Monday, September 05, 2016

Mr and Mrs Romance: From Borneo with love – IG Edition goes to Sabah

It’s been a busy but spectacular past couple of weeks for us at Romance HQ. As you may have seen, we’ve been exploring the beautiful Malaysian state of Sabah in northern Borneo.

Because we’ve got so much to show you from our trip to the Land Below the Winds, we haven’t included the usual Travel Recap section in this week’s IG Edition.

So sit back and enjoy as we take you on a journey from populous city to green mangrove regions, from virgin rainforests to the pristine waters of the Celebes Sea.

We start our journey to Borneo – after a relatively easy flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah’s capital city – with a look round our hotel.

The Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu is perfectly located for exploring Kota Kinabalu – or KK as everyone calls it. Plus it’s got this beautiful rooftop pool and bar facing west.

The sunsets here at KK are known for their beauty and tonight looks like it’s going to make good on that promise!

Just across the street from our hotel is the waterfront markets. These are local markets selling mostly food – though there is a part of it that also sells locally made handicrafts too. Of course, we’re more interested in the food and the people it draws in.

I have no idea how this guy is basting the grill in this head, but it’s all for a good cause. Not only does it make the food taste amazing, it also brings the locals in for their dinner just after nightfall.

You can’t get much fresher than this. The waterfront market sells the fish it buys from fishermen that pull up out front to the kitchens further back in the market who then cook it all up. The fish here is amazing as are the (terrifyingly big) prawns.

We just wish we had longer here to really sink our teeth into the the place – literally and figuratively!

Today, we’re checking out how to make traditional batik art. There’s a programme run by College Yayasan Sabah to give local disenfranchised youth a chance to learn a trade that’s still in keeping with their customs but that will also give them business skills to survive.

These batiks are incredibly hard to make though these young artists make it look so easy. You start with a metal stylus of hot bee’s wax and draw in the lines of your design. You then use ink and water to colour in. The wax stops the colours from blending and the water creates amazing depth.

These students, who are studying under a local master craftsman, have 6 months to learn the trade. If they pass, they then go on to an ‘incubation period’ where they learn things like basic accounting, business management and marketing. They’re then kept on retainer for a further 6 months before passing the course with a recognised qualification.

It’s an amazing initiative and a rare glimpse of a government project working well for indigenous cultures. Visitors can come here and learn about batiks, try their hand at it and also buy some of the locally made handicrafts in the shop above.