Tamparuli Bridge (Jambatan Tamparuli)

Jambatan Tamparuli, the most famous bridge of Sabah

My first experience of crossing the Tamparuli hanging bridge was scary. I was frightened by the raging yellow river under my feet and cried loudly. My parents tried to coax me to move on but failed. Then my father asked me to close my eyes, and he carried me to other end of the bridge. I was about 6 or 7 years old that time. :-p

Left: signage to Tamparuli Bridge. Right: Kadazandusun girls crossing a hanging bridge
Left: signage to Tamparuli Bridge. Right: Kadazandusun girls crossing a hanging bridge carefully

The 200-Metre-long Tamparuli Suspension Bridge is made famous by the Kadazandusun (biggest indigenous tribe of Sabah) folk song “Jambatan Tamparuli” (jambatan means bridge) written by Justin Lusah in 1977. It’s also known as the Lover’s Bridge because of a heartbroken love story.

Walking on the Tamparuli Bridge
Walking on the Tamparuli Bridge. At the right is the busy Tamu market and Bukit Perahu (Ruhiang Hill). You also can see the tip of Mount Kinabalu behind the hill.

The romantic Jambatan Tamparuli song is in Kadazandusun language. Thanks to Ben Godomon! Below is his translation of the lyrics or you can listen to the Kadazandusun and Chinese versions of Jambatan Tamparuli performed by Cozzi Chong (雁卿), a popular Sino-Kadazan singer from Sabah:


I’m making a “Pak Pak” sound
As I walk along the bridge
The bridge of Tamparuli
while wearing high-heeled shoes

[Note: a proper name for high-heeled shoes for men is probably “Cuban Heels”]

As I walk along the bridge
The Bridge of Tamparuli
I’m making a “Pak Pak” sound
while wearing high-heeled shoes

Tour package to Mari-Mari Cultural Village

But damn my shoes
they fell off the bridge
only socks are left
which I brought home

[Note: “silaka” is “celaka” in Malay : “damn” is the closest equivalent to English that I can think of]

On Wednesday
It’s the Tamu in Tamparuli
I go around the shops
Looking for high-heeled shoes

[Note: “Tamu” of course means “weekly open market” as is practised in Sabah]


Whenever listening to this song, I would visualize a lady walking carefully on the wobbly hanging bridge without her shoes. The holes between the planks can trap high heels so ladies please beware. However, this is not the same hanging bridge that inspired Justin Lusah to write the song. The “original” hanging bridge was washed away by flood in 1999.

Performance by Persatuan Seni Budaya Tuaran (Tuaran Cultural and Art Association) at the Tamparuli Bridge
Music performance by Persatuan Seni Budaya Tuaran (Tuaran Cultural and Art Association). You would find them play Jambatan Tamparuli at the Tamparuli Bridge.

You could have a nice view of surrounding of Tamparuli town on Tamparuli Suspension Bridge. The highest point is Ruhiang Hill (Bukit Perahu), a spot for hiking and paragliding during weekends. Mt. Kinabalu, the highest mountain of Malaysia, would show her face in good weather. On every Wednesday, there is a tamu (weekly open market, as described by the song) at Tamparuli town too.

Tamparuli Bridge with Linangkit design
Tamparuli Bridge with Linangkit and Lelawangan motif, the unique textile patterns of Lotud and Bajau respectively.

In 2021, Tamparuli Bridge received a facelift under the Linangkit Mural and Lelewangan Jambatan Gantung Tamparuli project. The artwork is completed by Tujuh Tompinai or 7T (means seven friends or teachers in Dusun language). The support posts and walls of the bridge are decorated with Linangkit motif and giant mural.

Mural of Tamparuli Bridge (Jambatan Gantung Tamparuli)
Mural of Tamparuli Bridge depicts the stories, legend, cultures and attractions of Tamparuli, an artwork of Tujuh Tompinai or 7T team (led by Saidina Atiman).

The top part of mural (see picture above) shows a group of Tantagas, the high priest of Lotud tribe and their world view – the end of the river is the edge of our world. The bottom mural displays the people (Lotud, Bajau, Chinese) and attractions (Bukit Perahu, Rumah Terbalik (Upside Down House), Murug Turug Waterfall, JonGrapevines & Figs Garden) of Tamparuli. Right mural represents the legend of Solungkoi. Left mural is to commemorate two brave British soldiers.

British Monument at Tamparuli Bridge
British Monument at Tamparuli Bridge. The inscription on the plaque says: This plaque is erected in Memory of: Private J.W.N. Hall RAMC and Driver D.C. Cooper RASC who lost their lives on 18th May 1960 in trying to save the life of a woman of Kampong Sayap, Kota Belud.
(RAMC = Royal Army Medical Corps, RASC = Royal Army Service Corps)

In 1960, two British soldiers lost their lives when they tried to save the life of a woman from Kota Belud. Their Land Rover was swept by strong currents while crossing the old Tamparuli Bridge and three of them drowned. You can find the plaque about the incident behind the fruit & vegetables market near the bridge.

Tourists looking at the fishes under the Tamparuli Bridge
Tourists looking at the fishes under the Tamparuli Bridge

Unlike the traditional hanging bridge, the new bridge is supported by concrete pillars and steel cables, so rock solid that you can bring a full cup of coffee walking nearly 200 Meters to another end without spilling a drop. Not only that, there is mesh wire covering the lower part of the boardwalk, so it’s impossible to drop your shoe like the lady in the song, unless you purposely throw it into the river.

Left: story of Solungkoi. Middle: drawing about the song Jambatan Tamparuli. Right: playing the music on the bridge
Left: story of Solungkoi. Middle: drawing about the song Jambatan Tamparuli. Right: playing the music on the bridge

Nonetheless, the construction of old Tamparuli bridge posed a big challenge to British engineers in 1930s because it’s always destroyed by flood. Bobolian (local high priest) said that Tambuakar, the river spirit, was angry with the building of new bridge. To appease the spirit, a human sacrifice was demanded.

Old and new Tamparuli Bridges
Old and new Tamparuli Bridges

Therefore, a fair maiden named Solungkoi was put into a jar and buried alive under the first pole of the bridge. After the offering, the bridge lasts until today, though it’s flooded by the rising river occasionally. Legend says the British engineer was in love with Solungkoi, making their love story sounds more tragic.

Old post-war shoplots of Tamparuli town
Old post-war shoplots of Tamparuli town

After you cross the bridge, you may take a walk in Tamparuli to get nostalgia with those old wooden shoplots of post-war era in town. For tourists who head to Kinabalu Park or Kiulu white water rafting, this is a nice mid-point to stop for a tea break and try the delicious Tamparuli fried noodle.

Another hanging bridge not far away from Tamparuli town
Another hanging bridge not far away from Tamparuli town

Photos taken in Tamparuli, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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