Borneo’s Must-see Flora

I’ll be the first to admit that compared to wildlife and birds, plants do not interest me much. But I would definitely make an exception for these spectacular flora of Borneo.

Rafflesia keithii

Rafflesia keithii

1. Rafflesia

This flower needs no introduction. The largest flower in the world (it grows up to 1m), rafflesia species can only be found in South East Asia. Its short blooming period (5 to 7 days) and inaccessible habitat (deep in the rainforest) means that a sighting of this flower makes you a very lucky person. The best place to see one of these giants is around Poring Hot Springs, which has the largest concentration of known rafflesia sites in the world.

Nepenthes rajah

Nepenthes rajah

2. Nepenthes rajah

Another must-see for flora enthusiasts is the Nepenthes rajah, the largest pitcher plant in the world. It is so big that rats, frogs and lizards have been found in its pitcher. Endemic to Mount Kinabalu and Mount Tambuyukon in Kinabalu Park, Sabah, the place to see this is at Mesilau Resort.

Rothschild's Slipper Orchid

Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid

3. Paphiopedilum rothschildianum

The most expensive flower in Borneo, this species of slipper orchid is endemic to Kinabalu Park. Its location in the wild is limited to 2 sites, both of which are kept secret, to prevent people from getting their hands on these beautiful flowers. A cultivated plant can sometimes be seen inside the botanical garden in Kinabalu Park.

Podochilus microphyllus

Podochilus microphyllus

4. Podochilus orchid

Not all things in Borneo are gigantic. This orchid is one of the smallest in the world, and is quite common around the trails in Kinabalu Park, that is if you can find it.

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Beautiful Caterpillar

Who needs to turn into a butterfly when the caterpillar is this beautiful?

Found near entrance to Kinabalu Botanical Garden in Kinabalu Park.

How to best enjoy Kinabalu Park and Poring

One of the most popular day trips from Kota Kinabalu for foreigners and locals alike is the Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot Springs tour. This is not surprising since Kinabalu National Park is Malaysia’s first World Heritage site, and Mount Kinabalu is possibly the most famous attraction in the whole of Sabah. However, the long journey and crowds can make this trip less than enjoyable than it should be.

Mt Kinabalu from Nabalu

Mt Kinabalu from Nabalu

Below are a few tips on how to make the best of this tour.
Read the rest of this entry »

Bundu Tuhan

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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.

old-woman-bundu-tuhan-20081223A woman with a wakid basket on her back walking up the steep road.

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.

gondohon-village-20081225-01

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.

boy-at-gondohon-20081225

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.

Dogs doing their job of herding cattle

Dogs doing their job of herding cattle

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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.

skulls-gondohon-20081223-03

Travel journal to Bundu Tuhan:

http://losttravels.wordpress.com/2009/01/12/this-christmas-i-found-human-skulls/