Sabah Borneo, Malaysia – November 1999

Selamat Datang ke Sabah! (Welcome to Sabah)

Where to start when you want to introduce Sabah to the world? I guess here I can just say that Sabah has such a variety of cultures, and natural treasures that to try and list them would be just wasting time.

So I will attempt to bring you the best of Sabah in the following months with features from the different areas, cultures and activities.


For those of you who are fascinated by history, Sabah has a colourful past of Head hunters and Sultans, Raja’s, Princes and Pirates.

Start here and I will try and find more.

Tattoos & Head hunters

Borneo Island

2000 Visit Sabah Updates

*Sabah has been chosen to host the Eco-Challenge 2000.

*Kota Kinabalu has officially been declared a city and will celebrate this occasion with much pomp and pageantry in January 2000.

November in Sabah

  • School Holidays – 20th November to 12th January 2000

  • Deepavali (Festival of Light) – 7th

    This “Festival of Lights” is celebrated by the Hindu Community. Tiny oil lamps used to decorate the homes signify the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and wisdom over ignorance.

  • Kota Belud Tamu Besar – 28th

    Step back John Wayne, make way for Cowboys of the East! The most stunning highlight in the state’s largest open market is the colourful parade of Bajau villagers – dressed in their traditional best and riding their ponies complete with jingling collar bells. A Wild Wild West experience with a Borneo twist.

    Kota Kinabalu

    OK, now you have found your way to KK, let me start by giving you a little general information about the state.


    Kota Kinabalu is the state capital of Sabah (photos), the second largest state in Malaysia, covering an area of 74,500 sq km. Kota Kinabalu, or commonly referred to as KK, is located on the north-eastern coast of the state, fronting the South-China Sea.

    Sabah is known as ‘The Land Below The Wind’ because, geographically, it is below the typhoon belt. Sabah’s population of 1.9 million consists of 32 ethic communities. Sabah’s ecological systems, both on land and in the sea, are havens for naturalists.

    The People

    The three main indigenous groups of Sabah are the Kadazan-Dusun, Murut and Bajau. Making up one-third of the population, the Kadazan-Dusun live in the interior plains, and are mainly paddy farmers though many have ventured into other trades.

    The Muruts, who live in the interior region near the borders of Sarawak and Kalimantan, are agriculturists and hunters. Many of them still stay in longhouses. Murut weddings are noted for their elaborate merry-making.

    The Bajaus live mainly on the east and west coast. East-coast Bajaus are sea nomads, coming ashore only to bury their dead. West-coast Bujaus are farmers and are famous for their skilled horsemanship. They are dubbed the ‘Cowboys of the East’.

    Places of Interest

    Sabah offers many places of interest from world class diving destinations to the highest mountain in South East Asia (Mount Kinabalu) and exotic jungle and wildlife tours.

  • Kota Kinabalu – The main gateway to the state of Sabah has a population approaching 400,000.

  • The Sabah State Museum – Houses both historical and modern artifacts from Sabah’s rich culture.

  • The Sabah Sate Mosque with its majestic domes, is one of the spectacular sights in the city.

  • For a panoramic view of the city and its waterfront, go up to Signal Hill.

    First things first!

    Somewhere to stay, so that you can start exploring the sights of KK (City Map). A taxi from the airport will cost you about RM10 to RM12 (Ringgit Malaysian). This will get you into the city center. For those looking for resorts and more up-market hotels, check out this Hotels & Resorts site. Some of the hotels and B&B’s will do pick-up’s, and there are city buses.

    For the more budget conscious There are number of cheap and clean hostels. The Treakers Lodge, Jack’s B&B, Farida’s B&B, Borneo Wildlife Lodge. Treakers Lodge seems to be very popular and as most of these B&B’s are situated in Sinsuran area you can have a check around. You might also like to take a look at Seaside Inn. They are close to the airport and have some goods deals and welcome backpackers.

    OK found a bed. What to do next? All the hostels will have plenty of information available. There are city tours; the Islands off KK are worth a visit for the day and you can get over there quite cheaply. There are also dive tour operators running diving around KK. There are plenty of markets, restaurants, movie theaters, museums, headhunter villages and shopping complexes to keep you busy.


    The sun’s going down and you want to find a bit of night life! For the trendy, slip out to the Tangjung Aru Resort where you can sip exotic cocktails by the pool bar and watch the sun set over the China sea. I believe that the resort is now doing sunset cruise’s.

    Then back to town for the happy hour at the Hyatt Hotels’ Shenanigan’s Fun Pub – The place to be seen! Traditional Irish pub design with warm and friendly Asian hospitality makes this the most “happening” pub in the whole of Borneo. International entertainers who perform live, specialty cocktails and delicious snacks.

    Location: Street Level, Hyatt Hotel

    Happy Hours 5pm to 9pm nightly.

    For the night owl’s there are disco’s and live bands. TIFFNIES is the most popular but ask around, there are plenty of other place’s depending on your taste!


    Sabah cuisine embraces the best of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western dishes, as well as a touch of the Kadazan-Dusun, Murut, Bajau Indonesian and Philippine. All the major hotels have a variety of restaurants and one of my favorite places are the open air restaurants that are set up nightly around KK Lama (try the sting-ray). Most of the late night venues close at about 1am but stay open later on public holidays and the week-ends.

    That’s enough of the city life, we can do all that stuff at home. Let’s head out and find the real Borneo adventures that are awaiting in the jungles and mountains of this mysterious Land Below the Wind.

    Next, we will follow the trails to the famous Mt Kinabalu, the Hotsprings, up to Kudat and across to Sandakan, for some jungle tours and sight seeing.

    In the meantime, you can visit Peter’s website at Seafest Inn and Setarawarni Tourism S/B Semporna.


    As most travellers start their journey to Sabah from Kuala Lumpur, you should check with your travel agent on how to get to Kota Kinabalu, the Capital of Sabah.There are direct flights from Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei, Manila, Brunei, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Kuching.

    Sabah Tourism provides a lot of information on things to do places to stay,local cultures and activities.


    Depending which guidebook you happen to be using there are many places to stay. For the budget traveller there are the backpacker lodges between Rm15 – Rm30. For the more affluent travelers there are some good deals to be had at Hotels and resorts!

    Communication and Transport

    The communication system is provided mainly by TELKOM Malaysia and although it is very efficient their public phones usually don’t work especially in the rural and remote areas.

    Internet cafes are mushrooming, and are cheap. In some of the remote areas they can be a little hard to find but if you ask around, seek and ye shall find.

    Buses and taxi’s are abundant. In KK, the Capital, taxi’s have meters and buses are marked, but in the more remote areas it is best to negotiate the price.


    In KK, there is plenty of nitelife and restaurants to please all. Ranging from English style pubs, night clubs and disco’s as well as Karaoke. Also a great variety of cuisine starting with the local coffee shops and food stalls, with Malay, Indian, Chinese, and great seafood.

    Helpful Links


    Visit Malaysia

    Wild Borneo

    Lonely Planet

    Green Travel

    The Author

    I am an Australian and I have lived in Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia and have travelled in these regions extensively for the last 15 years on company expense accounts and as budget backpacker.

    I now reside in the small coastal town of Semporna on the East Coast of Sabah with my wife and two sons.

    We have an interest in a small diving & Island tours business and a backpacker lodge providing budget diving, Island camping, village tours to Sipadan, Mabul and the Islands of Darval bay.

    I have links with many tour operators in Sabah for jungle trekking and wildlife expeditions, etc. I can also help if you need information on entry requirements to Indonesia and the Philippines from Sabah.

    I have a diploma in freelance journalism, have run cattle stations in Australia, been a commercial diver, oil field trash, worked for corporate America, managed tourist resorts in Asia, fishing projects in Nicaragua, deckhand, yacht deliveries and been down and out in Cebu.

    I hope this may qualify me to add some points of interest about this wonderful part of the world that is just now starting to be discovered.

    I hope to be able to bring you interesting items of news, events and culture from all over Sabah.

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