Sabah is located on the “horn of Borneo” spanning from Labuan in the west to Lahad Datu in the east and Tawau bordering Indonesian Kalimantan in the south. The huge state consists of similar landscape with its counterpart Sarawak, with Kinabatangan as the second longest river in Malaysia, which runs some 540 kilometers from its source to the tributary in the South China Sea. The population of Sabah is made up of several ethnics with the major one, like the Kadazans followed by the Bajaus, the Malays, Chinese and others. So many legends are told about the origin of this significant state which is known as “Negeri Dibawah Bayu” (under the breeze state). The location of the region spans from west to east right by the Sulu Sea not far from Sulu Island. No wonder many of the immigrants in this region especially the eastern coastal towns are the Filipinos who come from the Republic of the Philippines and the Indons who come from various places and islands of Indonesia.
Formerly Sabah was under the administration of the British which had ruled the region for years before the formation of Malaysia on 16th September 1963 and they agreed to be part of Malaysia (East Malaysia) in the north eastern part of Borneo Island. The region is ever rich with natural resources of logs and wood from the virgin rainforest jungles of the region and it is the only state in East Malaysia that has a railway line serving both for passengers and goods. The trains operated by the North Borneo Railways (NBR) take people around to various stations from Tenom, Beaufort, Papar, Putatan and Tanjung Aru. The railway lines also go to the harbors especially in Kota Kinabalu to export logs and other forest products like sized wood and planks to other countries oversea like China, Korea and Japan.
The main ethnic group in Sabah is the Kadazans who mix around in the community together with the Bajaus, Malays, Chinese and other minor groups that become the race composition of the region. Each of the ethnic groups has its own tradition and culture that makes Sabah as one of the multiracial state which is rich in beliefs and faiths in this country. The Kadazan is the major ethnic of Sabah; mostly they are Christians or animisms living without concrete belief. A small portion of the Kadazans embraced Islam and live the life of the Muslims same as their neighbors the Malays and other ethnics living in vast the region. The Bajaus are considered unique among the ethnics because they have at least three tribes living in three different places of the land. The communities of Bajau Laut live in houses and homes they built on stilts in the shallow sea along the shores of Lahad Datu and Kudat in northern Sabah and their activity of life is the sea around them. Dialect for example the Bajaus that has three different groups namely are not the same so as their activities of daily live. While the tribe of Bajau Bukit mainly inhabit the hilly and mountainous part of Sabah and they are famous for rearing as well as experts riding horses and ponies. They are rebellious and brave people who always wear wardrobes of fighters in their ordinary live and whenever they attend festive ceremonies. Another tribe of this ethnic is the people of Bajau Sama who live and mix together with the people of other ethnics in the towns and the suburbs like what we can see in Tuaran now. All these tribes of the Bajau practice their own traditions and cultures respectively.
Sabah is also the home of orang utans, a species of beautiful and unique orange apes of Borneo. In early 1960s a rehabilitation center for the orphanage young orang utans was set up in Sepilok near Sandakan. Until now we can see how the workers nurse and take care of the young orang utans before they are release back into the forests to live with their counterparts.
Mount Kinabalu in Sabah that stands some 4095 meters or 13,435 feet tall above the sea level becomes the highest peak on the island of Borneo and in Malaysia. The huge mountain could be seen clearly from far away silhouettes in the dense white and grey clouds almost the day round except for a couple of hours in the morning. When people travel along the winding roads ascending the slopes of the foothills they are actually moving by the left side of the huge mountain that starts in half an hour after leaving the towns of Tuaran, Pekan Nabalu and Kundasang. There are so many myths and legends concerning Mount Kinabalu, some said that there is a dragon guarding the paths to the summit of the highest mountain on the Borneo Island but so far no one has come out to proof the existence of the creature. Hundreds of people have been climbing or hiking up and down the slopes of the mountain to the summit for decades but no one has claimed to meet one. Mount Kinabalu and the jungles in Sabah are also known as the homes of the world’s biggest flower, the Rafflesia.
The best spot to witness the gorgeous shapes of Mount Kinabalu right to its peak is the huge plain of Sabah Dairy Farm which is located not far from Kundasang, the cool developing town of flowers, fruits and vegetables. Here, on one side of the mount’s foothills hundreds of Frisian cattle are seen grazing the green pastures silhouetted with dew in the padlocks. They are reared for their milk and the dairy products. Sabah Dairy has successfully fulfilled a portion of the country’s milk demand by supplying the products to the markets and also to the RMT scheme of the Ministry of Education Program. Ahead from the Sabah Dairy cattle farm in Kundasang we shall meet the town of Ranau, which connects by road to Sandakan the coastal town more than 200 km away to the east. Travelling by road to the town that lies by the Sulu Sea would be tiring unless one travels in comfortable transports like the MPV or Hilux.
The major towns in Sabah are located quite far away from each other because of the settlements of the ethnics that make up the region’s population. Travelling from the capital city Kota Kinabalu to Keningau south of it would take two and a half hours by land roads while from Tuaran to Beaufort would take at least three hours to reach the destinations. The Sabahans and the outsiders who are going to Semporna and Tawau would have to take domestic flights from the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, the same thing they have to do when they want to travel to Kudat or Lahad Datu in east coast of the region.
Now the federal government of Putrajaya and the regional administration of Sabah work hard to develop many hectares of the region by opening huge estates and plantations for the cultivation of oil palm. This has to be done due to the high commercial demand for palm oil and its products in the country and around the world too. Malaysia has been known worldwide as one of the main producers of crude palm oil and exports it in vessels and tankers all around the world.
After Malaya sought independence from the British in a historical proclamation on 31st August 1957 it had changed its name to Malaysia on 16th September 1963 to commemorate the unity and tolerant among the major ethnics of the population the Malays, Chinese and the Indians ruling the country together. The sovereignty of Malaysia has been fortified with the joining back of Singapore that was once has been part of the Malay Peninsula, and the two large regions of north Borneo; Sabah and Sarawak. As we all know especially the earlier generation that Malaysia consists of 11 states in the peninsula and 2 two enormous regions from north eastern island of Borneo. The two regions, Sabah and Sarawak are called as East Malaysia. Singapore had however withdrawn its participation from being part of Malaysia in 1965.
However Brunei Darussalam the small country located north of Borneo Island in between the two regions has chosen not to join Malaysia and rules by herself. The Sultan continues to rule the country in such an absolute monarchy system which is more or less similar to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and some other countries of the world. The sultan and his immediate relatives choose to rule and govern the tiny country by themselves according to the laws and order based on the principles of democracy and the concept of Islamic syariet. The Sultan and his family members as well as the rest of the rulers and administrative personnel of Brunei are mostly educated and trained oversea especially in Britain and the rich government has properties around the world including in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America. Until now the government of Brunei Darussalam keeps on sending its best and qualified students to learn in the universities and colleges oversea to get their degrees in various fields before they return home and serve the country.
Sarawak is a large region stretching from northwest to northern eastern Borneo, ranging from the west basking the southern tip of South China Sea and ends up south of the Sulu Sea bordering the Kingdom Brunei Darussalam and bordering Sabah in the east. Sarawak famously known as “Bum Kenya Lang” (The Land of The Hornbill) is a region that is rich in flora and fauna. The species becomes the landmarks or identity of the unique state. It has seven huge provinces which take hours to travel or pass through from one division to another. It also has variation of cultures and life styles of the multiple ethnics of the people. On map, Sarawak almost encircles Brunei the small kingdom which is really rich and abundant in the quantity of petroleum and gas offshore. Miri and Limbang become the border towns and gateways for the Bruneians to go shopping, exploring the dense forests and carrying out their breakaway engagements into East Malaysia. Sarawak itself comprises of seven divisions which take several hours passing through each of the provinces from west to east. It borders the territory of Kalimantan (Indonesia) in the west at Sariken and Pontianak the two small towns for shopping spree and also as the international checkpoints as well as gateways for the two neighboring countries.
Batang Rejang or Rejang River, which starts in the Iran range of mountains in central Borneo, has been accepted as the longest river in Sarawak and also in Malaysia. It glides windingly more than 560 kilometers northwest of Sarawak through the settlements and cultivation plains of the main tribe the Iban and other minor tribes which form the major population of the state. Besides the main ethnic group the Ibans other smaller groups like the Melanaus, Muruts, Dusuns, Pangans, Malays, Chinese and the others become the important composition of races and the multi-ethnic as well as the tradition of Sarawak. Together with other smaller and shorter rivers in Sarawak they become famous for their waterways and the legends of man-eating crocodiles from time to time even in this modern era. The main transportation system for the Sarawakians in the rural and remote areas travel from one place to another is the small aircraft operated by Maswing. These small airplanes become important for them as transport and also bring out their goods to be sold to the people in the towns.
Mulu Cave located in Gunung Mulu National Park has the largest among the caves in the state and has been proclaimed as the World Heritage in 1974 by UNESCO. It comprises the site of more than 55 thousand hectares of mountains, rainforests, natural formations and ecology systems. The Mulu Cave is so huge and large that it is said and written in articles that a Boeing airplane could fly through and land in it.
Kuching, the state capital has been appropriately chosen as the center of administration and development as it has several facilities like an international airport, harbor and excellent roads which link it to the other main towns of Sarawak from Serian in the west to Limbang right in the east bordering Sabah and the country Brunei Darussalam. If anyone ever visits Kuching one will notice that the city will make us think of Venice the famous water city in Italy, as it has a river flowing in between the buildings as the main waterway and transportation. Now the strategic river flows and curves its banks into the tall buildings of hotels, offices, banks, condominiums and other important buildings of the city. The famous Kuching Waterfront close to the shopping centers is always well equipped from time to time with food courts, a cultural centre, a tourist information centre and a sight-seeing platform for those who want to have a look at the picturesque city.
Before the construction of bridges across the river the people in this city travel from one river bank to the other opposite side of the bank by sampan or small boats with wooden paddles in order to get to the coffee shops, shopping malls, waterfronts and market or anywhere else they need to go in the city. Now they still travel in the same small boats but with engines that propel them and the passengers along. Kuching is a fast growing up and going to be a fully developed city in the future as it is the center of cultural and international meeting point. The city also has many interesting offers for the locals as well as the foreign tourists like the border shopping spot in Sariken, the gold mining town of Bau, seafood stalls in Semantan, the resort and cultural center of Santubong and the water recreational town of Lundu. Besides that the city receives assistance in form of infrastructures and equipment from the satellite suburban like Padawan, Kota Samarahan, Batu Lintang and Matang.
In Kuching we can meet almost all the ethics of people from various natives and tribes mixing around together in markets, shopping centers, national gatherings, galleries and even in the stadium during the football matches and athletic tournaments. Sarawak has a good football team that consists of local players as well as a few imported international players who come far from countries around the world. We can also witness the mixture of people from all over Sarawak in shops, restaurants, food courts, hospitals, shopping complexes, in housing estates and along the famous waterfront of Kuching. The famous homemade “Kek Lapis” of Sarawak is just on the other side of river bank at Gersik.
The Ibans, Muruts, Melanaus, Dusuns and others from the remote areas of the state live harmoniously and comfortably with their counterparts the Malays and the Chinese the two major races who utilize the city and the suburban. As for their religion and belief practice the ethnics members recognize and go to their own buildings like the masjids, the church, chapels, and the temples to worship their own God and belief respectively. In the capital city of Kuching, there is a couple of huge masjids, the place of worship and ritual centers for the Muslims. One is in the center of the city itself, Masjid Besar Kuching which is not far from the end of the waterfront. The other one is in Petra Jaya on the other side of the main river. The Christians also go the churches and chapels which are available in many places around the city.
After Malaysia sought “merdeka” or the proclamation of independence many Malaysians especially from the peninsular move and work in Brunei Darussalaam to earn their living there as it is a wealthy country which is gifted with petroleum and its products. The Sultan as the head of the country and his descendants rule the little country together with the group of administrative officers and advisers in an absolute monarchy system. Since the establishment of the country the government focuses on the welfare, charity and comfortable life of its people as the main priority. Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city of the rich nation is equipped almost with all the facilities needed by the people like the of administration buildings, masjids for ritual activities, shopping centers and complexes, commercial banks, hotels and others. The unique sight of this city is the presence of a few settlements of Kampong Ayer which have become the trademark or the landmark of the beautiful city. Now these traditional villages on water around Bandar Seri Begawan have been transformed into modern recreational parks and moved into better housing settlements utilizing them with up to date facility available around the city. Most of Kampong Ayer of the city had been gazette as the spots of tourist attraction too.
The decent and prosperous live of the Bruneians have attracted many foreigners to migrate to the country especially the Malays from Sabah and Sarawak and also from the states in the Peninsular Malaysia. They either come to Brunei to work as laborers, traders or doing business in the country. Some people come to stay and work or they even got married to the local folks and stayed permanently in the country. The Malays from Malaysia are easy marrying the Bruneian women because the come from the same main group and sect of people that is the Malay. The Bruneians also embrace the similar faith and belief too (Islam) like most of the Malays people of the archipelago.
The people of Brunei Darussalaam also need to go to Sabah and Sarawak badly for them to fulfill their needs and living as the two neighboring regions using the lower rates of currency from them. They could get more quantity of goods and products at lower prices in the towns of those two regions of East Malaysia compared to those in Brunei itself. Normally they enter East Malaysia through the gate ways at Miri, Limbang or Labuan which are nearer to the rich country. The Bruneians use to go and shop at the bordering towns of Limbang and Miri by roads while they go Labuan by sea in several ferries or speedboats serving at the jetty of the oil petroleum refinery island off the shore of Muara, a developing industrial town north of Seri Begawan.
Besides the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan several other towns like Jerudong, Keriong and Muara are keeping pace in it in growth development of municipal and industrial projects. More modern shopping complexes and malls with modern facilities are built in Jerudong. The second largest masjid, Masjid Jamek Sultan Sir Hasanal Bolkiah has been built in Keriong. Brunei cement factory and other manufacturing factories are built in a vast plot of land or the Industrial Park near the beach of Muara.
Now the government of Brunei Darussalaam is putting on an effort developing its own factories to manufacture products which might reduce the cost of living and the price of products for its own people. Eventhough at the same time the monarchy govenrment is giving away a few hundred dollars of the currency to each of the pentioners of the goverments servants and the poor people of the country. The Bruneians are enjoying the conducive live from the benefit of the wealth and prosperous life given to the and they are sharing happily together with their ruler, the royal family.