Tuesday, 13 March 2018

JESSELTON: The gateway to Borneo

Fountain at Gaya Street at the heart of Jesselton

It seems it is a normal occurrence for fishermen to butcher giant stingrays and sharks in front of horrified tourists in the east coast of North Borneo. These news often goes viral and finally caught the attention of the state authority. They became upset and issued a directive; IN FUTURE NO TOURISTS ARE ALLOWED TO GET CLOSE TO FISHERMEN SITES! Huh???
So? What about those stingrays and sharks? Anyway... no more sad stories for a time being.

Jesselton's Lok Kawi Zoo

JESSELTON, THE CAPITAL of North Borneo, had a population of approximately five hundred thousand people. It had some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and islands. The most famous were Pulau Gaya and Pulau Tiga. Both of these islands were national park. Within two hours after enjoying the sunny beaches there, visitors could reach the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, Mount Kinabalu. They could spend the night there and enjoy the temperate coolness.                                                                   THE EURASIANS Chapter 19, Page 74

Kota Kinabalu and Sabah used to have beautiful name. Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying the names we have now are not good. It’s just that the older names are more nostalgic and historical; more appealing to promote overseas. Nowadays many tour companies here used the old names to sound more enchanting; Jesselton Waterfront, North Borneo Express and so on. Kota Kinabalu used to be called Jesselton; in honor of Charles Jessel, the Vice Chairman of British North Borneo Company which administered Sabah. Sabah was the new name for North Borneo, when this state got its independence from Great Britain in 1963. North Borneo, together with Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya went on to form Malaysia that same year, where Malaya took over the trusteeship from Great Britain. So Jesselton is the capital of North Borneo.

Simpang Mengayau at the tip of Borneo, Kudat

If I could have my ways, I would definitely convince the people of this state to revert back Kota Kinabalu and Sabah to Jesselton and North Borneo respectively. In reality, due to politics, it is difficult. But for me, I will always continue to use these beautiful names; Jesselton and North Borneo in my blog.

Jesselton is indeed the gateway to Borneo. First of all, it has an international airport; the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA). Conveniently, it is accessible for direct international flights from cities in China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. It takes less than two hours to reach Jesselton by plane from Manila, Philippines and slightly more than two hours from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. From Bandar Seri Bagawan in Brunei, it takes only 30 minutes. The Kingdom of Brunei is a fellow independent Borneo state.

From Jesselton we could take domestic flights to Miri and Kuching in Sarawak and also to the Pearl of Borneo; the island of Labuan. From Jesselton too, we could fly to Kudat, the tip of Borneo, to Sandakan, sanctuary for orangutans at Sepilok and also to Tawau, which is another gateway to Indonesian Borneo. From Tawau too, we could go to the marine paradise of Sipadan Island.
As I mentioned before, North Borneo is indeed Borneo within Borneo. Almost all the floras and faunas found in other parts of Borneo are also found here in this state. In fact we have something the other Borneo states don’t have. We have one of the highest mountains in Southeast Asia; Mount Kinabalu. We have a long line of sandy beaches that stretches from Kudat right down to Karambunai. And we have many beautiful islands that are considered a diving paradise; example Matanani, Labuan, Gaya and of course Sipadan.

Atkinson Clock Tower built in 1905, Jesselton

But North Borneo is also covered with exotic small hills and jungle treks which are good for hiking adventures. Watch out for leeches lurking on the trees as they could sense human or animal heats. But this is nothing compared to the joy of discovering waterfalls, wild orchids, rafflesias and monkey cups. BORNEO IS INDEED MYSTIFYING, AS WELL AS ENCHANTING!


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