Monday, 21 May 2018

TENOM: The Sabah Agriculture Park

The Cannon Ball Fruit tree

WILLIAM STEWART CAME FROM a small town called Tenom, a remote place in Malaysian Borneo. His father, David Stewart, was a successful real estate broker. William’s grandfather was an American planter from California. 
THE EURASIANS Chapter 9, Page 39

North Borneo (Sabah) offers many interesting places to see. And yet many of us; both local and foreigners are not aware of it or simply not bothered. There are the famous spots like Mount Kinabalu, which is among the highest mountain in Southeast Asia and also the wonderful islands of Gaya and Mantanani which have crystal clear seawater displaying diverse underwater creatures. There are also the lesser known ones, such as the Kokol Hill and the Salt Trail in Tambunan. I consider the Sabah Agricultural Park (Taman Pertanian Sabah) also to be one of the less known places.

The Sabah Agricultural Park is located at a 400 acres site at Lagud Seberang; just a 15 minutes casual drive from Tenom Town (Pekan Tenom). Tenom Town itself is 176 kilometers from Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu), the capital of North Borneo. Traveling from Jesselton to Tenom Town takes about 3 hours drive. We can also reach Tenom by train. According to the Sabah Railway Department schedule available on its website, the train leaves Jesselton at 7.45am and reaches Tenom at 10.30am daily. The train will leave Tenom at 4pm to go back to Jesselton. The site is maintained and developed by the Sabah Agriculture Department. The park indeed offers useful recreational and educational activities.

The Giant Water Lily

The most interesting thing to watch at this park is the Cannon Ball Fruit Tree. Fascinated at watching the fruit my friend who also visited here told me that the Cannon Ball Fruit looks like “Kiwi Fruit on steroid!” Many visitors marveled at the sight of these fruits and its trees and it would be a waste if nobody comes here to take pictures of it. I was informed by one of the officer that the name of this unusual fruit is Courouptia Guianensis and it originated from South America. Believe me; taking portrait with these trees is indeed awesome. Another species that is unique and interesting is the Giant Water Lily. Victoria Amazonica is so big that a baby could easily sit on one of its leave! It also originated from South America and many people come here to see this plant. Unfortunately, this plant is slowly disappearing from this park. I had visited this park three times and every time I came here, I see less of this plant. Probably with my next visit, the plant will no longer exist.

Honolulu creepers meant to attract bees

If you visit this park with your family, your kids will definitely enjoy this place. The park itself is very big. So in order to get around, the Department used this circus train to bring the visitors around! I am very sure children will be very excited to get a chance to ride this train. Even adults! The train moves on schedule every half an hour. The train will bring you to the Cannon Ball Fruit trees and the Giant Water Lily. It also stops at the Orchid Garden. This garden display about 400 species of orchids and among them is the rare Elephant Ear Orchids. The train also stops at the Ornamental Garden and Model Garden.

Riding the circus train around the park

Since my family is also involved in landscaping and gardening, I am impressed by the way the agriculture department planted the ornamental plants along the train route. In some areas they mixed these flowers with wild native vegetation; and indeed it looks awesome! What I love the most is the abundance of Honolulu Creepers. The department deliberately planted a lot of this creeper because the flowers attract bees. So if you are walking around this huge garden, you will also notice that there are many species of bees flying around. If you have the time, you could also visit the bee farms. If you are afraid of being sting, then go to the stingless bee hives; definitely you will not be sting! Then you have this huge open space where your kids could run freely. Nearby you have the lake which is so pleasing.

The wide open space inside the park

To my readers, I implore upon you to visit this park. If you are locals, please set one of your weekends to visit this place. For foreign tourists, please make the visit to this park as one of your itinerary. The agriculture department officers and their workers had done a good job to beautify this park. Remember; parks provide intrinsic, environmental, aesthetic and recreational benefits for visitors. It will definitely help to reduce your stress and who knows; lower your blood pressure.

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Tuesday, 15 May 2018

TENOM: In the heart of Borneo

Tenom Town: view from nearby hill

WILLIAM STEWART CAME FROM a small town called Tenom, a remote place in Malaysian Borneo. His father, David Stewart, was a successful real estate broker. William’s grandfather was an American planter from California.                       
                                                                           THE EURASIANS Chapter 9, Page 39

It is interesting to note that in future, there is a plan to connect the North Borneo (Sabah) State Railway line that begins in Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) right up to Kudat, at the tip of Borneo. Then there is also a plan to start a ferry service between Kudat (Malaysia) connecting with Puerto Princesa in Palawan, Philippines. At this moment, there is already and existing rail connection between Jesselton and Tenom, the heart of the Murut-Lundayeh country in the heart of Borneo. Just imagine, if these plans materialized, the tourists visiting the Palawan Island could venture into Borneo using the ferry to reach Kudat. Then from here, they could take the train and travel to Jesselton and end their trip in Tenom. 

Tenom is the capital of Tenom District; one of the many districts of North Borneo. It is 176 kilometers from Jesselton, the capital of North Borneo, and 128 kilometers from Long Pasia. Long Pasia is a very interesting and famous place. It had some sort of a temperate and pleasant climate because of its high altitude. It is also the home to a beautiful tribe called the Lundayeh. Long Pasia is the border town of North Borneo (Malaysia) where on the other side is Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). 

Tenom is a bit unusual because it is the only town in North Borneo where the main highway pass and cut through the center of the town; just like some Mid-Western towns in the United States! Tenom used to be called Fort Birch by the British colonial government. In those days, Tenom was a hostile environment; deep jungle infested with wild animals. Insects were not only annoying but dangerous; especially mosquitoes which carry the dreaded parasites called Malaria. So why did the British took the trouble to open up Tenom? After all it was because of Tenom, they built the railway line connecting Jesselton to this remote place.

The highway cutting right in the middle of the town

The answer is; Tenom is a fertile plain very close to the mighty Padas River. With good soil and ample water supply, the British started rubber plantation here bringing in a lot of Chinese laborers. Soon the Chinese started to plant fruits and vegetables and until today, Tenom is famous for its agricultural products. The most famous is the Tenom Coffee. A retired United States naval officer told me he loves Tenom Coffee more than the Colombian Arabica! For me, I love the Lok Chai, the juicy sweet pomelo (Citrus Maxima) sometime called the Tenom Pomelo. Pomelo is one hell of a big orange! Sometimes I wonder; why do people need to import oranges when we have such a huge one in our backyard in Tenom! It is cheap, taste good, full of vitamins and big!

The sculpture of a coffee plant on the roundabout

There are several reasons why you should visit Tenom. Firstly, Tenom has this fabulous 400 acres Sabah Agricultural Park at Lagud Seberang. It is just 15 minutes casual drive from Tenom Town. Then you have the Tenom Coffee showrooms all over this small town. Passing these showrooms is awesome as we can freely sniff the wonderful Robusta aroma. You could also experience the train ride from Jesselton to Tenom. Along the way you could see the Padas River flowing and the last remaining forest dotting the landscape. Then you have the Murut Cultural Center, which is a small museum displaying the history and culture of this famous tribe. 

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