Amazing Kota Kinabalu!
(Fourth and Final Part) :
The Museum, The Marina, The Islands, The Pontoon and The Mari Mari Cultural Village!

Friday, May 24, 2013

There's no complete trip to a country without going to their museum. It's a more concise way of understanding who they are, and what they are as a people. Photos were not allowed inside which I understand because you probably would skip this trip if you've seen everything in my site (and YOU shouldn't!), but I'll tell you about Muzium Sabah. 

Muzium Sabah

It was raining that afternoon but we still wanted to see this gorgeous structure and what they have inside. You will be greeted by several tables, chairs in whimsical designs. The roof over the tables were reminiscent of what the tribes men and women wear on their heads. There were also huge wicker bags that are native to farmers. When we got inside, we saw a huge skeleton (approximately 18.6-meter long) of what they call a "Bryde's Whale". The remains was discovered in the same area as The Pontoon (which we'll see in a bit) and has been regarded as one of the most well preserved specimens in Asia. I was really at awe on how huge it was and reading off the information inside the Muzium Sabah educated me how much we need to preserve nature. There were also other animals shown in glass cases in other parts of the museum all clad in Taxonomy form. I didn't even know there was a rhinoceros or huge cats in this part of the globe. There's a cute elephant, and some wild birds endemic to the region too. You should never miss visiting this because you would easily understand the other places in Sabah by just spending a few minutes here.

As for the tribes of Sabah, they have almost all of them represented in the front part of the structure. It's lined with several real deal clothing. Some of the displays are also for weddings, so intricate dresses were on display. From warriors, to headhunters, to prince, princesses and even horses, they were shown proudly by they museum and it was really a learning experience! You can also shop on a nearby souvenir shop if you prefer to do that early. You'll be tempted because they almost have everything there; some small items may be good. I suggest you shop in malls instead because it's way cheaper.

On Our 2nd Day...

Our second day started with something awesome and it was so near that I already took a glimpse of it the day before. Our hotel The Pacific Sutra had kept one of the nicest things in Kota Kinabalu. At the back of the hotel, you just walk a few meters and you'll see a place called the Sutera Harbour Marina and Country Club.

Sutera Harbour Marina and Country Club

It was an exciting island adventure that was promised, and this huge facility for boats and yachts greeted us as we embarked on trip outside Kota Kinabalu's shores. I even asked the kind people who were maintaining these gorgeous sea vehicles a little tour of my own; and they were kind enough to let me in hehe. They were really cool people. I got shots of the yachts and I'm telling you this looks way better in real life!

This particular one was my favorite because of its huge sail and the finish on the interior was all wood. If I had one, it would probably look like this. It's so classy and huge I would love to spend a birthday or two here. =) Thanks to the kind guy who got me up this boat!

This Marina is just one good hub for yachting and sailing in Southeast Asia. But being in the land is probably also a better deal. They rent out the place for short and long term leases and its very accessible to everyone who wants to experience Sabah as is. Berthing is also available and the facilities of the marina from my standards look great; you just have to experience it! After this short look around, we went ahead to our awesome island adventures! And yes, we went in style!

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine National Park

A cluster of islands in one of the most gorgeous places on Earth should not be missed when in Kota Kinabalu. Our friends from Sabah Tourism Board, Malaysia Tourism Board and a local tour company arranged our ride and activities for the day. It started with a thrill ride as FAST as this!

Large twin turbine engines and real deal boat drivers who went so fast just made our ride more exciting. It was also safe because they never let us on the boat without wearing proper gear. You can tell the life jackets were sturdy and nice; you'll definitely stay afloat if something happens.

After a few minutes, we docked into one of the islands. This area is actually made of 5 isles namely Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug. Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park was properly named after Malaysia's first Prime Minister. On this day though, we went down to Pulau Manukan first which is also managed by the people behind The Pacific Sutera.

The island of Pulau Manukan had so much history. There are even some Japanese memorabilia left like bombs and other military remnants. During this time, the British had to resort letting the head hunters do their thing again because the war during the Japanese occupation was hard for the people of Sabah. Tribesmen and their warriors helped a lot.

The place also has some villas you can rent for a few days or overnight. It's the perfect spot to start your diving adventures because the place is known for that. Water sports in different ways too! Case in point are these Scubadoo machines which are also very popular in Australia.

We boarded the boat and alighted again on the other island called Pulau Sapi. It's more populated than the latter. It's got barbecue pits, a beach, lots of snorkeling spots and diving spots as well. One thing that sets this one from the other are the local lizards that abound the island. You'll never have any problems though because they are usually on the other side of the fence. They are a protected specie too due to their dwindling numbers. They make that same policy to the sea creatures too and prevent any form of fishing or poaching in this area; which is good in my books.

Then we went to the full metal structure a few minutes away from these islands called The Pontoon.

The Borneo Reef World

The Borneo Reef World is the largest Pontoon in Southeast Asia. It is a full marine grade rust-proof aluminum structure that is 37.5m in length, 24.5m wide and about 11.8m tall. For starters, this place is a water sports shangrila! It's in the middle of the ocean still within the area of the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. It's specifically in between the islands of Pulau Manukan and Pulau Gaya. As mentioned, and is a highly protected area so spawning of fish in the reefs are but a normal story. The area around the pontoon is blessed with numerous breeds of fish and other sea creatures and I had a wonderful time looking at them on the pontoon's bow. 

The trip to the pontoon entails some more activities because in this huge structure, you can enjoy the Underwater Observatory (and view lots of fish as seen above), Snorkeling at the side of the Pontoon, Sea Walking Activity designed for beginners who want to experience diving in style, the Sapi Island excursion, the children's pool within the sea; then take it all off by using the in house Fresh Water Shower Facility. Meals are also included in some of the package and you'll get the chance to taste some local cuisine. I loved the fruits on the menu and you'll surely enjoy that too!

If by any chance you get to encounter a fish or something else on the sea floor that you don't actually know about, there's always this cool guy who's a real deal Marine Biologist. It's the first time I'm seeing one in real life and he said a lot of stuff that we can do on the Pontoon. Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, just like some of its neighboring countries has been blessed with hundreds if not thousands of underwater species and marine life that could never be seen anywhere in the world! Aside from that, you can opt for other water sports activities like diving, parasailing, riding a banana boat, get dragged on a flying fish, speed with Jet Skis, or if you reserve a week prior, see the view from above using a Helicopter ride! Now that's Sabah and The Borneo Reef World for you! It's your own man made paradise right in the middle of the ocean!

The Mari Mari Cultural Village!

As with any other occasion, there always is a pièce de résistance. When night came, our dinner was going to be in a very interesting venue called The Mari Mari Cultural Village. I saw a glimpse of this place when I was researching about Kota Kinabalu and it seems to be really popular among tourists.We went down the bus and gathered on their reception area.

The tour guide and Dusun tribe member from Mari Mari Village named Felix showed us around. He wanted to be called Felix the Cat to our amusement. This forest is actually situated in Kionsom, Inanam, it's around 30 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu City. This place actually houses 5 native Sabahan ethnic communities. They are the the Bajau (which originated from Mindanao in the Philippines, Lundayeh, Murut, Rungus and Dusun.

You step into the village by going up this hanging bridge that's got a real running river below it. We were there during night time so but the place was aptly lit. I just needed my flash so I can show you what it looks like.

This is a Dusun Tribe house.

All their grain and food products are stored on a stilt like structure outside their home. Its how they prevent rodents and insects from damaging their crops. It's where they keep it safe too.

Inside the house were several jars that contain rice wine. They showed us how they make it too. A little different from what I see in Philippine provinces and this one tastes a tad sweeter. Pretty good!

They also cook food using bamboo which is also an integral part of their home. It's built with the same material from top to bottom (use that for nails too). These ladies combined chicken, onions, leeks, chili and other stuff to make their dishes. I had asked one of my blogger friends for a taste of it and it was really nice.

This girl wields a bamboo which they use to naturally farm honey. They have their own process to make the queen bee stay here and the other bees to finally create the yummy golden liquid food. Their costumes are quite intricate and if you see on the photos, they also make beads for garlands and accessories.

The white ones are used as head pieces or belts. The cloth on the right displays what designs they do on fabric. Very colorful. The one on the left actually looks like what the northern tribes make in the Philippines (Igorots). It's what makes us connected in some way. I've been seeing huge similarities culturally and design wise.

They also have a slightly bitter version of wine. Men in the tribe wear beads and dark colored cloths which looked almost like modern basketball jerseys (it usually is in black). Though they are in the forest, there's almost no difference.

Their fire pit/cooking area was double purpose. For preserving meat or fish products, they put it on top of these stoves and have them get smoked. This way, their meat and other products wouldn't spoil fast because it's being preserved via this process.

They also showed us how they made fire by just using bamboo. Shave a few off the bamboos surface, slice the bamboo crosswise and have another piece rubbed to it. The shaved bamboo on the back would catch heat from the one they rubbed together. Suddenly, smoke came out and poof! We have fire!

The Rungus tribe is also known for their long houses. They have very close knit families so if a person from one family gets married (or plans to live in with someone) they just add another room to their existing house. This makes the house longer over time. I love how that makes sense.

You can tell the Lundayeh tribe's house looks like the Philippines national house which is called a Nipa Hut. But more than just the material, putting this up together is a task on its own. They never had nails back then and the only way they got this sturdy is by using strings. The strings are manually made by rolling vines and tree barks. Trees are actually staple for this tribe because almost all their garments and war armors are made with it too.

You might be vaguely seeing it but if you look closely, Felix is on top of a man made crocodile. Having this in front of your house is like a declaration that you are warriors/hunters. North Borneo had a lot history having head hunters. 

Having a head of a person or more on top of your house is actually a normal sight. They believe that it protects them from bad spirits and it can be either part of their tribe or other tribes. Be careful if you plan to threaten them harm, you'll regret it. But don't be afraid because they've been outlawed after the Japanese war. You lucky boy! :))

The photos above show how they make strings and garments from tree barks. It takes a long time to make one and just imagine how much they have to make for a whole army.

They are also very artistic. The designs on almost all their musical instruments, knives, bolos, shields and accessories show how much work they put in on each piece. Then we went to another tribe which is actually quite close to home.

This is the Bajau tribe's house. They originated from the same Badjao's we have in Mindanao on the southern part of the Philippines. Their colorful fabrics wrapped almost every part of the house. Right in front of this place was a kind lady with her kid cooking something AMAZING. The crunchy Jala cake which looks like it's based from rice flour was so good and we were seeing it being cooked right on the spot.

She used a special ladle with holes on them then deep fried the flour batter and formed small triangles with it.

It was a really light snack and I loved how they had this on site. They also have something similar in Zamboanga (which a co blogger told me) I think that I'll find out when I get there next year. Pretty neat we have something in common no?

Being colorful and whimsical like this is embedded in culture. It actually makes them lucky just like what RED means to the Chinese. This is a setting for a wedding. Something common to these tribes are high beds that are built to safeguard their single daughters. I wondered at first why they thought about doing that, but in hindsight... it made sense too.

They also have the Bajau kulintang which is similar to our kulintang. It's a series of gongs in different sizes. The modern ones have kites on their houses too so kids and the not so old ones can play outside with it.

I thought this was an ornament of some sort but it chuckled when I was about to get down from the house. Hahaha - I had to laugh at my self for thinking this was fake. :)

Then we headed to the Murut Tribe's house.

In the middle of the Murut tribe's house was this huge square platform made with rattan and has got bamboos underneath. They say this is their trampoline. Up above this platform (which was more or less about 15 feet or maybe more) was a place to display heads chopped off from enemies. The Murut tribe were the last ones to be disallowed from headhunting. Now, they're using this for fun!

After a couple of skips, hop and a jump; I don't even know how in the world they were able to leap this high! This guy alone was about three times the height of what he had to jump so just imagine how much we were astonished to see he did it so easily. Now that's cool!

Felix also showed us a thing or two by using blow darts. They use this for offense and for paralyzing prey when hunting. They were really good at it.

They made a thoughtful gesture to also give us special henna tattoos before we left the house, and I loved it! All the patterns were based on the cultural symbols they had on their house ornaments. I was astonished at how they could interpret each thing in different ways. We also saw a show upon seeing the final spot in Mari Mari Cultural Village which is the last destination.This was the time where we were about to leave such a wonderful cultural journey, it was apt we experience the culture and everything first hand. You definitely need to watch it!

I know the photos won't do justice so to make it even more exciting, I got a video just for you so you can see how excellent these guys are playing music and performing for all of us!

There could be one or more reasons why you need to visit Kota Kinabalu - Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, and my series of posts about the country should convince you more. I was only there to tour around the city but I've learned a lot of things about this country more than I should. I'm glad I did. More than the place, the culture, the food and the nice things they have physically, I sincerely admire their people. The way they have shown their country to foreigners like us was nothing but amazing. Kota Kinabalu spoke to me, and have made my journey to that part of the world something that I would never forget. I might have more stories up my sleeves but I don't want to tell you about it. Why? Easy. Because in order to understand and feel what I have experienced in Sabah, you MUST experience it yourself. Plain and simple.

I would like to take this chance to thank everyone who made this possible. To Zest Airways, Fleishman-Hillard Manila, Air Asia, Sabah Tourism Board and Malaysian Tourism Board THANK YOU. Thank you also to the people from Sabah who made this country and city worth every inch of the trip. I will never forget Kota Kinabalu. I'll be back for sure! Terima kasih!

For more information about Sabah

Please visit their website

Or for stress free arrangements

Please book via this great Tours and Travel Agency

Golden Suria
Tours and Travel Sdn Bhd
Lot47, 1st Floor Block G
Donggonongon Square,
Penampang, 89507 KK, Sabah
Phone: +6088731355/731655


1 comment:

Mar Verdan said...

Wow! Maganda pala sa Kota Kinabalu! Makapag-back read nga nong mga previous parts...