1. Lok Kawi Wildlife Park has reassured visitors of their safety, asking them to relax and enjoy the park and its wildlife and not worry about their safety, especially when viewing the tigers at an enclosure there in the wake of a few recent attacks elsewhere. ( Reference to incident at San Francisco Zoo where the Christmas Day tiger attack left one person dead and two others critically injured)
2. Festive Mood … Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datu Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim yesterday inspected the final preparations for the national level Christmas Open house which will be held at Padang Merdeka in Kota Kinabalu today. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak is scheduled to launch the event at 3.00 pm and the public are invited to join in the celebration.
3. Public access to Tuaran town will be limited to several access roads this Sunday to make way for the Tauran Tamu Besar and Cultural Carnival 2007.
4. “ We pray for the continued peace and stability of Pakistan and that the family of Benazir Bhutto and the people of Pakistan will be patient in facing these testing times” Dr Mahathir said in his message to the Pakistan High Commissioner to Malaysia, Tahir Mahmud Qazi, - Bernama
5. “I don’t fear death …. I don’t think it can happen unless God wants it to happen because many people have tried to kill me “ These were the words of Benazir Bhutto, once listed by People Magazine as ‘The Fifty Most Beautiful People’. Risking her life, she returned from an eight-year long exile to Pakistan to contest in the coming January 8 elections, all for the sake of bringing democracy to her motherland.”….. Bernama
6. Sandakan: DAP Sandakan announced that Lim Kit Siang, Parlimentary Opposition Leader and Teresa Wong, MP for Seputeh cum DAP Sabah Affairs Director will be conducting a public forum at Hotel Sandakan ( the Ballroom) on 30 Dec at .00 pm,
Incidentally both Rais Yatim and Lim Kit Siang were seen yesterday at this hotel. Both we understood were here to attend the Christmas Open House celebration.
We must remember that Tun Dr Mahathir as Prime Minister of Malaysia then had adjusted the Malaysian standard time and thus at five in the morning the sun has already risen above the horizon and the bright morning comes much earlier here in Sabah.
With that as preface to the activities around Kota Kinabalu, the closing days of 2007 saw us visiting several sites around the city thanks to Terry and his wife who were back with the family for the Christmas and New Year celebration but spent time to accompany us around. Terry is a Sarawakian and Annette is a Sabahan. Both work in Langkawi and we know them as we often meet when we visit the island. This visitation could be a reason to be here with them since we did not make it for their wedding a few months back.
We had chosen to visit Sabah for many reasons, one being it's part of Malaysia and the air-fare is encouraging. Unfortunately many resort hotels reported full house for Christmas and New Year bookings. Still we managed to book in at Promenade Hotel situated in the city centre. The Trans- Borneo road now make it possible for visitors from Brunei and Sarawak to travel on land into the country. Visitors from Brunei account for a large number. Their buses and motorcars with a much larger digital sized number plate are easily recognized. If Johore gets visits from its neighbor across the strait, Sabah welcomes their next door neighbor too.
Kota Kinabalu offers some exciting venues for tours. The exotic ‘tamu’ or colorful weekly market is a must. The tamu at Kota Belud, Tuaran or Kuala Penyu opened weekly from early morning till early afternoon is a showcase of local products ranging from fresh vegetable, fruit products to handicraft and husbandry. The friendly market place must certainly offer the populace as well visitors an integrating force. At Tuaran a small town outside Kota Kinabalu we saw preparation for the deputy prime minister’s visit going on at a fast phase with many stalls already set up and trading when we were there. Weary of the traffic congestion the next day when the deputy prime minister would declare the tamu festival open, our earlier visit was rewarding and just as eventful.
A visit to Sabah would be inconclusive if we do not make our way to the Kinabalu Park or to Kundasang near the foothills of Kinabalu. Enclosed in the clouds on a misty and wet day, the great mountain did not present itself to us on that day. Still Kundasang with its rich vegetable plots and cool temperature resembles Cameron Highlands in earlier time and in a not too distant future will certainly become another important and tourist hill resort when its potential is developed. The Kinabalu Park on the Crocker Range incorporating the rich habitats of the highland with its starting point to the 4093m high KINABALU is an added attraction here. Farther along the road, you may reach Ranau and the road stretches on till Sandakan on the east coast. That of course will be a four-wheel adventure tour into the interior of Sabah by itself.
Visiting these places would be comfortable and easier on a four-wheeler though roads are excellent but gradients certainly demand a more vigorous vehicle. Our hired Toyota Land Cruiser certainly served us well during our two day visit outside the city. Our tour took us to some of the more rhythmic sounding place names such as Tamparuli, Menggatal, Mengkabong, Putatan and Karambunai. Two new resorts near the city that are popular and having good occupancy are the Nexus Resort Karambunai off Sepangar Bay where the home of Malaysia’s submarine will be situated and Shangri-La Rasa Ria amidst mangrove swamp yet fronting a magnificent beach. Both resort hotels with large sea frontage, golf courses and full amenities will certainly put Sabah on the tourist map. We dare say that they are strong rivals for similar hotels in Penang, Langkawi and other seaside resorts in the region if not better. Sutera Harbor Resort in the city is another recognized spot.
The Sabah west coast itself offers excellent tour sites and naturally cannot be visited in a fleeting one day tour. To take in most of the interesting places, one needs to plan. Kota Kinabalu’s cosmopolitan centre with traders from Philippine, Indonesia, neighboring Sarawak and its own indigenous people plus Malaysia’s already multi racial complexity make it a much interesting market city. The harbor is thriving with ships on call and the airport too has planes landing and taking off day and night from many destinations. The Sabah Railway with its old smoking locomotive and the ‘antique’ carriages must also be included in the itinerary. Otherwise you have to travel outside the country to find such transportation in service.
Sandakan, Tawau and of course Semporna on the eastern part of the country will reward the visitors with greater sights and adventure. I have visited these places before but had little chance to see or feel the throbs and excitements. Sipolok with its ‘Orang Utan’ and Sipadan with its par excellence diving sites and underwater discoveries are two world known place names.
One thing for sure, the sea around Sabah and its rivers reward the people with abundant sea and fresh water food. Oysters, lobsters and not mentioning the often choice fishes, prawns, squids, cockles etc are at your choice when visiting either the market or sea food establishments. We dig in at a seafood restaurant hidden in the mangroves outside the city. Share our delights as you see at least one dish as in the picture posted.
My first visit to this land below the wind was way back in 1962 when the capital was known as Jesselton. It has certainly moved leaps and bounds and each return visit astounds with its development. Then I recollect there were only two decent hotels: the ‘Jesselton’ and ‘Ang Hotel’.
The heavy demand sees many more added with strings of backpackers’ hotels in the city center now. It was then hard to find a Muslim restaurant except for one Indian Muslim shop in the city quite close to Ang Hotel; the least issue now.
High rise apartments, shopping centers, tertiary institutions, viaducts, a naval dockyard and housing estates of all sizes fringing the city all added to its current growth.
The flight time from Kuala Lumpur on the Air Bus took two hours fifteen minutes, a far cry from the flight time on Malayan Airways two engine Dakota decades ago which took no less than twenty four hours as the plane had to make a night stop in Singapore and continuing the next day with stops at Kuching, Sibu, Brunei or Labuan before arriving Jesselton in the afternoon. The fleeting switch in time for the flight is concurrent with the improvement and development the state has made in the last half century.
Alas. I am thinking whether it is still possible to take a hike up Kinabalu soon. At my age it may create a record of some sort. Still if there is willingness nothing like trying. Then we may get a panoramic view. Any one interested to hit the trail?
There are several mosques in the country built near the sea or around a body of water all inspired by a mosque popularly known as the 'floating mosque' at Jeddah Saudi Arabia by the Red Sea. This mosque at Kota Kinabalu built along the same concept is a new landmark in the city..
We marvel at beauty and fine artistry, always applauding creativity and design. This display of driftwood and flower arrangement at the foyer of one resort hotel in the city is a welcoming piece giving an expectancy of many other beautiful things to follow.
Seafood is abundant; either fresh or cooked you can expect to pay a reasonable price and certainly much lower than you would hand out in the big cities of peninsular Malaysia. Recognized any of the species? Fishing or angling ? I expect it should be a favourite past time.
Abu Bakar Sidqi, our junior adjusting his yoga pose on a hanging walkway across a river. For lack of a proper bridge across many of the rivers in the state, such walkways are common at least allowing pedestrian a thoroughfare.
Dried shrimps, chiku fruits and ikan bilis are marketed by these ladies at the 'tamu'
We never fail to visit hotels and resorts because they always magnify the architect and designer's ingenuity and flare in representing the best of indigenous culture yet modifying with all modern elements. They are able to intergrate and compliment the beach, hill and jungle as part of the total landscape while projecting a new discovery. They produced stunning vistas which otherwise would remain unknown and undiscovered. The next four photographs highlighted the natural beauty having been cultured for our getaway,vacation or just a visit. Shangri La Rasa Ria and Nexus Karambunai of Kota Kinabalu have that distinction and we were glad we made our way there.
Our brief gastronomic adventure concluded when we found a seafood restaurant nestled amongst the mangroves and built on stilts overlooking a small bay. By its many customers we know that this is one popular spot . This steamed 'ikan puteh masak asam pedas' is worth a return visit. But would I find the restaurant again?