Sabah Tea Garden

Sabah Tea GardenWith a name like Sabah Tea Garden, you’d probably imagine coming here to sip tea in a quaint English garden. Well, it’s actually less of a garden, and more of a tea plantation. Although sipping tea is probably what you’ll be doing sooner or later if you make your way here.

One of only two remaining areas in Malaysia that produces tea leaves (the other being Cameron Highlands, of course), Sabah Tea Plantation is located about 700m above sea level in Kampung Nalapak in Ranau. It’s location is just a bit too far away to be included in the popular Kinabalu Park-Poring Hot Springs day trip, and visitors will probably find that they are one of the few people who are there.

Started in 1978, the Sabah Tea Plantation is an organic tea farm right from its very beginning. With only one-fifth of its 6200 acre land being opened for planting tea trees and other tourism activities, the plantation is surrounded by tropical rainforest. As the insects prefer the surrounding forests, pest-control is easily done even without using pesticides.

Sabah Tea Garden

As its brochures proudly proclaim, “more than’ll see”, Sabah Tea Garden has come up with various tour packages for tourists, including the award-winning Sabah Tea Adventure, which is an obstacle-training, team-building kind of program. Those who want to spend a quiet night here can stay in its longhouse or villas. From what I read on the reviews on TripAdvisor, the sunrise and sunset here can be amazing.

Sabah Tea Garden

But what is there for the casual visitor on a day trip to Sabah Tea Garden? Well, apart from the nice view of the tea plantation, you can also take the interesting guided tour of the tea factory to learn a bit about the tea processing and how to differentiate real tea from imitation tea (yes, there is such a thing). A lovely lunch at its restaurant makes for a delicious end to your visit. And of course, you can’t come here and not drink tea.

Sabah Tea Garden

tea tasting

Sabah Tea Garden

Sabah Tea Garden

Tea-flavoured pancakes

For those who are looking to take back some souvenirs, its shop stocks some interesting tea-themed products. And while you can also get Sabah Tea in supermarkets in Kota Kinabalu, the Sabah Tea products here come in some very nice packaging that are only sold here.

Sabah Tea GardenSabah Tea Garden

Opening Hours:

daily 8am – 4.30pm

Factory visit: daily except major Public Holidays: 8am – 12pm

Entrance Fees:

There is no entrance fee to visit the plantation.

Guided tour of tea factory: RM 12 per person


 My Ratings: ** A good stopover if making the overland route between Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan. Or if you want some peace and quiet.






Tanjung Aru Perdana Park

Perdana Park - Tg Aru 20140107

Perdana Park in Tanjung Aru is slowly turning into one of my favourite parks in Kota Kinabalu (not that there are many). I came here yesterday after work for a run, and after that, headed to the nearby beach to relax. Beats getting stuck in traffic anytime.

Officially called Perdana Park at Hone Place, the park was opened in 2011, and was built and donated by Timatch Sdn Bhd (the company owned by the very charitable Datuk Victor Paul), as part of the Chief Minister’s efforts to turn Kota Kinabalu into a world-class city. Most importantly, the park is well-maintained. Even after four years, the facilities are still in good condition.

Perdana Park - Tg Aru 20110228 10

Basically, there is a jogging track surrounding a lake, with two playgrounds for children, and a reflexology path. Also, there are a few restaurants, including one which sells delicious cakes. (So you can pile on the calories after your run?).

Although the jogging track is not that long (It takes me 4 minutes to go one time around the lake), it is a good track. And when they start playing the music, it will just pump you up and make your tiredness disappear. I almost raised up my hands Rocky Balboa-style as I reached my targeted time. And the bonus is that after your run, you can head to Tanjung Aru beach to catch the sea breeze or to watch the sunset. No other park give you that!

Perdana Park - Tg Aru 20110228 01

The highlight of the park is of course the musical fountain in the lake. Starting every day at 7pm-ish for about 15 minutes and repeating every half an hour until 9pm, the fountain dances to the tune of music varying from local folk tunes to classical music to the very patriotic “1-Malaysia” song (The fountain shoots straight up like the number one!). The arrangement of the music is different at different times, and I find the last performance at 9 to be the best (that’s when they stop playing the Malaysian songs, and focus on the classic sentimental tunes). Not a bad spot to take your girlfriend to for a cheap date. (The park is free 🙂 )

Perdana Park - Tg Aru 20110228 02

Perhaps one thing that has not been highlighted too much is that the park is also good for a bit of bird-watching. Not just garden birds, but because of the lake in the middle, there are also egrets and little herons. I spotted 7 species yesterday evening. Come in the morning and you’ll get to see the striated heron baits its prey using bread crumbs.


Opening Hours:

Monday – Thursday : 6.00am – 10.00pm

Friday – Sunday : 6.00am – 10.30pm

Musical fountain: daily 7:00pm – 9:00pm (9:30pm on weekends)

Entrance: free. Parking costs RM 1


Agop Batu Tulug

 What is it? Old coffins in a cave

Where is it? Batu Puteh, Kinabatangan, Sabah

Should you go? ** a bit out of the way, but if you are in the area, definitely.

Lost ratings: ****  probably gets less than 10 tourists a day.


Located just before Batu Puteh village and the only bridge that crosses Kinabatangan River, Agop Batu Tulug is famous for the wooden coffins that are found in the caves of the 39m-high hill. A beautiful example of these coffins can be found in the Sabah State Museum, but there is no denying the thrill of visiting the actual location where the coffins were found.


The limestone hill is not difficult to find. It stands out prominently from the surrounding countryside. If you are heading towards Lahad Datu, the hill is on the left side of the road. From Kota Kinabalu, it is about 355km. From Kota Kinabatangan, it is only about 40km away. The two caves at the top of the hill that look like eyes are a recognizable feature of Batu Tulug. There are three main caves in Batu Tulug. Two are located near the top of the hill and can be reached via a steep and slippery staircase. Another one is at the foothill.


Agop means “cave” in the local Orang Sungei language, and Tulug means “to sleep” in the Visayan language. I guess what they really meant was “to sleep for a very long time” since the caves were the final resting place for more than a hundred wooden coffins. The coffins were mostly made from Belian wood (Bornean Ironwood) and it shows just how long-lasting Belian wood can be because the coffins were between 200 to 250 years old. No one really knows who the coffins belong to, but it has been theorized that the coffins belonged to early Chinese traders who had traveled up Kinabatangan Rver and settled there. This is because similar coffins were found in China and Vietnam. Intermarriage between the Chinese and locals probably spread this culture throughout the Kinabatangan region. As to why the coffins were dragged all the way up to the caves at the top, the reason given was that the Kinabatangan River gets flooded regularly, and the Chinese believed that if the coffins were buried in flood-prone areas, their spiritual homes would also be flooded. Question is, how did they get it up the hill? Mind you, this was before they built the stairs.


I had trouble enough climbing up the stairs without carrying a coffin on my back. The first cave we reached was Agop Lintanga. Entering the narrow passageway, we came face to face with a few dozen coffins. Some were quite small. Then we continued climbing to the peak of the hill where there was a resting area. Walking down to the other side of the hill was another cave called Agop Sawat. The coffins in this cave were even more beautifully carved than the ones in the earlier cave. One end of the coffin cover is carved into the shape of a buffalo head. The buffalo head is symbolic of bearing burdens of the dead, and easing their passage to the afterlife. Other coffins found elsewhere had animal shapes like crocodiles, snakes and lizards as well. If the cover is shaped like an animal, then the coffin houses the body of a man. If the cover has no particular shape, then the coffin houses the body of a woman.


NEWS: Archaeologists hit ‘gold’ at Mansuli

Sourced from The Star

KOTA KINABALU: The Mansuli Valley in Sabah’s east coast Lahad Datu district houses the oldest human settlement in east Malaysia, archaeologists claim.

Tucked inside a forest reserve and accessible only by a dirt road, researchers stumbled upon a treasure trove in 2003, finding more than 1,000 stone tools that are believed to date back 235,000 years.

The research was jointly carried out by Universiti Sains Malaysia and Sabah Museum, which are also currently looking at other potential sites in the state’s interior Apin-Apin district in Keningau.

USM Centre for Global Archaeological Research director Prof Dr Mokhtar Saidin said the evidence showed people settled in Sabah during the Paleolithic period (also known as the Stone Age), 27,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Before this, it was claimed the oldest human settlement, dating back about 40,000 years, was in the Niah Caves, near Miri, Sarawak.

Dr Mokhtar said this in a talk to mark the launch of the Archaeology in Malaysia exhibition by state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun at Sabah Museum here yesterday.

The professor said the new evidence showed that humans from the South-East Asian mainland came to Borneo when the Sunda Plain still existed.

(Also known as the Sunda Shelf, it is geologically an extension of the continental shelf of South-East Asia with the major land masses being the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Madura, Bali and their surrounding smaller islands. It covers an area of approximately 1.85 million square kilometres.)

Dr Mokhtar said that when connected to other Paleolithic archaeological sites in Sabah, the Mansuli Valley site established that the early humans had consistently made this part of Borneo their home.

He said efforts were being made to put this information into school books.

USM lecturer Jeffery Abdullah, who is part of the archaeology team, said they found the site by chance while working on the Samang Buat cave, about a kilometre from the site.

“We were walking to the cave when we found stone tools scattered and hidden among small rocks,” said Jeffery, who is pursuing a doctorate in archeology at the university.

Masidi said more should be done to study and conserve the state’s historical heritage.

“While many archaeological sites concentrated in Sabah’s east coast, more studies need to be held in the west coast and interior areas so we can get a better understanding on Sabah’s history as a whole,” he said.

The Sininggazanak

What is it? A statue in a field

Where is it? Kinarut, Sabah

Should you go? ** for something different and a chance to stretch your legs in a local town

Lost ratings: ***** Ask a local sitting next to you in a bar in KK, and you’ll probably get this response “A sinin what?”

I have always wanted to look for a sininggazanak ever since I first read about it in Rough Guides. While the name evokes images of a cheeky leprechaun-like spirit, it is actually just a wooden statue. A sininggazanak statue is carved by the blood relative of a Kadazan man or woman who has died without heirs. This is to commemorate the dead person as well as to stake a claim on his or her land. According to Kadazan tradition, land should be passed on to a person’s child, and if that person is childless, then it should be passed on to a blood relative. That is to say, a man’s land should be inherited by his brothers or sisters and not by his wife or wife’s family. Likewise, a dead woman’s husband does not inherit her land. A sininggazanak in the middle of a paddy field signifies that the field still belongs in name to the dead person. It is also believed that spirits inhabit the statue and is the guardian of the paddy field.

A tradition which is found only in the Penampang – Putatan – Kinarut area near Kota Kinabalu, sininggazanaks are difficult to find these days. The most famous one was at Kampung Tampasak in Kinarut. To preserve this heritage, the Sabah Museum authorities negotiated the purchase of the statue for the sum of one water buffalo, one pig, one chicken (RM230) and RM50 cash. A vital part of the agreement was for the authorities to carve a stone replica of the sininggazanak and put it at its original location. The original used to be displayed in Sabah State Museum, but is now kept in the storehouse instead. A replica of what the statue looks like can be seen on the pillars of the arch at the entrance to the museum.

Much better is the real stone replica at Kampung Tampasak. Tampasak is also another name for the Tembesu tree. This tree is a good timber tree and the heartwood is strong and durable. Sininggazanaks used to be carved from this wood. Not sure if the name of this village has anything to do with it though.

Getting there: This village is located about 30 minutes walk from Kinarut town. Between the 2 rows of shop houses, there is a road that crosses the railway track. Follow that road until you come to a T-junction. Turn left to get to the main road and then turn right. You will see a field down below. The stone replica can be seen beside a tree in the middle of the field. It can be difficult to find on your own and my directions are not that accurate, so ask around in town.

It’s an interesting piece of carving and makes a good photography subject. The statue is that of a female and the whole figure including the pedestal stands at 2.6m. The actual figure is 1m tall. The surrounding countryside is also a good place for a stroll on a cloudy day. But watch out for the numerous buffalo dung that dots the trails.

Further reading: Traditional Stone and Wood Monuments of Sabah by Peter R Phelan provides a detailed explanation of sininggazaks and other monuments.

Cemetery with a view

Nirvana Memorial Park, Kota Kinabalu

A place on a hill with sea-view and only 20 minutes from the city?

The dead has never had it better.

Welcome to Nirvana Memorial Park, the most beautiful (and expensive) cemetery in Sabah. Located in Telipok, about 20 minutes north of Kota Kinabalu, the burial plots range from a couple of thousands to half a million ringgit only (for a large plot for two dozen family members). If you can’t afford one, blackmail your children. According to Chinese customs, the feng shui of one’s ancestors burial plots affect the fortunes of their descendants.

Even if you are not nearing your death-bed yet, this is a good place to come for some peace and quiet and to maybe read a book or two? As long as you don’t mind the invisible eyes peering over your shoulder. :p

Who needs heaven when you have Nirvana?

Where is it? Telipok, Sabah

Should you go? * Not exactly a tourist attraction, but if you’ve never seen something like this before...

Lost ratings: **** all the peace and quiet that you could want, unless it happens to be All Souls Day

 Getting there: 15-20 minutes by taxi from KK