nordhort wrote in his paper, “In the 1830s the Danish Company sold many of its ships, and one of them, the Syden, was brought by Captain John Burd, who planned to trade along the China coast. He left Denmark in 1833 and his second-in-command was Mads Lange. Three brothers of Mads- Hans, Karl Emillius and Hans Henrik – were also members of the crew.”

Lange eventually made his way to Dutch East Indies and subsequently settled on Bali.

There, he built a thriving commercial enterprise, exporting rice, spices and beef and importing weapons and textiles.

At one point of his career, Lange owned as many as fifteen ships that travelled and traded among ports in the East Indies, the West Indies and Europe.

He also built a factorij at Kuta, Bali. (A factorij is the common name during the medieval and early modern eras for an entrepot which was essentially a free-trade zone.)

Apart from his business, Lange was historically known as the mediator between the local Rajahs and the Dutch colonists.

As for his personal life, Lange was never officially married but he fathered three children with his mistresses.

With a local Balinese woman named Nyai Kenyer, he had two sons – William Peter who was born in 1843 and Andreas Emil born in 1850.

His second known mistress was the daughter of a wealthy Chinese merchant, a woman who Lange called ‘Nonna Sangnio’.

Sangnio gave birth to a daughter in 1848 and Lange named her Cecilia Catharina Lange.

Sadly, William died at the age of 12 in Singapore reportedly due to dysentery.

Mads Lange’s daughter Cecilia Lange

Lange died on May 13, 1856. While there was no officially inquiry made into his death, it is widely rumoured that he had been poisoned either by the local Rajah or by the Dutch.

Just like the story of Sara Crewe in the children’s novel A Little Princess (1888) by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Cecilia learned about her father’s death when she was in school in Singapore.

Unlike Sara, Cecilia was adopted by a British family and continued to be schooled in Singapore.

“She traveled with them to India, France and England before returning to Singapore. In 1869 she went to Bali to visit her father’s grave, the only time back there since she left as a child,” Peter Bloch in his book Mads Lange’ Forgotten Treasures.

She then returned to Singapore where she met her future husband. In 1870, Cecilia married Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor and converted to Islam taking the name Zubaidah binti Abdullah.

Mads Lange’s son Andreas Emil Lange

While Cecilia had her life transitioned from the daughter of the ‘King of Bali’ to the wife of the Sultan of Johor, her half-brother Andreas found his way to the shores of Sarawak.

After his father died, Andreas continued his education at Singapore’s Raffles Institution.

It is unclear on how exactly Andreas joined the Sarawak civil service but it is believed through Ludvig Verner Helms.

Helms (1825-1918) was a trader who later became the manager of the Borneo Company when it was first formed in 1856.

Before Helms came to Sarawak, he worked under Mads Lange for two years from 1847 till 1849.

After leaving Bali, Helms returned to the island only once in September 1858 to visit Lange only to find out about his death.

“He died, still in the vigour of manhood, and I returned only to find his lonely grave, instead of the friendship I had hoped one day to know,” Helms wrote in his book Pioneering in the Far East and Journeys to California in 1849 and the White Sea in 1878 (1882).

In Sarawak, Helms worked and lived here from 1852 until 1872.

A year before Helms’ departure, Andreas came to Sarawak to work. Looking at how the timeline fit, it is safe to say that Helms introduced the son of his old friend for a job in Sarawak.

Andreas brought along his wife who was originally from Pahang to Sarawak. Together, they had seven sons and five daughters, raising them in Kuching.

Fast forward to October 1909, the Sarawak Gazette published Andreas’ obituary which in the same time detailed his career in Sarawak.

“It was with a surprise and regret that we heard of the death of Mr. A. E. Lange who up to few years ago, was a well-known figure in Kuching. Mr Lange, whose death occurred in Singapore on Sept 12th from dysentery, entered the Government Service as a Clerk in the Shipping Office in 1871. In May 1872 he was appointed Court Writer and Storekeeper and in 1875 Storekeeper and Resident’s Clerk, being finally promoted Secretary to His Highness The Rajah in 1879 still keeping the office of Storekeeper, and this post he held until his retirement in 1905. By his death His Highness loses a trustworthy servant who spent the best years of his life in his Service and much sympathy will be felt with his family in their bereavement.”

After Andreas retired from Sarawak, he moved his large family back to Singapore.

Mads Lange and what is left of his fortune

Lange in fact left a will before he died in which he planned to divide his property among his children, his cousins, two nephews as well as Cecilia’s mother. At that time Andreas’ mother, Nyai Kenyer had already died most probably due to cholera.

Talking to her father’s biographer Aage Krarup Nielson, Cecilia accused Lange’s nephew Peter Christian Lange of ‘stealing everything’.

The biographer quoted Cecilia telling him, “He was a robber who left for home in Denmark with all that was left of my fathers’ riches, without leaving us two children a single penny.”

After Lange died, his business in Bali was left to his brother Hans and nephew Peter Christian.

Then in 1860, Hans died leaving Peter to keep the business going. Lange’s business however, had already been going downhill before his untimely death.

Peter eventually sold the business to a Chinese merchant and returned to Denmark where he died in 1869 at the age of 42.

Did Peter leave anything for his cousins after selling everything? Looking at how Cecilia called Peter a ‘robber’, the answer is most probably no.

The only thing Peter did not sell was a house in Banjuwangi which was supposed to pass down to Cecilia as per Lange’s will.

Unfortunately, Cecilia was unable to claim that house because she did not have the proper documentation to prove that Lange was her father.

If only Lange left not only a will but birth certificates for his children. Hence Cecilia never recovered his father’s wealth like Sara did.

Mads Lange and his legacy

Although his fortune did not survive through his lineage, Lange’s descendants are still thriving to this day especially through Cecilia.

Cecilia was the only one of Abu Bakar’s four wives who bore him a son. This grandson of Mads Lange later became widely known as Sultan Ibrahim of Johor, the 22nd Sultan of Johor who reigned from 1895 till 1959.

With that said, the current Raja Permaisuri Agong of Malaysia, Her Majesty Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah is a great-great-great-granddaughter of Mads Lange.

Additionally, the current sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail is Lange’s great-great-great-grandson.

Just like his half-sister, Andreas tried to claim back his inheritance left from their father.

His first attempt was in 1872 when he asked the Dutch Indies government to investigate what happened to his father’s assets.

But at that time Andreas found there was nothing left of value. After his retirement from Sarawak, he tried again.

“He went to Bali in late 1906 after the massacres of royal families of Depasar and Pemecutan in September, which led to the Dutch taking over Badung and the surrender of Tabanan. It was Andreas’ only visit back since he left as a child. He tried to claim the land of his late father but the colonial court ruled against him and left empty-ended,” Bloch wrote.

Andreas passed away three years after his last visit to Bali. The street that his family lived on in Singapore now became known as Lange Road.

James Erskine Murray and his tragic death in Borneo

Inspired by James Brooke’s success in founding the kingdom of Sarawak in 1841, another British adventurer James Erskine Murray wanted to establish his own fiefdom too.

While Murray might share the same first name and nationality with Brooke, he did not share the same fate with first White Rajah of Sarawak.

In his pursue to achieve his dream, Murray found himself dead in the hands of the locals and buried at sea off the coast of Borneo, thousands of miles from home.

So what went wrong?

James Erskine Murray and his journey to Borneo

Born in 1810, Murray was a lawyer and the author of a travel book on the Iberian Peninsula.

In 1841, he took his family including his wife, two sons and two daughters to Port Phillip, Australia.

Then in early 1843, he left Port Philip and headed to Hong Kong on a ship named Warlock.

In Hong Kong, he sold Warlock and bought a 90-tonne schooner Young Queen and a 200-tonne brig Anna.

After hiring enough crew, the two vessels set sail from Hong Kong on Nov 9, 1943.

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A schooner. Image by

James Erskine Murray at Tenggarong

A fortnight later, they arrived off the Sambas river in western Borneo. The Dutch did not think too much about it.

They spent the Christmas season in Banjarmasin.

By early February 1844, the expedition arrived at the mouth of Mahakam river.

The river is the most important river in southeast Borneo.

Murray’s plan was to visit Tenggarong, the capital city of Sultanate of Kutai which was located in the upper river of Mahakam.

When he arrived at Tenggarong, Murray expressed his desire to trade with Sultan Muhammad Salehuddin Aliuddin.

The sultan agreed but said he must consult his court of datu first.

Looking at how agreeable the sultan was, Murray proposed to the sultan should present him with a large tract of land for an independent settlement so that he himself or some other Englishman be allowed to reside at Tenggarong to protect any of his fellow countrymen who might come to trade

For his own record, he wrote that he had tried by all possible means to gain the friendship of the people so that “a vast field for English enterprise and manufactures” might be opened up in this part of Borneo.

The sultan declined his proposal politely.

While Murray and the Sultan were going back and forth with their proposals, Chinese traders came alongside Murray’s two ships.

The British learned from the Chinese that some Europeans – probably Englishmen – were being held prisoner in Kutai.

They were most probably captured when the sultan pirated an English ship recently.

Murray sent his men to investigate but the local people showed up and warned them away before they could find anything.

Meanwhile, tension was rising between Murray and the sultan with guns being stationed within a few hundred yards of the ships and many armed men began to assemble near the palace.

B.R. Pearn wrote in his paper “Erskine Murray’s Fatal Adventure in Borneo 1843-44” that Murray considered several solutions to get himself out of the sticky situation. In the end, he chose to withdraw but not without some extreme demands.

“The solution, in his view, was to obtain hostages from the Sultan to ensure a safe withdrawal downstream. He must also, as a matter of duty, seek the release of the European prisoners. He wanted as well recompense for the losses incurred through the treatment the expedition had received, probably meaning the lose imposed by the unprofitable trip to Tenggarong. He therefore proposed to address the Sultan, making these demands and saying that if the hostages were not sent aboard he would open fire.”

The battle between James Erskine Murray and Sultan of Kutai

On the morning of Feb 16, Murray sent the letter to the Sultan demanding that the hostages should be the prime minister, the Shahbandar (port officer) and the secretary.

Along with the European prisoners, these men should be sent aboard Murray’s ships within two hours.

The letter was sent to the palace at 8.30am. By 11 o’clock, there was no reply from the palace.

Murray then proceeded to fire a shot over the sultan’s palace.

Immediately, the batteries on shore and the war boats which had been hiding not far from the ships fired back.

The two ships began to retreat downstream after suffering damage and casualties.

As they made their way downstream, about 50 war boats pursued them.

Down the river, several hidden batteries opened fire on the two vessels.

The death of James Erskine Murray

The battle continued throughout afternoon.

At about 6pm as the sky started to get dark, the two vessels were now lashed together.

While the fires continued to exchange, men from both sides began to feel tired.

Murray himself then took over one of the guns and start to fire, while doing so he was fatally shot.

A bullet stuck him in the left breast and before he died, his last words were “My God”.

Besides Murray, two other men were killed and five other were wounded during the fight.

After nearly thirty-six hours of violence of battle, the locals abandoned their pursuit and the two ships made their escape.

Murray was buried at sea on Feb 18, 1844.

The aftermath

According to Pearn, Murray’s disaster evoked little sympathy from his contemporaries in Borneo waters.

Many criticised him for his “imprudence and unguarded conduct” which “brought upon himself the attack.”

Pearn stated, “It is evident that Murray acted on inadequate information and so was led to visit particularly dangerous area. His ignorance of local conditions thus caused him to commit himself to very unfriendly country.”

Murray’s tragic fate had an unexpected effect. The incident made the Dutch cautious over British presence in Kalimantan.

By 1845, the long-reigned Sultan Muhammad Salehuddin was obliged to sign a treaty with the Dutch, acknowledging their overall sovereignty over Kutai.

A year later, the first Dutch Resident was appointed for Eastern Borneo covering the Kutai region.

In 1883, the Sultan of Kutai formally conceded the absorption of his realm into the Dutch East Indies.

Alexander Hare, the first ‘White Rajah’ in Borneo

James Brooke might be widely known as the first ‘White Rajah’ of Sarawak. However, did you know that he was not the first man to be known as the first ‘White Rajah’ in Borneo?

About 30 years before Brooke established his dynasty in Sarawak, British merchant and adventurer Alexander Hare founded an independent fiefdom in the south of Borneo called Maluka.

It was located around the Maluka river, southeast Banjarmasin on the Borneo island.

With the title of Rajah of Maluka, Hare’s kingdom even had a flag, coinage and custom duties.

Alexander Hare, the Merchant

Born in 1775 in London, Hare was the son of a watchmaker.

He joined a trading company in Portugal around 1800 and moved to Calcutta, India.

In 1807, he settled as a merchant in Malacca. During his stay in Malacca, Hare made acquaintance with Stamford Raffles of the British East India Company (EIC).

From 1811 till 1816, the Dutch briefly passed the control over Dutch Indies to Britain with Raffles as the newly appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Java.

Raffles, in turn appointed Hare as the Resident of Banjarmasin and Commissioner of the Islands of Borneo.

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Indiae Orientalis, 17th century map of Southeast Asia. Credit: Public Domain.

Alexander Hare, the Rajah of Maluka

As for Hare, he was already familiar with Banjarmasin as he visited the place as a merchant.

On behalf of EIC, Hare arrived in Banjarmasin in 1812 to negotiate a treaty with the Sultan.

Somehow during the negotiation, the Sultan granted Hare a present.

According to Tim Hannigan in his book Raffles and the British Invasion of Java, a resident was not supposed to receive any kind of gift from a king.

But Hare accepted a gift from the Sultan of Banjarmasin – 1,400 square miles of territory, six times the size of Singapore.

He received it not as an accession to British domains but as a personal fiefdom in his own name.

By right, Raffles should have demanded Hares return the territory to the Sultan.

Instead, Raffles developed an even closer relationship with Hare as he hoped that an English fiefdom in the south of Borneo might provide a strong British foundation against the Dutch one day.

Hannigan stated, “The land that Alexander Hare ruled was swampy morass. It never had many native inhabitants and Hare’s habits seem to have scared off the last of the locals as soon as he moved in.”

Alexander Hare and his harem

So Hare was in need of ‘subjects’ in order his kingdom to flourish.

He turned to Raffles asking for ‘people’. Raffles being a good friend, provided Hare the people he needed.

“In early 1813, Raffles had signed an order that all convicts could legitimately be sentenced to transportation in Java were to be shipped to Banjarmasin for Alexander Hare to do with them as he saw fit. Hare even received a subsidy of 25 rupees a head for every criminal he received,” Hannigan stated.

Although Hare minted his own coins, he didn’t pay a single cent to his labourers, making them nothing more than unpaid slaves.

On top of the male convicts that were sent to Maluka, Hare demanded women so that he could breed more settlers.

He preferred women “of loose morals”, he said.

And again Raffles sent ‘women of loose morals’ to Hare. They were homeless women on the streets of Batavia or women who were caught for petty theft.

As it turned out, the women’s first duty was to satisfy the huge sexual appetite of the ‘White Rajah’.

Today, a handful of Indonesian web portals today refer to him as the man who owned a harem in Banjarmasin.

Alexander Hare and the Banjarmasin Enormity

Author Ferdinand Mount in his book The Tears of the Rajas: Mutiny, Money and Marriage in India 1805-1905 called Hare ‘the dissolute wanderer’ who ‘might have stumbled out of a Conrad novel’.

Mount added, “He was a Lord Jim without the good intentions.”

Lord Jim is a character in Joseph Conrad’s 1900 novel. The novel was inspired by English mariner Austin Podmore Williams and Sarawak’s first rajah, James Brooke.

Unlike Brooke, Hare’s dream of an independent state started to crash after the signing of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814.

After rounds of negotiations between EIC and the Dutch, Hare was at first allowed to keep his little kingdom in Banjarmasin.

However, Hare reportedly antagonised the Dutch. They believed that Hare was planning to use Maluka to enhance British intrusions in the region.

In the end, the Dutch government declared that Hare had no legal right in Borneo and the Rajah of Maluka was no longer a king.

Mount pointed out, “When Hare was finally kicked out by the returning Dutch, they forced him to total up the number of his wretched slaves. There were 907 men, 462 women and 123 children crouching in his filthy huts.”

These numbers did not include the possibly hundreds of others who died or were lucky to have fled into the jungle.

Making another reference to Conrad’s work, Mount stated, “If Hare had not yet plunged as deep into evil as Conrad’s Mr Kurtz, it was only because he did not stay there long enough.”

Kurtz is a character in Conrad’s 1899 novella Heart of Darkness. He is an ivory trader and commander of a trading post in Africa. The book was inspired by Congo Free State, a territory personally owned by Belgium’s King Leopold II from 1885 to 1908. It is also known for its brutal history; losing up to 50 per cent of its population due to forced labour system.

Hare’s four-year reign as the first White Rajah in Borneo came to be known to Dutch historians as ‘De Bandjermasinche Afschuwelijkheid’ or ‘The Banjarmasin Enormity’.

Life after Maluka

After being kicked out of Banjarmasin, Hare drifted around the archipelago bringing along some of his slaves and women while trying to get back to his properties in Java.

However, the Dutch banned him from entering the island. He then shipped around and found himself in Cape Town, South Africa.

According to Hannigan, what Hare really wanted was a desert island on which to live out his dreams of debauched despotism undisturbed.

Then in 1826, he brought his household to an uninhabited coral atolls called the Cocos Islands.

Located a thousand miles west of Java in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Hare first found out about the place from one of his former employees John Clunies-Ross.

Clunies-Ross eventually also moved to Cocos Islands bringing his family and workers.

The two did not see eye to eye with each other.

After five years in Cocos Islands, Hare left again and now headed to Bengkulu.

Some reports stated that most of his slaves left Hare to join Clunies-Ross, while others said it was because Hare’s money was dwindling and he could not afford to bring everyone to Bengkulu.

Either way, the former Rajah of Maluku died in Bengkulu in 1835 after falling off his horse.

Reportedly, his remaining estate went to a woman named Dishta – a dancing girl whom Hare picked up from Calcutta.

Salak fruit: 5 things you might not know about this unique fruit

Some people call salak fruit ‘snake fruit’ because of its reddish brown scaly skin which reminds one of snakeskin.

However, the salak tree belong to the palm tree family and is native to Malaysia and Indonesia.

The fruit can be peeled by first pinching the pointed tip of the fruit, and then peeling the skin away to reveal pearly edible cloves which closely resemble a peeled garlic.

As for the flavour, it tastes acidic and sweet with an apple-like texture.

Here are five things you might not know about the salak fruit:

1.It has been featured on the Malaysian stamp

On Feb 27, 1999, a Malaysian stamp was issued featuring the salak fruit.

It was under the rare fruits series of stamps.

The species that was featured on the stamp was Salacca grabrecens.

2.There are many types of salak cultivar out there

Overall, there are at least 30 salak cultivars (which is short for ‘cultivated varieties’) out there.

Some of the popular cultivars are salak pondoh and salak Bali.

In Indonesia, salak Bali is the most expensive type: It is smaller than the normal salak and apparently the sweetest of its kind.

Meanwhile in Malaysia, the most famous type is salak madu (honey).

3.The health benefits of salak fruit

Many studies have been done on the nutritional values of salak fruit.

A study by Thai researchers published in 2013 for instance, showed that salak plum possessed antioxidant properties.

Other studies showed that the tropical fruit contains vital nutrients such as calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin C and beta caroteene.

It is estimated that 100gm of salak fruit can provide approximately 82 calories and contains 4 per cent fat and 1 per cent protein.

4.Place that is named after the salak tree

Pasir Salak is a riverside town located in Perak, Malaysia.

Legend has that the town was named after the sandy riverbank that was once covered by salak fruit skins.

Hence the name ‘Pasir Salak’, ‘Pasir’ as in sand in Malay.

Some history buffs would recognise the place as where British colonial official J.W.W. Birch was assassinated in 1875, and event which would later caused British intervention in local conflicts leading to the outbreak of the Perak War.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia’s neighbouring country of Indonesia in West Java, there is an eroded volcano called Mount Salak.

Contrary to popular belief that the name is derived from the salak tree, Mount Salak’s name actually comes from a Sanskrit word.

According to Sundanese tradition, the name comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Salaka’ which means ‘silver’.

Hence, Mount Salak can also be referred to as Silver Mountain.

5.Some of the salak products you should try

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Image by Pixabay.

Salak candies, salak juice and pickled (jeruk) salak are some of the yummy delicacies made from this fruit.

Thanks to modern technology, you can order these products through online shopping if you cannot find them in your local stores.

How the Japanese kempeitai tortured and interrogated during WWII

Kempeitai or also known as Kenpeitai was the infamous Japanese military police from 1881 to 1945.

In Japanese-occupied territories, this police force was in charge of arresting and executing those who were suspected of being anti-Japanese.

They were notorious for their brutal treatment of prisoners during World War II (WWII).

Many historians refer to them as Japan’s version of the Gestapo, the official secret police of Nazi Germany.

They were trained under Japan’s War Ministry and even had an interrogation manual provided by their government.

One of the cautions stated in the manual, “Care must be exercised when making use of rebukes, invective or torture as it will result in his telling falsehoods and making a fool of you.”

Mark Felton in his book Japan’s Gestapo: Murder, Mayhem and Torture in Wartime Asia noted that the uniformity in methods of torture practiced by the kempeitai throughout the Japanese occupation zone suggested a definite policy adopted by the armed forces at the direct instigation of the government in Tokyo.

“Often, kempeitai investigators cared little whether confessions were made voluntarily or made under duress so torture served a useful and normally quick role in confirming kempeitai suspicions. Essentially, if you were arrested by the kempeitai your fate was usually already sealed.”

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Methods of torture and interrogation deployed by the kempeitai during World War II:


This form of torture was commonly used by Japanese as well as German officials during WWII.

It involves water being poured over a cloth covering the face and breathing passages of an immobilised captive.

This would cause the person to experience the sensation of drowning.

At Woosung prison camp in Shanghai in early 1942, there was a Japanese army interpreter who worked for the Kempeitai.

He was infamously known for using the water treatment on American and British prisoners.

Nicknamed ‘The Beast of the East’, Isamu Ishihara developed his own version of waterboarding.

The steps include “Prop a ladder on a slope, tie the prisoner to it, feet higher than head, pound something into his nostrils to break the bones so he had to breathe through his mouth, pour water into his mouth till he filled up and chocked, and then it was talk or suffocate.

2.Rice torture

The Japanese kempeitai also pumped uncooked rice into their victims.

During the Japanese occupation of Borneo, there were at least 15 kempeitai operatives stationed in Sandakan, Sabah under the command of Warrant Officer Murakami Seisaku.

The victim would be starved for several days and then have a large amount of uncooked rice forced down his throat.

Then, they would put a hose in the victim’s mouth and he would swallow a large amount of water which cause the rice to expand.

This would cause excruciating pain as the stomach stretched to its limit, and the pain would often continue for days as the rice was digested.

The resulting stress on the digestive tract would also cause internal and rectal bleeding.

This method of torture was one of the ways used on those interrogated in Sandakan.

3.Flogging or beating

The Double Tenth Incident or Double Tenth Massacre took place on Oct 1943 in Singapore.

After a raid on Singapore Harbour under the Operation Jaywick, 57 civilians were arrested and tortured by the Japanese military police on suspicion for aiding the raid.

One of them was Anglican Bishop of Singapore, Dr Leonard Wilson.

He was flogged till he was unconscious by seven Japanese operatives.

While the bishop survived, 15 other men died.

Flogging was the most common of the cruelties deployed not only at Kempeitai headquarters, but also at POWs camps as well as on prison ships or hell ships.

Moreover, there was no limitation in creativity when it came to the size or shape of the flogging instruments.
It could be a piece of wood that looked like a baseball bat, a hose, riding crop or a bamboo bat.

In Sandakan, beatings were made more painful and terrifying by the use of wet sand.

The interrogators would smear wet sand over the victim and press it into the skin when he was beaten with a wooden sandal.

This abraded the skin and made the whole beaten area red, raw and bleeding.

Sometimes, the captives were forced to beat their fellow captives.

In many times, these men were beaten into unconsciousness only to be revived in order to be beaten again.

All of the times, they suffered lacerations, broken bones and injuries from these beatings.

In an unknown number of times, these prisoners were beaten to death.

4.Electric shock

After the war, it was revealed that there were five ways the kempeitai operatives tortured their victims using electric shock.

Darius Rejali in his book Torture and Democracy explained,

“One involved tying an EE5 telephone to the feet. This device was an old ‘lineman telephone’, consisting of two binding posts to which one connected wires and a crank to generate a ring. When it rang, it delivered a shock. The shock lasted four to five minutes. Three other electro-tortures used the main power grid to electrify metal chairs, brass tabletops, and metal rings on the fingers. A fifth was exclusively for women; the torturer thrusts an electrode ‘shaped like a curling iron up her vagina’.”

5.Knee spread and kneeling on sharp instruments

Another form of torture was known as the ‘knee spread’. The victim was forced to kneel with a pole inserted behind both knee joints so as to spread them as pressure was applied to his thighs, sometimes by jumping on them.

This torture could cause immense pain, separation of the knee joints and often permanent disability of the victim.

It was common to force prisoners to kneel when they were interrogated.

However to make matter worse, they were forced to kneel on top of sharp objects.

6.The use of sharp objects

Speaking of sharp objects, the knee was not the only part of the body where the kempeitai would inflict pain with a sharp instrument.

Lieutenant Rod Wells was discovered building a radio receiver at Sandakan POW camp by Japanese forces.

He was sent to Kuching to be interrogated. Wells recalled:

“The interviewer produced a small piece of wood like a meat skewer pushed that into my left ear, and tapped it in with small hammer. I think I fainted some time after it went through the drum. I remember the last excruciating sort of pain and I must have gone for some time because I was revived with a bucket of water. Eventually it healed but of course I couldn’t hear with it. I have never been able to hear since.”

7.Nail ‘treatment’

Apart from removing the fingernails or toenails of the victims using pliers during interrogations, sometimes sharp objects were inserted right beneath the fingernails to get victims to talk.

A Swedish prisoner Erik Friman once revealed what type of nail ‘treatment’ he received.

“This consisted of hammering silvers of bamboo under the finger nails until the nails pulled up at the root so that they could be pulled out with dirty pliers.”

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Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Yujiro Yutani, Commanding Officer of the Kenpeitai (Japanese secret police) on Timor, standing at attention behind a barbed wire fence at the prisoner of war (POW) compound. Lt Col Yutani was one of twenty two Japanese who were tried in Darwin in March and April 1946 for war crimes against allied POWs. Lt Col Yutani was accused of the ill treatment of a British POW and an Australian POW in April-May 1943, as well as the murders of Australian POW Corporal J H Armstrong, 2/40 Battalion, and British POW, Gunner Martin, 79 Light Anti Aircraft Battery, who were executed on Lt Col Yutani’s order at Airnona, Timor, on or about June 12,1943. He was found guilty on all charges and on April 29, 1946 was sentenced to death by shooting for the murders of Armstrong and Martin. Lt Col Yutani unsuccessfully appealed against the sentence on the grounds that “the capital punishment is unreasonable and excessive” and that the order to execute Cpl Armstrong and Gnr Martin “was issued as a lawful one and obeyed by me as an operational order”. The sentence was carried out on August 1, 1946 at Rabaul. Of the twenty two Japanese tried in Darwin, nine others were found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour, with the maximum sentence being ten years.(Courtesy of Australia War Memorial- Copyright expired-Public Domain).

8.The use of heat

The nail ‘treatment’ was just one of many form of torture Sybil Kathigasu suffered when she was captured by the kempeitai.

Together with her husband, she was captured for aiding the resistant forces 5th Independent Regiment Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA).

While they ran needles into her finger tip below the nail, her hand was held firmly flat on the table.

In her memoirs, Kathigasu wrote “They heated iron bars in a charcoal brazier and applied them to my legs and back; they ran a stick between the second and third fingers of both my hands, squeezing the finger together and holding them firmly in the air while two men hung from the ends of the cane, making a see-saw of my hands and tearing the flesh between my fingers.”

After the war, Kathigasu was the only Malayan woman to be ever awarded with the George Medal of bravery.

She passed away in 1948 at age 48 due to a wound on her jaw left by the kempeitai which led to fatal septicaemia.


On Feb 13, 1947, the prosecutor in Batavia charged 33 kempeitai members as a criminal group.

He alleged that between April 1942 and September 1945, he group had committed a variety of war crimes in Batavia.

These war crimes include striking suspects on various parts of the body with their hands and fists, beating them with sticks, subjecting men and women in their custody to the ‘water cure’, applying electricity to various parts of the body, hanging suspects by their wrists and ankles, depriving them of food, water, and medical care, burning them with lighted cigarettes on various parts of the face and body, and lastly, throwing suspects to ground using jiu-jitsu holds.

So what is jiu-jitsu?

Also known as jujutsu, it is a family of Japanese martial arts that can be used in an offensive or defensive to kill or subdue one or more weaponless or armed and armoured opponents.

In Kuching Kempeitai headquarters, they had four bungalows which were used as torture rooms.

One of the rooms was handled by a jiu-jitsu expert.

His job was to fling his prisoners around the room while twisting their limbs. He also stomped on them with his boots.

10.The use of ants

Have you heard of the Sook Ching? It roughly means ‘purge through cleansing’. It was a systematic purge of perceived hostile elements among the Chinese in Singapore and Chinese Malayans by the Japanese military during Japanese occupation of Singapore and Malaya.

During that time, the kempeitai established their headquarters in the old YMCA building on Orchard Road in Singapore.

The Chinese civilians who were taken there for questioning seldom returned other than in a wooden box after dark.

Occasionally, impaled Chinese heads were put on display in the front yard.

It served as a reminder to the Singaporeans not to go against the Japanese.

According to Hal Levey in the book “Under the Pong Pong Tree”, the kempeitai trucked groups of Chinese to a banyan tree on the fairway of the third hole of the Royal Island Club golf course as ‘an amusing diversion’.

They then were ordered to stand under the tree while another kempeitai officer slashed at through the leaves overhead.

This dislodged thousands of kerengga or weaver ants onto the prisoners.

Levey wrote, “Disturbed as they were, the kerengga descended and inflicted a fiery torture on the prisoners until machine guns put the prisoners out of their misery.”


For the Japanese military police, burial was considered a non-lethal torture device.

It served as a warning or to scare the captives they interrogated.

One record where the method performed was in Kuala Terengganu. A magistrate was wrongfully accused for espionage and tortured to extract a false confession.

After spending a night tied to a table leg, the next morning his captors kicked him almost to death dragging him outside.

There, he said, “they buried me in the ground leaving just my head above ground. I was then made to close my eyes. When I did so one of the Kempeitai men put his sword against my throat as if to cut it, and kept it there for some minutes. After that I was unburied and left out in the sun for the rest of the day.”

The price of fighting back against the kempeitai

There were a number of incidents when groups of brave men fought back against their oppressor during Japanese occupation.

However, the price for their retaliation was high.

On the islands of Loeng and Sermata east of Timor, 96 locals were executed after two kempeitai were murdered.

All the hostages were first interrogated, tortured and then executed with bayonet thrusts the chest and belly.

Even after those bloodshed, the real murderers of the kempeitai were never discovered.

Why so much torture by the Japanese military police?

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During a military trial, Uno Shintaro a former Japanese officer who served in China revealed the ‘essential’ reason to use torture as a form of interrogation.

He said,

“One of the essential means of obtaining information was the interrogation of prisoners. Torture was an inevitable necessity. Killing the victims and burying them is a natural consequence. You do it because you don’t want it to be discovered. I believed and acted that way because I was convinced of what I was doing. We were doing our duty as we had been taught. We have done so far for the sake of our country and because of our subsidiary obligations to our ancestors. On the battlefield, we never considered the Chinese to be human beings. When you are the winner, the losers seem miserable. We concluded that the Yamato (i.e Japanese) ethnic group was superior.”

Meanwhile, historian Professor Yuki Tanaka further explained,

“Kempeitai members were projecting their fears onto the local population and this constantly ‘discovering’ new conspiracies. They were usually convinced of the guilt of those arrested before any interrogation had taken place. The confessions they extracted after days, weeks, or even months of torture were usually given by victims who would confess to anything, even crimes punishable by death, in order to end their ordeal. Those named in such confessions were also arrested and tortured, so the circle of false confession and torture widened and fueled the paranoia of Kempeitai operatives, who became increasingly convinced that uncovered a comprehensive network of resistance activity.”

After all the abuse and torture, the operatives most of the time were just chasing their imaginary ‘anti-Japanese conspiracies’.

Even for those who had came out from the interrogation rooms alive, some died due to the injuries they had suffered not long after and all of their minds were never the same again.

5 Asian foods created during World War II

World War Two (WWII) brought a lot of changes into the world including the food that we eat.

During the war, food supply was low in Japanese-occupied Asian countries because priority was given to the military.

There were even incidents of animal captives in zoos being sacrificed for Japanese military food.

When people are pushed into desperation, they tend to get creative.

Here are five Asian foods invented during WWII:

1.Nasi rames of Bandung (Indonesia)

When the Japanese occupied Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) during WWII, food was scarce.

In order to help the Dutch community in Bandung, a Eurasian cook named Truus van der Capellan or Tante Truus ran a soup kitchen there.

She put together a balanced meal of rice, vegetable and meat onto a plate and called it nasi rames.

Other people in other places also had the same idea like Tante Truus but they mostly called it nasi campur.

2.Banana ketchup or banana sauce (Philippines)

During WWII, tomatoes were rare in the Philippines.

Food technologist Maria Y. Orasa (1893-1945) then invented the banana ketchup using bananas instead of tomato.

It is made using banana, sugar, vinegar and spices.

To make it looks like tomato ketchup, its original brownish-yellow colour was dyed with red colouring.

3.Darak (Philippines)

Orasa was also responsible for creating Filipino superfood during the war: the Darak.

It is a rice bran powder rich in thiamine and other vitamins which could treat beriberi.

Moreover, she created a Darak cookies recipes which saved many civilians.

Orasa’s original recipe was quite simple.

It needs 1/2 cup of rice bran powder, 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of lime zest, 1 egg, 1/2 cup of butter and oil for lining the sheets.

First of all, beat the eggs and set it aside. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Then beat the butter until it turns creamy. Mix in sugar, rice bran powder, flour egg and lime zest gradually to make the dough.

After that, drop cookie dough using teaspoon and flatten them so that they can cook evenly.

Make sure the cookies are about two inches apart. Finally bake them until they turn golden brown.

4.Soyalac (Philippines)

Along with Darak, Orosa also invented the Soyalac (a protein-rich soybean powder) to help in the war.

In order to fight the Japanese, she joined Marking’s Guerrillas and became a captain.

The guerrillas hired carpenters to insert Soyalac and Darak into hollow bamboo sticks.

These sticks were then smuggled into prisoner-of-war camps.

These wartime foods saved the lives of many POWs who were starving during the war.

Unfortunately, Orosa died on Feb 13, 1945 after being hit in a bombing raid.

5.Instant noodles (Japan)

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While this food is not exactly a wartime food, it was created as a subsequent effect of WWII.

After the war ended, Japan was still suffering from a shortage of food.

The United States was supplying wheat flour to the Japanese people so the Ministry of Health encouraged their people to eat bread made from this flour.

Momofuku Ando then had the idea to make instant noodles. After many trials and errors, he succeeded and introduced it to the world on Aug 25, 1958.

Since the first original flavour chicken, Ando called it ‘Chikin Ramen’.

Besides being known as the inventor of instant noodles, Ando is also known for creating the world’s first cup noodle.

The influence of Catholicism on Flores island during WWII

If you are not familiar with Flores island, Indonesia, it was the home of Homo floresiensis, a species of small archaic human.

This species of human was nicknamed ‘Hobbit’ by its discoverers, after the fictional race popularised in J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit.

It is believed that the Homo floresiensis lived on Flores island until the arrival of modern humans about 50,000 years ago.

Scientists dated the Homo floresiensis skeletal material to about 60,000 to 100,000 years ago.

The remains of the individual discovered in 2003 would have stood about 1.1m in height, hence the nickname ‘The Hobbit’.

Flores island is one of the Lesser Sunda islands, a group of islands in the eastern half of Indonesia.

The largest towns on the island are Maumere and Ende.

The name Flores came from the Portuguese word for ‘flowers’.

The History of Flores island

This comes as no surprise because Portuguese traders and missionaries were the first foreigners who came in contact with the natives of the island.

The first group of Portuguese arrived in 1511 through the expedition of naval officer Antonio de Abreu and his vice-captain Francisco Serrao.

In 1613, the Dutch attacked the nearby island of Solor where there was a Portuguese settlement.

Fleeing the attack, the Portuguese moved to Larantuka town of Flores. There, they formed a mixed population of Portuguese Jewish merchants and local islanders descents called the Topasses.

The group spoke Portuguese when they prayed, Malay when they traded and a mixed dialect as their mother tongue.

The Topasses continued to dominate the region economically for the next 200 years.

In the same time, the Portuguese and the Dutch continued to fight for the sovereignty of island.

Until in 1854 when Portugal ceded all its historical claims on Flores and leaving the island became part of territory of the Dutch East Indies.

The Japanese occupation of Flores Island

After World War Two (WWII) broke out, the Japanese first arrived at Reo on the northwest coast of Flores on May 13, 1942.

Two days later, a few ships of the Japanese Imperial Navy anchored off Ende, the capital of Flores.

There was a huge difference in how the Japanese treated the Europeans on Flores compared to the rest of the world.

Although Germany was an ally of Japan, the Japanese saw all Europeans in an unfavourable light and interned them .

Batu Lintang Camp in Sarawak and Sandakan Camp in Sabah for example, were occupied by European internees and Allied Prisoners-of-Wars (POWs).

Paul Webb in ‘Too Many to Ignore’: Flores under the Japanese Occupation 1942-1945’ explained the reasons behind the differences in treatment.

He wrote,

“Compared with the excesses of the Japanese administration and military forces on the neighbouring islands of Sumba and Timor, where churches were used as brothels, vestments and sacred vessles thrown around carelessly, girls sought for Japanese army brothels, where Christians were killed as suspected Dutch sympathizers and were life under the Japanese was harsh in all respects – compared with all this the Florenese were being treated with ‘kids gloves’. So why were the Japanese so polite and courteous to the Catholics in Flores? Why did they allow European priests and sisters stay at their posts instead of interning them?

Perhaps the reason is that Flores was a strategically placed island for the possible defence of Balikpapan, the great oil town in Dutch Borneo.”

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Flores Island, Netherland East Indies. Aug 11, 1945. Aerial photo of a bombing run on four Japanese motor sail ships located near the shore of the island during shipping search ‘able’. Copyright expired- Public Domain. Courtesy of Australia War Memorial.

The influence of Catholicism on Flores island

The Japanese was informed that the Catholic religion was crucial to the people of Flores and there were too many of them to ignore.

Meanwhile, the Japanese forces were small and that if there were no priest left in the island it might become necessary to increase the occupation forces to ‘quieten an enraged population’.

Webb theorised that the Japanese was afraid that history might repeat themselves.

Between 1637 and 1638, the Shimabara rebellion took place near the city of Nagasaki.

It is said that 40,000 Catholic into an old castle on the Shimabara peninsula and held out against 120,000 Japanese soldiers for some four months.

In the end, all the Catholics were put to death after they had surrendered.

Whether the Japanese was afraid that a quarter of a million Catholics from a population of 580,000 would rebel against them or whatever other reason was, the Japanese knew that they could not take their clerics away from the Florenese.

In the end, the European priests and nun managed to stay in Flores without being interned throughout the occupation.

Comfort Women and Military Brothels on Flores island

While the clergy in Flores might escape from Japanese oppression, the rest of Indonesians and other Europeans, especially POWs, did not.

Like many Japanese-occupied territories during WWII, Flores had military brothels set up on the island to ‘cater’ for the Japanese forces.

Yuki Tanaka in his book Japan’s Comfort Women highlighted one of the many victims who were sent to Flores.

“According to a Javanese woman, Siti Fatimah, a daughter of Singadikarto, the sub-district head of Subang in west Java, she was told that she would be sent to Japan to study in Tokyo. In 1943, when she was 16 years old, she and four other girls from her home sub-district were put on a a ship at Tanjung Priok.

They joined a few hundred Indonesian girls who had been deceived by Japanese and believed that they were going to Tokyo. The ship went instead to Flores Island. As soon as they arrived, the Japanese attitude towards the girls suddenly changed. They were out into a camp and were forced to render sexual services to the Japanese soldiers. Each girl had to serve at least two soldiers every day. Three months later they were transported to the north of Buru Island, where they were put into a military compound. Here too, they were sexually abused every day until the end of the war.”

Both in Flores and Buru islands, many women died due to the maltreatment by the Japanese. Those who survived, suffered from psychological trauma from their abuse.

After the war, a military court report revealed that each woman was given a daily quota; twenty enlisted men in the morning, two NCOs in the afternoon and the senior officers at night.

Prisoners-of-war (POWs) and labour camps in Flores

By April 1943, more than 2,000 Dutch and other Europeans POWs arrived in Flores from Java in three ships.

They were brought in to build airfields on the island.

The first group of POWs built three camps near Maumere; two labour camp and another as a hospital camp.

Then by August 1943, another 300 POWs were stationed in a labour camp near Talibura about 60 kilometers east of Maumere.

The airfield in east of Maumere was completed in early November, 1943 so the POWs were sent to work elsewhere on the island.

Some were sent to work on the harbour and others were sent to build another two smaller airfields.

In 1944, these POWs were sent back to Java in batches with the last group left Flores on Sept 12, 1944.

The Japanese made sure there was no contact between the priests and these prisoners.

However, many Florenese helped the prisoners with gifts of food and little packets of fruits.

After the war, the missionaries in Flores received a letter from one of the former POWs.

The letter stated,

“In May 1943 we arrived in Maurmere – 1,200 POWs. Because there were many sick, two camps were built, one in Maumere and one a few kilometeres away. The population was friendly and because were sick they offered us coconuts, fish, meat and fruit. We could buy these cheaply at first but later on the Japanese raised the prices so that after a while the sale of food ceased.

“We often saw the natives being brutally beaten by the solders but we always had some contact with the people. Later on we worked at getting sand for the airstrip and whenever we saw the natives we were impressed by their expressions of loyalty to the Dutch. I remember that on August 31st, the Queen’s birthday, we found a little basket of food on the road, and in it a note which said that it hoped the Queen would receive blessings and a request that everyone in the camp would pray for the priests in Flores.

“When some of the prisoners were working on a new airstrip some Florenese girls were nearby and there are pleasant memories of all kinds of little gifts of sugar, fruit and so on which they passed to us. Some of the prisoners still have rosaries slipped to them by these girls.”

In the end, a total of 214 POWs in Flores did not make out from the island alive.

Flores after the war

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Maumere, Flores. Oct 23, 1945. The Bishop of Flores, Reverend H. Levem greeted Major John M. Baillieu and Lieutenant Colonel Whitehouse on their arrival. Copyright expired – public domain. Courtesy of Australia War Memorial.

After the war ended, Flores achieved its independence by being part of Indonesia.

Meanwhile, the Catholic community continued to grow in the island even after the European missionaries left.

On May 26, 2019, the Indonesian government officiated Flores’ St Paul Catholic University of Indonesia.

It is now the first Catholic University in Flores, Indonesia.

Read more:

The mystery behind eight missing priests in Sabah during WWII

The intriguing military history of Rabaul during WWII

Atrocities aboard Japanese destroyer Akikaze during WWII

Sumatra Railway, the death railway you probably never heard of

Junyo Maru was one of the many Japanese hell ships during World War II. It was used to transport Prisoners of War (POWs) with bamboo cages built in to imprison them.

When it was attacked and sunk on Sept 18, 1944 by British submarine HMS Tradewind, it became the world’s greatest sea disaster at the time.

During her last voyage, she was packed with 1377 Dutch, 64 British and Australian and eight US POWs along with 4,200 Javanese romusha.

After the sinking, only 680 survived with 5,620 dead.

But the horrific fates of these 680 survivors did not end with the sinking of Junyo Maru as hell awaited them at the Sumatra Railway.

Sumatra Railway

The survivors were sent to work on the 220km Muora-Pekanbaru railway, which also became later known as the Sumatra railway.

The Japanese wanted to use it to transport coal and troop between Muora and Pekanbaru.

Along with the Junyo Maru survivors, there were over 120,000 romusha together with 6,500 Dutch POWs, 1000 POWs and the rest 300 POWs from the US, Australia and New Zealand.

The first group of labourers to work on the railway were the romushas who started in April 1943.

However, the Japanese became anxious and wanted to speed up the construction.

They then brought in the first group of POWs on May 19, 1944.

All of them were housed in 18 camps located along the railway.

Sumatra Railway in comparison to Burma-Siam Death Railway

When you hear mention of a ‘death railway’ during WWII, one immediately thinks of the Burma-Siam Death Railway.

Similar to the Sumatra Railway, the Burma-Siam Railway was built by the Empire of Japan from 1940-1944 to supply troops and weapons in the Burma campaign.

Overall, 60,000 Allied POWs and 180,000-250,000 romusha were forced to work on the railway.

In the end, about 90,000 labourers died along with more than 12,000 POWs.

Lizzie Oliver in her book Prisoners of the Sumatra Railway wrote, “Although the Sumatra Railway was half the length of the Burma-Siam Railway (220 kilometers vs 414 kilometers), it took almost the same number of months for POWs to complete (15 vs 16).

“Progress was approximately sixteen kilometers per month slower on Sumatra than in Burma and Siam. This slow progress each month indicates specific difficulties for those on Sumatra, two of which dominate the narratives of former POWs.

“First, the terrain on Sumatra was foreboding. The railway construction had to navigate through a ‘chain of mountains’, the rolling hills of volcanic and sedimentary rocks and the swampy and jungle-covered lowlands characterised by long rivers, sandbanks and mudflats. Second, having already been incarcerated, malnourished and forced into hard labour for over two years beforehand, the initial general condition of the Sumatra Railway workforce was poorer that that on Burma-Siam (the building of which began relatively early in captivity).”

Life on the Sumatra Railway

All the same, working on Sumatra and Burma-Siam railways were equally deadly.

One of the survivors of Sumatra railway, George Duffy once wrote, “Indeed death was no stranger there. We were overworked, underfed, provided with little medicine, and subjected to constant physical and mental abuse by our Japanese overseers.

“A hospital for malaria, dysentery, pellagra and beriberi patients existed in name only. It was simply a dilapidated bamboo-framed, thatched roof barracks where the sick were placed to await their eventual death.”

One of the few doctors treating the POWs was military surgeon W.J. van Ramshorst from The Hague.

The good doctor was brave enough to confront the Japanese army about the death rates of the prisoners.

He told them, “Camp 2 has about eight hundred patients. Around one hundred men die each month. If things continue as they are, all patients will be dead in eight months time.”

To this, the Japanese replied, “Your calculations are correct. That is exactly our goal.”

Liberation comes to Sumatra Railway

August 15 will always be remembered as V-J Day or Victory over Japan Day. It is a day the Imperial Japan surrendered in World War II, in effect bringing the war to an end.

It was also the day that Sumatra Railway officially completed. There was even a completion ceremony organised by the Japanese army.

Henk Hovinga in his book The Sumatra Railroad: Final Destination Pakan Baroe described how the prisoners welcomed the news of their freedom.

“For all prisoners, liberation after three and a half years of captivity was a moment they would never forget. Yet each man experienced that day in his own individual way. Some cried, other laughed, prayed or cursed.

“They had suffered too much to be only thankful that it had finally ended. Many were deadly ill or dying and could no longer grasp the magnitude of the news of their liberation.

“Others were too apathetic or too bitter to respond spontaneously. In every camp along the railway the moment of liberation was a different experience. And even prisoners living together in the same camp cherished different memories of the moment when the Japanese surrender was announced.”

Dr van Ramshorst for instance, remembered the day liberation as just another ordinary day.

“We all received as double ration of rice. After a couple of days, we were allowed to leave the camp, but still had to return. I walked leisurely to Pakan Baroe (Pekanbaru), visited the post office and asked the crazy question if I could send a telegram to my wife on Java. And strangely enough that was possible. I paid ten cents per word. In the meantime, the Japs had become friendly, but fearfully nervous. After they had burned all camp documents, some of them asked me if they should commit suicide. And I answered them: ‘Yes, if it is your custom to commit harakiri, then that is the best thing to do…”

What happened to the Japanese after the war?

It is not sure how many, if any, Japanese who actually took Dr van Ramshorst’s advice.

However, it is certain many Japanese army along with their Korean guards were prosecuted for war crimes they committed during the construction of Sumatra Railway.

Captain Ryohei Miyazaki who was responsible for the 18 camps along the railway was sentenced to death on May 30, 1948.

The man who was responsible for food and provisions General Yamamoto was sentenced to death on Dec 30, 1948.

Meanwhile, the chief medical officer Colonel Fukaya was executed on Dec 30, 1948.

Many of the guards received prison sentences ranging from 5 to 20 years of imprisonment.

What happened to Sumatra Railway after the war?

image 20150810 11107 h9jm14
Liberated prisoners distributing rice rations to campmates. Pakanbaroe, Sumatra, 1945. AWM 019382. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial.

After all the blood, sweat and tears put into the railway, in the end it was never fully utilised.

For a railway built for war purposes, the first train ride on the Sumatra Railway was used to transport former Dutch POWs from Muoro to Pekanbaru driven by a Japanese corporal.

The train derailed from its track but the passengers helped to get it back on line.

Then in early 1946, the last group of the Japanese railway engineers in Sumatra boarded the train from Muoro to Pekanbaru.

Since then, the railway between Muoro and Pekanbaru was never used again.

Many parts of the railway have been claimed back by nature as the areas are now overgrown by jungle.

It is even hard to see the remnants of the railway, as many of the parts have been removed for scrap.

In the end, the railway took the lives over 100,000 labourer including about 703 POWs.

Many of them died due to accident, sickness and abuse as well as execution by the Japanese.

How an Indonesian folk song became the center of communism propaganda

“Genjer-genjer” is an Indonesian folk song written in the Osing language about a plant called genjer.

Also known as yellow velvetleaf, genjer (Limnocharis flava) can be found in countries such as Indonesia, South America, Sri Lanka, India, Cambodia and Malaysia.

When the songwriter came up with “Genjer-genjer” it would later became one of the most taboo songs in Indonesian history.

An Indonesian folk song written during the Japanese occupation

Muhammad Arief first recorded the song during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies in 1942.

The musician who was from Banyuwangi town in East Java, musically arranged it for the angklung, a Sundanese musical instrument made of a varying number of bamboo tubes.

Since genjer was considered a poor man’s food and would usually be eaten when there was no other food left, Arief used it as the inspiration for his song.

He wanted to tell the story of the people of his town who had to depend on genjer for food due to Japanese oppression during World War 2(WWII).

However, the Japanese occupation government used the song as propaganda to encourage the Indonesians to sacrifice their food as crops were given to the soldiers.

“Genjer-genjer”, an Indonesian folk song continued to be used for propaganda

Fast forward to post independent Indonesia, “Genjer-genjer” became well known in mainstream music.

Fueling on the fame, the song was covered by famous artists such as Bing Slamet and Lilis Suryani.

Watch Lilis Suryani’s version of the song here.

At first, the song was used by some political movements to criticise President Sukarno’s Guided Democracy.

It was a political system in place in Indonesia from 1957 until 1966 based on the traditional village system of discussion and consensus, instead of the normal democracy.

With the support of military, Sukarno proposed a cabinet representing all major political parties including the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI).

Due to the popularity of “Genjer-genjer”, PKI also used this song to promote communism.

Since then, a simple folk song to reflect the state of poverty became a major tool in communism propaganda.

The peak of propaganda

The infamous 30 September Movement was a major turning point in Indonesian history.

It took place on the evening of Sept 30, 1965 when a group of militants captured and executed six of Indonesia’s top military generals.

The movement proclaimed itself as Sukarno’s protectors, punishing those who were planning a coup against the president.

Even to this day, the true motive behind 30 September Movement is still unknown.

The first and most famous group to be blamed behind the massacre was the PKI.

PKI, however, claimed that it had nothing to do with them but was entirely an internal army affair.

Later in 1971, political analysts Benedict Anderson and Ruth McVley in their article widely known as
the Cornell Paper also believed the killing of six Indonesian generals was due to internal military issue.

Regardless of who mastermind the killing, there was one thing for sure, the public believed that the communists to be specific, PKI was behind it.

But what did “Genjer-genjer” have anything to do with the killings?

Genjer-genjer and the Lubang Buaya myth

Lubang Buaya is a suburb located in Cipayung district, East Jakarta. It is infamously known as the murder site of six generals.

There were plenty of myths and false reports surrounding the deaths of the six generals.

One of the most popular was that Gerwani members were using the “Genjer-genjer” song to train to kill the generals.

Gerwani or Gerakan Wanita Indonesia (Indonesian Women’s Movement) was a woman organisation affiliated with PKI.

It was started aiming to fight women issues such as gender equality and labour rights but shifted toward communism in 1960s.

This led some of the founding members such as prominent journalist S.K. Trimurti to leave Gerwani.

Soon enough, stories of how Gerwani women had been engaged in orgy with their victims and then torturing, mutilating and fondling the generals’ genitals before killing them circulated.

And they did this allegedly while singing the song “Genjer-genjer”.

Nevertheless, some believed the alleged killings by the Gerwani was a deliberate sensation orchestrated by the Indonesian army to depict communist women were immoral.

Furthermore, autopsy reports stated the generals had died due to a gunshot wounds with no signs of mutilation or torture.

The ban on the Indonesian folk song, genjer-genjer

Another rumour has it that a musical sheet for the song “Genjer-genjer” but with different lyrics from the original was found at the murder scene.

Regardless of whether this was the truth or not, “Genjer-genjer” became a taboo song.

After the Sept 30 Movement, the new Indonesian government banned the song.

The ban ended in 1998 with President Suharto’s resignation.

Muhammad Arief and TikTok

Perhaps the reason behind “Genjer-genjer” being closely associated with communism lies on Muhammad Arief, the original songwriter.

He was allegedly connected to Lekra (Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat), a cultural organisation affiliated with PKI.

After 30 September Movement tragedy, anti-communism sentiment was on the rise resulting in what we now know as the Indonesian Communist Purge.

From 1965 to 1966, thousands of people were captured and killed including PKI members, Gerwani women, communist sympathisers and alleged leftists.

One of them was “Genjer-genjer”’s songwriter, Muhammad Arief.

According to his son, he was taken by police military in 1965. The last the family heard was that Arief was imprisoned in Malang city.

Till today , nobody knows what actually happened to “Genjer-genjer”’s songwriter.

In 2021, the song made waves among younger generation but not because of any propaganda.

Thanks to TikTok, the Indonesian folk song became popular again as users played “Genjer-genjer” in front of their grandparents to see their reactions.

Most of the TikTok videos showed how the elders glared or scolded the TikTokers for playing the song.

If Arief was still alive, what would he think about his song today?

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