Dusun Country

Elephant Trunk Clam

An amazing 3 days in Kota Kinabalu, making lots of new friends and contacts in preparation for the expedition into the interior of Borneo later in the year.The local seafood speciality known as the elephant trunk clam is probably the most phallic delicacy I have ever encountered – delicious with a soy and durian sauce !

Big thanks to Fez for showing us the real KK with all it’s colour, excitement and Lady Boys, to lao tsiu for the Tai Chi lessons and Buddhist Wasan Day blessings, and a special thanks to Nick and Beth from the local hospital for introducing me to the wonders of tropical medicine. I never realised before that there are 9 different types of malaria, one of which is only found in Northern Borneo and is transmitted from macaques.

On Saturday night we found ourselves at the spectacle known as Sabah Fest, where all of the local dance groups meet to celebrate the fascinating history of the area, and Beth and I were dragged on stage to join in the fun.

Of the original indigenous coastal dwellers there still exists the Ida’an and the Orang Sungei on Sabah’s east coast and on the south west coast the Bisayan and Brunei people. North of Kudat is the large undeveloped island of Banggi, here the indigenous and peaceful tribe of the Banggi still live, their language is completely unrelated to any of the other four linguistic groups found in Sabah.


The largest indigenous tribes are the hill tribes, the Kadazan and Dusun tribes and their sub-tribes, often referred to the Kadazandusun, and the Murut. The Kadazandusun live mostly in the interior of Sabah, they are mountain people who believe the mountain is a resting place for the spirits of their departed, and thus it is sacred to them. The Rungus are arguably the most traditional of the indigenous tribes, a sub-tribe of the Kadazandusun the Rungus live mostly in the north near Kudat, many still live in longhouses. The Murut a group of several related tribes once lived in the longhouses like the Rungus, now they have mostly moved into single-family houses in the Tenom area and make a subsistence living from small-scale agriculture.


The Bajau have become the second largest group of Sabahan’s with two distinct communities each with their separate languages. One group live on the east coast in houses on stilts and depend entirely upon the sea, much like the nomadic Bajau found through Southeast Asia. The other group live in Kota Belud and have settled to become very successful agriculturalists famed for their skill on horseback.

The whole adventure culminated in Beth, Anna and I finding ourselves locked out of Nick’s house at midnight with no cash between us – only one thing for it but to scale the security fence, risking my crown jewels along the way before making a dash for the door before the security alarm went off.

It was then time to get downtown to Razzamatazz and wait for my 4am flight in the company of assorted crazy American divers, German tattooists, French submariners and Australian sea cucumber farmers, while ignoring the FA Cup final and the constant advances of the local ladies of the night. It was all getting a bit messy until all the girls ran out screaming as the religious police raided the place at 3am and then kindly proceeded to organise my cab to the airport !

Sabah, I will never forget you.



3 comments on “Dusun Country

  1. Pfft, Nigel…you clearly did NOT listen when I was teaching you all about the malaria research! There are FIVE types of malaria, not 9 😐 geeeeeeeees….lay people these days! πŸ˜‰

    Amazing blog. You don’t ‘alf make me chuckle! xxx

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