Tamparuli hanging bridge

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

signage of Jambatan Tamparuli
If Tamparuli Suspension Bridge is not made famous by the Kadazandusun (biggest indigenous tribe of Sabah) folk song “Jambatan Tamparuli” (jambatan means bridge) written by Justin Lusah in 1977, it would be just another ordinary bridge of Sabah. For unknown reason, some local tour guides introduce it as Lover’s Bridge.

You may listen to this song in video below:

Tamparuli Hanging Bridge
Tamparuli Hanging Bridge

The song is in Kadazandusun language. Thanks to Ben Godomon! Below is his translation of the lyrics:

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

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]

Jambatan Tamparuli
Isn’t the song “cute”? It really pictures the life of villagers. Whenever listening to this song, I would visualize a lady walking carefully on the wobbly hanging bridge without shoe. The holes between the planks can trap high heels so ladies beware.

walking on Jambatan Tamparuli
You could have a nice view of surrounding of Tamparuli town on Tamparuli Suspension Bridge, like the photo above. The highest point is Ruhiang Hill, a spot for 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 the right too.

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. You may Click Here for detail info. Did you see the low bridge at the side? It is always flooded by river during rainy season but still in use for many decades.

Tamparuli Bridge
Tamparuli Bridge (photo taken in Apr 2016)

However, it is dangerous to cross the low bridge even if the water level is only a few inches above the bridge. In 1960, two British soldiers lost their lives when they tried to save the life of a woman from Kota Belud.

Jambatan Tamparuli
You can find the plaque about the incident behind the fruit & vegetables market near the bridge. You may Click Here to read the story in detail. Such tragedy is still happening today. When I was in town, the locals told me that a car was washed away by flood just yesterday, when it tried to cross the flooded bridge.

Jambatan Tamparuli
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)

Below is the location map of the bridge and the plaque:

View My Sabah Map in a larger map

Tourists walking on Tamparuli Bridge
Tourists walking on Tamparuli Bridge

Unlike the traditional hanging bridge, the new bridge is supported by concrete pillars and steel ropes, so rock solid that you can bring a full cup of coffee walking nearly 100 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, LOL.

bridge looks like a Natgeo logo
Many say this arch looks like a Natgeo logo

Even though Jambatan Tamparuli is nothing compared to the billion-dollar-engineering-wonders huge bridges of modern countries, it is the sweetheart of Sabahans.

Tamparuli town
After you cross the bridge, you may take a walk in Tamparuli town.

a corner in Tamparuli
old wooden shoplot of Tamparuli
Those are old wooden shoplots of post-war era. 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 famous Tamparuli noodle.

To end this post, I shared another video of Jambatan Tamparuli below:

The singer is Cozzi Chong (雁卿), a Sino-Kadazan from Sabah. She sings both Kadazandusun and Chinese versions of this song.

Photos taken in Tamparuli, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

Leave a Reply