Monday, November 28, 2005

10 Little Things that make Sabah one of the best place to live in or visit

Sabah, Malaysia Borneo, may be an emerging and exiting Tropical Vacation capital of the new millennium. But besides the breathtaking and unique tourist attractions, the following are 10 Little Things (taken granted by most Sabahans) that make Sabah one of the best place to visit and/or to live in:

1. Summer All Year Round

Well, almost. Sabah have warm tropical weather and warm seas for at least 9 months of the year. Usually, there will be about 3 months of rainy spell during the Monsoon season (normally November to January in areas around Kota Kinabalu, and different months in other districts like Sandakan or Tawau) but that does not mean it will rain non-stop for 3 months. It just mean an occassional shower or two, which might be heavier than other months. Due to the Greenhouse effect, the Monsoon season is not so predictable anymore.

2. Relatively Free from Natural Disasters

Sabah is affectionately known as The "Land Below the Wind", first made famous in a best selling book by Agnes Keith, the famed American writer of the early 20th century. It is also a name appropriately given to the state as Sabah lies below the typhoon (or hurricane) belt of East Asia - Sabah only feels the brush of the tail wind of a typhoon and therefore, is relatively free from any wrath of nature. Early seafaring traders were said to seek refuge in Sabah from the vicious typhoons that plague other parts of Southeast Asia in the summer.

3. Calm, Serene and Modern

As a state within the Federation of Malaysia, Sabah, which is slightly less developed than its counterparts in Peninsular Malaysia, is basically away from the hustle bustle of a city environment. Even Kota Kinabalu city, the capital and business centre of Sabah is very much a surburban town compared to Kuala Lumpur. It is less crowded everywhere even in the city. But The international gateway to Borneo, Kota Kinabalu is a major city with fast developing modern infrastructure, well-planned with an efficient road system, and an International airport that has become the busiest airport in Malaysia after the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

4. Warm, Friendly and Colorful People

You will be fascinated by the warm hospitality and smiling faces of Sabahans, which come in many races and exhibit wide cultural diversity. You will also be captivated by the remarkable feature of the colorful population. There are at least 30 distinct ethnic indigenous groups in Sabah speaking different languages and close to 100 dialects. The days of savage tribesmen and headhunting are history and only illustrated/depicted for tourism purposes. The major races are Kadazandusun, Bajau, Murut, Malay and Chinese . But of course, people tend to be even more helpful and friendlier as you get further away from the town centres like in the interior or rural areas.

5. English and Chinese Widely Spoken

Malay or Bahasa Melayu is the national language of Malaysia but English is considered as the second language in Sabah (as well as in Malaysia as a whole), perhaps as a legacy of being a former colony of the United Kingdom. Most locals can converse well in the language, and even the less educated rural folks can maybe understand a few words (and give direction as well). Chinese is also widely spoken as there are many people of Chinese origin residing here (third largest ethnic group). Mandarin is the standard Chinese dialect for communication but Hakka and Cantonese is commonly used for daily conversation in West Coast and East Coast respectively.

6. Best Seafood and Tropical Fruits

Being a coastal state, Sabah is well known for its abundant fresh and tasty seafood. Many visitors have been raving about the superior quality of Sabah's seafood and certainly behooves Sabah to be committed on marine conservation efforts. You can easily find seafood in local restaurants and seafood centres. You can even choose the fish, lobster or tiger prawn of your choice from the restaurant's aquarium for the cook to prepare your meal. As for tropical fruits, all of them can be found here such as durians, rambutans, mangosteen, belimbing (or star fruit) and many more. But there are also has a number of specials not found anywhere else such as at least 14 varieties of local mango including the popular bambangan, the tarap, a variety of wild durian with red flesh, and the Markisa, a yellow-skinned passion fruit.

7. Politically and Socially Stable

Malaysia as a whole is the most stable country in the region. There have never been a change in government since independence (ruled by an alliance groups of multi-racial political parties called Barisan Nasional or National Front). Malaysia's commitment to religious plurality and economic equality has created enduring harmony and peace in multi-cultural Sabah. Despite so many people from different races and religions living together, Sabah never experience any serious racial tensions or riots in its 40+ years history. Most Sabahans are simple folks and satisfied with and appreciative our economic well-being. Poverty here is defined by household income, not by material possessions or daily meals. Starvation is unheard of in Sabah. Our hardcore poor may still be living in their own land and can plough the land for food.

8. Safe and Secured

Crime is not really a big issue in Sabah. Your probability of being mugged on the street of Kota Kinabalu is almost the same as falling down from a staircase in a hotel here. But it's always good to take precaution and avoid back alleys (not many anyway) or dimly-lighted areas after midnight. Crime is almost a non-issue in most touristic places and accommodations. Your wallet is more likely to be stolen by an Orang Utan at Sepilok than by his cousin, the homo sapien.

9. Low Health Risk

Basically, cases of infectious diseases like Malaria are rare (even in the rural areas) and always brought in from elsewhere, but you are best advised to take a preventive medication, such as Maloprim or Paludrine especially for visiting places such as Sukau, Tabin or Danum Valley. But normally, you would have been advised well in advance by your travel guide/company.

10. Limited Terrorist Threats

Sabah is comparatively safer than most places in the world for the following three reasons:
  1. Not densely populated and easy-to-target tour destinations (e.g., eco, rainforest, natural caves, rural areas, etc. normally do not and cannot have too many people frequenting at one time).
  2. Not a prime destination for Americans (or Europeans), or with lots of US interests (at least not yet, and not likely in the immediate term). And the capital of Malaysia is not located in Sabah or Sarawak.
  3. Politically and socially most stable and peaceful in the region, two important ingredients that can minimise the threats of terrorism.
However, it must be noted that NO destinations in the world can be 100% guaranteed to be safe from terrorists or any other threats, either natural or man-made. Sabah and Borneo as a whole is no exception.

You may hurt yourself falling down from a staircase in a 5-star hotel here, or you may get stung by a jellyfish. But, it is definitely much safer in a secluded tropical beach resort or in the jungle or natural environment than a populated high rise building or nightclub (not enough nightlife here in fact).

Whatever the case, it is best for you to do your own personal research and get opinions from locals (a trip advisor like us, perhaps) on the present local condition. Then it is really up to you to whether make the trip or not based on your findings.

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