Monday, November 10, 2008

Bundu Tuhan – A Sacred Place

The last time I step my foot in Bundu Tuhan was in 1992. I was 14 year old, a young boy sent there to attend a religious retreat. Since then, this place never had been so important or significant to me until I was there recently.

Bundu Tuhan is located about 35-40 km from Ranau or 60-70 km from the city of Kota Kinabalu depending which road one’s heading from. It is valley in between the mountain and hill ranges of the Crocker Range where the Kinabalu Park is majestically standing, the icon of Sabah’s tourism destination and a world heritage site. The close-knit population of Bundu Tuhan and its traditionally way of life coupled with lack of major development makes Bundu Tuhan an area ideal for countryside tourism. Here you can relax, enjoy the mild climate and venture into the rich cultural potpourri of the Dusunic ethnic group that make up most of Bundu Tuhanites.

View of Bundu Tuhan from Kg. Gondohon

The environmental setting of the 3 major villages, i.e. Sokid, Siba and Gondohon provides the alpine outlook of Bundu Tuhan, similar to those alpine villages found in Switzerland and Germany at the foot of the Alps in continental Europe. Houses are built on slopes along the road and scattered through out to the heart of Bundu Tuhan, and up on the slopes again to Gondohon and gateway to other remote villages (Terolobou, Piasau, Karanaan, Himbaan, Toboh) farther in the Crocker Range. It’s amazing that most Sabahan never reached this part of the planet in their lifetime or ever hear of these places throughout their life. I for one is fortunate enough to ever step on these villages!

Historically and culturally speaking, Bundu Tuhan has it own myriad of myths and folklore during the olden days. The Japanese were once here during the 2nd World War where the war tracks are still visible to this day. Imagine how hard it was then during the war, where cannibalism had also occurred. During this period and probably in the earlier 20th Century, head hunting was heavily practised. One was a hero then if a few beheaded heads can be found in one’s ceiling balcony. These beheaded heads were then sacrificed to a cluster of bamboo trees near to a river known as sagindai. Once these heads turn into skulls, these were then tied together with a rattan string (known as bangkavan) and hang at the balcony.

Sagindai - a cluster of bamboo used for ritual (good harvest) and scarification of heads


Human skulls - Warriors in the olden days had been symbolised and iconised

as strong and paramount by the number of heads/skulls he owned.


The House of Skulls - In the olden days these skulls are tied by a rattan

string andplaced on the veranda's ceiling.


The population of Bundu Tuhan are pheasant farmers. They tend their farms everyday and hunt wildlife from the thick forest around the village. The fertility of the soil and to ensure good harvest year after year a sacrifice known as labok is performed. A chicken will be presented to a cluster of bamboo trees as sacrifice to the Almighty God by a bobohizan follow with chanting and blessing of water obtained from a nearby river. Other villages will join in the ceremony also to make peace among villages and ensure good harvest and prosperity among them.

Kg. Toboh - the last destination, a very isolated village further in of Bundu Tuhan.


As we enter into the world of super highway (Internet), modernity, cultural transformation and religious advancement, all these ancient traditional ceremonials are no longer practised. What left is just ‘knowledge’ – traditional knowledge. This is why I am here.

One of the many ways to remember these almost forgotten cultural and traditional richness is through tourism - promoting them as assets, resources and products of tourism. Once these are all pursued I am sure I shall be back again in Bundu Tuhan, or maybe I don’t have to wait at all. Bundu Tuhan is a beautiful and amazing place to visit!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cuti-Cuti Sabah - Highland/Alpine Destination

We Sabahans are indeed blessed to have somewhere to go for holiday on an alpine environment. We don’t have to fly to Cameron Highland or Europe to experience the cool climate, the scenic view of mountain ranges, and diverse assortment of flora and fauna. It is also less than 2 hours away from the city of Kota Kinabalu, accessible by road, and what more – a World Heritage Site.

Kinabalu Park is a popular holiday destination for the locals and foreign tourists alike. Not only it offers climbing opportunity to the 7th tallest mountain in the world, this young non-volcanic mountain is in fact both magical and mysterious to visitors visiting the Park. Apart from climbing to the Low’s Peak summit, the park offers various attractions such as visit to botanical garden, various short and long trails, and so forth.

I have been a few times to the Park in the past. But having the opportunity to explore the entirety of the Park including the Mesilau and the Poring Hotspring is a mind boggling experience. If you are an eco-tourist and a naturalist, this is probably the best destination to visit. A well established tourism destination and an iconic tourism attraction for Sabah, Kinabalu Park, Mesilau and Poring Hotspring are the places to visit. It worths every penny you paid for.

Being part of a study team to assess the Kinabalu Park, Mesilau and Poring Hot Spring, we were given a VIP treatment to get access to all the attractions. Apart from climbing Mount Kinabalu, which is over booked (one has to pre-book at least 6 months in advance), the Kinabalu Park has many other attractions. The mountain garden at the main hall is well maintained with series of trails ranging from short walk about 15 minutes to longer trails which take up to an hour. Excellent interpretation and knowledgeable guides is an added bonus. The view of the mountain from the Park is a mouth full.

There are many attractions in Hot Spring. The surrounding forest provides a superb background to Poring Hot Spring. The canopy walk is a must-try. It is the first in Malaysia and only several in the world. It takes courage out of me to complete the 170m walk, and it sways from side to side on a slightly breezy day. The butterfly garden is very inviting to kids. Next to the research station building is the waiting platform for visitors to wait for the orang utan to come down from the forest to feed. Long-tailed macaques with their babies hanging to its mother are also visible, they are rather cute and funny. Near by, is an orchid garden showcasing Sabah’s collection of orchids. Of course, do not miss out for a rejuvenated bath at one of the hot spring’s many sulphur-filled outlets.

Mesilau offers a slightly different offering. This damp rather saturated moisture environment setting is quite eerie to certain visitors like me due to its isolation from the other mainstream tourism destination in Kundasang. I was tasked to climb to the Layang-layang station from Mesilau (6 km) and down to Timpohon Gate (4 km) in the next few days. Whether the mission successful or otherwise that we have to wait. Climbing to Mount Kinabalu is also possible from Mesilau but most climbers prefer climbing from Timpohon Gate. If more climbers take place from Mesilau that would reduce pressure to the trails from Timpohon Gate via Kinabalu Park. Perhaps in the next couple of years.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Waterfall - Its Magical and Splendour

I vividly remembered I asked myself four years ago when I first tasked to conduct studies on tourism assessment in many parts of Sabah WHY on planet Mars is people so fascinated with WATERFALL? I love beaches, promenades, museums and art galleries, theme parks, skiing and white water rafting, nite market, mountain climbing, diving and snorkelling, horseback riding, biodiversity (that's flora and fauna diversity and composition in case one blurs!), river cruises, shopping malls (hellooo!) .... but waterfall??
The Ulu Membakut Waterfall at the heart of the
Crocker Range.
I had visited many waterfalls nationally and in overseas. I had seen a well developed waterfalls for family recreation like in Kionsom Waterfalls in Inanam, and Madai Waterfall in Kunak, - undeveloped waterfalls but highly potential for domestic tourism like the one .... in Sipitang, ... in Kudat, .... in Beaufort, ... in Pitas, ... in Keningau, where our team had walked and trekked high and low over streams and rivers, jumping up and down over rocks and boulders and crossing dead wood and logs in the endeavour to search natural waterfalls all over Sabah.
A waterfall in Sipitang District. I can't recall its name
but its quite marvellous!
In fact for the record, I visited nice waterfalls while camping in Switzerland and during my Easter Trip to the Basque State in Northern Spain. And by the way, yes I have seen the Niagara Waterfalls in the Discovery Channel. But still, what is so magical about waterfalls?
Sungai Api Waterfall in Kemabong. These few small pools is ideal
for family recreation and picnicking.

Put it simply in lay man term a waterfall is in essence water falling down stream from a slightly higher elevation. The height and width this water falling down determine the whole character of the waterfall. Matemathically, the higher the fall the better, Niagara Falls is a classice example in
contrast to Mahua Waterfall in Tambunan which stands at 55 feet high (which is still outstanding by comparison though).Pinawantai Waterfall in Kudat, a few of those
waterfalls that is still pristine.
The assessment on waterfall(s) for tourism product falls under two categories - its accessibility and its characteristics. The former is quite straight forward - how far the waterfall from the main road, the mode of transports to the waterfalls, i.e. 4WD, Kancil, walking or flying fox, etc., while the waterfall's characteristics are determined by measuring its height, depth, width, radius, and authenthicity (natural or man made).
Mesisilad Waterfall at the Melalap Sub-Station,
above 2500 feet from sea level.
Of course what makes a waterfall so aesthetic is the setting of the environment surrounding it which makes one feels so peaceful, relax and free. The sound of the wilderness, coupled with the thrusts of water persistently hitting the bottom pools and rocks, and flowing water down stream like veins carrying oxygen to the whole body are all simply refreshing and invigorating. Deep inside me I slowly come to term the magical wonders why WATERFALL, a gift of mother nature, is fascinated by most people.
Mahua Waterfall is an eye catcher to those visiting
Mahua Sub-Station in the District of Tambunan.
A good 15minutes drive from Tambunan town.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

4 Wheel Drive Off Road Adventure

The best thing about working in the tourism field is that you got to try out many adventures in the quest to find out tourism products in many parts of Sabah. The 4 Wheel Drive Off Road Experience is one example.

I have seen it on TV before - the Dakar Rally, Borneo Safari, other jungle/river 4WD Off Road competition and what not but having the thought of experiencing it myself - I mean on it in that 4WD car itself is far from my imgination. The steep slopes and terrain, muddy logging tracks, small streams and pools, narrow pathways and the fast pace adrenalin pumping into your body to stay in one piece inside this highly modified machine is something that I never tested myself off.

As part of the tasks to identify the routes of both marginal and hardcore roads (terms to differentiate graded road and rough/super gravel roads) that suit the tracks for 4WD drives in the interior, I was given the opportunity to be a part of it. Mr. Baxter the protem President of the Keningau 4WD Association provides us a hospitable preparation to bring us around for an afternoon experience to be in a 4WD on a hardcore roads.

We started from the small town of Tenom for a 7 km tarmac road towards Golden Hope Plantations at Chinta Mata. Here the thrill starts by passing oil palm's road heading into pristine unmaintained secondary forests. We passed a few small streams, absolutely unpassable narrow roads with uncountable number of uneven potholes, steep slopes of at least 30 degree angles, passable mud pools with the help of four wheel gears, fully covered bushes on the roads with the help of a 'parang' to clear the pathway, and of course me jumping on my seat every 3 second of a minute.

Heading home, the driver who is member of the 4WD Association asked me if this was my first time. He further asked me how do I feel about the drive. Vividly I replied that it was my first and preferred if the road would be more challenging.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My Journey in Picture Slide - The World

I had known about it long time ago but never got the time to really pour my effort into putting my pictures with text into a slide show of the all the places I have visited. In the next few entries I shall by posting slide shows with themes. This is the first one. Enjoy it!

| View Show | Create Your Own

Monday, December 11, 2006

Merry Christmas Everyone

I would like to wish all visitors
Hope All of You Have a Blessed Christmas!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Only In .......

I have had travelled a lot in the past 10 years if u ask. I travel at every opportunity - while I am studying abroad, while on outstation works, while on attending meeting and seminars, and of course on planned holidays with friends, family and colleagues.

I visited most part of the British Isles from the white cliff of Dover to Nairn in northern Scotland. Visited most parks and cities in England, Wales and Scotland, crossing many borders of countries in Europe. I have also climbed (partly walking and boarding trains) the Alps from Germany (thru Black Forest at Freiburg) and Switzerland (thru Lauterbrunnen). I also visited 2 smallest countries in the world - the Kingdom of Monaco famous for its casino royale and Vatican City where the head of the Catholic church lives.

During my visits I have tried out all forms of transports ranging from planes, ferry cruisers, coaches to boats. I have stayed in various forms of accomodation too - from 5 star hotels to bed and breakfast, at camp sites, at youth hostels and at a community halls.

Back home in Malaysia, I am proud that I have visited many places too. Visited all the States in Malaysia except for Kelantan, visited many National Parks including TamanNegara at Pahang, Bako and Lambir in Sarawak and almost all parks in Sabah. Been to Langkawi, Labuan and Banggi Islands. Haven't tried the ferry cruiser from east Malaysia to Peninsular though, but I travelled before by ferry from Labuan to Brunei, and that is one hell of a trip - too choppy!, probably one of those rough afternoon ride.

I visited most part of Sabah - all direction of the compass if you must know or let me put it simply - from ocean deep to the higheast mountain. On the latter I climbed Mt. Kinabalu twice, the first endeavour was successful as it was unplanned, while the second planned climbing trip was unsuccessful - dont ask why I didnt reach the summit!, but at least I climbed the Alps twice, that easily should stop one from asking me why. As part of my works involve a substatial amount of outdoor tasks I visited many places which I think many you Sabahans ever visited before. Here are a sample of those experiences - heli ride to the interior part of Ranau, trekking trips in Long Pasia, boat trips to many islands coast of Kudat and Pitas (with army and police personnel as these places are very near to the Philippines).

If you ask what are my highlights of all my travelling as of to date, there are many in facts! First and foremost, I love shoping especially postcards, souvenirs and t-shirts. Bangkok and Bali are cheaps, the rest of the places are expensive! Best beaches and riviera I easily point out my middle fingers to the Kudat Riviera in Sabah, of course the French Riviera and the Italian Riviera. Best city I would say Rome and London. Romantic city definitely goes to Paris. Dirty city would be Pattaya and Amsterdam - dont get me wrong dirty in the sense of sensuality of the city itself - that's what I mean! Friendly people are the Scots and the Spaniards. Beautiful girls are of those Germans and Thais. Lost in Paris!

Anyway, the purpose of this entry is in fact has nothing to do with what I have just written. My mind must have gone somewhere which remind me of the many places of interest I have the opportunity to visit during my journey around the world. Those pictures below symbolise the common features that one may encounter when visiting such country. Happy Tuesday everyone!!

Only in Australia

Only in Bangladesh

Only in China

Only in Hawaii

Only in India

Only in Indonesia

Only in Japan

Only in Pakistan