Situated in the northern portion of Borneo Island, Sabah is bordered by the province of East Kalimantan, Indonesia in the south and Sarawak in the southwest. Despite its status as a Malaysian state, Sabah remains a disputed territory as the Philippines has a dormant claim over much of the eastern part of the territory. It is also known as the land below the wind because of its proximity to the typhoon-prone region around the Philippines. Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah can be accessed by air from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The average temperature in the Lowlands (Kota Kinabalu, Kudat, Sandakan, Tawau) is 32°C while it is cooler in the Highlands (Ranau, Kundasang, Tambunan) with 21°C. The largest indigenous group in Sabah is the Kadazan-Dusun while the Bajau and the Murut are the other two largest ethnic groups. Blessed with nature diversity, unique culture and traditions and scenic beaches, Sabah also offers mouthwatering cuisines of a wide variety of delicious seafood – fishes, crabs, prawns and lobsters in most of the restaurants in Kota Kinabalu. A visit will not be complete without indulging your cravings for seafood.
In the year 2000, UNESCO declared Mt. Kinabalu as a World Heritage Site. Climb the highest mountain in Southeast Asia and trek through the tropical rainforest and vibrant blossoms amid a fiery sunset or a dark and violent storm. The journey to the highest peak takes two days. It is only at Mt. Kinabalu where you can savor breakfast at a lowland rainforest, have lunch amid the clouds and dine in a subalpine meadow.
The mists shrouding the mountains gives it a mysterious air and makes you wonder if the claim of the local Kadazandusuns are true – Mt. Kinabalu is the homeland of their spirit world. Its name may have been derived from the Kadazandusun words, Aki Nabalu, meaning ‘the revered place of the dead” and they believed that among the bare rocks of the summit grows a moss which serves as food for the spirits of their ancestor.
Another legend claims that the name Kinabalu is derived from Kina (China) and Balu, (widow). It is said that a Chinese prince climbed the mountain, seeking for a huge pearl on the top guarded by a ferocious dragon. The prince succeeds in slaying the dragon and stealing the pearl. He then married a Kadazan woman and returned to China afterwards, abandoning her. His wife, heartbroken, wandered up the mountain mourning where it is believed that she was turned into stone.
Bajau and Murut Traditions
The state government of Sabah aspires to preserve, promote and further develop the cultures and traditions of the various indigenous ethnics of Sabah. With this in mind, they organize an annual festival to share its heritage with the rest of the world. Festival Betitik Sabah is a celebration of Borneo’s Bajau heritage featuring a series of betitik (traditional Bajau music) performances and a four-day home stay program for those interested in learning the betitik, after which, there will be the opportunity to perform what they have learned. Craft and food exhibitions and sales as well as an exhibition of the history of betitik are usually held during this festival.
Pesta Kalimaran (Kalimaran Feast) is an annual cultural celebration of the Muruts. It celebrates the richness of culture of the Muruts and presents most of their cultural aspects. The word Kalimaran refers to the craftsmanship activities of the Muruts. It is derived from the Murut words ralaa, meaning young lady and alimar, meaning hardworking, strong-minded, diligent and trustworthy. The Murut Cultural Centre is situated in Kampung Pulong, about 10 kilometers away from the town of Tenom, also known as the gateway to Murut country. The cultural center displays artifacts such as jars, gongs, and traditional designs of the Murut inhabitants. Constructed out of local timber, the gigantic pillars showcase the elements of Murut architecture.
Before the journey ends, you would have learned to say “terima kasih” with a smile instead of thank you and remembered to remove your shoes before entering a mosque as well as homes. You would have introduced yourself with a handshake and will have noted that pointing your index finger at others is considered rude in the local custom. But most of all, the laidback atmosphere in Sabah will have rejuvenated your spirits.
- Sabah, Best of Borneo
- Official Website of the Sabah State Government
- Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia… Gateway to the highest mountain climbing experience in Borneo