Ratings: *** Beautiful mountain village
Lost Ratings: ***** Something interesting
One of the best things about driving up to Kinabalu Park is the view along the way. Remote villages give a splash of colour to the green of the valleys and the white of the clouds. Travellers passing by must often wonder what life must be like to live in a village like that. From a distance, it looks as though there are no roads leading into the villages, and the only way to get in or out is to walk.
That may be so a few decades ago, but development has come even to places like this, and with Kinabalu Park being a major tourist draw, the roads have improved tremendously. Villages close to the main road have benefited the most, and there are paved roads leading into these villages.
One of these villages closest to the Kinabalu Park Headquarters is called Bundu Tuhan. Located in a valley to the right of the park, the turning to Bundu Tuhan is just before the next corner to Kinabalu Park. The junction is easily recognizable. There is now a hotel(?) on top of the hill at the junction, and there are some stalls selling vegetbles by the roadside. It isn’t so much the condition of the road, but the steep slopes that will pose a problem for cars with a small cc. If you wait by the roadside, there are mini vans that ferry passengers to the the villages down below.
The word Tuhan means God in Malay, but Bundu Tuhan is not derived from Malay. Instead, it is taken from the language of the Dusun people who live on the mountain slopes. Bundu is the name of a kind of fruit tree, while Tuhan means landslide or felled. A story tells of how a landslide occured and the Bundu tree was felled in the process. Looking at the slopes of the mountain, it is easy to imagine landslips happening often around here.
God however does play an important part in the life of the people here. Although previously pagan people, a huge majority have become devout Christians. If you were to come on Christmas Day, you would see young girls and boys dressed in their finest as they make their way to church.
There are a few villages located in this huge valley here, and Bundu Tuhan is probably a collective name for the whole place. Each individual village has its own name. There is an orphanage in Bundu Tuhan, and a Christian retreat.
Traditionally, farmers who practised shifting cultivation, many of the people now work in Kinabalu Park as well, either as park rangers, mountain guides or porters. Considering its proximity to the park, this is not surprising. In fact, according to the book Globetrotter’s Visitor’s Guide to Kinabalu Park by Anthea Phillipps, the first registered park guide was from this village. This man, Gunting bin Lagadan was reputed to possess remarkable powers and had the ability to protect the people who climbed with him from evil spirits.
An interesting, if macabre, attraction is the skull hut. If anyone has every doubted the headhunting exploits of the Bornean people, they can see for themselves, the real human skulls displayed in a wooden box by the roadside.
Travel journal to Bundu Tuhan: