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Rohaimin’s Rock Gallery, a wonder that rocks you

Rocks that looks like grumpy old man (back) and fish head (front)

When is your last time picking up a stone and have a good look at it? Cavemen from stone age probably know rocks better than us because they constantly look for the best ones to make axe and cutting tools. Nowadays the only rocks that piqued people interest are rock concert and gemstones.

The Sakag Rohaimin Unique Rock Gallery (Galeri Batu Unik Sakag Rohaimin)

The Sakag Rohaimin’s Unique Rock Gallery (Galeri Batu Unik Sakag Rohaimin)

Though rocks are everywhere, each rock is unique. For 20 years, Mr. Rohaimin Ariffin has been collecting special rocks in Keningau, and he is rewarded by thousand of intriguing rocks, which are beautiful, weird or ugly.

face of demon on the rock

Can you see the face of a demon?

90% of his collection come from Sungai Pegalan (Pegalan River) near to his house, and the rest are from Banggi Island, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Kinabatangan, etc. His friends also give him some rocks from New Zealand and Indonesia.

A rock with the word Allah in Jawi

A rock with the word “Allah” in Jawi

In 2008, Rohaimin spent RM40,000 (≈US$10,000) to build a Rock Gallery named Galeri Batu Unik Sakag Rohaimin next to his house. From this, I can tell he must have a very nice wife who doesn’t nag at his hobby (just kidding). To hobbyists, rocks are priceless. To those who don’t appreciate, a rock, eh, is just a rock.

Clam and coral fossils from Sabah

Clam and coral fossils from Sabah

Anyway, whether you are a collector, you will be amazed by his Rock Gallery. I would say this is the biggest gallery dedicated to rocks in Sabah so far. And he doesn’t sell any ticket to guest, it’s free to visit. Based on how he places the rocks, I roughly categorize his rock collections in following groups.

Music Rocks

Batu Gong (Gong Music Rock) forms one of his major collection. When you hit it, the rock will produce a gong like metallic sound. I had seen Batu Gong in Tambunan, but Rohaimin has larger collection!

Galeri Batu Unik Sakag Rohaimin

This rock gallery costs more than RM40,000 to build and is totally self-funded

The stage of the gallery

The “stage” of the gallery where you can perform a rock concert with music rocks.

There are hundred of Batu Gong laying around. He labels some rocks in different tones and group them on a stage. Below is a short video of Rohaimin playing “Rock Music” with Batu Gong:

Rohaimin can play very nice Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Mary had a Little Lamb song with these rocks. A guest was so impressed by the music that he wanted to buy this rock music set.


One of the most famous rocks he got is the one with the word Allah in Jawi. He also has other rocks with figures of praying muslims, Buddha, Mary, and Satan.

Al-Quran verse on the rock

Al-Quran verse on the rock

According to him, the best time to hunt for rocks is after flood and storm, which expose new rocks under the soil. His rocks are not for sale. He even buys rock from others if it’s a nice addition to his collection.

The face of Mary, Mother of God in the rock

The face of Mary, Mother of God in the rock

A stone that looks like a Buddha

A stone that looks like a Buddha

Growing Rocks

Personally I think the most bizarre rocks in his gallery are the “growing rocks”. Over time, some hair-like substance would grow on these rocks, like some kind of crystallization. The “hair” is fragile and can break into powder when touched.

The growing rocks

The “growing” rocks

needle-like crystals keep growing on these rocks

The needle-like crystals keep growing on these rocks, probably a form of crystallization, like how fuzzy rocks formed.

According to Rohaimin, even the box that stores these rocks also has hair grown on the surface, so peculiar. He welcomes Tourism Ministry, Sabah Museum and Geoscience Department to find the answer of this odd phenomenon.

White crystalline hair or fuzz growing on the rocks

White crystalline hair or fuzz growing on the rocks. It is very fragile.

Fossils & Petrified Wood

The next eye openers are fossils and petrified wood. All the seashells, clam and coral fossils are from the center of Sabah. This proves that Sabah is under the ocean in the past.

fossil shells

Sabah has a lot of fossil shells even in interior, because our land was underwater millions years ago

I used to collect some fossils of Sabah, but they are not as impressive as his collection.

Fossil shells found in Sabah interior

Fossil shells found in Sabah interior

Petrified wood is actually fossilized wood, and its organic part is replaced by other minerals, so only the shape of wood stays. That’s really cool.

glittering petrified wood

This Petrified wood glitters if you light it with torch light

Petrified wood

Petrified wood is fossilized wood

beautiful petrified wood which costs Rohaimin RM800

A beautiful petrified wood which costs Rohaimin RM800

Animal Heads and Shapes

Occassionally you would notice some rocks that look somewhat familiar to an animal. Rohaimin has some animal rocks that don’t need much imagination for you to tell they are puppy, proboscis monkey, fish, gorilla, Flowerhorn cichlid, sheep and chicken.

Rocks that looks like animal heads

Rocks that looks like animal heads. I see a lion head among them.

Bulbasaur Pokemon rock

Rohaimin says this looks like puppy, but it looks like Bulbasaur Pokemon to me lol

Nature Art

Rohaimin started his collection with a few odd and small black stones in 1996. Beautiful stones that have special shapes, materials, colors or patterns are also his target.

Various types of unique rocks

Various types of unique rocks

Stones with interesting shapes

Stones with interesting shapes

Some of his most prized collections are stored in drawer or locker to prevent thievery. He would show them to you if he is around and you ask. Currently his rocks are laying around on the floor or being placed on surfaces of chair, desk and rack. He really needs adequate funding to setup showcase and display stands with proper lighting, to present his collections like art items.

stone with Olympic logo

Did you see the stone with Olympic logo?

Bone-shaped rock from Indonesia

Bone-shaped rock from Indonesia

Other Non-rocks

Besides rocks, Rohaimin also have other interesting items such as fossil deer horns, WW2 bombshells and old coins. The most impressive is his Bonsai that he has been nurturing for 20 years and some are award winners.

Other items and WWII bombshells

Other items on display. Note the WWII bombshells

Unusual horn of deer

Unusual horn of deer

“I don’t want the wives to feel bored, when their men are looking at rocks. These bonsai shall keep them busy,” Rohaimin says. That’s very considerate.

Bonsai tree cultivation at Rohaimin place

Bonsai tree cultivation at Rohaimin’s place. The unique rocks really enhance their artistry.

A remnant of bomb from WWII

A remnant of bomb from WWII

Rohaimin is planning to move his rock and bonsai gallery to a place near to SK Binaong school, which is more accessible by big bus. He would need to apply for another loan for the new gallery building.

The antique cloth washer

The antique bark cloth beater. In old days, people made clothing from tree bark, and this beater was used to beat the bark to make the material soft.

At the moment he is not collecting any visitor fee, so this is totally a self-funded project. If you visit his gallery, it’ll be nice if you would donate some money, no matter how small it is, that’ll bring him closer to his dream.

How to get there

Galeri Batu Unik Sakag Rohaimin (Rohaimin’s Rock Gallery) is about 12 KM away from Keningau town. It’s located in housing area of Kampung Baginda (Baginda Village). There is no direction signage and not all villagers there know this gallery.

Signage to Baginda Village at roundabout

Signage to Baginda Village at roundabout

However, you can find his gallery easily if you read the guide here. When you drive away from Keningau using the road heading to Tambunan town, you will reach a roundabout after 9 KM (see Location Map or 3D Street View). Take the road to Kampung Baginda (the sign is just next to the big blue sign of St. Mary’s Church).

Cows and dung on the road of Baginda Village

Many cows and landmines (cow dung) on the road of Baginda Village

You will enter a small and paved countryside road. Drive carefully to avoid the roaming cows, dungs and speed bumps along the way. Follow the main road for about 3 KM and you will reach a Y junction at the end of paved road. Turn left to the road labeled as JLN. Binaong Baginda (see Street View).

house of Mr. Rohaimin

The rock gallery is at the house of Mr. Rohaimin

Keep driving on the gravel road. In a minute or two, turn left to a small path before a downward slope. You will enter residential area with a few houses, and Rohaimin’s house is at the end (GPS Coordinate: 5.375564, 116.204871, see Location Map)

house of Rohaimin

The house of Rohaimin. The entrance to the Rock Gallery is where the yellow arrow points.

Rock is more important than we think. For example, without ultrabasic rocks that promote the growth of endemic plant, Kinabalu Park would not become an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hope more people will find some fun in this little wonder of geotourism. For more info on the gallery, you may text (Whatsapp available) or call Rohaimin at +60-13-8730559. Please note this is a personal number and he has a daytime job, so use it discreetly and don’t disturb him.

Photos taken in Keningau, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Giant Fig Fruit with Big Uses

Wong couple selling fig fruit in Tamu market of Donggongon

Medicines are bad, herbs are good. This is how most Sabahans view drugs. It’s always a bitter feeling to bring home a lot of colorful candies (pills) from the clinic. Sabahans describe western medicines as a powerful but “toxic” remedy, and you can often hear us say, “It’s too ‘chemical’ and has side effects!”

small fig fruits on tree

Fig fruit is normally very small

That’s why we prefer herbs as it’s more natural and gentle (true in most cases, but not absolutely). In old days, local people have been using plant to heal various type of diseases. Some scientists even say our rainforest is the biggest pharmacy in the world.

monkey picking fig fruit

Fig fruit is a very important food source for wildlife of Borneo

Two months ago, I was intrigued by a photo taken by my friend in tamu (local weekly alfresco market) of Donggongon town. It is a huge fig fruit as big as a cannon ball!

Known as Buah Maja locally, fig tree is everywhere in Sabah. It is so common that Quentin Phillipps, the author of the book Phillipps’ Guide to the Mammals of Borneo and Their Ecology, says in Borneo, you are rarely more than 100 Meters away from a fig. Fig is the fruit of life in rainforest, and it’s an important food source for Borneo wildlife.

Fig fruit for sale

Fig fruit for sale

Though I’ve seen dozens of fig fruit species, most of them are small, I never saw one that is so big. Therefore, I went to the tamu of Donggongon town, which is open in the mornings of every Thursday and Friday. It didn’t take long for me to locate the stall that sold this fig fruit. The seller, Mr. Wong is very friendly and eager to introduce this amazing fruit to me.

I was surprised to learn that this fig fruit is consumed as herb rather than fruit. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Though Sabah doesn’t have apple, this giant-green-apple-looking fig fruit probably can offer the same health benefits.

fig fruit almost as big as a soccer ball

This fig fruit species is almost as big as a soccer ball

According to Mrs Wong, the wife of seller, she discovered this fruit in Lido and paid RM20 for it. At first her husband scold her for paying too much. Due to high Cholesterol level, she used to wake up with a dizzy head in the morning. After she drank the juice of this fruit, miracle happened. This discomfort vanished.

Therefore, her husband also becomes an advocate of this fig fruit. He plants and sells the fruits and juice. Based on what I found online, figs are high in fiber and a good source of magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper and potassium (which helps lower blood pressure), as well as vitamins, especially K and B6.

Other alleged benefits include detoxification and the ability to cure asthma, hemorrhoid, thyroiditis, minor kidney problem, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, constipation, fever, cough, etc. (I would strongly recommend you to see a doctor if you are sick). Anyway, the nutrition composition may vary among different fig species. Not all figs are edible.

Fig tree with big fruits

Fig tree with low hanging big fruits

The good thing is – herb is relatively safe to experiment for people who are looking for alternative treatment for ailments and hard-to-cure diseases. This fig juice can be taken as a traditional tonic too.

Mr. Wong sells the fig fruit for RM5-10 each. You can boil its pulp with water for 3 hours until the juice turns dark. If you are too busy to do this, you can buy the juice from him for only RM3 per bottle (which is boiled with other herbs too). You can drink the juice like water. However, it’s not an instant fix that can heal everything overnight, so you need to try it for some time.

Mr. Wong sells fig fruit juice for RM3 per bottle (500ml)

Mr. Wong sells fig fruit juice for RM3 per bottle (500ml)

If you want to plant this fig, the seedling is sold for RM20. It takes 3 years to mature, and it fruits throughout the year, so you will have so many fruits that you can even sell or share with others.

Seedling of fig tree

Seedling of fig tree

Everyone wants to be healthy. Selling multivitamin supplement makes nutraceutical firms laugh all the way to the bank. The fact is – these synthetic and unnatural forms of vitamin can’t be used by the body in the same way as natural versions, and it could do more harm than good, according to the Organic Consumers Association.

Fig fruit herb juice for sale

Fig fruit herb juice for sale

Most man-made vitamins are simply a waste of money. I used to take heavy daily dose of Vitamin C for months, but it did nothing more than turning my urine into yellow. After I get real Vitamin C by eating fruits, I see positive changes in less than a week. Some might argue that I should pay higher price to get Vitamin pills of better quality. Well, why not spending that money to buy real and natural food?

The expensive solution is not always the best solution. Pharmaceutical companies and some doctors love clients to buy medicines, so they can make profit. Therefore, they like to label folk prescription with the magic phrase “not scientifically proven”, rather than saying “I don’t know because our institution is too poor to fund a research. But I can’t say that it might work because I won’t make any money. Besides, I’m so afraid that you would sue me if anything doesn’t go well.”

Fig fruit (Buah Maja)

Fig fruit is known as Buah Maja in Malay language

For example, Tongkat Ali could be a great alternative to the expensive blue “V” pill and needs no doctor recommendation. Soursop is an excellent agent to fight cancer better than radiotherapy, which is infamous for its nasty side effects.

Ok, back to the fig fruit. I’m a very curious person, so I can’t stop without looking what is inside this big fruit. I bought one home to dissect it in the kitchen.

This fruit has very hard and smooth skin, so be careful with your knife. For my mom, it’s an easy task to cut it into half. The skin is thin and hard, like an eggshell.

white flesh of fig fruit

The flesh of this fig fruit is sweet and sour, with weird taste like medicine.

I can smell a very fresh and fruity aroma when it is open. The flesh is marshy and soft, with scattered brown seeds. I tasted its pulp. It’s sweet with a bit of sour that smells like herb. Frankly it isn’t yummy, which is logic, because things with medical properties never taste great.

marshy flesh of fig fruit

The flesh of fig fruit is marshy

This fig is just one of the treasures in Borneo. We should read the story below:
The U.S. National Cancer Institute funded a 1987 plant collection expedition on the island of Borneo in the Malaysian State of Sarawak. Among the samples obtained were those from the tree Calophyllum lanigerum var austrocoriaceum, an incredibly rare species. When extracts of this plant were discovered to show good antiviral activity toward the AIDS-causing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), researchers returned to the site of the original collection to find that the tree was gone, cut down for firewood or building purposes. (Source: Rainforest Trust News)

fig fruit cut into half

The flesh of fig fruit has very pleasing fresh aroma

You see. A precious plant that might hold the key to cure AIDS was used as firewood or building materials! We really need to carry out more studies to uncover more secret formula in our plant to battle illness.

Photos taken in Donggongon, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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