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.
I look for any excuse to go on a trip. A promotion on a travelling package? Sure, I’ll go. Your cat got sick? Sure, I’ll visit especially if you live by the beach. A good friend getting married? Hell to the yes!
We went to Terengganu to attend a wedding of a friend, on a weekend in the middle of the monsoon season. Nobody goes to Terengganu during the monsoon season. It rains and pours and floods, the beach is moody and the snorkeling islands are shut down. But the thing is, I like the unconventional. And I like lots of rain. Nothing says adventure quite like traveling down a strange road and finding new things to see that are not too touristy. While getting splashed in the face with acid rain.
We decided to pay a visit to the Islamic Civilization Park. It was the talk of the town because of its controversially high budget, but I’ve also heard some good reviews. Plus it was either that or we’ll have to visit a Batik Factory House, which to be honest, should only be reserved for when you’re 70 with no teeth.
The ticket costs RM15 (what a rip-off!) and once you’re in, you’re allowed to ride the bicycles around the park instead of walking. The park was filled with miniatures of historical mosques around the world, and the built were intricate enough that you almost feel like you’re seeing the real deal. There was the Masjid al-Haram, of course, and al-Aqsa, Grenada mosque, and the Taj Mahal, among others. Each mosque was accompanied with a description on when it was built, why it’s significant etc. If you’re too broke (right I am right now) you should give this park a try. It made me feel inspired to save money and travel again and see the real live mosques. They looked magnificent enough in miniature, so I am sure it’s even better in person.
After that we went to the beach anyway, because a visit to the East coast is never really complete until you visit a beach. That’s like eating an ice cream Sunday without the hot chocolate fudge. The beach was dark and cloudy, and it definitely gave a different nostalgic effect compared to a bright sunny beach. The former reminded me of sharks and Godzilla, while the latter reminded me of…Baywatch. Those hideous red bikinis. Yeesh.
Cycling around the park. At the back is the first mosque in Nigeria, built entirely of clay.
Now doesn't she look like she's in Istanbul? (minus the horrendous plane ride, airport tax, and currency exchange)
Sad, moody beach. It literally started pouring minutes after these pictures were taken.