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Batu Gong (Music Rock)

Batu Gong (Music Rock)

Years ago I was told by a friend about the amazing Batu Gong (Music Rock) in Kampung Solibog (Solibog Village) of Tambunan. In Malay language, Batu means Rock and Gong is an idiophones musical instrument. Gong (photo below) is made of galvanized iron sheets and a backbone traditional music instrument for indigenous tribes of Sabah. In fact, gong is also commonly found in South East Asia countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Brunei.

Gong (idiophones)

Our people play gong in important social events such as wedding, festivals and celebrations. Usually gongs in various sizes were beaten by a group of players, in different rhythm to produce a harmonious orchestra. If you hit Batu Gong, it also produces sounds resemble to gong.

Gong as an important musical instrument

To see Batu Gong, I drove 1.5 hours to Tambunan town, which is about 81 KM away from Kota Kinabalu. I asked the Tambunan people how to get there. Though most of them know about Batu Gong, they don’t know the exact location. They only gave me a vague direction and advised me to ask the villagers when I passed by a golf course.

On the way to Batu Gong of Tambunan

Going from the main road of Tambunan to the direction of Keningau town for about 7 KM, you will see a golf course named TNGC (Tambunan Golf & Country Club) at the left of the road within 10 minutes. Then turn left to a junction just before the milestone labeled “Keningau 43” (see photo above).

Junction to Batu Gong

At this junction, you will also see the street sign “JLN. BATU GONG” (Batu Gong Road) with a signpost that reads “Golf View Villa” behind (see photo above). Just follow the small road.

Junction to Batu Gong

After a while, I reached a T junction. I turned to right and it is a correct way. The GPS location of Batu Gong is 5.623135, 116.339694 (see Location Map or Street View)

House of Batu Gong (Music Rock)

Minutes later I came to the road with river at the right. I drove slowly and saw a white sign “Batu Gong” behind a gate at my left.

Location of Batu Gong

Location of Batu Gong

Pretty sure that I found the place. I parked my car and walked to the gate. I was a bit surprised that Batu Gong is inside a private housing area.

Welcome to Batu Gong (Music Rock)

Though a bit hesitated, I opened the gate to enter. Then I saw a hut with a sign “Selamat Datang Ke Batu Gong” (Welcome to Batu Gong). Since it says Welcome, I guess it’s ok to go in.

Hut of Batu Gong (Music Rock)

Here it is! They store Batu Gong inside a simple hut built with zinc roof, brick wall and iron fence.

Batu Gong (Music Rock)

Looking into the hut, I was happy to see Batu Gong inside.

Around Batu Gong (Music Rock)

However, this place is a private property, probably I should ask for owner’s approval to enter. I walked to a house nearby. I met the owner, Uncle Yaman, and introduced myself.

Yaman and Batu Gong (Music Rock)

Uncle Yaman is very friendly and more than happy to show me his Batu Gong. The Batu Gong are a few boulders that look like natural ordinary rocks. Judging by their look, I can’t spot anything unusual. The discovery of Batu Gong is also by accident.

Yaman and Batu Gong (Music Rock)

According to Yaman, there was a straightening project of Pegalan River in front of his house in year 1995. A few boulders were dug out from the river and placed at the river bank. Nobody bothered about those rocks.

playing Batu Gong (Music Rock)

Batu Gong (Music Rock)
Batu Gong (Music Rock)
Some village kids like to bathe in this river. Then one day, the adults found that the kids playing with the boulder by hitting it with stone, to produce Gong-like sound. They were so amazed by these magic rocks, so they relocated them to his house for everyone to see.

Closer view of Batu Gong (Music Rock)

Above: a closer look of the rock. Can you see anything special? Yaman said a Japanese scientist came here before to check out Batu Gong. This scientist believes Batu Gong has high level of iron, thereby giving it a metal property.

Heavy Batu Gong (Music Rock)
Above: so heavy, 3 men also can’t lift it.

Batu Gong (Music Rock)

There was someone offered to buy Batu Gong, but the villagers refused, as Batu Gong is such a unique and priceless natural wonder. See 8 small stones on Batu Gong? Batu Gong can produce 8 different tones. Each stone places on the spot that has a unique tone (but a few tones sound the same to me).

Trying Batu Gong (Music Rock)

Traveling nearly 100 KM to see Batu Gong, I already couldn’t wait to beat it hard.

Trying Batu Gong (Music Rock)

Wow, I can’t believe it. When being hit, Batu Gong sounds like gong (but not very much). Its sounds are crisp and high-pitched. Just imagine you hit the iron bar with a small hammer. My sense of rhythm is poor, anyway, I had so much fun hitting different spots to hear different tones. You can watch the video below to see what I mean. Near the end of video, I also include the sound and music of real gong for you to compare.

I always wanted to see Batu Gong years ago. I only did it after I got my compact camera with HD movie recording function, because I could not show the sounds with photos.

River where Batu Gong found

Above: the river where Batu Gong was found. This river is just in front the house of Uncle Yaman. 15 years ago, a project changed the course of this river to free up some land, which included the current housing area of Uncle Yaman. During rainy season, this overflow river still can flood the road next to it, in case you wonder why Yaman built his house so far away from the gate.

Ticket Fees (written in Malay)

Ticket Fees (written in Malay): Adult (18 and above): RM4.00 (≈US$1), Kid (below 18): RM2.00 (≈US$0.50). Note: rates as of May 2016

Donation tin
Above: to show some appreciation, you can put money in this rusted tin. Of course you can give more.

Notice of Batu Gong

There is a notice in the hut (no longer there, as of May 2016). I didn’t pay much attention to it until I opened the photos later at home. These are “visiting rules” written in Malay language. The first one says “No Smoking”, which is understandable as the holes on Batu Gong look like convenient ash tray. The second rule is odd, it says “Woman in pregnancy and menstruation are prohibited to enter”. Probably Batu Gong is considered as a sacred rock with spirit resides in it?

Just an extra info, music rocks like Batu Gong are also found in Kg. Baginda of Keningau, but I haven’t seen it yet.

Photos taken in Tambunan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Batu Luang, the Rock that ate the Bride

Batu Luang at Tempurong Beach

I was astonished when a famous photographer from West Malaysia showed me some stunning photos of Batu Luang, a bell-shaped rock located in a beach of Kuala Penyu. Batu means “Rock” in Malay language, and Batu Luang means “Luang Rock” literally.

Batu Luang is surrounded by mossy green rocks, sea, pebbles, rusty-red rockface, and caves, when one or more of these being framed into a photo during orange-hued dusk, you will get one of the most amazing sunset shots of Sabah.

Nice sunset at Batu Luang

Nice sunset at Batu Luang (high tide)

It is funny that it’s non-Sabahan who introduced Batu Luang to me. Anyway, I’m excited to check out Batu Luang near Tempurong Beach (or Pantai Tempurung). The rock is very accessible and near to the main road in Tempurung Village.

Walking to Batu Luang

Walking to Batu Luang. The hills at both sides look like a giant gate, or the parents of little Batu Luang

beach and hill covered by stones and pebbles

The beach and hills are covered by cobbles and pebbles

Batu Luang Beach

The view is better than what I saw in the photos online, which show only a small part of the beach. The beach and rockfaces are covered by pebbles in different size and shapes. There are 5 or 6 caves at the base of the hills there. The biggest cave can fit in 10 or more people, other caves are more like a hole.

The pebble beach of Batu Luang

The pebble beach and cave around Batu Luang

Batu Luang may look small in photos. Actually it’s over 12 Meters high and the only big rock standing in the sea (as far as we can see).

Small caves at the base of hill

Small caves at the base of hill, created by coastal erosion

Though Batu Luang is a new hot spot for local photographers, there is no hotel, restaurant, parking lots and toilet nearby. Occasionally you would see some local youngsters frolicking there in hot days, or a few photographers taking photos during dusk, Most of the time you would be the only one at the beach.

twilight hour at Batu Luang

Splendid twilight hour at Batu Luang

Therefore, Batu Luang Beach retains its beauty of untouched nature. It has some special geological features which are uncommon in Sabah. For example, the rustic-red color of the rockfaces are so magnificent when they are painted over by golden sun ray in late afternoon.

Legend of Batu Luang

The beautiful Batu Luang has a tragic story about a newly-wed couple. Many years ago in Kuala Penyu, after the wedding celebration at the bride’s home, the couple walked to the house of bridegroom with their families in a fine morning. When they were approaching Batu Luang, the sky turned dark, and they were hit by heavy rainstorm.

Batu Luang rock in the morning

Batu Luang rock in the morning

Therefore, they ran and took shelter in a cave at Batu Luang. When the storm was over, the group moved out from the cave. The couple was the last to exit. Suddenly, the cave collapsed and closed, the bride was the last person on the way out. The bridegroom grabbed her hands trying to pull her out. Unfortunately, her hands slipped and left the wedding ring in the hand of her husband. She was sealed in the cave forever.

Beautiful ladies at beautiful beach

Ladies at Batu Luang Beach (better stay away from the cave LOL)

The locals say sometimes they can hear woman crying inside the rock at night. So sad… On positive side, the bridegroom doesn’t need to buy a new wedding ring if he remarries.

View of Batu Luang rock from inside a cave

View of Batu Luang rock from inside a cave

According to a local blog by Muzaffar Libon Jueh, there is a part two for this story. The bride was trapped in the cave and alive. The villagers tried everything to open the cave but unsuccessful. Then a bird flied by and chirped, like saying, “Poke with a needle then it’ll open.” However, the people there just scoffed and ignored it. After 7 days of trying, the villagers gave up, so was the bride. She handed over the wedding ring to her husband through a small opening, asking him to forget her. She was then locked inside forever and marry to the guardian spirit of the cave, and became an angel named Kasum. If you bump into a pretty girl playing at Ara tree on top of the hill near Batu Luang, she could be Kasum.

Beach covered by pebbles

The small shrub on Batu Luang reminds me of Batu Burung (Bird Rock)

However, this sounds like a “modern” legend because Sabah had no such thing as wedding ring a few hundred years ago. Very likely parents make up this story to scare children, so they won’t go playing around Batu Luang, which can be dangerous due to a few reasons. The water at Batu Luang Beach can be quite deep during high tide, and the current is strong.

Interesting rock formation and rocks covered by green algae

Interesting rock formation and rocks covered by green algae

Furthermore, they could be hit by falling rocks from the loose rockface above. Our people also believe exploring cave would disturb the “Bogeymen” dwells inside, hence the warning they would be eaten alive by cave and become the next Batu Luang.

A Beach that Rocks

Batu Luang is not the only interesting rock here. Just look around and you will be fascinated by variety of rocks at the shore.

Tempurong Beach during sunset

Shingle beach of Batu Luang

Most of the rocks at Batu Luang Beach are cobble with round edges, after being moved and tumbled by sea waves over time.

Batu Luang and surrounding pebbles covered by green algae

Batu Luang and surrounding pebbles covered by green algae

The most intriguing rocks are those covered with green algae. These rocks are only present from January to June, the months when monsoon washes away the sand that buries them.

Cool rocks near Batu Luang

Cool conglomerate near Batu Luang

The conglomerate deposit on rockface and the beach is another highlight of Batu Luang Beach. Conglomerate is made up of rounded pebbles glued together, formed by the lithification of cobble-size rocks and gravel.

rockface and caves of Batu Luang

The rockface and caves of Batu Luang are unique

To me, the conglomerate cemented with round pebbles looks like dinosaur eggs fossils. This is the first time I see such rock formation in Sabah.

Batu Luang during high tide hour

Batu Luang during high tide (with conglomerate rocks in foreground)

The conglomerate is really nice, like a piece of art, so I joked to my friends that I wanted to bring some home. The moment I finished talking, a few rocks fell right in front of me. We have to watch our mouth in the wild, because “something” might be listening. Ok then, I took nothing but photograph.

Mimic the expression of the stone

Mimic the expression of the rock |-O

Tour around Batu Luang

Batu Luang is a public beach, so anyone can go there. It’s safe for children to explore around under the care of adults.

Batu Luang during sunrise

Batu Luang during sunrise

The only problem is the tiny blood-sucking sandfly. Its bite can stay itchy for days. Try to cover as much exposed skin as you can. There are not many sandfly anyway.

Sunset shot at Tempurong Beach

Sunset shot at Batu Luang Beach

If weather permits, you can have wonderful picture and welfie moment during sunset.

Beach around Batu Luang

Beach around Batu Luang

Part of the beach is rocky, so you better wear shoes.

Villagers fishing at Tempurong Beach

Villagers fishing at Tempurong Beach

There are a few villagers living near to the beach. You might find them catching fishes in the morning.

Children stroll on the beach

Children stroll on the beach

At another side of Batu Luang is a vast area of sandy beach. The waves are quite strong, so don’t go too far away from shore.

Family fun at Tempurong Beach and Batu Luang

Family fun at Tempurong Beach and Batu Luang

Beautiful rockface and cave

Beautiful rockface and cave

The old folks say there was used to be a deep cave at Batu Luang in the past, which they believe hidden with a lot of treasures, but the cave has disappeared. You may try your luck there. Just watch out for falling rocks when you explore the caves.

There are many small caves around Batu Luang

There are many small caves around Batu Luang

Big cave near Tempurong Beach

The biggest cave at Batu Luang Beach

Exploring the big cave

Exploring the big cave

How to get there

Batu Luang is about 120 Km away from Kota Kinabalu City (KK) and 14 Km away from Kuala Penyu town. Its GPS location is 5.524541, 115.523986 (see Location Map or 3D Street View).

Turtle roundabout before Kuala Penyu town

Turtle roundabout before Kuala Penyu town

There is no public transport that reaches Batu Luang, so you have to get a taxi or drive on your own for 2 hours. If you depart from KK, you will reach a roundabout with turtle statues (about 10 Km before Kuala Penyu town). Turn left to the direction of Menumbuk.

Junction to Batu Luang

Junction to Batu Luang

After 1.5 Km, turn right to the junction with the signs (see photo above) that read “JLN Kasugira BT Luang” and “Selemat Datang ke Kg. Gorowot” (opposite to Rumbia Information Center).

Location of Batu Luang

You can see Batu Luang from the road

Then follow the road sign to Tempurung Golden Beach Resort, and you will see Batu Luang at your left after 4 to 5 KM. The place is highly accessible by asphalt road in good condition. You can park your car at the roadside and walk 100 Meters to the beach.

Photos taken in Kuala Penyu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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