Happy Easter everyone!!
Today we arrived in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah a semi- autonomous state in Malaysia. The city is the principal port on the northwest coast of Borneo and is a transit port for most of the produce of the northwest side of Sabah exporting timber, cacao and copra. Approximately 250 vessels a year call on the port of Kota Kinabalu.
Kota Kinabalu (KK is the short form used by locals) has several islands just off shore and these
have some of the best beaches in Borneo as well as wildlife that varies from monkeys to bearded pigs to coral and tropical marine life.
Sabah was known as “Land Below the Wind” in the ancient times because it lies below the typhoon belt. Mount Kinabalu dominates the landscape at 4010 meters (13,152 ft). The surrounding landscape is engulfed by a diversity of fauna, floral and the world’s largest rainforest. It was a VERY busy day – in the morning we took the bus to the local Sunday market. What an incredible place. Fruits, peppers (and we’re talking hot here) are sold by the kilo for as little as 15-20 cents Cdn. One stall was cooking chicken wings on a BBQ – OMG but the smell was delicious. Only we’d just had breakfast we would have eaten 2 skewers of wings (and Gert doesn’t like wings – go figure). We did however stop at a local cafe and bought 2 buns, very similar to custard tarts but not sweet and oh so delicious. These are a real delicacy here on the island so it was a must have :-).
We later came back to the ship – had a LIGHT lunch and off on our tour.
We started our tour with a drive past some of Kota Kinabalu’s very interesting architecture. The KK Sabah State Mosque was designed and built by a European architectural firm. The Mosque appears to be floating on water. The lines of the temple are elegant and beautiful however the charm of older mosques is absent. Of course, visitors are allowed inside but shoes must first be removed at the entrance.
The Sabah state Museum’s main building is designed to look like a traditional long-house. Collections include valuable historical artifacts, ethnographic specimens and archaeological displays that accurately recall local history.
We then drove out to Kelly Bays where we boarded a 12 x 20ft bamboo raft to learn more about mangroves and the major impact they have on the environment – it’s a good impact. We tried our hands at crab catching (photo of Pat throwing out a crab pot).
While we waited on our traps we went ashore and tried our hand at Batik painting (I’ll bring mine back home and see if I can put it on a pillow or something). We also enjoyed some local treats and tea.
Before entering the eating area we had to remove our sandals, we ate at little tables close to the ground and sat on mats. The local food was just amazing. I can’t recall the local name for the food but one was made with rice (cooked) rice flour, little plain white flour and water. It was mixed and left overnight – then 2 tbs were put into hot oil and roasted (cooked) for 10 seconds – turned over and cooked on that side, it was simply delicious (Gerrit actually asked to cook his own and they obliged – how awesome) and we helped ourselves to several helpings). Another dish was a green rice cake filled with honey and coconut, rolled and served – again it was just awesome. And for those who don’t know yet, Malaysian curry is the best! The secret is in the use of star anise and cinnamon along with the usual cumin, coriander etc.
We enjoyed some local tea with our goodies (Gert ended up finding the tea and purchased some). We also tried some of the island fruit (Dragon fruit; Fruit Salad fruit; and a kind of mango that tasted just like white juicy orange but much better :-).
We had about 1 hour to just laze around and explore the island. Gert and I headed out to the beach area and we were just amazed to find the China Sea. The beaches were white sand, immaculately clean and the rolls of the waves just beckoned us in. Gert and I immediately slipped off our sandals and went paddling. It was just a hoot, we laughed and felt like 16 yr olds again :-).
After we took the raft back to Kelly Bay we stopped to pick up the crab pots; only 1 of the 6 had a blue crab in it (male per our guide and we took her word on that).
We then went to a local pottery factory and Pat tried her hand at making a vase – what a laugh. Second try definitely was much better :-). The craftsmanship was just amazing – this one guy spins the clay for 9 hours a day and makes many dozen vases etc which are fired, glazed and painted.
We arrived back on the ship pretty well exhausted. But feeling oh so blessed. Then the usual gawking at whatever is happening in the port, usually interesting stuff. This time it was unloading rice from Thailand, manually for the most part.