There's a lot of talk about Sabah lately with the state general elections happening this weekend and the unfortunate spike in COVID-19 cases in some parts.
The truth is, many of us in Semenanjung don't know enough about the "Negeri Di Bawah Bayu
" beyond Kota Kinabalu, laksa Sarawak
, and mee kolo
or what we learn from the news.
What better way to learn about a place than actually visiting it and engaging with the locals? If you don't know where to start, here are five places you should check out to get a little closer to knowing Sabah.
#1 Imbak Canyon
If you're into nature, especially visiting practically untouched jungles, you're in for a treat! Imbak Canyon is a Class II Commercial Forest Reserve run by Yayasan Sabah.
There are waterfalls, plenty of hiking trails to choose from depending on how much time you have and difficulty levels and basic, but comfortable places to stay in.
The Imbak Canyon Conservation Area is home to a research centre that works closely with the local communities, and as such you can also learn a lot about the local flora and fauna if you wish to.
It's not easy to get here as the roads are rough and it is a protected area, so be sure to contact Yayasan Sabah or tour agents who offer trips to the area to avoid disappointment.
#2 Sapulot Nabawan
While researching this place, we came across a community-based eco-tourism project called Orau Sapulot
, which is possibly one of the best and easiest way to visit a part of Sabah's south-west corner.
Here, you can visit the amazing natural wonders that Sabah is famous for, as well as engage with the local Murut community.
Go caving, trekking, hidden waterfall hunting and more while getting to know how the locals live. You can even enjoy authentic local cuisine made by the villagers!
The accommodations may not be on par with hotels, but they are comfortable and much better for its proximity to nature.
#3 North Borneo Railway
If you watched 'Ola Bola', you might remember a scene where one of the characters, Marianne, goes to Sabah and travels on a train, passing beautiful scenery along the way.
Well, you can experience the train ride for yourself. Called the North Borneo Railway, it is the only train system in the state and runs through a 134-kilometre stretch from Kota Kinabalu to Tenom. From Kota Kinabalu to Beaufort, you can take the steam engine train that's been in operation since the end of the 19th century.
If you wish to go all the way to Tenom, you can switch to a more modern, diesel-powered train.
The view in between is amazing and you can even stop at different parts of the state in between the journey.
The trains are relics from the colonial times but have been restored so you don't have to worry about it being an uncomfortable journey or an unsafe one.
It only takes about four hours to end to end if you're taking the steam-engine train, with a typical English lunch provided, so sit back and enjoy!
#4 Kota Belud
This small town is famed for its "cowboys of the East" i.e. the only horsemen tribe in Sabah, who are known for their excellent ability to rear and handle horses.
Located just slightly more than an hour away from Kota Kinabalu, this quaint town offers you a glimpse into the lives of the Bajau horsemen, as well as other in the village.
Every Sunday, there will be a "tamu" (translates to meeting place), which is basically a market that sells anything from pottery and handicraft to fresh and dried food items.
If you're heading to Kota Belud, don't forget to stop by Tuaran, which is famous for the Tuaran Noodle and has several pottery factories that you can visit.
You will also be passing several beach-facing resorts on the way, so if you wish to stay somewhere luxurious but close to many attractions, you can just pick one of the many available.
How many of you think of Labuan when Sabah is mentioned? Not us! Although it is a Federal territory, it is still considered a part of Sabah and has much to offer.
Being an island, the obvious attraction is of course the beaches and sea activities, but there's more to the island that that.
Visit the War War II memorial centre (Labuan War centre) and Labuan Japanese Surrender Point for a little bit of history lesson. The latter is especially interesting (we think lah
) because this is where the Japanese surrendered, starting the beginning of the end of the World War II in Sabah, as well as where the first war crime trials in Southeast Asia were conducted.
Labuan is also a famous port so you will come across interesting people from all over the world. If yu're the friendly sort or love people watching, you will enjoy your time here even more!
The more you travel, the more you learn
It is sad how little many of us from the peninsular know about Sabah and Sarawak. Now that domestic travel is the only kind of traveling we can do, perhaps its time for us to look closer at the wonders that our own backyards have to offer.
What are your favourite places in Malaysia to visit?