Red Arrow marks the road trip route.
I’ve heard of thugs. Those guys were the ones who’d rob banks or other people in a dark alley. But here in Lahad Datu, there are actually such people like vegetable thugs. Vegetable thugs, I had learned, would come barging in at a market where public civilians are selling their grown produce. They would come with a lorry, barge in like one of those homo sapiens you see in movies about uncivilized cave people, take the vegetable and go sell it off somewhere else. My friend and I learned this the hard way. We were spending our last morning of a week-long fieldwork in East Sabah at the local market, just to check out the early morning scene. My friend, and avid photographer, was taking pictures when the crowd suddenly went berserk with a Vegetable Thug scare.
Now the way to explain the scenario is pretty simple. Imagine those videos of that awful tsunami catastrophe. When people started running in every direction at the market, I thought it was another tsunami (based on the fact that the wet market was by the sea, you can hardly blame me). So the natural thing to do was, well – run with them. My friend was too panicky that she couldn’t really run, but when she saw me joining the chaos she screamed, “Is it an earthquake? Wait, don’t run, we should stick around and see what happens!” which is weird because dude, if it’s an earthquake, the last thing I want to be buried in is a wet market filled with vegetables and rats.
That was one of the highlights of the trip. I’ve always imagined thugs to be huge and tattooed and bad-ass, but vegetable stealing is hardly…macho.
We went snorkeling around Semporna at the many, many tiny islands. Many of the natives who live in the islands were still around, and the kids seemed to be having an amazing time, playing by the beach with their dogs and the sand. The funny part was when were studying the rocks formation in one of the villages, one of the adult locals approached us and asked, “Are you guys in search of gold?” Even funnier was the fact that some of them also taught we were studying the earth around there because an earthquake is coming.
East Sabah is lot less modern than the West, where Mount Kinabalu is located. The people seemed to thrive on living on local produce, working their own land and spending their days living a laid back country life. I suppose that’s why they always have longer life spans than us city dwellers. I would definitely come here again if I am looking to escape the city world for a weekend.
Semporna. People come from all over the world to dive here.
Moments before the Vegetable-Thug scare at the wet market.
One of the islands around Semporna. A must visit if you're a fan of the sea.