Wednesday, 13 March 2013

mount kinabalu...we're on our way to meet you...


We've really enjoyed our short stint in Tamparuli. The rain has stopped and the sun comes out again. It's bright and sunny. Hope afterwards the weather symphatise with us. According to Dr. Sab, normally after 10am and 4-5pm, clouds are unruly and we won't have the chance of a glimpse on the beauty of Mount Kinabalu's peak. 

From Tamparuli we headed towards the main road to Kundasang. Passing the roundabout of Tamparuli-Tuaran, we turned right and off we go for another journey. I knew it's going to be a great day onwards. This road is quite busy. This is the only access corridor to the eastern parts of Sabah. If you're heading towards Sandakan, the second biggest town in Sabah, or Tawau, Samporna etc. you can't skip this beautiful scenic drive on the eastern parts of Crocker Range

Actually, if my guess is right, Crocker Range is the backbone of Borneo island. It encompases areas in Sabah, Sarawak, part of Brunei and Kalimantan, Indonesia. It's equivalent to the Main Range (Banjaran Titiwangsa) in Peninsular Malaysia.

Today Dr. Sab is my tour guide. The Myvi, although it's only 1300cc, it seems enjoys the ride too. Dr. Sab is very kind to this car. Never on any instance, he troubles this cute little car. Everything is in perfect condition, the weather is fine, it's getting cooler as we started climbing. I noticed whenever on a steep gradient, the road is bigger with two lanes for overtaking. 

The road planner has done a thorough study on this kind of terrain. Since heavy vehicles like trucks, lorries, coaches, buses frequently commuting on this road, having the overtaking lanes will ease the traffic flow.

I wind down the window screen. Everything outside is full of green, interspersed with varying colours of rooftops and walls of houses together with flowers in the courtyards. Stunningly beautiful. As usual I took out my very faithful friend, a Nikon camera for some lens opening. Without fail, it's hungrily clicking tirelessly and asking for more as if very much enjoying the whole scene. How much shutter count has been used I really can't tell.

As usual, after rain stops, nature is back to normal. Trees are dancing, birds are singing, everything is so fresh and life began again. I don't want to disturb Dr. Sab, let him do all the manouvering, cornering, negotiating corners and bends and makes him at ease pampering the cute little Myvi. There's no sign of fatique for both of them.

When I spotted these ducks, I can't resist not to capture few shots. This really brings back all the nostalgic childhood memories when I was staying at kampung in a remote interior in Kelantan

My kampung has no electricity, no water supply and other amenities available at that point of time. People was relying on kerosene lamps and underground water source. But life was beautiful then. We reared ducks and chickens as food source while buffaloes and cows as partners in the padi fields. All the animals in my house compounds were very close to me. Before leaving for school in the morning, they came running at my feet asking for breakfast and in the evening before their bedtime, I fed them with cereals. 

Whenever we're going for a family feast, one or two of my "friends" will have to sacrifice their life. The closeness of ties and bonding with my  "friends" make me very angry with my family members whenever this thing happen. I don't have that kind of strong will to see my friends sacrificing life on the expense of the feast. Well, that's life after all. Sacrifices are part and parcel of what we call "life". 

Dr. Sab suddenly pulls to a roadside table. Now I remember we never had any drinks at Tamparuli. The last  time we wet our throats were while having our lunch at Jetty point in KK. That was few hours back. While he's happily gulping the mineral water, I was busy taking photographs. After all you can't get the same scene again, with all the natures beauty right in front of your eyes. How can I miss all these wonderful creatures that's waiting for my lenses.

Actually we are no difference with animal. All are God's creations come with brain, sexual desire, sight, sound with the exceptions of emotion. Man is the animal of emotion, that's what the speciality of man is. Sometimes in actual life animal is much and far away better than man. Life discontentment happens everywhere, everyday regardless of who and where you are on this planet. 

Crime is borderless, it goes hand in hand with today's high tech. borderless world. Cases of abandoned sinful babies, adultery among family members, human and child trafficking and all sorts of human illness and unimaginable sicknesses are the norm of today's civilisation. How uncivilised actually we are comparing to other God's creations. If it's happening in animal kingdom that's acceptable because emotion is not in their dictionary. How virtual it is, we cannot escape reality world.

Dr. Sab is on his cell phone talking to somebody. I just ignored his conversation. In life, mind your own business is the right thing to do unless he's in need of help then you can lend a helping hand. Otherwise don't disturb or cross into others boundary. Dr. Sab gave a signal for us to continue with our journey. 

I don't have many friends. The one that I have are normally close to me and Dr. Sab is one of them. Although he's almost 10 years younger, we seem to fit well in our friendship. In life age is not a determining factor of closeness. Sometimes good friends understand you better compare to your love ones or family members. People clique well due to mutual interest in food, dressing, hobbies etc. Our interest in painting or anything in creative pursuits actually bind us together. All along in my life I don't know what a brother's love is.

My sister and me is 10 years difference in age. I can't lodge any complaint on anything to my sister due to age differences and we're not mutually "elastic" due to gender problem. During semester break when I was studying in the University, I seldom go back home but rather spending time with friends doing some part time business. My parents were sporting, they just let me roaming free as long as I know how to take care of myself, don't get involve in unlawful activities like do drugging , stealing, fighting and so forth.

How long can a butterfly survives? Perhaps may be weeks or few months. Why am I asking this question? A butterfly is million times worth than unfaithful man. How much benefit being contributed by a butterfly in its short lifetime? Willing to face and go through all the obstacles and challenges and sometimes risking own life in carrying out the mission  without asking any perks in return. Carrying out the duty sincerely, and taking the responsibility as an "amanah" instead of a burden, then that's where the enjoyment of working comes in. 

Hopping from one flower to another doing pollination, rain or shine without fail. Bees will follow up for the nectar which later on benefit man. Man lives on others hard works and sufferings. What's the point of living for 60-70 years but living a life of evil. Just close the eyes and give a deep thought, imagine why can't we be like those insects. Any God's creations must be for a reason. 

Dr. Sab slowing down and signal to the left. I saw lots of cars, buses, coaches parked along the roadside. Dr. Sab confidently squeezing through spaces in between vehicles looking for a parking space. Luckily Myvi is a small car, we're able to find a space for a breather. Dr. Sab told me that it's better to have a rest for a while in order to cool down the temperature of the car since we are  going to climb all along afterwards. 

This is a stop over town. Busy with tourist either from Sandakan, Ranau or Kundasang to KK and vice versa. What does this place has to offer? According to Dr. Sab this is one of few stop over or something like R&R accomodating tourist along this route. There are many things that contribute to the popularity of this place. The beautiful nature, the weather, wonderful people and a shopping haven for local merchandise, souvenirs, food and plenty of other kampung produce. It's no wonder why Dr. Sab brought me here. The Local Authority has done an excellent job in providing space and creating an environment that entices tourist and locals alike.

This is Nabalu. Sabah is famous for Pasar Tamu, something like 
Sunday Market, and Nabalu is one of them. The weather is a compliment, people can spend time hours and hours while doing shopping and enjoying the majestic Mount Kinabalu

For nature lovers, you can spend as much time without getting bored of the amazing bio diversity of the tropical rainforest. This is a Flea market equivalent to other places like Chattuchark in Bangkok, Mont Marte in Paris, of course on smaller scale comparatively but the activity is very much similar. A town needs this kind of catalyst in order to grow flourishly in business.

From town planning point of view, I regard this as a RGC (Rural Growth Centre). Lately the Prime Minister is announcing the RTC (Rural Transformation Centre). To me RGC, RTC or whatever name, is nothing much different, it's some kind like a same body with a new dress. Every town or kampung has its own uniqueness. 

The government nowadays is actively promoting the concept of "one kampung one product" to exemplify the local identity. As for Nabalu itself is tailor made as a tourist product. We can notice there's a few rows of shophouses, mostly turn into storage with the exception of few shops as Restaurants and Grocery Shops. The most active are bazaars with hundreds of stalls selling everything from food, kampung/jungle produce to souvenir items. Additional facilities are a 15 metre Look Out Tower, a satisfactory clean toilets, flower garden and a viewing deck facing Mount Kinabalu. What's lacking here to my observation are the Petrol Station, stand alone fast food outlet to cater for tourist. 

The layout of this township to me is not that user friendly. It might be better if structuredly plan in such a way to benefit the tourist and make more spaces for pedestrian, landscape garden showcasing the highland plants natives of the area, more colourful with water features. Instead of allowing cars coming inside it's rather beneficial to take advantage of the cool weather by turning the area into an interactive centre courtyard. The frontage will be better and less chaotic if provision of proper parking is look into. As in the traditional Malaysian town, a far sighted planning in business premise along busy road is not a due concerns by many and resulting in a natural piecemeal and adhoc kind of growth.

Chattuchark is hot with high humidity while Mont Marte is reversed with a temperate kind of weather allows people to freely enjoying, relaxing or having a tour with comfort. Nabalu can be one of this due to its cool and fresh air all day. If to compare with any towns in the lowland areas, with high humidity, dusty and hot weather where people refuse to get out of the car, hence lots of landscaping initiative is a must. 

It's a kind of an effort to act as a method of toning down the noise decibals, dust screens as well as  providing shades, breeze and balance of the thermal effect contributing by glass and concrete jungles. It's a reverse scenario here where people are eagerly to get out of the car, to feel the freshness of the air while enjoying the green lushness and  the surrounding wonderful nature. 

As a "thinking" designer we must fully utilise the gift of nature. The concept of planning and building design may have to highly differ in character, form and functions. This can be a showcase of an iconic vernacular architecture resembling the local culture and traditional values. With this cool weather and serene environment it ought to be more sustainable, environmental friendly. Buildings should allow for lots of opening on natural ventilation, lighting, with lots of corridors and balconies for the connection between man and nature. A concept of building in landscape and landscape in building. 

Gone are all the unsightly views of air conditioning compressors, while at the same time lowering down the cfc's effects. This can be a wonderful setting if plan nicely taking into account on the varied speciality this place can offer. I remember Mont Marte back in 90's, was a place enticing me with the cool and friendly atmosphere especially street artists that really creating wonderful memories for me as a tourist.

The so called souvenir bazaar is made of forest products available locally. The roof is made up of attap from sago tree, the wall from bamboo while the floor and dispaly racks are made of local timber. Very rustic in looks but to me it comprehends the local atmosphere. It seems sustainability exists long time ago. 

While enjoying the bazaar tour, I purposely stop and have a chat with a stall operator, he told me that, all operators  at this premise are all locals of multi ethnicity, and  majority is of Kadazan decendant. There's one old lady, very neat in kebaya and sarong, and a basket full of fruits jokingly asking me RM5 for a photo shoot. She's willing to pose but of course not for free. 

Come to think of it, I think this lady is a creative lot, earning money as a professional model in her own way. Well, I salute her courage, determination and visions. This is also can be a unique tourist product. Earning a living professionally, in whatever way, rather than begging, is actually commands respect from others.

It's so many choices available, from t-shirts to local crafts, hand made beads and traditional musical instruments and the list goes on. If you're good in bargaining , this place is yours. I find all the traders here are friendly. They never disturb the customers but rather ever willing to help explaining on their merchandise. It's a far different scenario compared to  big cities where you are sometimes fed up on the tactics of alluring customers, make you feel uneasy and sometimes become a nuisance. Not only they are aggressive but rather rude.

I love this cute little bike. It's hardly found nowadays, still in good running condition despite the age. It's well kept and I think the owner must have treasured this more than the wife. It belongs to the one of stall operator who's helping his mother selling souvenir items. He's the one who keeps the toilet clean. For 50 cents it's worth a penny.

While busy snapping photos, I saw Dr. Sab rushing to the toilet, must be for the call of nature I guess. He must have been unable to contain anymore after two bottles of mineral water just now. It's getting colder as time approaching evening . That could be one of the reasons why Dr. Sab is  "attacking" the toilet. 

I love the whole scenario. All were busy with their own chores. I proceed to the backyard garden. I guess the soil is fertile looking at the flowers healthily grown with full bloom. Crowds of tourist happily snapping photos  with Mount Kinabalu as the backdrop. I can't resist to record one. Who can help me? Dr. Sab is still in his own fantasy wonderland at the restroom. 

The clouds are starting to move slowly towards the peak. I'm afraid I can't have this moment for myself. Normally, according to the motorbike owner, the clouds will have no mercy on the photographers especially after 4-5pm. I saw the swirling clouds started invading every corner of Mount Kinabalu mercilessly.

Dr. Sab please, where are you? I saw a group of tourist started to leave the board walk after a plentiful of photo shoots, now it's the best time for me to rush in . Luckily I saw Dr. Sab with full of smile approaching me. I gave him the camera and started looking for best angle to have a phenomemal view of Mount Kinabalu

Thank God I still can catch a nice glimpse of the peak although not in full. If not for Dr. Sab's call of nature I can have a much better frame. It's alright, thank you Dr. Sab. His "attacks" on the restroom was more crucial than my photo session. People infected with kidney stone is normally due to attitudes of not making the restroom as an essential place of de-toxicating. Dr. Sab, as usual with his casual manner, talking to a lady selling forest product. Never in my life I saw a Red Durian.

Normal flesh of highly sought after breeds like D24 is golden yellow, very fleshy with a tiny seed. I never fancy durian because I'm not one of those durian hunters. I don't take durian for some reasons. Dr. Sab was weighing with his right hand a kind of funny fruit alien to me, smells like jack fruit but smaller in size with short and soft thorns. Dr. Sab gave a try, it's sweet and husky. That's a Tarap fruit, very popular in Borneo Island. I dare not give a try because I'm afraid of stomach sickness. Nabalu, a small town with a difference. (to be continued...)



Friday, 8 March 2013

keningau............................part 2

It's 4pm. DO suggested we shift venue to Perkasa Hotel, a few minutes drive from where we are now. I remember that this was the place where we had our dinner hosted by SLDB (Sabah Land Development Board) while on the bio diesel project way back in 2007. This hotel belongs to the State Government. The one in Kundasang is also under the same management. The design of the hotel is a copycat, may be as a trademark to their chains. SLDB's core business is Palm Oil plantation. The only State Agency that has a large acreage of Palm Oil in the state. This hotel is one of the two biggest and most popular among travellers to Keningau besides Hotel Juta in the CBD.

When we reached the hotel, Rosli, Asmawas's friend is waiting for us at the lobby. Rosli is the one who recommended the Dukun for us. According to him, the Dukun is still in Penampang attending some patients. He'll be back in Keningau in an hour's time. DO suggested we wait for the Dukun while in the mean  time we are free to roam around the town. I've seen almost all and I prefer to be here chatting. It's our fault not to have an appointment prior to this. It's just a gate crashing, if we are lucky, we can have our treatments today. 

During fasting months most hotels are having Ramadhan carnivals, commerating the fasting month. Buffet sets are normally on offer for breaking of fast. According to the F&B manager, during this fasting month prices are set for RM28 with 8 kinds of food and beverages. It's cheap compare to other hotels which normally set the buffet prices for RM60-80.

Asmawas, DO's manager is relaxing after a tiring journey. For Sabahan travelling for few hours is not much of a problem. They are used to it. Sabah is big, the distance from one town to another takes hours of travelling. To others who are not used to this kind of travelling feel uneasy about it, but again that depends on everyone's preferences. It differs from one to another. I for instance don't mind travelling especially to  new places which I can gain varied experience. 

Asmawas is actually a crew for a production house for TV3, RTM/Radio,TV Malaysia and independent channels. He's an actor as well. Lots of his works have been aired by various TV channels. He's based in Sabah but frequently travelled to KL for meeting and business negotiations. It seems DO is the funder. It's good to know people in this creative line. Who knows one day we can collaborate mutually producing documentary films. 

Malaysians are not prolific in producing documentaries although it has a bigger audience compares to drama slots. Look at Nat.Geo/National Geographic as an example, they travel worldwide for filming documentaries and are aired by all TV stations throughout the world. We are still lacking in this sector where as we have a lot of talent scouts that we can tap for this purpose. 

I remember one Mat Salleh/White Man been to the interior of Sarawak doing documentary on 'tatoos' of Iban tribes. Nat.Geo. sponsored everything. Same goes to a group doing 'martial arts' documentary on Malaysian Silat/Self Defence. We have lots of materials to showcase the world but we don't really make use of it and other people are taking the advantages instead of us.

Buffet sets are ready. According to the person in charge, almost everyday this hotel is fully booked for breaking of fast. Infact for today three quarter of seats are already been booked.
It's a nice decent hotel. The lobby is spacious. It's a fair service for this standard of hotel. Most seminars, meetings or conventions are held here. For a town like Keningau I think this kind of accomodation is fairly justifiable. You can't expect a five star rating hotel in this kind of environment.

Rosli is a native of Keningau. He's a contractor by profession. It's interesting to listen to his tales that actually he's a reverted Muslim, still staying with his parents who are all Christians. In Sabah staying together in a house with different faith is nothing awkward, it's an accepted norms by all. He told us that during fasting month like this, his wife and him always do the breaking of fast at home with his parents but of course with a halal dish. 

His mother is the one who does all the cooking. In fact every morning his mother will wakes him up for "sahur". This is the first time I came across such a beautiful and touching tales. According to him family bonding will never parish although they are of different belief and faith. That's what I said integration and assimilation here is a precedent worth to follow. 

It's already 5pm. DO requested Rosli to make another call to the Dukun just to confirm where he is now and whether he stills got time for us. It's getting late and close to the breaking of fast. Normally during Ramadhan time, people are busy and time is short because every body will be at the mosque to perform Tarawikh prayers afterwards. Tarawikh is important besides as the rituals it is also as a form of exercise after heavy meals during the breaking of fast.

According to Rosli the Dukun is still in Penampang and say sorry for us that he cannot make it today. So we decided to go back to KK instead. Rosli feels a little bit guilty about it but that's not his fault. His sincere volunteering arrangements for the treatment is actually a blessing. If still we have time tomorrow may be we can summon the Dukun to come to KK with all the expenses paid for. Rosli excuses himself so do we. After exchange of 'salams' we parted ways.

We've to say goodbye to Keningau. Notice a Landmark standing tall at the main round about on the way back to KK through Penampang. Keningau is rich in Public Art and Street Furniture. Formerly this access is the gateway to Keningau. Still  lots of people are using this road daily. Some prefers this road due to the convinience of travel with lots of facilities along the way.We can find Kadazan Dusun settlements, their orchards, plantations, Chapels, Surau, Community Halls etc.

People from the east coast normally utilised Ranau-Tambunan road to reach Keningau. After Penampang the road converges back and using the same road that we are travelling now, so basically it's still a one and only access to Keningau. I really respect people of the interior, despite of all the difficulties, cut off from outside world, they are happily living and as if nothing perturb their livehood. I can't imagine if there's an emergency for the hospital, it takes hours before reaching the doctor. Urban folks with all the facilities, wealth, technological advancement etc. are still complaining this and that as if they are not being fairly treated. Come to the interior, experiencing oneself only then we appreciate how lucky we are.

DO told Asmawas not to rush. After all travelling at this hour is quite dangerous due to fogs. The visibility is poor, less than 5 meters. I wonder how people from the interior going in and out if the road is cut off due to mishaps such as landslides, fallen trees and other obstacles. 

Before the new Kimanis road was built, this is the only form of access. By the look of it, this road may be as old as Cameron Highland or Fraser Hill's roads, meaning it was constructed during Colonial times. The road is narrow and winding. Some parts are steep with dangerous bends and sharp corners. 

The last time I've been to this area was at night so I can't actually appreciate the views. We were travelling in a bus and everything outside was dark. Barely can see anything except for oncoming vehicle's light. Today I can enjoy, appreciate  the whole panoramic views though sometimes scarry with all sorts of funny feelings. I told myself not to be scarred as Asmawas is an experienced and careful driver. He knows almost every turns and corners.

On the way back we are using the old road going through Tambunan towards KK. We cannot take the road to Kimanis because there's no Shops or Restaurants along the way. Time for breaking of fast is almost one hour from now, so we don't want to get caught in the middle of the jungle without having anything for breaking of fast. Along this old road there's a lot  of settlements with Grocery shops and Restaurants.

Gunung Mas is one of the highest spot on this part of Crocker Range. Its weatherly cool and commanding majestic views over the valley makes somebody with a smart idea to build a resort taking into account on the sustainability factor. All chalets are nicely built following the contours with minimum manufactured slopes. 

The Cafe acts as a refreshment centre for travellers. If still to dwelve on the fresh cooling air, one can have a choice either to spend  longer time at the Cafe or just go to the reception counter for check in. Due to positive response and quickly becoming a popular stop over destination among travellers, the Cafe is temporarily closed for upgrading and refurbishment. The last time we stopped over, that was 5 years ago, the business was so flourishing. Loads of buses and private passenger cars stopped over for refreshments. This route is busier and more popular than Kimanis route. After all many kampungs/villages are on this route.

Harmonious living  is potrayed by the religious institutions located side by side. Lots of settlements are with this form of clusters. They are all family members, neighbours, differs only in preachings. They came from the same roots, same family tree. The concept of neighbourliness prevails in this community. 

It's getting darker and darker. The sun will set in a matter of minutes. Asmawas turns on the Sabah Suria fm radio, waiting for 'azan' time. I don't see any Surau or Mosque along the whole stretch except that I've just mentioned. That means in this part of settlement area, there's not many Muslim families. The time passed 6.30pm, and  in a few minutes time, the DJ/disc jockey will make announcements for breaking of fast. We are at the fringe of the jungle, after  a few corners and bends, still we can't find any shops. 

Throughout the whole journey DO doesn't participate much in our conversation. He's trying to contain his back pains. Luckily he's at the back seat alone, at least he has all the space for himself to do muscle stretching.

We passed few settlements. It's a cluster setting with groups of houses "flocks" together one after another. Kadazan people don't live in Longhouse as Iban of Sarawaks do. The Kadazan settlement do resembles the traditional Malay kampung settings.

The beauty part of travelling through this route is the feeling of adventure itself which cannot be translated into words. It comes with lots of thrills and surprises, you don't know what to expect next. Surprises are everywhere. At one instance, passing through a village, I saw a group of family members sitting on the verandah happily chatting, reflects the easy going, fun filled mood. It seems stress level is low, and everything is in laid back kind of atmosphere. Hardly see any cars at this hour. Peoples are busy preparing for dinner or in the midst of eagerly enjoying the meals for breaking of fast.

Asmawas is very familiar with this place, his house is somewhere in the vicinity. He told us to hold on for few minutes till he arrives at a kampung grocery shop that sells drink. At this point of time we don't need food, but  only drink. Somewhere near Kipuovo, a Kadazan settlement, Asmawas slowed down and halting at the road shoulder for a bottle of drink at the nearby shop. For me mineral water is more than enough, so do DO.

Minutes later Asmawas returned with 6 bottles of chilled mineral water, passed over one bottle each to DO and me. Asmawas hastilly finished the whole bottle within seconds. 

Actually if people ask what's the best drink in the world, the answer is the drink on the breaking of fast. For those who never had the experience of fasting surely miss the beauty of all this. As usual, DO and me slowly sipped the drink, allowing the liquid to first wetting the aesophagus. Don't ever drink in a hurry because it's not good for digestive system. I got down from the vehicle and do some stretchings. After a stick of Sampoerna cigarette, I felt as if I'm in a trance, and that's where the thrill is. Asmawas was complaining about dizziness and headache. That's due to his style of drinking just now. We continued our journey to KK. Sorry folks, smoking is bad for health but........

Kampung community is more on neighbourliness and family bonded kind of system. They are not individualistic, approachable, rich in "gotong royong" spirit, laid back, easy going and down to earth community. The kampung layout translates the whole system. Houses are next to each other, fenceless boundary, gone are all the setbacks and frontages. Gated and guarded system cannot find their place in this kind of community. 

The irony is, this is an anti thesis to the urban community. It could be due to lifestyles, standard of living, ethnicity and all sorts of urban social sickness, thus creates or producing an indivilualistic, selfish and may I term  "foolish" society or as Einstein said the society of "idiots"

Nowadays lots of people start to realise the importance of close knit society regardless of who you are, beyond the boundary of norm. I think a retreat to the interior will makes us aware, love and nurture our life to the fullest. People in this environment samples a holistic, nature intimacy, practice healthy lifestyle, learn and value good nutrition and natural healing. Regular escapes into great outdoors are now slowly taking its toll on urban folks. It's a good sign of nature and cultural interest and slowly hopefully one day, people will fall in love with it.

Nature is a form of rejuvenating getaway. Minutes ago I saw groups of oldies carrying kilos of farm produce on their backs using rattan baskets. Consider old biologically but still in good health. May be I'm not able to do that. Nature is truly the best healer, answer can be found around the farm on any ailment. Only lately scientists are talking about nano tech, herbal products, or anything to do with nature as a healing agent. Our ancestors of thousand years have been practising that. The setback about all this is that our ancestors don't produce records or documentations on any of that, it's somekind of passing down of knowledge generation to generation. They have the testimony but undocumented, nothing clinical or laboratory research as  has been  in the practise of modern scientist.

Modern urban generations are fighting for status quo, be a lifestyle hunter, fighting for top corporate ladder and trying hard to be part of the rat race. Come to think of it, it's the act of against the nature and nurture. Becomes a city dweller, breathes polluted air and living in glass and concrete jungle.

Kampung people is actually the champions of sustainability. A kampung guy leads a self sustaining life, he farms, plants, breeds and rears everything he needs, practice in a resourceful way, maximise usage and minimise wastage and tie in with the notion of waste to wealth. Organic practise is his daily culture, exchanging the life of urbanisation to life of quality.

As we are descending the hill downwards to Penampang, a beautiful ray of red yellow strikes over the majestic rolling hills in the far distant. It's a beautiful delightfully nostalgic and pleasant interlude. A pause in time.When will I get the chance to repeat this remarkable journey experiences. Missing the scene that greets and saying good bye to people like me. I was enthralled by the idyllic sights of colourful culture of people of the interior. I wish one fine day I can be part of the community though as a visitor/guest. The heartbeat of the community really lies in its people. 

As we are approaching closer to the town area, I can't resist the smell of mountain air with its richness of flora and fauna's aroma. I take  a deep breath and in hale as much oxygen available. In the far distant, lights through window panes of houses strike the beautiful faces of young kids in the house compound. It's like a time tunnel resembling nostalgically my childhood kampung days. Subdued colours of the impressive mountains leaving a delightful memory of a classic journey.

Penampang is a district with many government administrative offices couples with lots of residential and commercial activities. I don't know much about this place. I find it funny, as we are approaching residential estates, I notice that's not even a person with sarung and songkok. When I voiced out this to Asmawas,  DO who's all the while in his own sweet heavenly dreams suddenly joins in the conversation.

According to DO, it's true that Penampang doesn't have a town mosque. Most kampungs do not have any. All the residents here performing religious related activities in KK. That's quite a distant for the people here to perform prayers nightly especially during this Ramadhan month. 

This is the only district in Sabah that doesn't have a mosque. Dare not talk much over the matter. I feel so surprise and very sad over this news. This is not Cambodia. I never thought a rich Malaysia can't afford a mosque for its residents. I dare not say more....I'm not into politics...that's not my forte, better leave it to the experts.


After a beautiful and worthwhile journey, the closing chapter is not to my favour....leaving me with a mixed feelings......

.thank you folks for spending some time reading my visual diary

Thursday, 7 March 2013

keningau , a bustling town in the interior of sabah , malaysia.

Keningau is a town located in the district of Keningau. A beautiful township deep in the interior of Sabah with Crocker Range as part of the backdrop. Wonderful thing about Sabah is the pluralism of ethnicity. Population of Sabah is around+-3 million with multi ethnicity, comprising of 17% Kadazan, 14% Brunei Malays, 13% Bajau, 13% Chinese and others as the rest.

There's few routes how to reach Keningau. For those who prefer scenic drive through mountainous road, one can use old road passing through Penampang, climbing upwards to Gunung Mas and experiencing scenic, cooling and sometimes foggy mountain drive. For those with car sickness, better in advance inform the guide  to have some fresh air while enjoying the blue green panoramic Crocker Range and crucially to avoid the delicious breakfast out of stomach.

This time around, we try another alternative road through Kimanis. The journey from KK (Kota Kinabalu) to Keningau using this new road takes about+-3 hours. Through the journey I was so intrigued by the God's creation. How beautiful and rich is our tropical rainforests. Everything is so green as far as eyes can see. Beautiful low clouds and blue sky add the drama to the scene.

Actually my purpose of visiting Keningau this time is to accompany a friend, Dato O (DO) also a Sabahan who's staying in KL (Kuala Lumpur) to look for an alternative healing practitioner. DO got some back pain while I got some problem with my left foot fingers. This morning before boarding the plane, I accidentally knocked on a chair. Part of my foot fingers were swollen. The pain is unbearable. After touching down, I went to a GP in KK for a check up. Luckily according to the doctor there is no fracture but only swollen. The doctor gave me some medication, painkiller and anti biotic. Asmawas, DO's manager, a guy from Penampang advices me to look for a bone Dukun (dukun is a Malay traditional doctor). Since he knows a good Dukun in Keningau, there off we go.

I first came to know and actually stepped a foot down in Keningau somewhere back in 2007, as a consultant on a bio diesel project. During that period I made some acquaintances with Sabah State Officials. My visit to Sabah continues till today. I become obssesed on anything to do with Sabah. Something that really calms and enchantingly nourish my soul partly due to a long gestation period of city life. A break to the interior like this means a lot.

As  town planners, we are not only involve in place making. Its rather we are holistically responsible for anything to do with the livelihood of human it physically, socially, economically, spiritually-its a holistic approach. As people used to associate us planner only doing development plan studies, doing physical layout plan and a popular trademark of jack of all trades, master of none. A good thinking planner can dwell himself in any field beneficial to human life. We are not only concern on a single dwelling but on a much more sphere on an entire cobweb of human pedigree. 

Other professionals like architects, engineers, surveyors, QS are all important contributors in their own way, but one cannot detach from one another. We planners come into scene as part of the collaborative efforts. More minds will create a better cohesive products. That's why I took the offer and challenge in involving my self in bio diesel project. People are wondering what's the heck this town planner doing in this so called bio tech business. After they knew my existence is beneficial to them, only then they slowly accepted me in the core team.

Doing bio diesel project is not only involves in producing oil but rather involves the whole spectrum of processes leading to the down stream. That's where plantation is a crucial factor. Talking about plantation there again involves land clearing, holding nursery, workers quarters, a hamlet comprising of commercial and all ancillary community facilities. Who's job is that? Of course a town planner has to come in for a rescue. Without proper and far sighted planning and management, the environment will become as an art of devastation.

So much on town planning. We revert back to our main concerns here. Asmawas is such a careful driver. I feel at ease sitting at the front passenger seat. DO is at the back wondering some heavenly things may be or trying to cope with his back pain. Travelling during fasting month to some people might be troublesome. To me, that's the test on your faith and self fighting spirit. One of the many reasons why fasting during ramadhan is a must in the five pillars of faith (rukun islam) is to actually feel and experience how the poor go through what hunger is all about. This fasting experience will make us more humane to the needy and realising that there's a lot in life that we have to pass through a test and sacrifices before we can be called a responsible human being. We are so fortunate that God still loves us. We human beings as God's servants are the same in the eyes of God, so we have to compliment each other, be it rich or poor just as both our left and right hands need each other in order to function.

Talking about bio diversity, our tropical rainforests with million of years in formation through bio processes that is unimaginable to human thoughts is really bio diversified. The Amazon's, South East Asian and parts of African tropical rainforests are the guardian of earth ozone layer. People around the globe are talking and desperately trying to control the ever increasing emergence of carbon foot prints at an alarming rate daily. Global warming is a nothing new phenomena nowadays. Tsunamis happen everywhere in uncontrollable manner. Glaciers and ice melting in the north pole are really hitting their targets. Tornado is what to America as earth quake is what to countries in the ring of fire in most Asian cities.

Day by day in every way, sea levels are rising, soon some islands in the pacific and everywhere else will be another Atlantis. And later on our grand children,  if there's anymore left will be very busy excavating for another clue on lost human civilisation. Yet human never learnt from all these warnings. Fighting, simply creates war and human slaughtering are nothings as what human have done to animals. It's really very confusing. Some quarters try to champion human rights and at the same time, the same groups are the champions of human slaughtering. This world is really unfair to the faithfuls. Life becomes so cheap and has no meaning nowadays .

Malaysia is known as one of the largest producer of palm oil. Sabah is one of the states that constitutes large estates of palm oil and one of the biggest in the country. The Sabah government by the way, through the planning of her 'development corridor of economic regions', has addressed  the environmental issues as one of the fundamental concern. FMU (forest management unit) has been set up to oversee all issues related to reforestration. Some forest areas have been gazetted under FMU scheme. Forest clearing without supervision and done unstatutorily will affects the environment. Malaysia is one of the nation that has taken part actively in RIO Declaration on sustainability program. 

This new road was built in a couple of years. Some parts have to cross mountain ridge. Due to the steep gradients lots of cars have to crawl slowly before reaching the peak. Asmawas suggested we take a rest for a while giving some air for the vehicle to breath. I saw the temperature on the speedometer already crossing the red mark. Most areas in this Crocker Range are still unspoilt by development. I guess this is part of the permanent forest reserves.

There's a popular stop over along this so called "highway". On a wet day, views of Crocker Range will be obstructed by heavy fogs. We are lucky today to have a full panoramic view over the valleys and mountain range. Although at this hour, about noon, it's breezy, cold due to high altitude. A coffee shop serving hot meals is waiting. This coffee shop is managed by a Dusun family. You can try one of  the most famous Sabah delicacy here, Tenom Coffee originated from Tenom, a neighbour small town to Keningau. Back in 2007, when I was first time here, there's no Travellers Lodge yet. It is just recently been in operation. We miss Tenom Coffee. If not for fasting I will hang around with a cup while enjoying the marvellous scenery.

It's time for muscle relaxing. The body needs some stretching. While having some limb exercise, I can feel the cool breeze all over my body. So refreshing. In the far distant on the hill top, I can notice the mist formation. We are going to cross that hill once our vehicle is ready to climb. Nothing can challenge this panoramic view.

After a while and the car temperature is back to normal, Asmawas is again at the driver's seat to steer us around towards the hill top. I wind down the window screen so that I can  get a full view of the mountain and valley. We don't need  an aircond after all this area is so cooling. Negative ion is everywhere. Psychologically eyes are more at ease with green and blue. That's why we are encouraged to always visit sea side and mountainous area. After all we don't have to pay anything for the vitamin of the air. Its all for free.

Along the way to the hill top lots of cars stopping by due to temperature rising, I guess. If cars are not properly service and maintain, then they are looking for troubles. Luckily Asmawas has just service his car about two days ago. I just don't know how to imagine buses and trucks that were commuting from KK to Keningau vice versa on daily basis. The vehicles must be screaming for help.

After almost one hour plus crawling on the mountain ridge, now we are descending downhills, negotiating steep gradient. On a one steep bend, I saw lots of cars stranded and all the drivers came out with pails of water. I asked Asmawas the reason for doing so. According to Asmawas those drivers are cooling the brake discs and pads with that pails of water. Now I understand and realised why there's few containers of water in the car boot. 

This is a new life time experience for me. I've been driving for more than three decades, but never do so. It's hardly we can find Merz, BMW, Audi travelling on this road. Most people in Sabah prefer four wheel vehicles. The most popular are Ford Rangers, Toyota Land Cruiser, Nissan, Datsun, Isuzu Trooper, all are Japanese made vehicles which actually more suitable to this kind of terrain. It's low maintenance, cheaper petrol and also fetch high second hand value.

At last here we are, Keningau. I was surprised to see the town is so quiet. Is this a normal phenomena? Asmawas told me that today is friday so most people here who are muslims are now in the mosque performing friday prayers. At first I thought this is some sort like a zombie town. What a sigh relief. Upon reaching the mosque people are already queueing out. We miss our friday prayer. As a traveller, according to islamic principles, we are allowed to compensate the friday prayer with dzohor prayer. It's not against the rule. DO has a good nap all along. I can't or in fact I don't want to have a nap because the whole journey and all the beauty of the environment are more important than having a nap. You cannot buy an experience but you've to earn it. Thankful God I'm still awake.

It seems the town is so clean, well kept and with lots of landscaping to cheer up the tired traveller. I was amazed at the ability of the Local Authority in keeping the town clean and neat. I've been travelling to most parts of Malaysia and some towns that I've visited were not comparatively to this standard on landscaping and townscape features. Hats off to Keningau Local Council. A good attempt despite being a remote township in the interior. Hardly  can see any rubbish on the roadside. Its hygienically taken care off. The Public Art at the round about resembles the town that producing timber, a Logger's township.

I think part of the reasons why the Local Authority can spend the budget on beautification program is due to the assessment and quit rent collection plus the taxes from logging and plantation activities.
Some other Local Authority is only enough to pay the emolument for the staff, hardly left for other spending. In order for a town to flourish, a catalyst must be  created and acts as one of the contributing factor. Lots of townships survive on Industrial Estates, Higher Institutions, Army Camps, Ports, Sports related activities etc. Demands for commercial premises, housing, educational activities will create an active economy due to the catalyst that provide a "constant" population not like a tourism based economic booster which heavily relies on "ghost" population.

I think it's a fruitful effort from the authority. The leader of this stature should be an example on urban planning, development and management. A visionary leader and hardworking employees will make things happen. It is a concerted effort of all involve in making a dream into a reality. I love the townscape very much. It's simple, practical, matured trees inter spaced with flowery shrubs makes the scene so soothing, shady, as a provision of cooling lungs, congregation and interactive venue. The whole scene translates into the greening of space. This is the kind of environment which suits the urban folks. More green means less thermal heat and less carbon footprint. If shown these images to friends may be they won't believe this is a town in the wilderness, in the interior of no where. Cleanliness should be one of the top most agenda for every township.

I presume there's a lot of timber tycoons and planters in this district. A town cannot survive without good economic activities. Along the way to the CBD (central business district), I saw lots of business premises and mid range supermarket selling ordinary items consumables by the people here. There are also numerous hotels sprung up in the town centre. This town really amazed me . It's hustle bustles with business activities from eating stalls, restaurant, shops selling local merchandise, banking, educational institutions and so forth is really happening.

Hotel Juta is one the biggest two hotels in the town. I used to stay here way back in 2007. Within five years there's  a lot of changes that has taken place in the face of urban images. Notice all the vehicles here. Nothing than all four wheelers. A town with mixed ethnicity who lives in harmony. Being almost detachable from other settlements, the people here have a close knit society bonded together. Nothing compares Keningau to other areas.

It's 2 pm. Feel very thirsty. We cannot do anything since all of us are fasting. Four more hours to go for breaking of fast. If we can stand the whole day, what is there just another four hours to go. Keep your cool bro. 


 " this is just a plain opinion from me as a town planner , a designer, an artivist , an imagineer and an ideator. I've not been influenced by anybody to write on this. Only my personal perspective."

Architecturally this town is not out of design modes. Witness through the photos here, design wise it's a combination of old and new. The 3 storey shop houses portray the post mode or contemporary architecture. The new building utilises lots of glass facade interface with contemporary materials in a boxy form and clean lines. The flat roof is a norm in contemporary design. 

Some people like it and some don't approves the system due maintenance problems especially in our tropical weather with heavy torrential down pour. This building here is some sort of iconic office cum business blocks. I hate the exposed air condition compressor. The beautiful design is tarnished by the unscrupulous act of ignorance. Louvres will enhance the beauty as well as functioning as the cladding to the compressor.

Even the newly built 2 storey shops make its presence felt. A simple form but functional. Facade treatment is minimalist. The access corridor on the top floor is a thoughtful design giving convinience of the overhang with supporting pillars. The deep overhang provides sunshading as well as  a rainshield protection. I love this simple yet very practical design. Flat roof becomes the D theme of nowadays design. Mind you this is in the middle of nowhere. Salute to who the owner is and whoever is the visionary designer.

DO is somewhere meeting his friends. Asmawas and me wandering around the busy supermarket. All the shop houses are tenanted, none is empty. I guess the demand for business premise is sky rocketing. No wonder more and more blocks of business premises are making their way into the Town Centre. It has turns into a bustling township. People from all over coming here for business purposes and has to spend few wonderful nights in this enchanting town. Other nearest towns are miles apart. That's the reason why this place is really making a mark as  one of the most  flourishing town in Sabah. 

Sometimes making a good decision in setting up a business is the location, location, location. According to DO, any new promotion of business such as MLM/multi level marketing is actually starting in Keningau. If Keningau fails then it's as an idicator that the business will never make it in Sabah. This place is as a testing ground for new business especially those coming from outside such as from KL, Sarawak for that matter. Now I believe in that theory. I remember, a teacher from KL who's at that time teaching in Keningau first opened a restaurant here by the name of Seri Keningau Restaurant and now the business expanded to Klang in Selangor and few other outlets in Sabah. The one in Putatan KK makes the most sales.

Servay supermarket is one of the brand name in Sabah and Sarawak. It has outlets everywhere even in Miri, Bintulu, Sibu, KK. Servay in Keningau already makes its presence few years back. In fact Servay is one of the pioneer and the biggest in Keningau.

Notice how busy and packed with customer doing shopping at Servay supermarket. According to Asmawas people of Keningau is cash rich. They are partly one of the biggest depositor in Sabah. The location and timing plays an important part in business. For this people to go out of the cocoon, they have to spend time travelling 3-4 hours to KK. Only if anything urgent only then they will surface in KK. Otherwise all the time, the spending will be done in Keningau. At least I learn something new in regards to business management. Keningau was formally not a planned township. It started as a logging interim depot and naturally grows incrementally to be what it is now. It's more of a natural growth. be continued in part 2...please hang on...