Category Archives: Sabah

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.

Religion

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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Himpogot, the money belt

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A guy is lucky if he is born with a silver spoon in his mouth. It’s a blessing if a Kadazandusun lady inherits a himpogot from her mother. Himpogot is a “money belt” made of 18 or more British silver coins chained together, and it is the most shiny accessory of traditional costume of Kadazandusun, the largest indigenous group of Sabah.

Tangkong and Himpogot

The older the Tangkong and Himpogot, the more valuable they are

In old days, wearing precious metal such as silver is a way of showing off a person’s wealth. Now himpogot is a symbol of elegance and classy beauty. The “ori” (original) himpogot means antique silver coin belt passed down (to daughters normally) as heirloom from ancestors and it’s very rare now.

Kadazan Dusun and Murut people wearing himpogot

Himpogot is a common accessory among Kadazan, Dusun and Murut people of Sabah

Therefore, due to its rarity, it’s a great pride for a Kadazandusun girl to wear a full set of 3 sparkling ori himpogot belts, which weigh more than 1.5 Kilograms, about as heavy as a big bottle of mineral water. The term Himpogot is derived from the Kadazan word pogoton, which means to tighten the tie.

One to five Himpogot belts are worn

One to five Himpogot belts are worn

Himpogot is widely used in traditional costumes of native tribes in Borneo and have different names, e.g. Botungkat in Dusun, Pipirot Linggit in Murut, and Sementing Ringgit in Iban. The way Himpogot being worn is also different among ethnic groups.

Standard way of wearing himpogot by Kadazan Penampang

Standard way of wearing himpogot by Kadazan Penampang

The “standard” way of wearing himpogot is usually referring to Kadazan Penampang style. A maximum of three himpogot belts are used, one on the waist and another two, before and after the tangkong brass belts. This looks beautiful with black velvet dress with gold trimmings (siling).

Bajau lady (left) wearing Himpogot

Bajau lady (left) wearing Himpogot

In contrast, Dusun Lotud uses one himpogot together with Lilimbo (Rattan Hip Band), whereas Dusun Tempasuk from Kota Belud will wear up to 3 himpogot on the hip. Kadazan Papar ladies use one on the waist and 2 or 3 on the hip.

The coin belt (Sementing ringgit and dangling coins (Sementing Buchai) of Iban girl

The coin belts (Sementing ringgit) and dangling coins (Sementing Buchai) of Iban girl

Though Iban is considered as a Sarawak tribe, Sabah has some Iban people living around Sipitang and Tawau too. In addition to silver coin waist belts (Sementing ringgit), Iban female also wears the dangling silver coin chains on skirts, hundreds of coins are used, pretty impressive. But Iban has its whole way of using and wearing silver coins, and I won’t cover more.

Dusun Tindal men wearing Himpogot

The men of Dusun Tindal also wear Himpogot

The prices of himpogot can vary considerably. The “ori” (original) himpogot can cost more than 1,000 Ringgit. The fake or imitation ones usually cost from RM90 to RM200, depending on the quality.

Tangkong (left), the brass belt and Himpogot (right), the silver belt

Tangkong (left), the brass belt and Himpogot (right), the silver belt

The original Tangkong brass belts also cost a fortune. A complete set of 3 tangkong and 3 himpogot belts can worth over RM15,000 (≈USD$3,750). But these are traditional jewelleries that are seldom available for sale.

Himpogot worn as shoulder bands by a Murut Paluan woman

Himpogot worn as shoulder bands by a Murut Paluan woman

British Trade Dollar

Most of the time I only see old British coins used in himpogot. The most common coin being used in himpogot is the British Trade Dollar issued between 1895 and 1937 . This silver coin consists of 90% silver and was used to be a ‘Trade Coinage’ (coins manufactured by one country for use in another country) widely circulated in China, Hong Kong, Malaya, Borneo and Brunei as an international currency in early 20th century.

Antique himpogot exhibited in Monsopiad Cultural Village

Antique himpogot exhibited in Monsopiad Cultural Village

Now let’s play a game to see if you can identify an original himpogot. There are two himpogot below, tell me which one costs RM3,500 and RM150. Guess. Don’t scroll down too fast for answers ok.

MYR150 and MYR3,500 Himpogot

Guess which Himpogot is MYR150 and MYR3,500

On the coin is the Britannia standing on a shore, holding a trident in one hand and a shield in the other, with a merchant ship under full sail in the background. This coin was known as Ringgit Tongkat (Walking Stick Dollar) and Botungkat (having a stick) in Malaya and some Dusun respectively because of this figure. Britannia is the female personification of the British Isles and she symbolizes unity, liberty and strength. The Britannia side must face outward when himpogot is worn.

This himpogot is valued at MYR3,500

This himpogot is valued at MYR3,500 (≈USD$880)

Answer: The second (bottom) himpogot is valued at RM3,500, while the one on top is only RM150. Have you gotten the right answer? The average price of each coin in ori himpogot is RM184! I checked eBay and found these coins are worth more than USD$50 each (collector’s quality). FYI, each coin has different value. Anyway, their prices exceeds silver value due to their numismatic (coin collector) appeal.

Himpogot with faked coins

Himpogot using faked coins is a lot cheaper

Look at the photo of RM150 himpogot above. The words and graphics have shallower emboss and the surface is more whitish in color. According to the seller, the shiny surface is a plated silver. Another thing you can see is the year on these coins are all the same.

The coins of Himpogot in different years

The coins of ori Himpogot in different years (1897, 1898, 1900, 1901, 1903, 1911).

Now look at the original himpogot above. The British trade dollar coins are naturally worn and have different years. The weight of this .900 fine silver coin is about 26.95 g. Stanis, the seller, says the real silver coins will make crisp ding-ding sound when hit each other, whereas the fake coins will make “ta-ta” dull sound. It’s a fake too if it is magnetic. You can read this article to spot counterfeit British Trade Dollar.

These three himpogot cost MYR2,500 to MYR3,500.

These three “ori” himpogot cost MYR2,500 to MYR3,500.

Above are three original himpogot that costs (from top to bottom) RM2,500, RM3,000 and RM3,500. It costs RM9,000 if you want these three belts as a complete himpogot set! On the reverse of the coin is an arabesque design with the Chinese symbol for longevity in the center, and the denomination in two languages: Chinese (壹圓 = One Dollar) and Jawi ( ساتو رڠڬية‎ = One Ringgit). You can learn more about the history of this coin.

Mexican coin in Himpogot

Note the Mexican coin (used as buckle)

Sometimes other silver coins are used in himpogot, like the Mexican coin above and the following copper-nickel 25 Pence in 1977 that celebrated the Silver Jubilee (25th Anniversary) of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, Straits Dollar, and Hong Kong Silver Dollar. Himpogot with coins that aren’t drilled with holes has higher value.

Himpogot made of copper-nickel 25 Pence coins in 1977 that celebrates the Silver Jubilee (25th Anniversary) of Queen Elizabeth’s reign

Himpogot made of copper-nickel 25 Pence coins in 1977 that celebrates the Silver Jubilee (25th Anniversary) of Queen Elizabeth’s reign (Photo from the book “Cultures, Customs and Traditions of Sabah Malaysia – An Introduction”)

Just a thought. Does anyone make new himpogot with new silver coins? For example, they can buy new British silver coins, which costs about RM75 to RM90 each, for making of a new himpogot which costs about RM1,500. Though it’s not an antique, it’ll become ori after passing down for a few generations, a good investment.

Handicraft stall of Stanis in Tamu (open market) of Donggongon town

Handicraft stall of Stanis in Tamu (open market) of Donggongon town

If you want to buy original himpogot, you may look for the stall of Mr. Stanis in Tamu (open air weekly market) in Donggongon town, which is open in Thursday and Friday mornings. His stall is the largest handicraft stall in the middle of tamu.

stall of Stanis

His stall only opens in the morning of every Thursday and Friday.

However, these himpogots are stored in his little treasure chest. You can ask him to show you. You better hurry. Last time I mentioned about his RM8,000 Tangkong and it was sold. Original himpogot is a rare and highly sought-after item, so I’m sure it’ll be gone soon. No, he didn’t pay me any commission or ad fee.

Special thanks to Anne from Chanteek Borneo Gallery for providing a lot of information about Himpogot.

Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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