Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Old faithful

Plying through the remote back roads of Sabah travellers are likely to come across Land Rover four wheel drive vehicles like this one.

First introduced to North Borneo by the British colonial administration more than half a century ago when paved roads were too few and far in-between major towns, these vehicles definately proved their worth transporting people and goods into Sabah's moutainous interior.

With Sabah becoming a partner in the Malaysian federation, the Land Rover continued to be used extensively. Rural folk realised how dependable the vehicles were and many bought them in used or second hand condition.

So fond are rural folk of the Land Rover that they have given these vehicles unique monikers, one of which "garabak (wagon) Siam." I absolutely no idea still as to how the Thai component got into that name.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rural rhythms

I came across this lady and her brood of four while on an overnight camping trip at the upper reaches of the Kiulu River along the Crocker Range. 

This Kadazandusun ethnic family were just returning home from harvesting fruits including bambangan (a type of mango, usually to be pickled or used for cooking) and naturally growing vegetables such as wild ferns locally known as pakis.

After carrying the heavy load for more than a kilometre to the family simple wooden house, she would carefully pack the produce and hitch a one hour ride in a van or four-wheel-drive vehicle to sell them at the weekly tamu or traditional farmers' market at Donggongon town in Penampang district. Just like what her parents had done.

For some of Sabah's rural folk, their rhythm of life remains unchanged.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Into the sunset

The sun broke through the clouds as I was about to board a flight from my east coast hometown of Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu revealing this glorious scene.

The scene, I suppose, also serves as visual metaphor for the Fokker 50 aircraft which is flying into the sunset as it is being replaced by the ATR72-500 turbo prop aircraft after about 20 years of service in Malaysia Airlines' domestic air services particularly in Sabah and Sarawak.

Whenever I look at a Fokker 50, I reminded about how one crashed into a squatter colony near the old Tawau airport in Sept 1995.  It is something that I hope never to write about again.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Under threat

I've always believed that any appendage to a wild animal is almost certainly a death sentence to it, as in an elephant and its tusks, a rhino and its horn or a deer and its antlers.

When I took the picture of this rhino hornbill at the Lok Kawi zoo, I recalled what a friend told me. Apparently some people believe that the eye catching horn on this bird has "medicinal" properties.

It is supposed to be a cure all for everything from asthma to stomach ailments. With such a perverse belief, it will be no wonder if this creature could eventually face the same predicament as its four-legged namesake. Wildlife experts reckon there are no more than 50 Sumatran rhinos left in the wilds of Borneo.  

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Crop revival

On a recent trip to Sabah's northernmost town of Kudat, I followed my nose to a row of old wooden shops where I spotted these two gentleman packing a sack of dried cocunut flesh that I assumed would eventually be used to extract its oil.

Coconut has been the agriculture mainstay of Kudat district for decades with thousands of hectares planted with the crop. But like in many other parts of the state, coconut groves are giving way to oil palm plantations. After all, palm oil is now one of Sabah's main economic mainstays.

But coconut may be making a comeback thanks to the advent of virgin coconut oil. More about here. So perhaps these gentlemen will still be packing more dried flesh of coconuts for years to come.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My workhorse

Five years ago, I jumped on the four-wheel-drive pick up truck band wagon when I bought a Ford Ranger. It has become something of a Swiss Army knife for my family and I.

Like the famous Swiss switchblade knife which is also a fork, nail clipper, compass, spoon, fork and the list goes on, our truck has been very much a multi purpose tool.

For daily use it is a school bus for my three kids and taken me to some remote locations in Sabah for my work. It has also been used to transport everything from bags of cement, stones and sand, bricks, wooden planks, tiles when my house was being renovated. 

And then there are the occasional holiday excursions for the family. With this truck we have been back to my hometown of Sandakan, Kudat, Sipitang, Ranau-Kundasang and lots more places.

We have also used it to shift furniture and much of our belongings when we moved house as well as stuff for my missus' shop. And it done all this in return for regular maintenance and the occasional tyre replacement.

Like a Swiss Army knife, our Ford Ranger will be part of the family for many years to come.  

I wonder if I can now claim some sort of endorsement fee from the nice folks at Ford Malaysia?


And oh yes, I'm back ... again.

Accessible internet

Connecting to the internet via wireless access or wife in public places has always been a hassle or an expensive affair.
The usual places the service were available were cafes - think Starbucks or Coffee Bean. So for the price of a capucinno or frapucinno or a brew of today's blend, you could use a laptop to surf the 'net to your heart's content.
Not so long ago however, I spotted this banner outside a coffeeshop in downtown Kota Kinabalu. Ahh, so now internet acceess is available with a cup of kopi-o at a fraction of a cost of a capucinno. Hopefully, other coffee shops will jump on the free wife bandwagon and internet acceess will be more readily available.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Subtle message

Visiting my in-laws in the northern Kota Marudu district recently, I did a double-take after coming across six white sacks with a very familiar looking logo on them.
It turned out that the sacks contained fertiliser distributed to farmers by federal government. (As in what appears to be still a precarious Barisan Nasional-led government.)
But I think Sabahans are no longer contented with hand outs. I reckon it's about time Sabah leaders become more assertive. More here.
For too long, the Borneo parts of the Malaysian federation have been taken for granted (some may even say taken for a ride.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Off to the market

The tamu or traditional market is a weekly institution in many Sabah districts. Despite the advent of supermarkets and the like, the tamu still gets a good following whether it is in Kota Belud, Donggongon, Pekan nablu, Sipitang or Tamparuli.

I was at the Kota Belud recently and came home with these impressions.

Locally grown and cured tobacco known as siggup has been at the tamu for generations. The Kadazandusuns, Bajaus and other ethnic communities have been rolling the tobacco in dried leaf called kirai and smoking or simply chewing it.

Handicrafts such as these tudung duang food covers woven from dyed pandanus leaves are also for sale at the Kota Belud Tamu.

For the musically inclined, the tamu is the place to go to in search of gongs and mini gong sets known as kulingtangan.

The tamu has become an open air boutique with a seemingly endless variety of clothes and used shoes available. I was flabbergasted to see what appeared to be a winter jacket or two being sold at the Kota Belud tamu.

Green peppers, cabbages and leeks are just some of the highland vegetables trucked in from neighbouring Kundasang to be sold at the Kota Belud tamu.

As proof that his wild honey has not been adulturated with sugar syrup, this farmer brought the bees nest he had collected from a jungle in a bucket and with defet hands poured the honey into glass bottles as his potential customers watched, fascinated.

A must have treat at the Kota Belud tamu are these shallow fried pancakes called kuih pajaram. Made from rice and wheat flour as well as palm sugar, this concoction is best eaten warm accmpanied by a cup of black coffee.

Monday, May 5, 2008

When a sidewalk will do

I've always thought of the game of chess as a game either for cigar chomping gentlemen in their stuffy clubs or nerdy types sweating it out in a competition.
However this scene outside a coffee shop at the Sinsuran area in downtown Kota Kinabalu a few days ago corrected my perception about the game.
This is also a rare sight in this day and age when so called online electronic games such as DotA or Defence of the Ancients.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Coming back soon

Hey all,
I will be returning soon. Keep a watch on this space.