Sunday, January 28, 2007

Essential Travel in Sabah - Part 3


Five Star Resorts under the Sun

Wonderful beaches, great majestic islands, sun surf and fun all year round. No wonder so many five star resorts have popped up along major beachfronts, as well as many other smaller chalet operations. One is always spoilt for choices at to where to go. Karambunai is far off the main town but the seclusion is great to let those weary stress wash away and one is never bored with the assorted activities in store from golf, to arts and crafts, water sports, nature walks, tours etc. Then there's Sutera Habour and Tanjung Aru a stone throw away from the city and many others as well. All offer the usual perks of clubhouses, sporting activities, tour packages, golf courses, water sports, horse riding, nature trails etc. Expect prices to range no less than RM250 at the minimum if you're thinking of considering. No matter it'll be justified for that amount with the level of service and the perks they throw in. For those with less dough to burn, there's the medium priced chalets and hotels but don't expect too much.


Labuan - Land of Liquor, Chocolates and Off Shore Banking

Labuan is becoming synonomous with a lot of things, an off shore banking center, duty free port and water sports center. There's a lot to be found in the small isle off the coast of Sabah and a tour of one to two full days are required if one wishes to take it all in. Historically there's a lot of attractions, the WWII war memorial with the graves of allied troops who lost their life to liberate Borneo, the cultural water village where traditional wooden kampungs are built at the edge of the coast, the mysterious 'chimney' whose purpose is still unknown, bird parks, surrender point and many others. Shopping can be a daze with certain items being duty free most of all the usual assortment of cosmetics, electronic but mainly confectionaries and alcohol. It's a wonder that the students studying at UMS Labuan campus are not in a constant state od ineberation.


Purchase an Assortment of Local Crafts

Sabah can boast an assortment of local crafts and traditions. The various districts with their distinct etchnic cultures and lifestyles offer a potpurri of diversity that one can explore. The different ethnic groups can comprise of Kadazan Dusuns, Bajaus, Runggus, Dayaks and many more sub groups. Kota Marudu and Kudat are famed for several cultural villages which cater to a specific craft such as bee keeping for honey production, gong making, bead craft and also the offer of a cultural homestay programme. The adoption of 'one village one craft programme' richly showcase this unique tradition. If you cannot make it for a trip to this northern region then a whole showcase of these can be found at the local tamu market most famously at the Gaya Street Tamu held every Sunday where you can browse a microcosm display of local cultures and buy some gifts back to commemorate your stay here.


Discover the World's Largest and Smelliest Flower

Rafflesias are a rare treat that can only be found at several locations in Malaysia and Borneo. Other than several pocket of growths in Peninsular such as in Belum, Perak, Rompin in Pahang, Sabah and Sarawak is the next best place to catch a glimpse of this stinky beauty. There exist several different species of the famed flower, the largest in the world, which range in size and patterns. The place to go to view them is Tambunan where the Rafflesia Center is located under the management of Sabah Parks. Viewing are dependent on season and luck and it would be better to give the headquarters a call and confirm if there are any in bloom lest you be dissappointed but don't miss the chance to view one if it presents itself, you'll never forget it. Also while you're there you can visit nearby destinations as well such as the tree house lodging at Gunung Emas, a highland destinatio with cool invigorating weather and rolling hills and valley or head off to the Mahua waterfalls nearby or even see the Paddy Fields in a sea of gold when nearing harvest season.


Celebrate Kaamatan

Tadau Kaamatan is the local harvest festival celebrated in Sabah. Celebrated throughout, the local etchnic groups all converge to put on a display of their cultures for this occasion. The best place to view this is at the local Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association Building where the main celebrations are held. Celebrated over a week, the attractions include the opening ceremony where the Kadazan Leader will symbolically cut the first sheaf of rice stalk followed by a display of local dances and crafts. Each etchnic group have a show house for people to view, built in the traditional architectural style unique to each from longhouses to stilt dwellings. Each will also be draped in full regalia and you can catch the dressings and adornment of each. A dance performance is also the norm with displays of local crafts and activities like blowpipe demonstration. Various stalls are available to sell local crafts at bargain prices. Its all a lively event and everyone is invited, sample local etchnic food found nowhere else, take part in the dances, experience the hospitality and view the dwellings intimately and make sure to snap a lot of photos and buy some keepsakes back such as the sompoton (a local instrument made from a gourd and bamboo).

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