07 July 2008

Travelling to The Northern Part of Sabah - Pitas & Kudat

What a week. It was a week with a lot of travelling. While we went to Paitan to visit what was supposedly our very last project there, we took the opportunity to do it ‘in our own way’. It was more like what they call ‘Cuti-cuti Malaysia’, but still we were very much on the job. Or so I thought. Pulling out of Sandakan at 10.30am, we headed off towards Paitan with a growing excitement. 

After dropping by to check out some project at place called Kg. Delamas, we took our late lunch at the most-visited restaurant in the whole Paitan, the Restoran Sri Paitan. Owned by a man in his middle-ageby the name of Ghapur (a one-time contractor himself), it was once famous for serving deer meat, but due to the restrictions from the Perhilitan department, he was obliged to stop it. “I don’t want to put myself at risk. They might put me in jail”, as he talked of it.

There had been no competitors so far so he seemed to dominate the food (and lately catering) business there in Paitan. No wonder then that he seemed to be doing well, obviously shown through the ongoing construction of some lodging rooms within the restaurant compound. Done with lunch, we drove off to another project, a concrete road, before heading north towards Pitas. 

We stopped briefly at Pitas township to buy whatever we thought would be necessary later in our journey (mostly food stuff though) before checking in at a place called Torong Soko Chalet. It was like my second time lodging there so we had no problem adjusting ourselves to the chalet conditions where everything was just so basic. We were at the floating restaurant for that evening’s tea break where I got the see one of the most beautiful sunsets I’d ever seen. It really caught my eyes that I couldn’t stop taking photos.
We stayed there to enjoy the sunset until it got too dark to stay around. After unloading our stuff at the chalet, we took some time to ‘clean up’ before returning to the floating restaurant for dinner. The food had been quite OK but our disappointment was on the stem fish – apparently not a fresh one. In fact there was a tinge of some foul smell in it, probably from being kept in the fridge for too long. Hmmm, no wonder then that one of us who had always been sensitive over smells had thrown up upon stuffing a spoonful of it in his mouth. Yuckss.

Wokey la, the night didn’t stop there. We kept it going by proceeding to the karaoke lounge room. It was more like a meeting room, but probably big enough to serve a banquet, only with a karaoke set placed at one corner, complete with PA system and sound equalizer. Hmmmm, not bad at all. But our complains were on the limited number of CDs with most of the songs were evergreen and unheard of. 

Thanks God we found one by Awie and I got to sing his high-pitched songs such as Di Penjara Janji and Nur Nilam Sari (Haven’t sung high-pitched songs for quite awhile). It was really fun that I had to remind myself over and over again that we were there on a job. Hehe. We were back at our rooms 15 minutes before midnight and while my roommate was eager to keep the night going by playing PS (he kept bringing it to any outstation trips with overnight stays), I fell asleep almost instantly upon landing on the mattress. Thanks to the air-cond.

2nd Day - July 1st, 2008

Ok la. Our second day had been even more eventful. We were supposed to do another project visit to Mangkasulap of Paitan via some access from Kota Marudu but the contractor could not be reached on the phone. So, while we kept trying to get him on the phone, we decided to wheel off to our next destination, the last place that would complete my touring all over Sabah – Kudat

Ok, while we were all excited to reach Kudat, or rather the famous Simpang Mengayau as the ultimate destination, we made our time to stop at the stalls known for selling roasted corns. Hmmmm, I had known Kota Marudu as a prolific producer of corns but I didn’t know the existence of these so-called roasted corns. As I was awed by it as something I had just discovered, I took the opportunity to take some photos. I had tasted boiled-up corns but never the roasted ones. And believe me; they tasted so good that we decided to buy some more of them on our way back later.
It took us about one hour to reach Kudat from Kota Marudu and it was nothing like what I had expected. I think I had expected a smaller town. Kudat was Sabah’s very first capital town before moving to Sandakan and later to Kota Kinabalu as it is now. It was a place dominated by a listless number of coconut trees.

In fact, they seemed to be everywhere. But at least they looked much better than those oil palm trees we’ve got back in Sandakan (ehh, somehow the coconut trees look more natural). After taking a brief tour around Kudat township (and of course the photo-shooting went on), we were obliged to wait for another group of colleagues to come up joining us (they only departed from Sandakan today).
Only then we paraded off towards what the trip was all about – Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, also known as The Tip of Borneo. As the name may describes it all, Tanjung Simpang Mengayau is situated on the furthest northern part of the whole island of Borneo.

I’m not quite sure of how it was really discovered, but it was only made famous like a few years ago, and had picked up its reputation as one of the latest tourism destinations in the country. Oh yeah, and it really is differently unique and probably more beautiful than any other coastal area that is found anywhere in the country.
Apart from the unique rocky expanse that dominates the tip part of Simpang Mengayau, some of the highlights should go to its beach side, where they’ve got the Kulambu Beach. Well, when we’re talking about white sandy beaches, Kulambu beach is just the place to go.
Oh yeah, I’ve always liked beaches. We swam until it was too dark to stay around before checking in at the Bay View Home Stay where we’d spend the night before returning to Kota Marudu on the next day.

The Bay View Home Stay – it was a bunch of bamboo chalet-huts where everything seemed to be designed in a way that fits in well with the nature. Despite its simplicity, everything was basically there – a toilet, a bathroom, a fan to keep the ventilation going, a pair of wooden beds, complete with mattresses and mosquitoes nets. So, what more could I ask for? I like the concept where everything seemed to be natural-looking. 

The roof was made of fabricated Nipah palm leaves and the walls and most of the floors of bamboo. Oh yeah, what a complete reminder of houses in the past. My family used to stay in a house with bamboo flooring when I was still a toddler. Used to prick through the holes, obviously aimed at unwanted visitors’ feet, despite being yelled at by mom every time I did it. Ha ha. Jajal kama.
So, Simpang Mengayau was even much colder at night. They supplied the electricity from a genset house, and they’d switch it off at two in the morning. But believe me; apart from the need of a torch to light up your way to the toilet at night, you won’t need a fan at all. It gets real windy and cold at night. Further down the hills from where the huts were built, there was another sandy section of the bay. But there were patches of rocks that made it quite unsuitable for swimming activities but probably good enough to inhabit the likes of mangrove crabs and cockles. So, they were our subjects of excitement. 

We went down to the beach at about 10pm but it was suddenly starting to rain when we reached there. Jeez. It could have been fun. Later when most of the trip ‘participants’ had gone back to their rooms, I continued the night by having some beer (my colleague Matt had earlier bought them at the café’), first with one of the janitors that guarded the place nightshift, and later joined in by Matt and another colleague.

I chose a place that was quite a distance off from the lodging houses (I didn’t want to alert the others over beer), the one that was nearby the gate. Somehow, in the windy and cold night of Simpang Mengayau, the beer had tasted sooo deliciously good. Hehe.
It had been especially worthy when I got to know a little more about the marvelous place, first-handedly told to me by the guard. The idea of setting up the lodging houses with home-stay concept had come from the head of a retired police officer. 

He, also a local there, was working in the Sandakan police department before retiring a few years ago. Well, taking into account that Simpang Mengayau was supposedly under the care of Tourism Department and probably owned (if not co-owned) by the State Government, I assumed that the man was operating the place on a land-renting basis. The guard told me that the owner had also come up with the idea of building up another house in the middle of the others, but taking after the design of a Rungus’ Long House. Well, I thought the idea was brilliant.

But there was something the guard told me that had both shocked and dismayed me. He said most of the areas along the beach of Kulambu had been sold by the locals to foreigners! Jeez. If what he told me was a fact, then that was (another?) a complete stupidity done by the locals. When foreigners own the places, they would most likely open them up for foreign investors to invest in developing the areas through big-scaled hotels and residential houses. 

The place would then lose its natural ambiances it is once known for and become another Port Dickson or conceptually, the Kundasang in Ranau where the locals who once owned the lands are now WORKING for the foreigners they had sold the lands to. Or probably the once famous Batu Sapi in Sandakan who has now become merely a piece of rock surrounded by floating disposals. What a waste it would be. Even the current over-exposure of Simpang Mengayau is beginning to worry me…


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