Tuesday, June 1, 2010


We excitedly packed our bags for our first family holiday to Kota Kinabalu (popularly known here as KK). KK is the capital of the state of Sabah and is named after the famous Mount Kinabalu. We left by the first morning flight from Miri which reached KK in 45 minutes. A visit to the Malaysian tourism office helped us in planning our itinerary.
On the first day we set out for the Monosopiad Cultural village which is 30 minutes drive from the city. We were greeted with a welcome drink at the cultural village. All tourists were then led to a beautiful hall where we sat on wooden benches to watch local cultural performances. Sabah is home to various indigenous tribes such as Kadazan, Murut etc. Dancers from various tribes performed beautifully wearing traditional costumes and colourful headgears. The headhunters dance was one of the best dances and it was performed by the Murut tribe. The show closed with the audience being invited to dance a few steps along with the dancers. I and my daughter tried doing the bamboo dance.
The original inhabitants of Sabah were the headhunters who basically belonged to the Murut tribe. The headhunters killed the enemy and displayed the heads in front of their house. The person who had the maximum number of displayed heads was considered the bravest warrior in the village and the bridegroom in demand. This tradition was abolished long ago. The headhunters later joined the mainstream. The tourists today get a taste of headhunter’s life during their visit to the cultural village.
A local guide joined us after the dance and took us around the cultural village. Our next halt was the “house of skulls”. Though there were no real skulls but it still wasn’t a pleasant sight. The guide later showed us the ancient tools used to de-husk rice, ancient tools of war and musical instruments played in olden days. We clicked lots of pictures and were enjoying ourselves completely. My daughter tried her hand at playing some musical instruments. The guide was very friendly and informative.

Our cultural tour ended with the most memorable experience I ever had. She took us to show how sago is produced. Sago is starch extracted from sago palm trees and is used to make the famous Malay sweet gula malaka or sago pudding. It is rich in protein and is available in various colours in all supermarkets. The trunk of the sago palm contains the sago worm.

The guide suddenly took hold of one live sago worm in her hand and explained to the tourists that it is eaten either raw or fried by locals. I have a fear for any creature which crawls or creeps, so seeing the worm in her hand I moved away from her. I had a very creepy feeling seeing her hold the wriggling creature. I was keen to wrap up the tour soon and get back to the hotel when she unexpectedly put the worm in her mouth and bit it. She later invited other tourists to try it. One tourist was very brave and even tried eating the worm. I was feeling eerie watching her eat and requested my husband and daughter to leave the place. But both of them were thoroughly enjoying themselves. My husband enthusiastically clicked many pictures of her.
The repulsive feeling lasted the whole day and it gives me goose pimples even now whenever I recollect the KK trip. This tour will remain etched in my memory forever for watching a live sago worm being eaten.

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