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Kiulu Farmstay at the Valley in the Mist

Kiulu Farmstay

Countryside is always stereotyped as a backward place for the poor. However, as a city grows big, urban people have to deal with more traffic jam and pollution, high living cost and smaller space, and now they envy the Orang Kampung (villagers), who enjoy a richer and healthier life because of fresh air, clean water and organic food in rural area.

Kiulu, one of the most beautiful villages of Malaysia

Kiulu is one of the most beautiful villages of Malaysia

I read somewhere that says Kiulu is the second most beautiful village of Malaysia and also known as the Valley in the Mist. In fact, Kiulu is a kingdom of villages because it consists of 103 villages. When driving on the winding and hilly road in Kiulu, you will be mesmerized by the lush hills, clean river, scenic plantation and peaceful villages.

Kiulu, the Valley of Mist

Kiulu, the Valley of Mist

Therefore, I was so glad to visit Kiulu Farmstay in April to experience village lifestyle for 2 days in this magnificent place. Kiulu is only 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu City (KK) by car, very convenient for me to reconnect with nature and to appreciate what are gone in city, i.e. fresh air, clean rivers and starry sky.

Tamparuli Town

On the way to Kiulu Farmstay, my guide, Pius and I stopped briefly in Tamparuli Town for a walk at Tamparuli Bridge and local market. FYI, Tamparuli Mee, a homemade local noodle, is a must-try if you eat in this town.

(left) Tamparuli Bridge and (right) view of Mt. Kinabalu in Kiulu

(left) Tamparuli Bridge that looks like a Natgeo logo, and (right) view of Mt. Kinabalu on the way to Kiulu

I saw people feeding fishes under the bridge. There are probably thousand of them, most are fat fishes over 1 feet long! According to a local, the river is under Tagal system (no fishing), so the fishes can grow really big.

“Village is a place where you can find peace, unity, strength, inspiration and most importantly a natural and beautiful life” – Minahil Urfan

The Fig Tree Eco-Lodge

After 45 minutes of driving from Tamparuli, we arrived Kiulu Farmstay. I was excited when I saw the crystal clear river from the hanging bridge. The emerald color of the river is a sign of natural water, something healthier than chlorinated blue swimming pool.

Hanging bridge to Kiulu Farmstay

Hanging bridge to Kiulu Farmstay

River under the hanging bridge

River under the hanging bridge

Kiulu Farmstay is surrounded by greenery. The bamboo lodge blends very well into the nature. I saw no big cement structure.

Bamboo houses of Kiulu Farmstay (Fig Tree Resort)

I overnight in the building at the right. The small building at the left is common bathroom and kitchen for campers.

In contrast to warm and sunny environment of beach resort, the riverside Fig Tree Lodge is tranquil and refreshing. I always dream of owning a house next to a river, so I can go swimming and fishing anytime. Staying in Kiulu Farmstay makes me desire it even more.

Bamboo house accommodation of Kiulu Farmstay

Bamboo houses of Kiulu Farmstay (Fig Tree Ecolodge)

The Fig Tree Lodge itself is an attraction. It’s so well built and designed, you can tell that they spend a lot of efforts to details. Except the roof, most items such as furniture and wall are made of locally sourced bamboo and wood. Some big bamboo poles are 20 years old. It’s an unique traditional house with some contemporary elements.

Dining area in the bamboo house

Dining area in the bamboo house. Nazllie (left, journalist), Pius (2nd from right, tour guide), and Jumadi (middle) & Esther (right) are our host

The lodge has two rooms that can accommodate about 4 to 6 people, big enough for a family group. They plan to build 8 more rooms in future. Electricity is on 24×7, so fan, light and hot water are always available. The lodge is also complete with a kitchen, bathroom and dining area.

My bedroom and the paddy grinder outside

My bedroom and the paddy grinder outside

The bedroom is clean and neat that I had no problem sleeping deeply. The split bamboo walling and flooring make this lodge looks like a cozy home of farmer. They add layer of rice husk waste between the walls to regulate the temperature.

This fig tree is the icon of Kiulu Farmstay

This fig tree is the icon of Kiulu Farmstay

Near the lodge is a big fig tree. Locals believe fig tree is spiritual (never swear or curse under fig tree), so some traditional rituals are performed under fig tree.

Fresh organic food in Kiulu Farmstay

Fresh organic food in Kiulu Farmstay

Esther is our cook who can make very nice local dish from fresh fruits and vegetables such as banana buds, tapioca, maize, pumpkin and sayur manis (Sabah vege). Worrying that we were not used to village food, she always asked, “is it good?” She should know that we are happy by looking at our empty plates lol.

Hiking

After a fulfilling lunch, Jumadi and Pius took us to explore the jungle nearby. Actually the so-called jungle is “forested orchard”. Instead of clearing the land for plantation, they let the fruit trees grow scatterly and wildly among the wood.

Plantation in village and forest

Plantation in village and forest. Can you tell what these trees are?

That’s why at first I was puzzled when Pius pointed here and there to introduce variety of crops, herb, vegetables and fruits that he spotted along the way, when I thought we were walking in a forest. My late grandfather also used to have such orchard in Tamparuli, and I often saw fowls, pangolin and other wildlife foraging in his plantation.

Variety of edible plant and fruits

Variety of edible plant and fruits. From left to right, top to bottom: Pineapple, edible fern, cempedak, salak

Just to list some crops that we saw, mango, durian, bambangan, rambutan, cempedak, rubber, peanut, maize, tarap, fern, sayur manis (Sabah vegetable). The best month to visit is September, which is the start of fruiting season, and they say you can eat so many free fruits that are almost worth as much as the tour.

Liposu fruit

Liposu fruit

Among the dense undergrowth are some herb and spice plant too, like gingers and tuhau. We also walked around the farmland of villagers. They are really friendly and don’t mind we roam in their territory.

Edible ginger

Edible ginger or tuhau

No matter how developed a country is, agriculture is still extremely important for a nation to achieve self-sufficiency on food. A healthy environment is crucial to sustainable farming, so it shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Trekking along the river

Trekking along the river

Even first world countries such as Japan and UK send their students to expose to farmstay, to learn the relationship between agriculture and mankind.

Mantub Waterfall in the forest

Mantob Waterfall in the forest

During jungle trekking, we also crossed a few streams and went upstream to see Mantob Waterfall. Watch at the video below and see how clean the water is, as if we can drink it unboiled.

The clean river isn’t by luck. The villagers of Kiulu love their environment, so they keep the water source free from pollution and deforestation.

Unpolluted river of Kiulu Valley

Unpolluted river of Kiulu Valley

River

We sweated a lot after 2.5 hours of hiking. Kiulu has one of the cleanest rivers in Sabah, so it’s a shame not to take a soak there.

Hanging bridge and the river

Hanging bridge and the river

I camped in Kiulu more than 20 years ago. I’m happy that the river still remains clean and chilling until today. Now Kiulu even becomes the most popular destination for white water rafting.

Crystal clear river of Kiulu

Crystal clear river of Kiulu

In America, 40% of the rivers are polluted and are considered unhealthy for swimming, fishing or aquatic life. The same thing will happen to Sabah, if we don’t protect our rivers.

Enjoying the clean water

Enjoying the clean water (but too shallow to do tubing)

I wanted to try tubing, but too bad the water was too shallow that time due to prolong drought. Further downstream there is a spot where you can snorkel and see many fishes. The world populations of freshwater species have declined by 55% between 1970 and 2000. Fortunately, many rivers in Sabah have tagal (no fishing) system in place to prevent over-fishing.

buffalo skull next to the bridge

Buffalo skull next to the bridge

buffalo skull next to bridge

Buffalo skull has replaced human as sacrifice for bridge construction

To locals, river is the source of life and the origin of civilization, and it is also viewed as the guardian. In our history, people were sacrificed to appease the river god, whenever a new bridge was built. Nowadays, buffalo skull is used instead.

The Stars

Kiulu Farmstay is formed by three villages: Kampung Mantob, Kampung Pinagon Baru and Kampung Dumpiring. City people can live at a place many years without knowing who is their neighbour, but nobody is a stranger in a Sabah village.

Party with villagers at night

Party with villagers at night. Thank you Saidin, Sikong, Johari, Pius and others for the wonderful time.

In the evening the villagers shared some food and liquor (Montoku and Lihing, the local rice wine) with me. We drank and played music until late night. Some local stories, history and folktales were told, the most interesting one is a snake-like eel up to 5 feet long could be found in their river in old days.

Milky Way in Kiulu

Milky Way in Kiulu

I ended up quite tipsy going to bed, so it’s a miracle that I could wake up at 3am to take some photos of Milky Way. Though starry sky is nothing special to our villagers, light pollution prevents 1/3 of world from seeing Milky Way. 80% of North Americans and 100% of Singaporeans can’t see Milky Way in their cities.

Quad Biking

Somehow I managed to get up on time in next morning and tried quad biking the first time. Initially I thought it would be something leisure like cycling in a garden. Oh my lord, the quad bike really rocks like a mini 4-wheel drive and able to conquer any terrain.

Quad biking in Kiulu

Quad biking in Kiulu

Quad bike can go really fast and furious. The braver you are, the more fun you can get out of it, and it’s really addictive. I would say it is the highlight of this trip. The deeper part of Kiulu is the best playground for quad biking, as it has many rugged road in undulating slopes, with scenic forest, hill, gorge and village view along the way.

Quad bike is quite easy to operate. Before we hit the road, they let us practiced in a field first. We started at 8:30am and had fun riding 22 Kilometers until 11:30am.

Gorge in Kiulu

Gorge in Kiulu

Quad biking is more powerful than scooter, so it can cause severe injury if we are not careful. However, I didn’t know what happened to me. I’m not a risk taker, but my personality changed when I was riding this bike. I was so reckless and fearless in speeding on bumpy and steep road. Anyway, it’s really fun.

Quad biking in Kiulu

Quad biking in Kiulu

Quad bike is a beast and seems like having a mind of its own. You have to fight a bit hard with it to fully control the stiff steering, or it’ll take you to hell. Don’t worry. Just go slow and get used to it in the beginning.

Big Foot Point in Kiulu

Big Foot Point in Kiulu

After 11 KM, we stopped by Big Foot Point in Kipunti Village for a break. Locals say footprints of big foot were seen around here, when they constructed the new road. Kiulu is also the Valley of Mystery.

Rumour says there is big foot around here

Rumour says there is big foot around here

Kiulu has gradually become a popular place for people who want to experience village lifestyle and outdoor adventure in nature. You can book the tour online. Other activities you can do include rice processing, rubber tapping, cooking, buffalo riding, BBQ, fish spa, camping, etc.

You can contact Kiulu Farmstay for more info:
Website: kiulufarmstay.com
Facebook: KiuluFarmstay
Tel: +60 88-438300
E-mail: info@kiulufarmstay.com
GPS: 5.975465, 116.302143 (see Location Map)
See more photos of Kiulu Farmstay

Photos taken in Kiulu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Result: Unduk Ngadau 2016 (Miss Harvest Festival, Sabah)

From left to right: 1st Runner-up: Claryssa Henry (Kudat), The Queen: Sherry Ann Laujang (Penampang), 2nd-Runner-up: Fenny Ester Joslin (Banggi)

A new queen was born on 31 May 2016, after 44 contestants from different Sabah and Malaysia districts competed for the State-Level Unduk Ngadau 2016* title (Miss Harvest Festival of Sabah), which marks the end of month-long Kaamatan celebration (Harvest Festival). The photos below are clickable to zoom in.

Group photo of Top 7 Winners of Unduk Ngadau 2016. From left to right: Patriciaelsa Jimy (Klang Valley), Vinny Alvionitta Sasising (Matunggong), Claryssa Henry (Kudat), Sherry Ann Laujang (Penampang), Fenny Ester Joslin (Banggi), Christine Joan Charles (Papar), Charmine Bartholomew (Kapayan)

Top 7 Winners of Unduk Ngadau 2016. From left to right: Patriciaelsa Jimy (Klang Valley), Vinny Alvionitta Sasising (Matunggong), Claryssa Henry (Kudat), Sherry Ann Laujang (Penampang), Fenny Ester Joslin (Banggi), Christine Joan Charles (Papar), Charmine Bartholomew (Kapayan)

Result: Unduk Ngadau 2016

The following is the result:
Unduk Ngadau 2016: Sherry Ann Laujang (Penampang)
1st Runner-Up: Claryssa Henry (Kudat)
2nd Runner-Up: Fenny Ester Joslin (Banggi)
3rd Runner Up: Vinny Alvionitta Sasising (Matunggong)
4th Runner Up: Christine Joan Charles (Papar)
5th Runner Up: Patriciaelsa Jimy (Klang Valley)
6th Runner Up: Charmine Bartholomew (Kapayan)

From left to right: 1st Runner-up: Claryssa Henry (Kudat), The Queen: Sherry Ann Laujang (Penampang), 2nd-Runner-up: Fenny Ester Joslin (Banggi)

From left to right: 1st Runner-up: Claryssa Henry (Kudat), The Queen: Sherry Ann Laujang (Penampang), 2nd-Runner-up: Fenny Ester Joslin (Banggi)

Unduk Ngadau Beauty Pageant has been around since 1940s, but it only becomes an official annual competition in 1960. It is the highlight of the Kaamatan, and in the video below, you can see the crowd went crazy when the top 7 finalists were “unveiled”.

Unduk Ngadau 2016: Sherry Ann Laujang (Penampang)

Sherry is simply gorgeous. Her skin is so “radiant” that it almost makes my photos overexposed, no kidding. She has the look of a queen. However, she was extremely nervous during the contest. Her elder sister, Samantha Sharon C.E. Launjang, is the 4th runner-up of State-Level Unduk Ngadau 2012.

Unduk Ngadau 2016: Sherry Ann Laujang (Penampang)

Unduk Ngadau 2016: Sherry Ann Laujang (Penampang)

Most guys would agree with me that many beautiful Kadazan sumandak (girls) are concentrated in Penampang area. Out of 56 State-Level Unduk Ngadau contests in the past, Penampang won the title 25 times (now 26)!

Sherry Ann Laujang in traditional Kadazan costume

Sherry Ann Laujang in traditional Kadazan costume

Sherry is 21-year-old, and she is from Kampung Ramayah. She is a Kadazandusun with 25% British blood (her great-grandfather was a Briton), and she just earned her accounting diploma from UiTM Sabah.

Sherry Ann Laujang in evening gown

Sherry Ann Laujang in evening gown

1st Runner-Up: Claryssa Henry (Kudat)

Claryssa was the strongest rival of Sherry. Her name was heard everywhere in the beginning, and she has a lot of supporters.

1st Runner-Up: Claryssa Henry (Kudat)

1st Runner-Up: Claryssa Henry (Kudat)

Claryssa Henry in traditional Rungus costume

Claryssa Henry in traditional Rungus costume

After the competition, there is a hot debate which says Kudat should have won the first place, because most people think Claryssa was doing better than Sherry in Q&A session.

Claryssa Henry in evening gown

Claryssa Henry in evening gown

I don’t understand Kadazandusun language, so I don’t know who is right. Anyway, the judges had mentioned that 40% of the score is based on beauty, 30% on traditional costume, 20% on presentation and 10% on attitude.

Therefore, Q&A is not the sole factor for winning, though it’s important. No matter what, hopefully everyone will stop quarrelling about this during festive time. Both of them are fabulous girls.

2nd Runner-Up: Fenny Ester Joslin (Banggi)

2nd Runner-Up: Fenny Ester Joslin (Banggi)

2nd Runner-Up: Fenny Ester Joslin (Banggi)

Fenny Ester Joslin in traditional Rungus costume

Fenny Ester Joslin in traditional Rungus costume

Fenny Ester Joslin in evening gown

Fenny Ester Joslin in evening gown

3rd Runner Up: Vinny Alvionitta Sasising (Matunggong)

Vinny is my favorite candidate actually. She is picture perfect. She will definitely win the Miss Photogenic title if there is one. She is awarded the subsidiary title of Miss Natural Beauty.

3rd Runner Up: Vinny Alvionitta Sasising (Matunggong)

3rd Runner Up: Vinny Alvionitta Sasising (Matunggong)

Vinny Alvionitta Sasising in traditional Rungus costume

Vinny Alvionitta Sasising in traditional Rungus costume

4th Runner Up: Christine Joan Charles (Papar)

Whenever Christine showed up, the people went gaga, and their scream almost broke my eardrums. There must be something special about her. Can anyone tell me please?

4th Runner Up: Christine Joan Charles (Papar)

4th Runner Up: Christine Joan Charles (Papar)

She is also the winner of Miss Conservation WWF Subsidiary Title. She will be attached to Sabah WWF to raise awareness on the conservation and wildlife issues from 1 Jun 2016 to 31 May 2017.

Christine Joan Charles in traditional Kadazan Papar costume

Christine Joan Charles in traditional Kadazan Papar costume

5th Runner Up: Patriciaelsa Jimy (Klang Valley)

Besides contestants from Sabah, we also have participants from Klang Valley, Labuan and Johor.

5th Runner Up: Patriciaelsa Jimy (Klang Valley). She is wearing traditional Dusun Tindal costume

5th Runner Up: Patriciaelsa Jimy (Klang Valley). She is wearing traditional Dusun Tindal costume

Patriciaelsa Jimy in evening gown

Patriciaelsa Jimy in evening gown

6th Runner Up: Charmine Bartholomew (Kapayan)

6th Runner Up: Charmine Bartholomew (Kapayan)

6th Runner Up: Charmine Bartholomew (Kapayan)

The Crowning

As there are over 40 Unduk Ngadau, so the competition took a long time and finished at 7:40pm.

Ryannie Neils Yong, the Reigning Queen (Unduk Ngadau 2015)

Ryannie Neils Yong, the Reigning Queen (Unduk Ngadau 2015), came to say Hi Hi and Bye Bye. You know the drill.

In first round, 15 contestants were selected, then shortlisted to top 7 in second round, and at last the Q&A round to decide the winners.

The moment of the final announcement

The moment of the final announcement

The Rungus ladies from northern district rocked the stage this year, when contestants from Kudat, Banggi and Matunggong won 1st, 2nd and 3rd runner-up (plus Miss Natural Beauty) respectively. Besides, Unduk Ngadau of Pitas also won the Most Creative Evening Gown (with Rungus motif as theme).

Yay! A new queen is born!

Yay! A new queen is born!

Kudat district is used to be famous for three things, i.e. longhouse, coconut and peanut. Now I guess it is famous for pretty girls too lol.

Crowning of Unduk Ngadau 2016

Crowning of Unduk Ngadau 2016

From left to right: 1st Runner-up: Claryssa Henry (Kudat), The Queen: Sherry Ann Laujang (Penampang), 2nd-Runner-up: Fenny Ester Joslin (Banggi)

From left to right: 1st Runner-up: Claryssa Henry (Kudat), The Queen: Sherry Ann Laujang (Penampang), 2nd-Runner-up: Fenny Ester Joslin (Banggi)

Sherry Ann Laujang (Penampang) is named the State-Level Unduk Ngadau 2016

Sherry Ann Laujang (Penampang) is named the State-Level Unduk Ngadau 2016

Subsidiary Titles

There are three Subsidiary Titles being awarded during Sodop Unduk Ngadau Charity Dinner on 29 May 2016. Below is the result:
Miss Conservation WWF: Christine Joan Charles (Papar)
Miss Friendly (Tati Tosuau): Dorizah Noh Tongod (Tongod) (Can I add her in Facebook?)
Miss Natural Beauty (Tati Topiodo): Vinny Alvionitta Sasising (Matunggong)

Unduk Ngadau Charity Dinner on 29 May 2016

Unduk Ngadau Charity Dinner on 29 May 2016

Winners of Subsidiary Titles

Winners of Subsidiary Titles

Miss Natural Beauty: Vinny Alvionitta Sasising (Matunggong)

Miss Natural Beauty (Tati Topiodo): Vinny Alvionitta Sasising (Matunggong)

Miss Conservation: Christine Joan Charles (Papar)

Miss Conservation WWF: Christine Joan Charles (Papar). Ok, please scream.

Miss Friendship: Dorizah Noh Tongod (Tongod)

Miss Friendly (Tati Tosuau): Dorizah Noh Tongod (Tongod)

Top 7 Most Creative Evening Gown

That evening every Unduk Ngadau was wearing evening gown designed with Sabah ethnic theme. Top 7 best designs were selected, and the dress (designed by Petrus Boyd Pensin) of Treacy Chee from Pitas won the Most Creative Evening Gown award.

Most Creative Evening Gown by Treacy Chee from Pitas

Most Creative Evening Gown designed by Petrus Boyd Pensin, and presented by Treacy Chee from Pitas

This colorful theme is inspired by Rungus motif. I saw patterns that symbolize flower, lizard and people.

Most Creative Evening Gown by Treacy Chee from Pitas

Most Creative Evening Gown presented by Treacy Chee from Pitas

This gala night is a good time to see the youthful side of Unduk Ngadau. You can check out my Facebook album for more photos.

One of the Top 7 Most Creative Evening Gown (Model: Hyellene Danius, Unduk Ngadau of Tuaran )

One of the Top 7 Most Creative Evening Gown (Model: Hyellene Danius, Unduk Ngadau of Tuaran )

One of the Top 7 Most Creative Evening Gown (Model: Sharon Joseph, Unduk Ngadau of Libaran)

One of the Top 7 Most Creative Evening Gown (Model: Sharon Joseph, Unduk Ngadau of Libaran)

One of the Top 7 Most Creative Evening Gown (Model: Norfainie Binti Diwalang, Unduk Ngadau of Pagalungan)

One of the Top 7 Most Creative Evening Gown (Model: Norfainie Binti Diwalang, Unduk Ngadau of Pagalungan)

One of the Top 7 Most Creative Evening Gown (Model: Muntel Binti Santangan, Unduk Ngadau of Lahad Datu)

One of the Top 7 Most Creative Evening Gown (Model: Muntel Binti Santangan, Unduk Ngadau of Lahad Datu)

One of the Top 7 Most Creative Evening Gown (Model: Laura Simon, Unduk Ngadau of Likas)

One of the Top 7 Most Creative Evening Gown (Model: Laura Simon, Unduk Ngadau of Likas)

Congratulations to all the Winners!

Bare feet beauty pageant

Bare feet beauty pageant

You may notice this beauty pageant is very different. First, everyone is on bare feet. Second, “Gong Hair” is the standard hairstyle for the contestants. If you like their hair, watch the video by Beverley Shim to make one:

In fact, Unduk Ngadau Contest is a tradition to commemorate Huminodun, a maiden who sacrificed herself to save the starving people. You can read the very interesting and informative article titled Not just a beauty pageant, written by Melissa Leong, to understand the true meaning of this event.

“Kaamatan without Unduk Ngadau is not kaamatan. It will be like a song without rhythm.” -Joanna Kitingan (Chairperson of Sabah state-level Unduk Ngadau)

*”Unduk” literally means the shoot of a plant, signifying youth and progressiveness, and “Ngadau” means sun, connoting the beauty of the heart, mind and body of an ideal Kadazan­dusun woman.

Photos taken in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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