Kamis, 15 Maret 2018

A Visit to Bornean Malaysia

Long road to Kampung Terian

What is the first thing on your mind when you hear "Sabah"? Don't say that you don't know!
I mentioned "Kinabalu" straightaway when he said that he has been living there. He is a cool guy, doing a cool work, in a cool place. Okay, I won't overuse the word "cool" here because there are many cool things I want to share. Let's call him Mr. C (stands for cool)! I don't want to reveal his identity. He is quite popular and easy to find via Google apparently. 
I have been longing a good chance to visit Borneo. The short meeting between Mr. C and I was the beginning of the plan. He recommended many things to do or see prior to my arrival date. Climbing Mount Kinabalu was on top of my mind. In fact, I did not go for it. I was a bit moody to set up the plan. Fortunately, Mr. C fulfilled my request to see his work with local communities. First destination was Kampung Terian. His friend invited us to attend his mothers birthday party. We reached the village in 3 hours by car from Kota Kinabalu. The duration was not due to distance but the road condition. I had an important duty to carry the cake during the trip. That was not an easy task, but eventually I did well. The village is lovely. It is surrounded by the hills. Pristine water flows along the small river. We were chilling while listening the sound of nature. 
The house was full of family members, relatives, and friends. They are Dusun People. Dusun is one of tribal group in Sabah. The birthday lady only speaks Dusun. I asked one of the family member to be our interpreter because I recognized her long skirt as Batik. She got it from the market. It is not originally from Dusun. I also had another remarkable conversation. A group of Dusun ladies told me a story about earthquake. As Indonesian, the phenomenon is very normal for me. Once it happened in Sabah two years ago, however, they had no idea what to do. In spite of running out of the house, they gathered and prayed together in the living room because they though it was the end of the world.
Second destination was Kampung Manggadai. It is located between Ranau and Telupid. I saw a glimpse of Mt. Kinabalu on the left side of the road. It was covered by cloud. Mr. C has a project to build gravity pipe in order to help people have better access of freshwater. The system was ready to be launched soon. We traveled with his colleague who also works for some issues related to oil palm plantation. One of the main issue is elephant conservation. After visiting Kampung Manggadai, he brought us to see elephant in rescued point. I did not expect to see elephants in Borneo. They are cute but aggressive. The pygmy elephants (not an enormous one like African elephant) were alarmed by our presence. They were very protective. Did it cause by the conflict between elephant and human in oil palm plantation?
Many questions and discussions appeared on my mind. Sometimes, I could not hold it even when we were cycling around Kota Kinabalu. This was another request that Mr. C arranged. I thanked him for providing me the bike. I explored Kota Kinabalu with zero-emission-vehicle. That was terrific to enjoy the sunset, the moonlight, the breeze, every single view along the coast! Although Kota Kinabalu has no specific bike lane, I am proud of my riding skill thus I rode safely. 

Ride the bike

The day of "I need to make a plan" came. After one week being a guest at his cozy house, I traveled to Sandakan, the second biggest city in Sabah. I actually was happy just to spend the day in the house. I had moments of hygge: reading a book while lying on hammock or petting the cats and dogs. There are two spoiled cats and two friendly dogs in the house. He lives with a nice housemate. I found that spending time with them (drinking coffee or tea, having dinner, walking dog, staring out sunset, hanging out in front of the house) was gezellig. Anyway, they were away so I would rather move too. 
On the way to Sandakan, I dropped by Monsok to meet my high school mate who teaches in Indonesian School for children of labors around oil palm plantation. I was invited to talk in front of the children and motivate them to go to school. I was not prepared. My session was started with brief description about the work. Those kids are not familiar with an occupation called researcher. I explained them slowly. They asked many questions mostly about the experience of working in global level. As closing remark, I told them that I simply love school because I meet friends and teachers who accompany me to learn something new. 
It was after sunset when I touched down Sandakan. I had booked a program to stay in eco-camp (recommended by Mr. C because he knows the CEO) and join river cruise in Kinabatangan. The eco-camp is neat and peaceful. It is by the lake. The CEO started a project in conservation twenty years ago. By the time, the local community who are Orang Sungai (another tribal group in Sabah) were encouraged by the CEO to develop the tourism in their village. All people in charge for the eco-camp are from Batu Puteh Village where this model is built. I met a group of students from England and Spain who have been doing research for six months in the jungle. Without any hesitation, they showed me many types of birds and monkeys around the camps. They also involved in a project of Salvinia cleaning. It is a parasitic plant which covers the surface of lake and endanger the ecosystem of the lake. This parasite is originally from Brazil, a far away land of tropics. There are some theories about the spread of the parasite, one of them is via tourists. 
I observed more wildlife during river cruise. I was excited to see proboscis monkey, the orange creature with big nose. I saw crocodile in the riverbank. Some colorful birds were flying around. The local guide led me for a night walk in the jungle but we were not very lucky that time. I saw a small forest cat and sugar glider. Anyhow, it was great experience to be in a pitch dark of jungle. The guide accompanied me for a short trekking along the lake. He told me that Orang Sungai have been waiting for the flood. This is the thing people mostly do not wish for, but Orang Sungai, according to the guide will have a big party when flood happens because abundant fishes will be available at their garden. 

Sunset river cruise in Kinabatangan

Another plan for Sandakan was visiting rehabilitation center of orangutan and sun bear. Both are in Sepilok. It is easily accessible from Sandakan. I spent one day in Sepilok to see the ranger feed orangutan. After feeding time, I moved to sun bear conservation center. Surprisingly, there was one female orangutan roaming freely. We were very close. The ranger warned me to stay calm and maintain a safe distance. She only stared at the visitors and climbed up the trees. That moment, I could see that it was her who feels more threatened by human being. It was quick judgement by the way. I believe that the place is safe and fun for them. 
In total, I spent 17 days in Sabah. I would love to come back one day. The initial plan to climb Mount Kinabalu and dive haven't been realized yet. I met interesting people during the trip. It will be amazing to meet them again in the future. 

Terima kasih Sabah, jumpa lagi!

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