Saturday, August 30, 2014

US biker girl feels at home in Malaysia and Brunei

(Aug. 18, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“I feel like my eyes have been opened to another world,” said American biker and photographer Jaime Dempsey via a teleconference. She explores Brunei and Malaysia (using a different motorcycle for each country) for the History docu series, “Ride N’ Seek: Borneo.”

In the program’s first season, Dempsey visited West Malaysia. This return to Asia, she said, was an enriching trip, culturally and intellectually.

“Last season was my first time riding in another country,” Dempsey said. “I was in awe of everything so it was kind of hard to soak in, to learn the language and customs—it was just so overwhelming. This season felt like a homecoming.”

Traveling on a bike, she recounted, was more challenging this time around: “When I got into Sabah, I drove through a lot of gravel and dirt roads, something I hadn’t experienced before. I was very proud of myself!”

Prior to doing the six-episode “Ride N’ Seek,” Dempsey had certain presumptions. She was pleasantly surprised by the things she had in common with the people she encountered. “I knew it was going to be difficult, physically. Riding in warm weather—and with a crew— you can’t just take off,” she said. “I had to be patient. The most important thing I learned was not to be intimidated. It was touching to realize that [many] people are not going to judge you by the way you look.”

She elaborated, “Sometimes I got a little self-conscious. I stood out—I have a lot of tattoos and I wasn’t sure how I was being regarded. But I ended up meeting a lot of really friendly people.”

The Los Angeles-based biker, who also designs swimwear for a living, recounted how she learned to make a sweet bread snack from locals, among other things. “I visited this shop where they taught me. Apparently the bun was given by Chinese generals as a staple food for their soldiers. There’s a hole in the middle of the bun; the soldiers would tie them together with strings and wear them around their necks. It was really interesting to learn about food with a history.”

Dempsey got to visit Snake Island in Malaysia, where she saw deadly species up close. She visited a bee farm and an orangutan sanctuary, and went to Mabul Island, also in Malaysia, to learn spear-fishing. In one episode, she learned to make  keris, a bladed weapon.

She noted, “There were moments when I was genuinely scared of what I was about to do—and the production company did a great job in capturing that. The viewers will feel that fear and anticipation, and hopefully enjoy experiencing them with me!”

(“Ride N’ Seek: Borneo” debuts tonight at 9 on History.) 

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