When was the last time you went to a museum? I can’t remember the last time I went to a museum – probably 5 years ago. The kids were still small, so they can’t remember it, too. The only thing that I can vividly remember about the visit was the very cold temperature inside the museum. I think there was a huge skeleton of something, but I can’t recall what it was – obviously, I need to revisit the place.
Sabah State Museum
So during the recent school holidays, we dragged our kids, ranging from 5-15 years old, to the Sabah State Museum. We figured that all kids need such visits in their memory – at least one memorable trip to the museum, in addition to the zoo, the park, etc. Our teens were reluctant (museums really need to update its image), but the younger ones were excited. I estimated the trip to last about 1 hour or less, but we ended up spending more than 4 hours there, and we could have spent a whole day if not for a previous engagement.
It turned out to be a fun time for us all – lots of walking, a bit of hiking, visiting houses, getting mosquito bites, viewing paddy field, admiring water lilies in a pond, getting on railway trains, sitting on and in classic cars, etc. And all of those memorable adventures were on the outside of the museum building.
Perched on a hill, the Sabah State Museum’s main building was opened in 1984 and it is architecturally inspired by the longhouse. Located about 5 minutes’ drive away from Kota Kinabalu City centre, at Jalan Muzium, it can easily be seen from the road. It we take the bus, it is merely 5 minutes’ walk away from the bus stop. Notable buildings near to the Museum are Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital, MUIS building and the Wisma Kewangan.
We arrived before the Museum opened, so the areas were not crowded. We noticed peculiar scents coming from some of the plants gracing the area. We found out later that the plants around the Museum grounds are not mere eye candy, some of them are actually part of the Museum’s ethno-botanical garden. The plants consist of local medicinal and food plants – mostly herbs, I guess. I am hopeless at differenting between the grass, weed or the herb… 😀
Trains & Lepa Pasil
After we paid for the entrance fees, we decided to visit the surrounding areas first before entering the main building. It was early in the morning, so we figured that when the air becomes too hot to endure, then we’ll march into the air-conditioned part of the Museum.
We started our adventure in the outdoors with the old train with wooden compartments. The kids loved climbing up and down the dear thing and it really looked polished. Then there’s this beautiful life-sized model of a sailing boat (perahu layar) called Lepa Pasil from the Semporna District from the East Coast of Sabah. It has nice intricate motives carved onto it. Would you believe it – these type of boats used to sail around the small islands of Borneo, Philippines and Indonesia. What a daring feat!
If you’re an admirer of classic cars, there are many lovely models kept in the Museum. Among them are Vauxhall Velox (1956), Audi (1972), Wolseley (1959), Austin (1960), Ford (1930s – used as a bus) and a Rolls Royce. The Ford was our favourite because it looked small from the outside but can easily carry 16 passengers and it has wooden doors! The thing about classic cars is not the style or design – it’s the looks, very individual. It’s not every day that we come across classics, but if it were really up and running, that would have been a huge bonus. However, the cars really needed a nice polishing…
A few metres down, we reached a gently swaying hanging Bridge. Those who are afraid of heights would have a kind of adventure here, feeling the heart quickened as the bridge moves. Those who really could not tolerate height (just a few metres above a lake) can walk down the steps to reach the other side of the lake. The hiker in me would really like to explore the hills and surrounding woods, but most of us were not properly attired for the hilly walk, so we decided to turn around and visit the Heritage Village instead.
The Heritage Village consists of authentic life-sized re-creations of traditional homes, including Rungus and Murut longhouses, and other houses such as Bajau, Iranun and Bruneian. And we had a look at another Lepa Pasil in the Village. I could almost imagine the community living in each house in the olden days. However, some of the houses were not opened to public, probably requiring some repairs. The Village is built around a lake with lovely water lilies floating in it. There is also a typical Chinese farm house, complete with furnishings, and good luck charms pasted on the walls.
Near the end of the walk, we came upon a small paddy field – well, not really a field, just a tiny plot. I really had fun showing the kids the tool shed or hut for processing harvested paddy and for keeping the farming tools (Sulap Memproses Padi). In it were stone pounder (lesung batu), cart for buffalo to pull (gagayatan), harrow (ragus), rake (sisir), wooden plough (radu) and the scare crow. Some of the implements actually reminded me of gym equipments…
The Main Building
When we went into the main Museum building, we were greeted by the sight of a huge bone structure which turned out to be the skeleton of a blue whale. On the left side of the whale, is a path that leads to Ethnography section where we can see interesting displays of ethnic crafts, traditions and costumes of Sabah’s major ethnic groups.
Just behind the whale is a history of ‘Mengayau’ or headhunting in Sabah. On display are various photos taken of the last people that practiced headhunting, and also some old weapons used for decapitating enemies’ heads, as a mark of bravery and manhood.
From Mengayau, we walked towards a replica of the interior of the Batu Tulug Caves (which I had previous posted in this blog) and then to the ‘Tunnel of Time’ which is mostly adorned with photographic display of Sabah’s history from the days of the British North Borneo Chartered Company in 1881 until the creation of Malaysia in 1963.
Up on the first floor of the Museum we got to see an impressive collection of Ceramics and also had a nice look at the gallery of Natural History. Naturally, the kids spent quite some time admiring the preserved animals and learning their names.
At the time of our visit there was a special exhibition of photographs taken by Mr Robert Knowles from 1940s to the 1960s. There were, of course photographs of notable names when they were younger. I believe the next exhibition will be on Agnes Keith, the lady who wrote the book ‘Land Below the Wind’.
Sabah State Museum’s Opening Hours & Admission Fees
So, if you are in Kota Kinabalu, and have the time to spare, do visit the Sabah State Museum. It opens daily from 9am – 5pm and the admission fees as follows:
- Malaysian : RM2.00
- Non-Malaysian : RM15.00
- Free entrance for all senior citizens, disabled, students and taxi drivers.
– An Adventure at the Sabah State Museum