Tag Archives: Kota Belud

Stargazing in Sabah

stargazing couple under the starry sky

“Hey, do you know where to see meteor? I want to make wishes.” At first I was dumbfounded at her question, then I realized that there is no more starry sky in our city. “Lasau Podi,” I replied, “the sky over there is full of stars and it got so many meteors that you can make wishes all night long. Probably next day you would become the prettiest, richest and healthiest person in the world, if these are what you will wish.”

stargazing couple under the starry sky

This photo generates a lot of interest in stargazing.

Sky filled with twinkling stars was used to be a everyday thing at my home decades ago. Sadly, due to increasing light and air pollution, one-third of world population can’t see the Milky Way. The night of modern cities such as Singapore and South Korea is vibrant with colorful neon lights, but they have no more scattered diamond dust in the sky. Now children would sing “Twinkle, twinkle, little star… I wonder where you are..”

camping tent under the Milky Way

The Milky Way contains between 100 and 400 billion stars

Stargazing at Lasau Podi

Lasau Podi is discovered by Sabah Stargazers as an excellent location for stargazing. It’s a countryside about 20 KM away from Kota Belud town, and the approximate location where I shot the stars is 6.359675, 116.559431 (see Location Map). 95% of the road from Kota Kinabalu City (KK) to Lasau Podi is paved so it’s very accessible.

Mt. Kinabalu under the stars

Mt. Kinabalu under the stars

Last month I was drooling when my friend showed me the stunning photos of Milky Way that he took in Lasau Podi, so a BIG Yes to him when he asked if I wanted to join him in second trip. We departed at 8pm from KK. After we passed by Kota Belud town and headed to Lasau Podi, we entered the countryside without street light along the road. Our car bumped into herds of cows sleeping on the road. Drive carefully if you go there.

Herd of cows blocking the road

Herd of cows blocking our road

We reached the destination around 11pm, I was mesmerized by the breathtaking view of starry sky, with silhouette of Mount Kinabalu as the backdrop. The number of stars that you can see on a clear night in a total darkness is about 2,000, and I think I saw them all there.

starry sky behind 4 wheel drive

When we got out of our car and saw the starry sky, we went gaga.

After we setup the camping tent, we shot until 4am in the morning. I slept under a blanket of thousands of stars, lovely, but I was also attacked by thousand of mosquitoes.

Thousand-Star Camping

5-Star Hotel and Thousand-Star Camp, which one you prefer?

Did you know when we look up to the winking stars, we are looking at a scene of the past? Light from a distant star can travel millions of years to reach us, it may be long gone by the time we see it.

Mount Kinabalu in the morning

Mount Kinabalu in the morning

capturing the sunrise view of Mt. Kinabalu

Second photography session to capture the sunrise view of Mt. Kinabalu

When we waked up in the morning, we could see our surrounding better. We were on a high ground overlooking a plain with Mt. Kinabalu far away. It’s a scenic dawn.

Sunrise lit up part of the hill

Sunrise lit up part of the hill

Despite sleeping for only 2 hours, we took out our tripod and camera again for second round of crazy clicking. We bagged more beautiful photos, tired but happy.

The misty plain of Lasau Podi in the morning

The misty plain of Lasau Podi in the morning

Anyway, Lasau Podi isn’t a romantic location for dating. There is no toilet and comfortable accommodation. Instead, you can try Tegudon Tourism Village (TTV), which is only 30 minutes away from Lasau Podi and have toilet, camping ground and amenities for visitors.

Behind the Scene

Behind the Scene (in Lasau Podi): it’s quite a mess lol

Guys slept in open space

Guys slept in open space. It’s me at lower left. I covered my head because of mosquitoes lol

camping at Lasau Podi

Without any accommodation nearby, camping is the only option at Lasau Podi

Best Locations for Stargazing

If you search online for best stargazing sites, you will find some ranking of top star-hunting locations in Sabah. Some says Kudat is the best, and other would say No, Kundasang is better… Well you can forget these reviews. In Sabah, as long as you are in a countryside far from city light and air pollution, you will see starry sky. Your best bet is at the beaches and fields which has nothing to obstruct the star views at the horizon.

Photographer at work

Photographer at work

Below is some photos I took in other places of Sabah:

Kudat longhouse under the starry sky

Kudat longhouse under the starry sky

Beautiful night sky in Kiulu

Beautiful night sky in Kiulu

Milky way in Pitas

Milky way in Pitas

I also saw a lot of stars in Kuala Penyu, Beaufort, Keningau, etc.

What’s Milky Way?

Guess you enjoy the movie “Guardian of the Galaxy”? But what does a galaxy look like? You would notice the “star river” in my star photos. It is Milky Way, the galaxy that contains our Solar System (where we live). Below is the disk-shaped structure of Milky Way.

Side view of our galaxy (Milky Way)

Side view of our galaxy (Milky Way)

The following is the top view of Milky Way, it contains between 100 and 400 billion stars and probably at least 100 billion planets!

Illustration of our galaxy

Illustration of our galaxy. Note the location of our sun and planets.

If you are really interested in stargazing, you can join the activities of Sabah Stargazers group:
Website: sabahstargazers.wordpress.com
Facebook: SabahStargazers

camping at Lasau Podi

The number of stars that we can see with naked eyes is about 2,000

Tips for Stargazing

  1. Go in moonless night for best view, more stars are visible in total dark sky.
  2. Avoid cloudy and rainy days. Common sense.
  3. Stay far away from any light. Countryside is good place to start.
  4. Watch out for your safety in remote area. Go in group if possible.
  5. Bring torchlight and insect repellent

Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

The Vibrant Tamu Market of Kota Belud

Tamu of Kota Belud

To know the culture and lifetstyle of locals, the best way is to visit their market. Tamu (means “Meeting”) is a traditional open-air market of Sabah. In the old days, there was no supermarket and shopping malls, so farmers, fishermen and hawkers would gather weekly at tamu to exchange their goods by bartering. Tamu is also a social gathering place where villagers exchange news and gossip. The tamu of Kota Belud town is the biggest and the most famous native market among tourists.

Mount Kinabalu in Kota Belud
Kota Belud is 75 KM north of Kota Kinabalu city. To go to Tamu of Kota Belud, which is open on every Sunday from 6am to 2pm, you only need to drive about 1 hour on the sealed road. Along the way, you would see lush paddy fields and Mt. Kinabalu, the highest mountain of Malaysia and Borneo.

entrance to Tamu Market of Kota Belud
Pic: the entrance of Kota Belud Tamu (See Location Map)

The tamu becomes the busiest spot of Kota Belud in Sunday morning, so it is a bit hard to find parking space. Tamu trade is carried out under the tree shade, so you will see some big trees around.

vegetables for sale in pasar tamu
Once you walk into tamu, you will smell a mixture of different scents like wet market. I love to experience the atmosphere here. Though it is a busy market, everyone is really relax. You can mingle with the friendly locals, and soon you will feel that you are part of tamu. That’s why my late grandmother always hanged around in tamu every week. The people here are very used to tourists.

tropical fruits for sale

The Tamu is more than an open market, besides local produces such as fruits & vegetables and fishes, you can find all sorts of local and imported goods, from clothing, handbags, baskets, handicraft, tobacco, traditional herb, food, snacks, wild honey, electronics, toy, and more. I saw many interesting and weird stuffs for sale too.

Food & Snacks

If you plan to tour around Tamu, I advise you not to take heavy breakfast. There are rich variety of local food and snacks for you to shop and try.

Tapai rice attracts honey bees
Pic: this wrapped food attracts a lot of honey bees. Out of curiosity, I bought one for only RM0.50 (≈USD0.16).

Tapai rice
Pic: It is Tapai Rice, a sweet rice with strong aroma of local rice wine.

Pic: Pinjaram (a.k.a. UFO Cake), a local sweet dessert with chewy texture, best served with hot coffee. Pinjaram comes with two flavors, i.e., Palm Sugar (brown) and Pandan spice (green).

Kuih Cincin
Pic: this is Kuih Cincin (means “Ring Biscuit”), a famous snack that has crunchy coating, with soft and sweet content inside (taste like chocolate). Only RM2.00 (≈USD0.67) per pack.

Kuih Cincin
Pic: you can wear the biscuit if you don’t want to eat it LOL.

huge cracker
Pic: Check out this huge Tapioca Cracker (Keropok Ubi Kayu)! A pack of two costs RM2.50 (≈USD0.83). It has 2 flavors, the dark one is spicy.

eating cracker
This big cracker is too fragile to bring home overseas, so you have to try it in Sabah.

Bajau food and snacks
There are 20 or 30 more food items and I can’t introduce them all here. But you can see them in my 4-min video below:

Colorful Handicraft

Bajau people of Kota Belud are famous for their colorful culture. They love bright colors such as red, yellow and green, and this is reflected in their handicraft.

colorful handicraft
You will be impressed by a lot of big and small handicraft items in Tamu. I saw most tourists were not empty-handed after a visit to Tamu. Shopping for traditional handicraft in this traditional market is more fun than buying it from souvenir shops in city. Don’t forget to bargain though.

handmade baskets of Bajau
Pic: colorful handmade baskets of Bajau

machetes of Bajau
Another great item to check out is hand-crafted Bajau machete (Parang in local language), which is created by traditional method.

parang in Tamu
Good parang can cost over RM100 (≈USD33) each. Anyway, you can negotiate for lower price with the sellers. They expect you to ask for discount too.

magic sticks
Then I saw a booth selling “magic sticks” (Kayu Thas and Petunduk). The seller claimed that these sticks have spiritual power, just to list a few:

  • Chase away aggressive animals and bad spirit.
  • Prevent thief to break into your house.
  • Turning naughty kid into nice kid.
  • Bring prosperity to your business.
  • Cure various sickness.
  • Keep a small piece in your bag and the snatch thief won’t target you.

Wow, it can do almost everything. For only RM7 (≈USD2.33), this “magic wand” is really cheap, haha. He said you couldn’t use it as a fishing rod, or you would catch no fish.


There are plenty of fresh and dried seafood too. This tamu is quite well-organized, as stalls that sell similar items are grouped together.

fresh seafood

horse shoe crabs
Pic: Horse shoe crab, yes, it’s edible.

seaweed in tamu
Pic: seaweed from clean sea water. It’s rich in collagen. You can add some lime juice and eat it raw.

dried seafood
Pic: Dried seafood (anchovy fish and shrimp) and salty fishes are popular buy of Asian tourists.

fishes seasoned with Buah Keluak fruit paste
Pic: At first I thought these fishes were covered in soil. Actually they are seasoned with a fruit paste made of Buah Keluak (note the fruit at bottom).

Bajau and Tamu Besar Festival

Majority of population in Kota Belud is Bajau, who is also known as Cowboy of the East, due to their excellent horse-riding skill. The best time to appreciate their rich culture is in annual Tamu Besar (Big Tamu Festival).

Bajau, Cowboy of the East
Bajau is also good at riding buffalo, which is more challenging.

traditional costumes of Bajau girls
Pic: Bajau girls in traditional costumes

During the festival, you will see Bajau people dressed in bright-colored costumes. Some interesting activities in Tamu Besar include Beauty Pageant, Buffalo & Horse Racing, Cultural Performance and the highlight is Bajau Horsemen Parade.

Bajau Horsemen
They even dress up their horses and ponies in this yearly event. Tourists can take a short ride on these ponies for a fee (about RM10≈USD3.33).

The Tamu Besar will be tentatively held on 26 and 27 October this year (2013). You may check out the calendar of Sabah Tourism website for latest update.

More Photos of Tamu

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Photos taken in Kota Belud, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo