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Tomb of the Tallest Man: Gambaliu

Listening to the legend of Gambaliu

The tallest man in Guinness World Records is Robert Pershing Wadlow, who is 2.72 Metres (8 feet 11.1 inches) tall. However, he would look like a Barbie doll to Gambaliu, a giant man who is 24 feet in height. Gambaliu is even taller than a giraffe (20 feet). Who is Gambaliu? Is he a monster that eats children, or a gentle giant that rescues kitten stuck on a tree (and eat it)?

Comparing the height of Gambaliu with others

Comparing the height of Gambaliu with others

Ok, no need to get too concern. Gambaliu is only a fictional character in Sabah legend. If he really exists, NBA would had made him a superstar basketball player.

Signage to the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting

Signage to the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting in Serinsim Park. Makam means grave

Today only his tomb is left, in an unexpected place, not in Frankenstein lab but inside Serinsim Park in Kota Marudu, about 130 KM away from Kota Kinabalu City.

Ready to visit the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting

Ready to visit the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting

Walking to the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting

Walking to the tombs of Gambaliu and Sigunting

To visit his grave, you need to walk 1.5 KM in the rainforest of Serinsim Park. The trail is not very challenging. It’s only a bit warm and humid, and a few leeches would present during wet season.

A junction on the way to the tomb of Gambaliu

A junction on the way to the tomb of Gambaliu. Just follow the direction to Makam Sigunting

Crossing the flooded ground

Crossing the flooded ground

According to Mr. Tambakau Bin Tunggal, presumably an elder from Kampung Serinsim Village, Gambaliu lived there about 2,000 to 3,000 years ago.

Listening to the legend of Gambaliu

Listening to the legend of Gambaliu

His body was so long that after he died, the people cut his body into half at knees, to make it easier to dig the grave. What this story tells me is that his people are lazy.

signage: Gambaliu is the tallest man

Gambaliu is the tallest man in Sabah legend

What left now is a grave encircled by rings of stones, there is no tombstone and marker.

The grave of Gambaliu

The grave of Gambaliu is about 2,000 to 3,000 years old

If I have a chance to talk to Gambaliu, I would like to ask him what to eat to grow tall, as every woman wants to date a tall guy. Even a 150cm girl prefers a 200cm boyfriend, so short guy like me has no market.

Tomb of Gambaliu the tallest man

Tomb of Gambaliu the tallest man

I wish to tell you more about Gambaliu, but that’s all I heard. The tomb has nothing exciting, unless they allow me to dig out the bones of Gambaliu.

Other Giants in Sabah Legend

Anyway, giant is quite common in Sabah legend. I list a few examples below, and each of them has different personality. From the description in stories, some could be taller than Gambaliu.

1. Gayo Nakan

In Kadazandusun folklore, there is a giant king named Gayo Nakan (Big Eater). His people were sick of satisfying his huge appetite. Hearing the complaint, Gayo Nakan decided to sacrifice himself by asking his people to bury him on top of Mt. Kinabalu. However, he cursed the people that they would face drought and famine for lack of caring.

2. Upai Semaring

Based on Lundayeh legend, Upai Semaring was a respectable giant who is a skillful hunter and fisherman. He also possess magical power to vanish himself. Today you still can see his huge footprint near Maga Falls in Long Pasia. He even used his forefinger to carve a rock (named Batu Narit) next to Matang River.

3. The Giant of Kinoringan

When villagers broke their promise, the outraged Kinoringan (God in Dusun’s belief) turned a baby into an one-eyed man-eater giant with teeth as big as elephant tusks. This giant can only be killed by seven arrows shot into its eye.

4. Bajau (or Lumanjau)

In Tambunan once lived a helpful and friendly giant called Bajau. He is so strong that he can carry a 10-feet-high stone under his arm, and he is so big that when he crossed the river, the villagers would follow behind to pick up the dead fishes trodden by him. He is also a hero who defends his village from invaders.

Graveyard of Sigunting

About 300 Metres away from the tomb of Gambaliu is the grave of Sigunting, a great man who challenged the imperialism. His story is real and recorded in history book.

tomb of Sigunting

Sigunting was born in 1859 and passed away in 1905

Tomb of Sigunting in Serinsim Park

Tomb of Sigunting is located inside Serinsim Park

Sigunting is a Dusun warrior born in Mumus (Serinsim) in 1859. When he was 35 years old, he led a 7-year guerrilla warfare against the British colonial government between 1894 and 1901 named Perang Sigunting.

tomb of Sigunting

Sigunting is a Dusun hero born in Serinsim

Biodata of Sigunting (in Malay language)

Biodata of Sigunting (in Malay language)

He destroyed the police station in Kg. Serinsim village. However, British force failed to annihilate Sigunting and his followers. Probably Serinsim Park is too beautiful, so the soldiers forgot their duty and went picnic and swimming.

Grave of Sigunting

Grave of Sigunting

Finally, both parties signed a peace treaty to end the fight, so everyone could go picnic and swimming. Sigunting might be the only Sabah hero who survives the baptism of fire by British force.

dragon on ceramic jar

The dragon on ceramic jar indicates that the jar is from China

In case you wonder why there is jar in his grave. It’s because in old day, Kadazan and Dusun people buried the deceased in a jar (usually ceramic jars from China). The corpse was first placed in big jar, after the body decomposed, the bones would be moved to smaller jar, and big jar will be recycled as it’s precious commodity in those days. I’m not sure if they had transferred the bones of Sigunting under the cement grave.

Fragments of ceramic jar in Sigunting grave

Fragments of ceramic jar in Sigunting grave

I admire Sigunting because he stood up against paying tax. Seeing that our lives are getting poorer and harder because of GST and various other taxes, I only can sigh (and wait for the next election).

Photos taken in Kota Marudu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Ruhiang Hill (Bukit Perahu) and Ship Rocks

Hikers relax and enjoy the morning view on Bukit Perahu

Does Noah’s ark really exist? I don’t know, but I was told that near Tamparuli town, there are rocks that resemble a vessel stranded on a hill named Bukit Perahu (also known as Ruhiang Hill). I guess that’s how Bukit Perahu got its name, as Perahu means Boat and Bukit means Hill in Malay language.

Bukit Perahu (or Ruhiang Hill) next to Tamparuli town

Bukit Perahu (or Ruhiang Hill) is next to Tamparuli town (left)

Many also say the top of Bukit Perahu has one of the most spectacular views of Mt. Kinabalu (highest mountain of Malaysia).

Majestic Mount Kinabalu and Bukit Perahu

Majestic Mount Kinabalu and Bukit Perahu (lower left)

One day I finally managed to get up early in the morning, headed to Tamparuli, which was 30 KM away from Kota Kinabalu City, then climbed up there.

Sea of cloud on Bukit Perahu (Ruhiang Hill)

The beautiful sea of cloud will disperse after the sun comes up, so you better reach the peak as early as possible.

Hikers relax and enjoy the morning view on Bukit Perahu

Hikers relax and enjoy the morning view on Bukit Perahu

What they said was true. The scenery is so exceptional that I climbed it again the following week with my drone to photograph some aerial shots.

Awesome family shot on Bukit Perahu (Ruhiang Hill)

Their friends want to climb Bukit Perahu after they see this awesome family shot

During good weather in early morning, you would see Mt. Kinabalu like floating on sea of cloud. Someone come very early to catch the sunrise around 6am for the best view. If you go late, say after 8:30am, the sea of cloud would disperse and envelope Mt. Kinabalu.

Family climbing Bukit Perahu

This family photo tells you that the climb is not overly challenging.

Bukit Perahu is only 300 Metres high. The hiking distance to the top is about 800 Metres and normally takes about 35 minutes, depend on your fitness. Some section of the trail is a little steep, and you need to watch out for the slippery soil trail especially after rain. Anyway, the climb isn’t very challenging.

trail to the peak of Ruhiang Hill

The total distance to the peak is about 800 Meters

The Climb

The starting point of the climb is near to the roadside in Tamparuli (later I tell you how to get there). It’s a public area and you aren’t required to pay any entrance fee. The trail is well-marked and there are many hikers around in the morning, so you won’t lose your way.

Bukit Perahu is also a popular paragliding spot

Bukit Perahu is also one of the best paragliding sites.

Looking from far away, Bukit Perahu is a cone shaped hill with gentle slope, but the route is a bit steeper than we think.

trail to the peak of Bukit Perahu

Left: start of the trail. Right: Most part of the trail looks like this, with boulders scattered on soil path

The first 200 Metres is gravel path that leads to the uphill path. There were many boulders in or next to the uphill trail, and I had to move between rocks sometimes. Do expect some human traffic during weekends, as everyone uses the same trail for ascend and descend.

cross with description about crucifixion walk of Jesus

Roman Catholic uses the route to the peak as the Way of the Cross (or Stations of the Cross). You will see 14 crosses along the way, with photo and description about the suffering of Jesus Christ carrying a cross to his crucifixion.

The local Catholics make this trail the Station of the Cross (or Way of Sorrows). Along the trail you will see a total of 14 cross signage with picture and text depicting Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion.

Climbing Bukit Perahu

Most of the time you walk under the shade.

Most of the time the dense trees shaded me from sunlight, and the cool morning breeze stopped me from overheat, so it’s quite a pleasant walk.

Green surrounding around the peak

Very green surrounding around the peak

You can use the ropes connected to wooden posts next to the trail for support. However, don’t totally trust it, as the rope would detach from the flimsy metal ring on the posts.

rope support along the trail

The trail has rope support to move up.

After moving higher up, I could see Tamparuli town and surrounding hills with lush forest, the more I ascended, the nicer the view.

Gazebo in the midway

Gazebo in the midway

I took a short break in a gazebo next to cross No. 10. I was halfway there.

Last 200 Meters to the peak

Last 200 Meters to the peak

You are only about 200 Metres away from the peak, when you see cross No.14 and the big cross next to it.

14th cross and the big cross

When you see the 14th cross and the big cross, you are only 200 Meters away from the peak

After the last cross, I reached an open area with soil trail pounded solid by thousands of footsteps of hikers.

Almost reaching the hilltop

Almost reaching the hilltop

The view on top of Bukit Perahu

The view on top of Bukit Perahu

On the hilltop were some relaxing hikers enjoyed the panoramic view of Tamparuli town, rolling green hills and Mt. Kinabalu.

Hikers enjoying the scenic view

Hikers enjoying the scenic view

Hawkers on the peak

The hawkers sell stuffs from early morning to 9 or 10am on the peak

Hungry? Thirsty? A few hawkers were selling drink, snacks and fruit (the prices are higher, consider the labour work to carry these things up to the hill, e.g. a tin of 100Plus sold for RM3.00).

Drink, snack, chips and fruit for sale on the hill

You can buy some drink, snack, chips and fruit on the hill

Bird eye view of Tamparuli from the top of the hill

You can have a bird eye view of Tamparuli from the top of the hill

Mount Kinabalu far away

The only shade you can find on hilltop.

The Boat Rocks

I tried to locate the two boat rocks that earn Bukit Perahu the name.

Looking for the boat rock

Looking for the boat rock

The smaller one is nearer and the entrance is at the left hand side (when you face Mt. Kinabalu).

One the way to the smaller boat rock

On the way to the smaller boat rock

It’s quite an easy walk on a small trail and I saw the boat rock within 10 minutes. It really looks like the front of ship (bow).

rock that looks like a sinking ship

This rock looks like a sinking ship

The bigger one is another story. The entrance is at the right. When I asked the locals for direction, they looked concern, as if it’s a bad idea. They warned me that the trail is not in good condition.

Azlan clearing the bush that blocks the trail

Azlan clearing the bush that blocks the trail

I just proceeded anyway and walked into the wood, just after 15 Metres a dense bush was in my way, I was stuck. Luckily, Azlan, a local from Tamparuli, came to “rescue” by using his machete to clear the trail.

On the way to the biggest boat rock

On the way to the biggest boat rock

I followed Azlan to pass through the dense wood and narrow steep trail. Azlan climbs this hill regularly so he knows the place really well. In fact, he is the one who opens the trail to the big boat rock. He said he had cleared the trail in Jan but the undergrowth flourished again.

Azlan, the one who opens the trail to the huge boat rock

Azlan is the one who opens the trail to the huge boat rock.

After 23 minutes of painfully slow move on steep and slippery trail, Azlan stopped at a big rock and said “It’s here.” I didn’t see any boat rock. He added, “You are on top of the boat rock. You need to descend to the side to have a better look.”

Big boat rock

Big boat rock

He is right. At one side, the boat rock looks like the hull of a cargo ship. I don’t really recommend you visit this rock due to safety. If you must go, bring insect repellant.

huge boat rock

This boat rock is really huge. Did you see the “snake head rock”?

Then we descend to another side. From this angle, the rock really looks like a ship that has 3 layers of decks. Two ladies, Zoom and Farah were following us, I included them in the photos so you can see the scale.

Closer look of the boat rock

Closer look of the boat rock

Azlan is a civil servant working in Tuaran. Though he is 52 years old, he remains very fit and climb Bukit Perahu up and down 5 times to train for climbathon (mountain race).

How to get there

When you reach Tamparuli town, which is about 30 minutes by car from Kota Kinabalu City, turn to Jalan Tamparuli Togop Road (see Street View map) beside the police station,

The starting point of the hike next to the road

The starting point of the hike is next to the road. Note the signage that reads Puncak St. Veronica

Just follow the road for about 300 Metres, the starting point will be at at your left (see Street View map, GPS Coordinate: 6.131424, 116.273830). If you come in the morning during weekends, you would see many cars parked at the roadside.

Toilet at starting point

Toilet is available at starting point (RM0.20 per entry)

At the starting point, there is a sign that reads “Laluan Jalan Salip ke Puncak St. Veronica” (translated as: Way of the Cross to St. Veronica Peak). There is a house there so be quiet. You can use their toilet for RM0.20 (put the coin into the tin can).

Photos taken in Tamparuli, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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