Tag Archives: Ranau / Kundasang

Sabah Tea Garden, the Organic Tea Farm of Borneo

Sabah Tea Garden

Walk into any coffee shop in Sabah, and you would quickly learn that Chinese Teh Ping (Iced Chinese Tea), Teh-C Ping (Iced Milk Tea), Lemon Teh (Lemon Tea), Teh Tarik (Pulled Tea) are commonly ordered beverages among locals.

tea leaf

Sabah Tea

Our friends from Peninsular Malaysia are always surprised to find that Sabahans are fond of tea break and high tea too. Besides asking our friends to go Yamcha (drink tea), Sabahans would say “Let’s go High-Tea” too. Tea drinking is definitely part of our culture, and it fits well into our laid-back lifestyle.

Sabah Tea Plantation during sunrise

Sabah Tea Plantation during sunrise

“Tea drinkers take a break; coffee drinkers need a break.”

Not only that, Sabah also has its own local tea brand named Sabah Tea, which has established since 1978. Sabah Tea Garden is the only organic tea farm in Borneo. The tea leaves from its 2,480 hectare plantation are 100% pesticide free.

Variety of Sabah Tea products

Variety of Sabah Tea products

Anyway, you don’t need to be a tea lover to enjoy a trip to Sabah Tea Garden. Located 692 Metres above sea level, the cooling highland of Sabah Tea is an ideal place to escape the hot weather of cities.

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Sabah Tea Garden is the largest commercial tea plantation in Borneo, and now they produce eight flavors of tea, namely, cinnamon, ginger, geranium, pandan, tongkat ali, lemongrass, and misai kucing (cat’s whiskers). I tried their Pandan-flavor Pulled Tea (Teh Tarik Pandan) and I really love its rich flavor, a must-try!

Fresh tea leaves

Fresh tea leaves

Sabah Tea Garden has one of the most beautiful plantations in Sabah. Just take a morning walk during sunrise time around Sabah Tea, you will see the breath-taking view of misty rainforest around the lush tea plantation with majestic Mt. Kinabalu as the backdrop.

Sabah Tea plantation under Mt. Kinabalu

Sabah Tea plantation under Mt. Kinabalu

However, Sabah Tea Garden is more than a tea plantation with scenic view. They have successfully turned Sabah Tea into a recreational and educational site, which is friendly for family and student groups. Whether they have a day trip or overnight stay at Sabah Tea, there are so many things visitors can do there.

Tea processing in factory

Tea processing in factory

If you only plan for a short educational visit, you can pay a small fee to join one of the following day tour at Tea Factory. Note the best time to visit is between 8am-12pm (Mon-Sat) and Tea factory tour is not available on major Public Holidays:

  • RM7 (≈US$1.75): 30-min Factory Tour for Primary School students
  • RM14 (≈US$3.50): 45-min Guided Tour of the Tea Factory
  • RM17.50 – RM42 (≈US$4.38 – 10.50): 1.5-hour factory tour with tea tasting (with Sandwiches, Tea Bites, or Set Lunch)
Visiting Sabah Tea Factory

Visiting Sabah Tea Factory

Accommodations

For an “anti-oxidizing” trip by fresh air and tea, I would recommend you to spend a night or two at Sabah Tea. They have two types of accommodations:

  1. Longhouse: 25 rooms (triple sharing), can fit 75 people at a time. 14 shower rooms, 6 toilets.
  2. English Cottages (4 units): total of 16 rooms (1 queen bed + 1 twin bed), can host 48 people. Air-conditioning, Hot Shower and TV available
Longhouse accommodation of Sabah Tea

Longhouse accommodation of Sabah Tea

Cottage of Sabah Tea

Cottage of Sabah Tea

The cottages at Sabah Tea Garden are named after colorful personalities in Sabah’s colonial past. The cottage where I stayed was named after Lofty Hodges, an Australian hero who rescued the survivors of Death March during World War II.

Bedroom of Sabah Tea Cottage

Bedroom of Sabah Tea Cottage

Living Room of Sabah Tea Cottage

Living Room of Sabah Tea Cottage

Sabah Tea put some good efforts to create a farmstay experience. They have flowers and herbs, colorful ornaments, fish pond and Bunny Villa (rabbits) in the plantation, all these small and big things make this place fun to explore.

Coloured Tree of Sabah Tea

Coloured Tree showcases the United Colours of Sabah which underlines the social fabric of the local communities.

Hornbill made of used tyre

Hornbill made of used tyre

Feeding rabbits of Sabah Tea

Feeding rabbits of Sabah Tea. Each rabbit has a nickname such as Tennie, Ah Beng, Bala and Puteri.

Tea Adventure

Tea drinking has over 3,000 years of history, so it’s good to know more about this most consumed beverage next to water. Sabah Tea Garden offers “The Journey of the Tea” tour for visitors who want to learn how tea is processed.

Harvesting tea leaves

Harvesting tea leaves

Collecting tea leaves with Wakid container

Collecting tea leaves with Wakid basket

Participants of Tea Adventure will have a chance to harvest, process and sample the tea from their 1,000 acres tea plantation. They will provide you native hat and wakid (basket), then brief you the right way to pluck the tea leaves and buds. Did you know an experienced tea picker can collect about 32 Kg of tea in a day, which is enough to make 14,000 cups of tea!

Tea harvesting at Sabah Tea

Tea harvesting at Sabah Tea

After harvesting the tea leaves for an hour of fun, you can leave your freshly collected leaves dry and wither. Then you will use them to make Oolong and Green Tea the old-fashioned way later.

Fun with tea harvesting

Fun with tea harvesting

Oolong Tea is semi-fermented and Green Tea is unfermented, and their processing steps are different.

Drying the tea leaves

Drying the tea leaves

For Oolong, the tea leaves are left oxidized before they are roasted in wok, while Green Tea is cooked in steamer.

Black and Green Tea

Oolong and Green Tea

The end result is Green Tea will have milder taste and more astringent than Oolong Tea, which is in light brown color, with richer and stronger flavor. The participants will sample both tea and learn the difference.

Making tea balls

Making tea balls

Tea ball

Tea ball

Their staffs are very keen to share their tea knowledge. They also conduct tea talk for you to gain a better understanding of tea culture. Who knows your appreciation and enjoyment on drinking tea will go up next level.

Tea laboratory of Sabah Tea

Tea laboratory of Sabah Tea

Bad and good tea

Can you tell which tea is of better quality? (The one at the right has too much coloring, bad..)

Tea sampling

Tea sampling

Other Activities

I was also impressed by a full array of activities at Sabah Tea Garden available from day to night.

Misty forest near Sabah Tea

Misty forest near Sabah Tea

The forest, hill and river adjacent to Sabah Tea are in clean and pristine condition, and we can enjoy many types of nature based activities. For example, you can hike to the hill, trek in rainforest, swim in the river (if you can stand the cold!), mountain biking and even camp around.

Group photo after the visit to Sabah Tea

Group photo after taking part in Tea Adventure Programme

If you love wildlife, Sabah Tea Garden is a good site for bird-watching and night walk for spotting insects too.

Fun game after dinner

Fun game after dinner

Sabah Tea Garden is also able to organize team building, game challenges, obstacle course and various group activities for corporate retreats (for a minimum of 15 people).

“Tea” Cuisines

Tea can be used in food too. You can try such dishes at Sabah Tea, like their chicken soup cooked with vegetables and young tea leaves, and one-of-a-kind dessert, Tea pancake with honey.

Sabah Tea Chicken Soup

Sabah Tea Chicken Soup

Sabah Tea Pancakes

Sabah Tea Pancakes

Others local dishes are also available at Sabah Tea, just to list some, Fish with Bambangan (this Fruit only found in Sabah), Tuhau Beef (Sabah’s Wild Ginger Beef), Sabah Tea Black Pepper Lamb, Butter Prawns and Soy Sauce Free Range Chicken.

Restaurant of Sabah Tea

Restaurant and Gift Shop of Sabah Tea

Local cuisines at Sabah Tea

Local cuisines at Sabah Tea

Yes, the food are delicious.

Sabah Legend Tour

Kadazandusun is the largest indigenous group of Sabah. Their legend says Nunuk Ragang is where Kadazandusun people originated, and everything begins with a father and his 3 sons, who later split and migrated to different parts of Sabah and formed three main tribes (namely, Rungus, Kadazan, Dusun).

Tour about Sabah culture and legend

Tour about Sabah culture and legend

At Sabah Tea, the story-telling starts in their Rungus longhouse. Ruby, their staff showed us the traditional clothes, baskets, handicrafts, farming tools, hat, mats, beads and musical instrument displayed in the hallway, to introduce the interesting culture of each tribe.

Pool next to Sabah Tea longhouse

Pond next to Sabah Tea longhouse

Below is the contact of Sabah Tea Garden:
Address (see Location Map): KM 18, Jalan Ranau / Sandakan, Kampung Nalapak, Ranau (2.5-hours Drive from Kota Kinabalu City)
E-mail: info@sabahtea.net
Tel: +60 88-440882 (KK Office), +60 88-879220 (Sabah Tea Site)
Opening Hours: 8am to 4:30pm (best to visit before noon)
Website: www.sabahtea.com.my
Facebook: SabahTea
Fax: +60 88-440886

You may check out my photo album for more photos of Sabah Tea.

Beautiful pool of Sabah Tea

Beautiful pond of Sabah Tea

Photos taken in Ranau, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Highest Post Box of Malaysia

Postcards from Mt. Kinabalu

Welcome to the digital era, now we can write an e-mail to reach anyone within seconds. Social media even allows us to chat in real time. Handwritten letter is dying. Decades ago, it was exciting to see postman dropped something in our mailbox because there could be a letter from our loved one. Nowadays? What we see in mailbox are just ugly white envelopes containing bank statements and bills.

write postcards above the cloud

It’s a great feeling to write postcards above the cloud

Anyway, people still appreciate handwritten notes today. However, your friends may not get the point if you suddenly send them a snail mail. To make it special and exciting, you can send them a postcard from the highest post box of Malaysia, which is located on Mt. Kinabalu, the highest mountain of Malaysia.

Pendant Hut on Mt. Kinabalu

Pendant Hut on Mt. Kinabalu

To reach this post box is no easy task though. You need to hike 6 KM to 3,289 Meters above sea level, but this effort adds more sentimental value to your postcard. Once you arrive Laban Rata Resthouse, the main accommodation for climbers of Mt. Kinabalu, you still need to climb 100 Meters of staircase behind the resthouse to Pendant Hut, where the post box sitting next to.

The Highest Post Box of Malaysia outside Pendant Hut

The Highest Post Box of Malaysia is just next to Pendant Hut

Pendant Hut is the training center and accommodation operated by Mountain TORQ for Via Ferrata and alpine sport climbing courses. They are also appointed by POS Malaysia as its licensed agent to handle its post box.

The Highest Post Box of Malaysia (and South East Asia)

The Highest Post Box of Malaysia (and South East Asia)

Record certified by Malaysia Book of Records (Highest Post Box of Malaysia)

The record is certified by Malaysia Book of Records

This post box is installed next to Pendant Hut on 14 Feb 2015, and certified as the Highest Post Box of Malaysia (and probably Southeast Asia too) by Malaysia Book of Records. You can buy postcard and postal stamps from the office of Mountain TORQ in Pendant Hut. If you have prepared your postcard with stamp, do not drop it to this post box before you get the special Mt. Kinabalu post office ink-stamp (chop) from the same office.

Postcards of Pendant Hut

Postcards of Pendant Hut

There are a few special postcards printed with message “Sent from Pendant Hut”, which are ONLY available at Pendant Hut. Their postcards come with big (6.85 x 4.85 inches or 17.5 x 12.3 cm) and small (5.8 x 4.1 inches or 14.7 x 10.5 cm) sizes. Both cost the same (RM2.00 or USD0.60) so I recommend you to buy the big one.

Special postcards of Pendant Hut

Special postcards of Pendant Hut

To be honest, personally I think their postcards look a bit boring. Hope they will have better design and more variety of postcards in future. You can use other postcards you buy somewhere else too (Laban Rata Resthouse have some standard Sabah postcards for sale).

Special postcards collection (only available at Pendant Hut)

Special postcards collection (only available at Pendant Hut)

Different kind of stamps that can be used for stamping postcard

Different kind of self ink stamps that can be used for stamping your postcard

The reason to use the bigger postcard is to get more space for other ink stamps (see photo above). The Mt. Kinabalu official stamp by POS Malaysia should be your first choice. You can add other stamps just for fun (no extra fee). If you use small postcard, there isn’t much room for more than two stamps.

Writing postcards in Pendant Hut

Writing postcards in Pendant Hut

It’s the coldest month (usually Nov – Dec) during my visit, the temperature at Laban Rata was only 10°C, so freezing cold that my fingers turned stiff and unable to write the words beautifully. Anyway, I enjoyed visualizing the happy faces of my friends who received my special postcards. It brought back my memory and feeling of writing a letter in the past.

Correct way of writing postcard

Correct way of writing postcard (Click to Enlarge)

It’s very important that you write the postcard in proper layout (see picture above). You should leave two inches (5 cm) of space on top of postcard. It’s a post office requirement to stamp the official Mt. Kinabalu ink stamp on top. If you start writing on top, this stamp will be pressed over your writing and that doesn’t look so good. Another reason to use bigger postcard if you need a lot of space for your message.

Postal fee rate of Malaysia

Postal fee rate of Malaysia (as of Nov 2015)

After writing your postcard, you need to buy postal stamp (RM0.60-RM2.00, depending on destination country). The staff of Mt. TORQ will add the Mt. Kinabalu ink stamp (and other stamps of your choice) on your postcard, then they will seal your postcard(s) in a clear plastic bag, to protect them from moisture of rain and fog on Mt. Kinabalu.

Sending postcards from the Highest Post Box of Malaysia

Sending postcards from the Highest Post Box of Malaysia

The last step is to drop your postcard into the post box. The photo above is just a demo. The postcards will be stored inside a plastic bag. Do prepare some cash for buying postcard and postal stamp. It already costs you at least RM26 by sending 10 postcards. They accept no credit card.

Highest Post Box of Malaysia

The Highest Post Box of Malaysia

There is a postman to pick up the postcards and letters from this post box at 11:30am during weekdays (Mon-Fri, except Public Holiday). The postcards will be sent to Ranau Post Office first, before they are delivered to their destinations.

The label says the pick-up time is 11:30am from Mon to Fri (except Public Holiday)

The label says the pick-up time is 11:30am from Mon to Fri (except Public Holiday)

The delivery is not fast. It took a week or more for my postcards to reach different locations near Kota Kinabalu City (KK), one of the addresses is only 200 Meters away from KK Post Office. It’ll definitely take longer time to reach destinations outside KK and Sabah.

Sending postcards to my friends

Holding the postcards to be sent to my friends

Besides postcard, you also can send letter. The Mountain TORQ office in Pendant Hut closes at 5pm, so it’s better that you prepare the written letter in advance instead of writing it on the mountain. I also sent myself a postcard. Below is the photo of the postcard after delivery by post office. Note the cancellation mark (on the stamps) has the mailing date, name, icon and height of Mt. Kinabalu.

Postcard from the highest post box of Malaysia

Postcard after delivery by post office

POS Malaysia has installed the deepest post box (40 Meters) at Layang-Layang Island. In future, they would install post boxes in other popular tourist destinations such as Sipadan Island and Tip of Borneo.

You also can send postcards from Laban Rata

You also can buy and send postcards from Laban Rata Resthouse

“I’ve always thought that receiving a handwritten letter is like getting a hug in the mail.” -Christine French Cully (Huffington Post)

Message sent from keyboard, no matter how well-written, still can’t replace the personal touch of a handwritten message. A postcard will be a delightful surprise to the people you care. I may forget 1,000 messages that you sent to me by smartphone, but I’ll never forget the single postcard that you write for me.

Here is a video to see the launching of this post box:

Photos taken in Laban Rata, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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