Monday, January 30, 2017

Magic Kervan: Sabah – pirates and unprecedented good deeds in a distant part of Borneo


We are back at our favorite Malaysian State Sarawak, but this time for a short period. We stop to eat at the last town of the state – Lawas. The atmosphere is more Muslim than the other towns we passed through. The people from the off-road team treat us to lunch at a very nice restaurant in otherwise not so interesting small town Lawas.

The Malaysian part of Borneo consists of two states – the huge Sarawak and the so called North Borneo, Sabah State.

The two states have had a different history before joining the Malaysian Federation in the sixties, when Brunei was also invited, but the sultan refused. The demography of the states is quite different – they are inhabited by different ethnic groups with various cultures. It is as if the states are two separate countries and the impression is fortified by the border check-point between them where one’s passport is even stamped.

Regarding Sarawak it is still our favorite place in Malaysia though it is in fact very different from the other parts of the country. For us these are the lands of Iban people, crazy tattooed guys, Christians, rich Chinese and thick jungles.

Sabah is more developed and populated than Sarawak and Brunei. On the road villages come one after the other, there are many crop fields, palm plantations and buildings… The scenery resembles much the east coast of West Malaysia. In almost every village there is a branch of the Sabah Catholic Church. The main ethnicity is Kadazan Dusun and like the Borneo Dayak people they love tattoos, drink rice wine, are mainly Christians and used to behead their enemies.

In several hours we reach the capital of the state – Kota Kinabalu, undoubtedly the biggest and most developed city in Borneo. There are many Filipino immigrants who come from the nearby islands. We visit the big central market situated at the coast.

At 9 p.m. Ana comes to take us with her car and this event marks the beginning of a really crazy week in Kota Kinabalu. We go to have dinner at a luxury restaurant and Ana proposes us to sleep at her place instead of the beach.

Ana is a Brunei Malaysian, 26 years old, driving like some mad racer, doesn’t wear a veil, puts on short pants and has an ultra rich boyfriend. This is somewhat shocking having in mind that her grandfather is imam at the mosque.

We eat rice and curries (ironically two times more expensive than at the market in Brunei) and head to an Internet cafe to look up for a map in order to find a place to sleep. At the club we speak to our Pakistani friend Hassan who connect us with a local girl with a couchsurfing.org profile and we set a meeting with her in the evening.

Late at night we go to her place. Her house is in the Malaysian village Kampung located in the outskirts. Most of the houses in the village belong to Ana’s relatives. Her house itself is huge. In it live Ana, her four sisters and brother (some of them are even married and have children) and her mother. Ana accommodates us at her room and she goes to sleep at her sister’s room.

In the next few days Ana amazes us with her hospitality. Every day she treats us and refuses viciously us to pay any bill. Breakfast, lunch and evening we change all kinds of venues: local eateries, luxury restaurants, posh bars. Ana makes us feel like we are some royal guests every minute of the day. She gives us her laptop and buys us many souvenirs. Every single day she asks us if we need our clothes being washed or require anything else.

We go out every morning and visit every single landmark in KK (Kota Kinabalu) – the state mosque, the Sunday market, the beaches Tanjung Aru, the hill Kokol from where one can see the whole city, the festival dwelling Kadazan…

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