Trip to the Tip of Borneo

How Did I Get Here? Originally from Kota Kinabalu, I flew to Kuala Lumpur for the first time 13 years ago for a job training. Little did I know this city will be my permanent home. There are thousands of Sabahans like myself who found solace, opportunity and success in Kuala Lumpur. Some lucky few even found love. It’s true what they say “The grass is greener on the other side”. As much as I love my fabulous fast-paced lifestyle and the big bright lights of this city, KL can sometimes feel more like a stage. But Kota Kinabalu, that’s my hometown, it’s my root, my history and my escape back to reality. It’s the place I go back to feel grounded again.

When I was in my 20’s, going back to my hometown meant clubbing all night, sleeping all day and if I managed to sober up, then it’s at least a show-face at Sunday brunch. Now at 35, both older and wiser, I’m excited to fly back home once a month to spend time with my family, get fat on home cooked meals and get re-acquainted with my hometown.

“You can take a girl out of her village but you can’t take the village out of the girl”. 

To some people we are known as the village people. Not the YMCA-Village-People of the song that was popular in the 70’s but the kind of people that’s also known as aboriginals. Probably because of our slow economic development compared to West Malaysia, our endless thick forests, our ‘family’ the Orang Utans, our strong accent and, of course, rumours that we also live on trees. That maybe a rumour but one thing is for sure, growing up in Sabah means the forest is your playground, the endless beaches and islands are your showers and road trips are your weekends. 

Sabah is known as the Land Below The Wind because it’s located near a typhoon-prone region. Kota Kinabalu is 2 and half hours by flight from Kuala Lumpur (excluding the 40 mins airport journey, possible flight delay and oh-so-slow baggage claim).  Located right by the South China Sea, we are spoilt with endless choices of fresh seafood. Needless to say, most local delicacies are made from seafood. Here are some of my favourite when I go home to my mum’s place. Some of these food you see is local delicacies only known to Sabahans.

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A local specialty: Hinava. It’s basically fish ceviche. Traditionally made with fresh raw mackerel fish, filleted and mixed with chili, ginger, onions and Bambangan seed.

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It’s a type of seaweed mixed with shallots, chilies and sliced green mangoes for that additional yum. You pour the lime juice and sprinkle some salt right before you serve or the seaweed will wither just like a salad.

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Stir fried squid, deep fried mackerel and seaweed salad at my Aunty Dina’s stall in Penampang Market. You get home-cooked fresh food at very cheap price.

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These are local favourite condiments: Salted duck eggs, fresh chilies and this yellow pickle is a local delicacy known as Bambangan. Like the smelly blue cheese or the Korean’s Kimchi, it’s an acquired tasted. It’s a seasonal fruit like mango that made into pickles. Different maker makes different flavour. To get the best ones, don’t buy the first jar you see at the market but instead, we locals buy them based on recommendations. I personally get my stock of this delicious pickle from my Aunty Dina who has a stall in Penampang market. Her Bambangan is the perfect combo of sour, tangy, just sweet enough absolutely delicious.

Sabahan loves soupy dishes. It’s our our comfort food, it’s our hangover cure, it’s our breakfast, lunch and dinner. We don’t care if it’s raining or if it’s 37 degrees outside, we will have our soup noodles for breakfast if we feel like it. Here are my personal must-haves when I’m back in town:

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Ngiu Chap is a bowl of beef noodle soup and for me, the most delicious one can be found at Kah Hiong Ngiu Chap in Hilltop.The name says it all. They sell one type of food and they make it the best. Clear beef broth with rice noodles, wintermelon and topped with almost every part of a cow’s anatomy you can imagine. If you’re less adventurous, then order your bowl of noodle soup with sweet meat and beef balls only. They’re just as good.

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Posing in front of the shop so you’ll know which one it is. It’s right at the corner and it’s always packed on weekend. There’s also a Dim Sum shop where you can order for take-away right next door.

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Fish noodle soup in Restoran Huong Kee in Damai. Although some people prefer Wan Wan in Penampang  because they’re good too but I’m a chili freak and this Huong Kee’s home-made chili is my weakness.

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Prawn Tom Yam in Sing Kee Sinsuran is another Must-Try. You can also opt for fresh fish slice instead of prawn. I always request for my Tom Yam to be extra spicy and with less milk. That’s right, they don’t use coconut milk here but milk instead so it’s healthier.

Philippino Market is right next to Sinsuran, just along the road of Waterfront. So after you had your bowl of Tom Yam, just walk across to the market for a little shopping. Best to leave your expensive jewelleries and high heels behind because the market is not the most glamourous place to shop at but it is the best place to find local chips, cookies, souvenirs and gifts and of course, Sabah’s very own fresh-water pearls at a bargain. This is also the market where locals go to to get their fish, fruits, herbs, spices and groceries. Like most markets in the world, bargaining is a skill you should use here and of course, keep your belongings safe.

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My outfit for the market: Cool, comfy and free-hands to carry all my shopping. Picture  was taken at Waterfront. By day, the car park  here is the best spot to park because there’s ample space and it’s not far from the market. By night, this whole stretch of pubs and restaurants will be buzzing with crowd, live bands and night life.

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My KL colleagues love this stuff! Angry Bird chips available in cheese, curry and their favourite, chicken flavour.

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That’s my niece giving a peace sign while I’m having a little taste trying to decide which flavour to take back to my KL colleagues.

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Rows and rows of tiny stalls selling novelty shirts, house decos, hand-made accessories, souvenirs and gifts. Business usually starts at about 10am.

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Buying some silver Pandora-inspired Pearl bangles. RM25 each., RM50 for 3. What a bargain!

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This may seem odd but these tailors can alter your jeans or get your trouser sewn for RM5 at the market. Rows of these tailors are seen right in front of the souvenirs shop area.

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You can buy local chips and biscuits, local and exotic fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, spices and of course, Sabah’s famous bottled chili. I usually bring back 3 or 4 bottles back to KL because it’s well-known that Sabah’s chili is much hotter that the ones you get in KL.  Even household items can be found at this market at a cheaper price than a supermarket. It doesn’t have any signs or department so if you need paper plates and paper cups for your party, just ask any of the sellers and they’ll point you to the right direction.

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This is also the market where locals go to to get their fresh groceries.

Sunday Market at Gaya Street takes place every Sunday morning. This market has been here every week since I was a child. I used to hate being woken up by mum to accompany her early in the morning but now I look forward to it because I know I can find many local gems at the market. From house decorations to fresh plants and flowers, you can find everything here. Don’t worry if you skip your breakfast, there are plenty fresh food and drinks to nibble on while you walk along. Just be mindful of pickpockets because as the sun goes up this place gets packed like sardines in a can.

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Sunset drinks at Tanjung Aru Shangri-La Beach Hotel & Resort, enjoy the setting sun, the cooling breeze while being entertained with live music and cool cocktails. There’s even Barbecued chicken wings and snacks to order to if you want to have nibbles.

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Langkah Syabas at Kinarut is a must visit if you’re a cheese lover. Head there for some lunch and local cheese hand-made right there on site. I’m going to be honest and say that it’s not the cleanest or the nicest beach but it does have a niece sea breeze. Friendly service, good food and a nice place to enjoy a relaxing lunch while enjoying the sea view.

 

Seafood Galore at Kampung Air – Last but not least, this is what we’re famous for – affordable eat-till-you-drop fresh seafood galore. There are few restaurants to chose from in this area but my one and only is always Suang Tian. It’s the first restaurant that was opened and I’e been coming here since I was a kid. This restaurant is clean, you’ll get excellent quality food and great service. I would suggest that you wear your most casual, loose-fitting clothes so you can enjoy the full finger-lickin good experience. Don’t forget your wet tissue. It is essential. If you’re allergic to seafood, don’t worry. There’s also grilled satay, barbecued chicken wings  for you to enjoy and other dishes you can order . If you’re not sure what to have, just call for the ‘Captain’ and ask him for recommendations.

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Road Trip to Tip of Borneo

We took a trip to the Tip of Borneo on my recent trip back home.  Also locally known as Tanjung Simpang Mengayau. It is the northern most tip of Borneo located in the district of Kudat, in the state of Sabah, Malaysia. It takes about 3 hours of relaxed driving along smooth roads from Kota Kinabalu to the Tip of Borneo.

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Ariel view of Tip of Borneo

Photo credit to Jollence Lee of http://www.borneographics.com (and Google)

Tuaran Mee in Tuaran.  I’m not trying to make a rhyme but it’s a type of noodle from the little town it originated from. On our way, we made a stop in one of the older towns called Tuaran for breakfast. Every restaurant in Tuaran serves Tuaran Mee so we went in to Tai Fatt and ordered ourselves some seafood Tuaran Mee.

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A good plate of fried Tuaran mee should be al-dente with a charred fragrance to it and always served with chili and condiments on the side.

3 Hours Drive is what it takes to get to the Tip of Borneo, so after breakfast, a quick stop at the petrol station for gas and restroom break and stock up on snacks, we start our relaxing journey passing green pastures enjoying the view of hills and mountains.

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Clear blue sky, green pastures and a beautiful day for a long drive (Okay I’m saying this because I was merely a passenger who gets to push her chair down and lay back)

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You know you’re no longer in the city when you see cows on the road stopping traffic

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Soothing green pastures as we drove along

Everyone kept telling us that the Tip of Borneo is in Kudat. With that info bearing in mind, we drove along observing the signs. Kudat: 110 Km… Kudat: 80km… Kudat: 35km… that we almost missed this junction to the Tip!

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We were coming from the opposite side of this sign board that we missed this sign and had to do a U-turn

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After the junction, it’s another 20 mins drive along smaller roads with such view before you get to Tommy’s Place.

Tommy’s Place conveniently located right before the Tip of Borneo. I have no idea who Tommy is but you do see many signboards directing you to to his place. In fact, they have more sign boards than the Tip of Borneo! After driving for 3 hours, we finally made a stop here to stretch our feet and use their restroom. Tommy’s Place is actually a small beach-facing motel with amazing white sandy beach and clear aquamarine water. The staffs were very friendly and the rest stop is rustic, clean and very relaxing. You can also  order freshly cooked meal, have a cold beer or even a cold shower after swimming in the sea. My only regret is not bringing my bikini with me. I’ve traveled to the many beautiful beaches around the world but little did I know that one the beautiful ones can be found right in my state!

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A simple and rustic place but it’s clean, it’s breezy, friendly staff and cold beers.

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One word: “Aaaaaahhhhhh…”

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Blue sky and blue water. The view reminds me of the blue water in Koh Lipe Island from where I’m sittin’ and sippin’

After our breaks, we continue driving up to the Tip. When I was here 20 years ago, this place was a rough drive up to the hill with no place to rest or park. But now, it’s an easy walk on proper road to go up to the landmark. There are little gazebos where you can have a picnic with the most amazing view above the sea. So bring some food, loads of water, wet tissue, and perhaps a cooler box with loads of ice and beers. We reached the top at 12pm and it was scorching hot!

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It’s important to stay hydrated so remember to pack loads of fluids.

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This is the gazebo where you can keep rest your feet, stay away from the heat of the sun and have a little picnic while enjoying the breeze and the most amazing view…

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Spectacular isn’t it?

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From the gazebo, you can walk on the grass or on these little pathway that leads you directly to the stage.

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This is an actual performance stage. The Sunset Music Festival takes place here every year at the Tip of Borneo. I heard the scenery and view is even more amazing at sunset. I’ve not been to the music fest but I intend to next year.

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Ladies,  leave your high heels behind and wear comfy shoes. Apply your SPF and wear your hat. This is the walk to go up to the monument. If you get there at noon, an umbrella won’t be a bad idea.

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The monument at the Tip of Borneo. I’m not sure when was this built because 20 years ago, this whole place was just trees, grass and occasionally mud. Well done to the Government for money well-spent. Now how about restrooms for visitors around the area?

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This shot was taken from the back of the globe. I wanted to show you how beautiful the view is no matter where you’re standing on the monument

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Once you passed the Globe monument, there are staircases for you to walk comfortably all the way down for a closer view of the sea. Of course I had to do a version of @followmeto pose while walking down

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… and bam! A picture perfect view

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Taking more pictures from a different set of eyes and device

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My personal photographer sweating under the scorching sun all in the name of photography

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We couldn’t stand the heat anymore so time to climb back up and head back to the gazebo

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Saying goodbye to Tip of Borneo. We shall see you again next year at Sunset Music Fest!

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Another photo on the way back up to the gazebo.  It was 37 degrees but felt like 45 that day.

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We had our drinks, we ate our food, we took loads of beautiful shots.. What’s not to be happy about?

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Sometimes the best shot is candidly captured moments like these…

After an hour at the Tip, we made another stop at Tommy’s Place for another restroom break and head back to town.

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Rows and rows of palm trees can be seen along the way from the tip that I just had to take a photo and post it on Instagram with the caption: “I love L.A. but I’m in Kudat, Sabah”. @luckybeachblog

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Then another stop to buy some snacks for the long ride. This is grilled corn on the cob the old-school way. It’s grilled on that old oil tank you see. Doesn’t look pretty all burnt up but inside, it’s fluffy and absolutely delicious!

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Local produce. Local snacks, exotic fruits and even raw honey

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I heard that pineapples are good for men so I told him to get some 😉

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With my personal photographer, my driver, my editor at the Tip of Borneo. He still manage to smile after 3 hours of driving and endless photo-taking under the scorching hot sun.

To know more about the yearly event, Sunset Music Festival at the Tip of Borneo, visit: http://www.sunsetmusicfest.my/. Perhaps I will see you there next year?

If you’d like to know more on  what to do, where to stay, what to eat or where to eat when you’re in Sabah, the official website you can checkout is http://www.sabahtourism.com/. You can also leave a comment or message me if you prefer hanging where locals hang, doing what locals do.

Hope you enjoy my story. Thanks for reading.

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