Honey Journal #34 Sarawak, Borneo
Name: Organic A. Mangium Honey
You can buy it: In fine food stores in Brunei or on the Internet here.
Color: Brown Sugar
Flavor: Plum and apricot jam. Sweet, but not overly so. Quite refreshing.
Consistency: Solid. You can stand a knife in it straight up.
Fragrance: Fruity with suggestions of plum, apricot and grapes.
On our listener cruises, my honey antennae are on full alert. I spotted honey in Hong Kong and Taipei, but wasn’t tempted to buy. The offerings were too clear and clean-looking, almost always a sign that what God and the bees put in, man has processed out.
I finally made a connection in a market in Brunei, on the tip of the large island of Borneo, and home to the world’s richest human, the Sultan of Brunei, he of a palace with 1800 rooms, 280 bathrooms and a 110 car garage. Though one the smallest nations on earth, it’s capital city has a very big name, maybe the best of any capital city — Bandar Seri Begawan or BSB for short.
The country literally floats on a sea of oil and natural gas. The biggest slice goes to the Sultan, of course, but the population shares in the bounty. Education is free, everybody get a free trip to Mecca and so on. But the laws are strict and enforcement stricter. Not my cup of tea, but traveling through the city and talking to our guide, people seem content with the deal, though given the events of the last few weeks, who really knows.
This honey comes from Sarawak, one of the major provinces of Borneo. Once it’s own country, Borneo became part of Malaysia in the sixties. Of all honey labels I’ve seen this might be the most remote. That’s no idle boast. I’ve reviewed honeys from Papua New Guinea, Zambia and Pitcairn Islands. Here’s what it says on the label: Bee Farm Site. 50km Samarakan, Tatu, Bintulu Sarawak. Find that on Google Maps!
All this does is reaffirm my oft stated contention that honey — natural, unprocessed, untreated honey — can be found anywhere. There are some 200 countries in the world. Somewhere within them (and in all 50 United States) somebody is harvesting honey.
Sometimes people ask me if it’s safe to eat raw honey from exotic places. First, please know that honey is a natural anti-septic and is used even today on certain wounds. Second, the process of making honey is universal. There are different methods but extracting the honey from the hive and getting into a container is pretty much the same the world over. In short, it’s safe.
I was surprised by the complexity and fruitiness of this honey. That distinct plum flavor really jumped out at me. You might wonder, “come on, is he making this stuff up?” The answer is no. I offered a taste to the listeners on the cruise and more than the few, with no prompting from me, came up with “fruity” and “plum.”
The A. in front of the word Mangium (the name of this honey) stands for Acacia. There is a plant called the A. Mangium tree that is common in Southeast Asia. Why they don’t spell the word Acacia is a mystery. That this honey maker has a web site and that you can purchase the honey on the Internet is astonishing. The company looks to be a very serious operation and very environmentally sensitive — all to the good. But as cool as the Internet is, there’s no substitute for going to a place.
The cruise this year was terrific, but they always are. It was very exciting; almost more exciting than fun, I would say. Southeast Asia is a very intense place. It certainly is in the cities. If you’ve ever crossed a street in Saigon or Phnom Penh you know what I mean. There are no stop lights and an endless stream of scooters. There’s no chance that you can wait them out for break in traffic. There’s no such thing. Not at 7am, not at 8pm. The only thing you can do is to wade out into traffic and hope for the best. Here’s the key: once you commit, you must keep moving at a steady pace. If you stop and start, you’re done for. You have to move forward with purpose and let them adjust to you. Sound harrowing? It is But with practice, it gets easier. You just have to survive the practice period, that’s all.
The Third World — places like the Philippines, Viet Nam and Cambodia, much of South America and even some countries in Africa — are coming on fast. If their governments get out of the way, these places will prosper. They all want what we want — homes, cars, flat screen televisions, smart phones, computers — and they’re willing to work very hard to get it. Capitalism in the end always wins. This is obvious in Viet Nam. There is a simple answer as to why: it’s the only economic system that has evolved naturally. Nobody invented it. Man-made, government imposed economic systems like communism and socialism will always fail. A lot of suffering would be spared if people could learn that simple lesson. Alas and alack…
Good thing there are simple pleasures like honey from the jungle of Borneo to enjoy…