In the second half of the nineteenth century, Borneo – supposedly one of the most isolated islands on the planet – became a trans-national site of growing importance. Instead of being imagined as a site of endless forests, inaccessible mountains, and undisturbed nature, Borneo became a place to extract and move objects, many of them spinning off into international circuits. The British and Dutch, who became the dual colonial overlords of the island, became the primary actors in facilitating these movements. Yet Asian actors – such as the Chinese, Malays, and various Dayak peoples – also were heavily involved in these transits. The first part of this essay looks at the role of geology and minerals in effecting these transitions. The second part of the paper examines the movement of biota, especially vis-a-vis Chinese networks, in connecting Borneo to other shores. Finally, the third part of the essay looks at contraband cargoes of diverse origins in also facilitating these connections. I argue that far from being an isolated and ‘off-the-beaten-track’ locale, Borneo became central to new ideas of trans-national connection in Southeast Asia, linking people, commodities, and trade circuits into an ever-tightening embrace.