Friday, September 21, 2007

Driving Northward bound from Kota Kinabalu to Kudat

A drive up to the North of the State is a good experience, especially for those who love nature, the country side and the long ride.

The ride starts to be enjoyable as soon as you leave the city centre. The scenery starts to get more picturesque when you pass the University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) area.

This is when you start your drive seriously. As you drive towards Tuaran, you will see quaint villages along the way. At the road side you will see locals selling cockles and shells, as well as coconut. The most interesting item on sale is the roasted coconut (!!!).

The water of roasted coconut is supposed to be good for the heart. Drive on along the Sulaman highway and you will come to a crocodile farm. You can stop by and have breakfast there, and if you have time to kill walk in and look at the 1000-odd reptiles, laying around. You can purchase crocodile meat in the farm as well as leather goods.

As you drive on, you will come to Tuaran. This town ship has a distinctive nine-story Chinese pagoda as a landmark. The tourist attractions in this area are the Mengkabong Water Village and the Penimbawan Water Village, with stilt houses built by the Bajau over the shore.

Every Sunday morning, Tuaran town holds a market known as Tamu locally. Harvests from nearby villages and valleys are brought to the market, such as river turtles, shells, clams and bananas, among many others.

In Tuaran you should not forget to sample Tuaran mee, or ‘noodle of Tuaran’. This is a famous hawker dish of Tuaran.

As you leave Tuaran Township, you will come upon the bridge. From the bridge you can see villages clustered near the river. The water that flows under the bridge is quite sluggish, but it is deep. After leaving the bridge you will travel on the highway onwards to Kota Belud.

Kota Belud is a town located just one hour away from Tuaran. It is a quaint town, used to be called ‘cowboy town’ but it is now fast developing.

The development there can be seen through the construction of new buildings and the establishment of various enterprises. This township is well known for its ‘Tamu Besar’, an annual event that shows off the people’s culture and traditions. During this time, bedecked ponies with their equally colourful ride will take to the field and show off their equally colourful costume.

At that time, jungle and marine produce, as well as handicrafts and food, from all over the area will be displayed and sold in the tamu. Various other activities will be carried out, including sports and tele-match. If you want to taste local food and cakes, the tamu besar at Kota Belud is the best time and place to obtain them.

The Kadazandusun and Bajau is the predominant group in this area.

As you leave Kota Belud, you will notice that houses tend to be located at the roadside. At times the houses seem to near the road for comfort. You may have to be careful when you drive from Kota Belud township right up to the Timbang Menggaris area. This is because the cows there prefer sleeping on asphalt and goats and nannies seem to think that they have a licence plate on their rump.

The scene is beautiful though. This is an area where you can still see the yellowing paddy plants and scare-crow in the fields. As you drive on you will come to a junction where a row of stalls are selling groundnuts and its product. The groundnuts are really sumptuous. Take the left turn as this will take you to Kudat.

Kudat is about 190 kilometers north of Kota Kinabalu. On the west, it faces the South China Sea, and on the east the Sulu Sea.

The ethnic composition is mainly Rungus, a sub-group of the indigenous Kadazan. About 10 of the population is ethnic Chinese, and there are minorities of Bajau, Dusun, Murut, and Malay.

The town was founded by A H Everett of the British North Borneo Company on December 7 1881 to be the first capital of British North Borneo, due to its strategic geographic location.

However, after being repeatedly raided by Bajau, Sulu and Irranun pirates, the capital was shifted to the more secure port of Sandakan, on the east coast.

Since Kudat is the end of the drive, you may want to stay over as there are many interesting sights that you will enjoy in Kudat.

On Sept 8 and 9, the Coconut Festival was held there. There were several activities organised for the occasion.

Anyway, the tamu at Sikuati is one such attraction. This is where you will see various types of food being sold, hardware and many others. There are also sets of gongs for the taking. So check in to Kudat Marina Resort, which will accord you a beautiful sunrise or at Ria Hotel that offer you friendly services.

Among the various local attractions are the Rungus longhouses, gongmaking factory at Bavangazo, where traditional brass gongs and the Honey bee farm at Gombizau.

Or take a walk to Tanjung Simpang Mengayau and enjoy the sea breeze as well as the knowledge that you are at the Tip of Borneo. A fitting end to a driving tour up north.

Courtesy of: New Sabah Times 'In' Sites - Sabah Travel and Leisure Guide

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