By Faadzillah Raheemah SafriKota Belud
, the name evokes a macho male dominated culture of the Bajau
, an ethnic of Sabah. I was accompanying my uncle on a research trip on discovering the influences of the Brunei Empire around Borneo but found something else.
The trip to Kota Belud can be done on hired car, bus (at random time that only goes when it is full) or even a shared taxi. Prices are negotiable at times and transports go as early as 4am.
Just mind your persons and stuff. The trip takes pone at a range of two or more hours, depending on the driver. If you are driving, beware of police spot checks. Even so, there are many backpackers staying over night at the Kota Belud town in small hotels just for a night or two. Do wear good shoes as it can be muddy and damp at times.
The Pekan of Kota Belud is just as interesting as any sleepy old town but the difference is that it is more lively and with an added zest of personality. The Kota Belud got its name from the surrounding hills that are referred to as Belud in the local language. In that context there was a fort built in relation with the hills and mound that it became the fort of mounds or small hills.
The town of Kota Belud holds its market every Sunday with the Tamu Basar
(main market event), which is held once every year in October or November. The market itself is not only a convenient store but is a shop for all.
Both luxurious and daily household items are on sale. Then there is also the mystical pottery, medicines and so forth. These comes from as far as China and Korea and as near as cottage products of the surrounding villages.
Local products as well as sundry goods are also another feature. The one most interesting thing with the market is the quality and prices of the items on sale are very cheap. How do they make an earning?
The common folks said that the items are bought in extremely large quantity thus the prices can be a lot cheaper than the open market prices.
The handicrafts items are also another thing that impresses any bystander or shopper. They look like things imported from Bali and so forth but were actually copies made by the local craftsmen.
The local craftsmen of Bajau, Rungus, Kadazan and others of Sabah are also handicraft churning factory. Magnificent and mind boggling in some cases, especially in the leaf plaited items.
There is this one type of basket that is a product of the Sabahan. When you pour water in it, it will not leak out at all, to my amazement. The colours are also interesting as most use the natural dyes that are abundant, around and free from any cost apart from the efforts of picking and gathering them.
The local folks are also humorous, welcoming and friendly. They were shocked to see my European looking uncle speaking Malay. But still the folks are merry.
The majority of vendors are above 40 years of age. This is a good sign, as they know the products of their trade. The folks spoke about the items they sell fluently, how to use it, what quality it has, how to handle it and the likes. No one is lost in translation, regardless of them not being able to speak English.
The skill of these folks also shows another side, recycling and environmentally friendly, the majority of the vendors sell their items on large yam leaves.
At the same time, stockpiles of the yam leaves are used for wrapping various foods that are sold. How is it environmentally friendly? It's not made from wood (as paper) so a factory is not required to pollute the Earth and the yam leaves are biodegradable. Plus the trimming of the plants encourages the yam to grow healthy.
The vendor that sells the local 'kuih' is the heart of the Kota Belud Market.
The expression while cooking and the skill while making are reflected on the faces of these folks. The food is of course clean and delicious. Eaten still hot with local coffee of Sabah, it's a kick to a drowsy head.
The Sabah government has built stalls that look like a foyer for the vendors to rest, display and gossip over a thick smoke of tobacco.
It is also meant to be durable and weather friendly. The structure is so sturdy that folks can rest and relax at the open-air structure.
After all that walking around, one should stop at the open café inside the main market complex. They serve food for the daring to the muted flavours.
Enjoy the noise as you can pick 10 different dialects that represent the harmony that Sabahan lives on.
So the next time you are around, try Kota Belud.
It is not what you expect that counts, it's what you would experience.Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend