The next few journal entries are likely to be slightly shorter as I’m trying to write one for each location I’m going to and given we’re on a tour and going to be moving quite a lot over the next week or so I’ll have a few places to write about!
After sorting our bags at the hotel to allow us to leave a few bits we didn’t need for the trip behind and packing the rest, we grabbed a quick breakfast in the morning with Hannah and the met the rest of the group ready to go at about 8.45am. Today we were heading to a village of the local Dunsun tribe Tanka Nabalu, approximately an hour and a half drive from the city up into the mountains. We stopped at a couple of places on route – initially at the city mosque which can fit 9-10 thousand people in for prayer. It is one of only 5 in Borneo…. Apparently the Muslim mosques tend to be extremely large while the Christian churches are smaller but there are more of them. In Borneo the largest religion is Christianity, followed by Muslim, Buddhist and then minority religions. They all live peacefully within the same communities, much like in the UK – I only note this given some of the unrest I have heard about (although I didn’t see evidence of it where we travelled to) in Myanmar between the Buddhists and Muslims. The mosque was absolutely beautiful -I commented to Sarah how impressed and amazed I’ve been by the temples and mosques I’ve seen throughout the countries I’ve been to on this trip and the money and commitments that goes into making them spectacular. I actually realised when I was saying it though that we also, in the UK have the most beautiful buildings in churches and cathedrals throughout the country, religious buildings really do tend to be lovely.
We continued our drive up to the mountains, it felt immediately like this country is richer than some of the others I have visited – big shopping malls, brick buildings and a fair amount of development within, and on the ourskirts, of the city. Even as it became more rural the houses were still in good upkeep, perhaps less extravagant but lovely all the same. We stopped at a local market where Edwin showed us a lot of the local produce – the dried fish, the freshly made shrimp paste, the local fruits, the chewing tobacco and all of the traditional sweets. We tried a couple of local sweets – they were a strange texture, extremely sweet and very greasy….but they had a good flavour!
Before we knew it the bus was beginning its climb into the mountains….we were able to spy Mount Kinabalu (our challenge in a couple of days!) in the distance and passed through the clouds into some wonderful views. About an hour into the journey we stopped again (great timing as I was really beginning to feel pretty queasy!) at a couple of wooden huts on the side of the road with roaring fires in them….. it transpires they were cooking wild boar and we were going to try it! We all sat down excitedly and tucked in…. it was gorgeous! The flavour was actually a little like lamb (my favourite meat), adding to it the spicy sauce and it was just delicious…. I could have eaten it all day!
By the time we were done we all trundled back into the car for the final part of the journey – we really weren’t far away by this point but the road over to the village was pretty questionable so our great driven had to take it pretty slowly. He stopped at one point as we could see the village from the road with Mount Kinabalu in the background…. A great photo opportunity!
We were greeted in the village by some traditional music performed by 6 of the local men and some tea and local treats (sweet potato, what seemed to be prawn crackers and an interesting fried treat – we couldn’t work out what was inside it!). After which we were introduced to our host families – Sarah, Edwin and I were staying with one family and the other four were staying with another. We headed off to see the houses and get all of our stuff into our rooms.
We have a lovely little room with a couple who have only hosted one other set of tourists in the past. Edwin calls the husband of the couple the ‘chief’ – I’m not sure it that is just affectionate or if he does actually have some rank in the city…. I need to ask him that! Once we were settled we were immediately invited in for lunch – it was a feast! Rice, chicken, vegetables and some of the wild boar Edwin had bought with him from the stall earlier, it was so good. This was followed by a little power nap before we met the other for our afternoon ‘activities’!
We met back down at the town hall where a couple of the men showed us how rice is pounded every day by the ladies in the village. It was extremely interesting seeing the cultural differences as the rice farming, rice pounding and separation, cleaning and cooking still very much sits with the women in the household – the men don’t seem to have much responsibility in this particular tribe. We all gave the rice pounding and separating a go (it was pretty hard!) before the experts took over indicating that – at our rate we wouldn’t be having any dinner! After which we enjoyed a quick walk down to the river to just stretch our legs and see a bit of the local area. On route one of the guides picked up a fresh pineapple that was ready to be eaten, he chopped it up for us to eat when we arrived at the river – it was so delicious.
Returning to the house we had a couple of hours to chill and shower (with the bucket shower) before we met the group again the evening. Our host gave us some tea and cakes (they were a little like fried potato but tasted sweet…. And were pretty addictive!) before we headed for a quick lie down.
We met the group again at 6.30pm – walking down with Edwin and the husband of our homestay we helped carry some of the homecooked food we were going to eat in the evening. The sun was beginning to set and the sky was an incredible bright red colour….Sarah befriended a cow before we made our way into the village hall.
It was such a nice evening…..all the village really gets involves – lots of people cook, others come along to meet the tourists and some just enjoy watching what is going on. We devoured another huge, extremely tasty meal before we were treated to an evening of local music and dance from the villagers. We drank a local liquor and then attempted playing some of the music and dancing one of the dances as a group. It really was so much fun!
Before we knew it we were packing up to head home…. Much like other homestays I’ve stayed at the village definitely starts early and finish early – we were back at home about 8.30pm, enjoying a quick game of cards and some tea with the wife of our family before we retreated to bed. Sarah definitely hit her wall this evening which isn’t surprising as she’s still adjusting to the new timezone. I’ve just used the spare hour I had this evening to get myself up to date on my journal as I sit here in my bed at the homestay typing away…..
A fantastic start to our Intrepid tour of Sabah… I’m looking forward to seeing what else we have to come!