Category Archives: Sabah

Tamu (Weekly Open-air Native Market) of Sikuati town

Sikuati Tamu (Open-Air Market)

If you live in a developed country, open-air native market may have gone “extinct” and replaced by air-conditioned supermarkets. If you on the way to the Tip of Borneo of Sabah in Sunday morning, you may drop by the tamu (weekly open-air market) in Sikuati, a small town about 18 KM before Kudat town. The tamu market of Sikuati is open from 7am to 12pm on every Sunday.

Tamu as a gathering place

Tamu is also a gathering spot for locals to mingle around

Tamu of Sikuati

Tamu was started as bartering trade area in the past

Sikuati (GPS: 6.891364, 116.712713, see Location Map or Street View) is a very small town in northern district with only a few shoplots. In normal days you won’t see many people around here, but it turns into a busy alfresco market on Sunday.

Local fruits and vegetables for sale in Tamu

Local fruits and vegetables for sale in Tamu

The tamu of Sikuati is similar to other tamu in Sabah, which sells almost EVERYTHING. Anyway, most of the items sold here are local produces from villagers, who are mainly farmers and fishermen, so you will see a myriad of freshly harvested fruits, vegetables and seafood in tamu.

Sikuati tamu

Sikuati is a small town about 18 KM away from Kudat

To locals like me, tamu is just an ordinary thing. For foreigners, they might enjoy exploring a local market which is so different from their hometown. “Hey, why common things like apple and broccoli aren’t being sold here?” they might think. Well, enjoy your Wander and Wonder tour in tamu, Tourist. This is Sabah.

Tamu (Alfresco or Open-air Market)

Tamu means “Temu” (Meeting in Malay language)

I was probably the only “tourist” in this tamu during my visit (everyone was looking at me and smile). As this tamu is purely for local shoppers, it’s unlikely that you find souvenir and the tacky “I Love Sabah” T-shirt there lol. I like that it’s not so commercialized and touristy though.

Variety of fresh seafood

Variety of fresh seafood

Nevertheless, many Rungus people live in Sikuati. They are expert in weaving beaded work and handicraft. You can get some beautiful bead necklace and handicraft at very good price in Sikuati tamu. In fact, many vendors buy from them, then double or triple the prices in souvenir shops in city.

shop for breakfast and food in tamu

Tamu is a great place to shop for breakfast and food

You also can shop for other items such as meats, seafood, salted & dried fishes, snacks, clothing, toys, flowers, household items and even machetes in tamu. However, Sikuati Tamu is relatively smaller so the variety of goods is limited. For example, I was looking for montokou (a local wine) but the seller wasn’t around that day.

Local seafood in tamu

You wouldn’t know some stuffs are edible until you visit a Tamu market

By the way, tamu is also a good place to sample local food. Many local snacks are packed or wrapped nicely in plastic, so you can buy some home to try. Keep an open mind and be a bit more adventurous. Go try eating some fruits unknown to you, like tampoi and liposu. You can find wild durian if you visit in fruiting season.

Lambis lambis (Spider Conch) and seaweed for sale

Lambis lambis (Spider Conch) and seaweed for sale

Edible Seaweed (Sea Grapes)

Edible Seaweed (Sea Grapes)

Sometimes I can learn something new in tamu, for example, what stuffs are edible. I first discover one of my favourite food, a type of seaweed named sea grapes in tamu. Squeeze a bit of lime juice on it and eat it raw, so yummy. It’s only RM1 or RM2 (≈USD0.25-0.50) per bag.

Smelly salted dried fish

Smelly salted dried fish

The weekly tamu turns Sikuati into a bustling town

The weekly tamu turns Sikuati into a bustling town

In the past, I could find “exotic” meats and pets in tamu. Yeah, tamu was used to be the best place to buy wild boar and deer meats. Sometimes they would sell slow loris, pangolin and rare birds (Hell if I know people bought them as food or pet). Now Sabah Wildlife Department is very serious in banning game meats, so the only “wild food” allowed in tamu now is wild bee honey I guess.

Dried shrimps and fishes are commonly sold in tamu

Dried shrimps and fishes are commonly sold in tamu

The products sold in tamu is cheaper than supermarket, because there is no middleman, and the villagers also don’t bear any overhead to run a store or customer service department. They just take their stuffs to tamu, and lay everything on the floor to sell. A booth is not even required. Such market won’t be permitted in modern cities, where everything has to be “proper and licensed” or the city council will fine them.

Telescope Creeper Shells

Telescope Creeper Shells, probably from mangrove mudflat nearby

Not only that, we can buy “duty free” cigarette and wine in tamu. Just kidding. Actually these are homemade tobacco rolls (known as Sigup locally) and rice wine such as Lihing.

Live abalone for sale

Live abalone for sale

OMG the live abalone is only sold for RM20 (≈USD5) per kilo here! Cheap isn’t it? It’s a win-win, the buyers save some money and the sellers earn some side income.

flesh of mussels

Guess what it is. (Answer: flesh of mussels)

However, you must always bargain in tamu. The shopkeeper would give you an eye-roll if you ask for a discount in shopping mall, but you are expected to haggle in tamu. You know the trick. Stick to a reasonable counter offer, pretend to leave then the seller would say, “Ok ok I’ll take that!” to close the deal.

The seafood is from local fishermen

The seafood is from local fishermen

“Everyone lives by selling something.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Tip: always bargain in tamu market

Tip: always bargain in tamu market

During the old days when there was no Internet and newspapers, tamu is also a meeting point for socializing and information exchange among people from different villages. My late grandmother was used to be a hawker in tamu. I don’t think she made a good profit by selling used clothing, but she insisted to go to tamu every week. To old folks, tamu is already part of their lives.

Photos taken in Sikuati, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Kelambu, One Island and Two Beaches

Kelambu Beach is also known as Kulambu Beach

At the north of Sabah, Kudat has the most number of nice beaches in Sabah, and many of them have unique geological features more than a stretch of white sand. Kelambu Beach (or Kulambu Beach) is a tombolo, which is a sand bar joining an island to the mainland and something rare in Sabah. Kelambu means mosquito net in local language, probably the beach is named after the mosquito-net shape of Kelambu Island.

Kelambu (or Kulambu) Island

Kelambu (or Kulambu) Island is connect to the mainland by a stretch of sand bar

Kelambu Beach (locally known as Pantai Kelambu) is accessible by tar road (mostly) and about 31 KM to the north-west of Kudat town and 8 KM at the south of the Tip of Borneo. There is no public transport going there, so you need to drive there yourself (GPS: 6.987443, 116.724120, see Location Map).

Kelambu Beach (Pantai Kelambu)

Kelambu Beach (Pantai Kelambu) is a public beach of Kudat

Kelambu Beach is a beautiful destination that escapes the radar of tourists. It has no facilities, except three seaside pavilions and a few barbecue pits (someone says a public washroom is available but I didn’t see it). In fact, locals would prefer that it remains undeveloped because we don’t to share this secluded beach with noisy tourists and greedy developers.

Aerial view of Kelambu Island and Beach on Google Map

Aerial view of Kelambu Island and Beach on Google Map

The 200-Meter sand bar to Kelambu Island is quite broad, about 20 to 30 Metres in width, and the soft sandy beach is comfortable to walk on with bare feet.

Kelambu Island (Pulau Kelambu) is connected to the mainland by a narrow stretch of sand bar

Kelambu Beach is also known as Kulambu Beach

There were only two families playing at the beach during my visit. The beach is big and everyone is far from one another, so I hear only lapping waves most of the time.

Crystal clear water of Kelambu Beach

Crystal clear water of Kelambu Beach (note the dark fish ball in the sea)

The crystal clear and shallow sea water is very inviting, so I soak my feet to enjoy the cooling water. I tried the water at both sides of the sand bar just for fun because someone say the water temperature is warmer at the right. It’s true.

Panoramic shot of Kelambu Beach

Panoramic shot of Kelambu Beach

Here is a secret. If you come here at night, you would find luminous sea at Kelambu Beach. Whenever you touch the water, it will leave a light trail of your movement. The light is a natural chemical reaction called bioluminescence emitted by phytoplankton (a tiny organism) when disturbed. The light is more obvious during new moon.

Kulambu Beach is a secluded beach not known by most tourists

Kulambu Beach is a secluded beach only well-known among locals

However, there is no lighting around the beach, so please bring a torchlight if you want to explore here at night, and don’t go alone.

Kelambu Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches of Kudat

Kelambu Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches of Kudat

Rip tide warning at Kelambu Beach

Rip tide makes Kelambu Beach an unsuitable place to swim

Due to presence of rip tide, Kelambu Beach is not a safe place to swim. It’s ok to play near the shore, as long as you stay in water lower than your waist.

Kelambu Beach (or Pantai Kelambu in local language)

Kelambu Beach (or Pantai Kelambu in local language)

Fishing boats at Kelambu Beach

Fishing boats at Kelambu Beach

Unless you plan to have a picnic, a short visit to this beach takes less than an hour. Anyway, it is a great place to take vacation photos to harvest some Likes on Facebook. A selfie on this beach with Kelumba Island as your background is quite a killer shot.

Kelambu Island is a tombolo

The sand bar to Kelambu Island is a tombolo

Kelambu Island is an uninhabited and rocky island covered with lush forest. It takes you only 5 minutes to walk to that island during low tide.

Rocky bank of Kelambu Island (Pulau Kelambu)

Rocky bank of Kelambu Island (Pulau Kelambu)

When I explored around the island, I found a nice angle for photography. But a pile of seaweed on the beach was in the frame, and I didn’t want this. Therefore, I gave it a BIG KICK. Suddenly I was all over by a swarm of buzzing sandflies. That freaked me out because I thought I was attacked by bees. I ran like an Olympian to mainland and screamed “WTH! WTH?” all the way. Now I think it’s funny.

Blue Sky, White Sand and Green Forest at Kelambu Beach

Blue Sky, White Sand and Green Forest at Kelambu Beach

High tide floods the sand bar

High tide floods the sand bar

You can camp in Kelambu Beach, and the sand bar looks like a loving place to setup a tent. I would advise you not to do that because you would find that you sleep in the water later.

The sand bar of Kelambu Beach is flooded during high tide

The sand bar of Kelambu Beach is flooded during high tide

However, there are some rubbish scattered around Kelambu Beach, especially the area near the pavilions. A local non-profit organization, Kudat Turtle Conservation Society (KTCS) has been doing some beach clean up, but the visitors still litter at the beach.

Casuarina trees and shelters at Kelambu Beach

Casuarina trees and shelters at Kelambu Beach

Rubbish next to the Keep Clean sign

Trash next to the “Keep Clean” sign

You see. Local people always complain when some resorts or developers privatize a beach. But when they own the beach, they turn it into a dumping ground. With such attitude, do we deserve to have beautiful beach?

Littering at Kelambu Beach

Littering at Kelambu Beach

The pavilions are also not in good shape due to poor maintenance. I didn’t see any dustbin around too.

Damaged bench in the shelter

Damaged bench in the pavilion

Now Kelambu Beach just looks like a pretty but dirty girl. After some cleaning, I believe the beach will become super nice again.

The rubbish is an eyesore at Kelambu Beach

The rubbish is an eyesore at Kelambu Beach

I’m sure our government will do something about it after they see this post. Anyway, please don’t leave any garbage behind after you visit the beach. If we want to be successful in life, please learn not to let others to take care of our mess.

Photos taken in Kudat, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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