Rabu, 03 Agustus 2011

Culture and Adventure

Enchanting moments in The Land Below The Wind come in the form of Nature while JOHN TIONG joins in Sabah Fest to soak in the cultures of the various ethnic groups

AS we blazed our way through north Sabah and Labuan, we were stunned by the breathtaking landscape, the flora and fauna, intriguing cultures and different peoples that made our trip a thrilling experience.

The cultural extravaganza and adventure tour themed Mansau Ansau 3 (or sojourn in Kadazan-Dusun language) was organised by Tourism Malaysia in conjunction with Sabah Fest (May 3-4) and the closing of the Water Festival in Labuan in May.

Sabah Fest offered a rare view of all the ethnic groups of the State and a chance to share their music, songs, dances, arts and crafts.

The trip also took us to remote parts like Sungai Klias at Kuala Penyu where we cruised along the river to look for the elusive proboscis monkey. We looked like wet monkeys ourselves! But the heavy drizzle did not dampen our moods.

At the Celyn Resort Kinabalu in Kundasang, we saw the morning sun light up the peak of Kinabalu. At the same time, the other side of the resort offered a soothing view of the serene valleys of the Crocker Range with farms and houses.

Celyn is a serene sanctuary near interesting tourist spots like the Kundasang War Memorial, Poring Hot Spring Park, Kundasang Butterfly Farm and Poring Canopy Walk.

We were also impressed with the Victorian image Lembah Impian Country Homes, particularly the interior of the two main buildings — The Chimneys and The Pillars.

These feature ornate rooms, luxurious suites, dining and seating halls with classic teak furniture and lots of artistic objects. The walls are tastefully decorated with paintings large and small, many of which are in golden frames. Flowers and serviettes are so tastefully arranged that one wonders whether one is walking in an English palace.

Lembah Impian Country Homes is away from the hustle and bustle of the city in Jalan Putatan-Ramayah, Penampang and only 20 minutes from Kota Kinabalu. Details, visit lembahimpian.com.my or call 088-766 117.

Sungai Klias, Kuala Penyu and Lok Kawi Zoo
Proboscis monkeys swung from branch to branch, occasionally peeking at us as we, in turn, scanned the trees for them. Spotting them was quite easy. There are a healthy number of the monkeys, a sign that conservation work is bearing fruit.

We were told there were crocodiles but perhaps due to increased traffic and noise, these reptiles had gone upriver. Like humans, crocodiles do not like noise and the intrusion into their habitat.

Sungai Klias is twice as wide as Sungai Klang, with coffee-black water and flanked on both sides by thick foliage and undergrowth. Some parts are dotted with budget hotels and restaurants. There is also a jetty with a fleet of motorboats for adventure trips.

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park
Those who miss the proboscis monkeys at Sungai Klias can always visit the newly-opened Lok Kawi Wildlife Park along the old Penampang-Papar Road route south of Kota Kinabalu.

The park even uses the monkey as its mascot. Above the entrance is a large, painting of the monkey with its signature pinkish snout.

In their enclosure, the monkeys looked more passive than in the wild. They looked as if they wished they were on the outside. Proboscis monkeys have a wise look, with long pink noses (younger ones have black noses) and almost yellow eyes.

An orang utan did a “Tarzan” swing on a rope suspended between poles in its back-to-nature home while two otters below glided and swam with their bodies bobbing up and down a moat.

A group of gibbons excited us with their single syllable “wok” for several minutes before swinging on a rope to a wooden structure, letting out more frenzied “woks”. They seemed to be responding to the sounds of monkeys from other enclosures. “Welcoming them,” I thought.

A medium-sized clouded leopard was so adorable that we spent almost 10 minutes admiring the spots and dashes on its skin as it slept on a crisscross of branches with its legs and paws dangling.

Some mynahs (burung tiong) had acquired simple English words and used them now and then, surprising tourists. Many visitors encouraged them with short greetings like “Hello”, “Assalamualaikum” and “Selamat Datang”.

One deer surprised us by walking towards the fence to be cuddled. We were sad to see the Sumatran rhinoceros and Malayan tigers looking quite bored. Perhaps with more visitors and children, and with some games, their moods would be lifted.

Children can enjoy elephant rides daily from 10.30am to 11.30am and from 3.30pm to 4.30pm. Borneo Pygmy elephants are an attraction here as are ostriches and sun bears.

The aviary was very impressive. One walked on a wooden walkway to view exotic birds such as egrets, hornbills and pigeons in their almost natural habitat with a stream and cascading water.

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park sprawls over 70 hectares of land and costs RM30 million to set up. It is very convenient to watch the animals as the zoo‘s 1.4km pedestrian walkway leads from one section to another with informative signposts.

Tickets cost RM10 for adults and RM5 for children while non-Malaysians pay RM20 and RM10 respectively. It‘s free for citizens aged 60 years and above and the handicapped.

For more information, contact the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park at 088-765710.

Cultural Extravaganza
For the launch of the Sabah Fest on May 4, the walkway leading to the Magellan Grand Ballroom of Sutera Harbour Resort in Kota Kinabalu was lined with dancers representing the many Sabahan ethnic groups.

There were Kadazan-Dusuns, Bajaus, Bruneians and Muruts, all in traditional costumes with beaded headgear, bracelets, beaded necklaces, sarongs, blowpipes, machetes and dance instruments. Every attempt was made to ensure authenticity.

Along the walkway, the various ethnic groups played their musical instruments. There was also a handicraft and textile exhibition cum sale corner where they exhibited their skills at embroidery, weaving and batik painting.

Sabah Fest is celebrated annually in May and coincides with the Tadau Kaamatan (harvest festival) that falls in the last week of the month.

The warm and riotous sounds of gongs, xylophones, angklong, drums, ethnic string and wind instruments fuelled the celebratory mood for launching by Sabah Governor Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah.

The highlight was a 1½-hour cultural performance in the ballroom where the best and rarest of the State‘s music and dance were showcased. The opening was a thunderous affair with 40 musicians playing drums of different shapes and sizes. They played with energy and smiles that charmed the audience.

The gambus, a musical instrument synonymous with Johor Malay music, was given great prominence and served as an eye-opener for music fans. In Sabah, the gambus is associated with the Bruneian community in the west coast between Sipitang and Kota Kinabalu, and predominates in Labuan Federal Territory. The 60-strong orchestra was led by Fauziah Suhaili, the winner of the 2006 Gambus Fest.

Ethnic Dances
The graceful Sumaranun Dance of the Iranun Bajau people of Kota Belud is reminiscent of a classical Chinese dance. The dance was accompanied by drums and traditional gongs such as the bebendir and kulintangan. The female dancers wore perahu-shaped brass headgear with beaded tassels that looked like ancient Chinese headgear.

The night also offered a rare glimpse into the Tamadak dance of the Bongi Dusun people of Banggi Island in Kudat. The rapid movements were performed in dimmed lighting to intensify its significance as a ritual dance to drive out evil spirits from the sick. The real dance is always performed at sundown and must end by sunrise.

The Mengiluk Dance of the Suluk people of Semporna (a kindred group of the Bajau) was very artistic and the women wore ornate, tiara-like headdresses and bright-coloured costumes. Like the Kelantanese mak yong, the dancers wore long “nails” and moved gracefully to catchy tunes usually performed during weddings and other festive occasions. It was one of the more uplifting performances.

The Kadazan-Dusun from the hills and valleys of Tambunan contributed Mongigol Tambunan, a sedate dance with modest movements of stretched hands and physiques.

The Muruts, dressed in headhunters‘ costume with pheasant feathers jutting out of their head gear, cheered up the night with their riveting Magunatip or bamboo dance as well as the more graceful Anggalang performed by the females. In the old days, these were performed after a headhunting expedition.

The evening ended with the audience going on stage to greet the performers and joining in to dance to folk tunes including the delightful Jambatan Tamparuli.

Labuan Water Village
Two striking features of the Patau Patau water village, south of Labuan Town, are the flower gardens and river top pavilion. Some entrances to houses are practically hidden behind pots of colourful flowering plants.

We wondered if the pavilion was used by courting couples as it would be such a romantic setting on a moonlit night, with a cool breeze and the sound of water below.

Patau Patau is one of two water villages in Labuan. The other, Kampung Bebuloh, is home of Labuan‘s sole representative in Akademi Fantasia, Norashikin (Ekin) Abdul Rahman.

One walks on planks to get to houses built on stilts over the water. There are over 100 households with a central mosque and a large grocery store! The villagers, mainly fishermen and government servants, have piped water and flush toilets. Most have television antennas on the roof and the richer households even have Astro dishes.

As we were leaving, we saw children splashing in the water and waving at us - a scene that made us grab our cameras to capture the delightful scene.

Source: www.nst.com.my (12 Juli 2007)