Starry-eyed in Kudat


  • Focus
  • Friday, 15 Mar 2019

Kudat’s isolated beaches have beautiful sunsets, which make postcard-worthy photos.

THE road is long and winding. Along the three hour-plus journey from Kota Kinabalu, across padi fields and rivers, one will pass many small villages on the two-way trunk road.

The signs of the churches on the way are indicators that you are about to approach a village.

The journey by road to Kudat, a small town at the tip of Borneo, can be rewarding.

It can be a slow ride, depending on the traffic as you navigate the route, but it is a colourful trip.

Along the way, there are plenty of roadside stalls selling local products, from rattan and bamboo wares to local cakes and fruits.

Normally towards the end of the year, beginning from September, you can find tarap or terap, a unique fruit native to Sabah.

Native to Borneo, the rugby-sized fruit’s smell will remind one of durian. The scent comes from the skin, which is soft with blunt spines.

Light and dust pollution-free, the Milky Way can be seen with the naked eye in Kudat.
Light and dust pollution-free, the Milky Way can be seen with the naked eye in Kudat.

Tarap turns soft when ripe and can be easily torn open with one’s bare hands.

Its flesh or fruit resembles cempedak. It has a strong aroma and it is sweet. The flesh is juicy with a creamy texture.

Kudat is about 190km from Kota Kinabalu and one of the best places in the country to see the dazzling display of the Milky Way, which will appear from mid-February to early October.

Perhaps its remoteness and lack of development have helped preserve the district from light and dust pollution, making watching the twinkling stars of the Milky Way, the home to some 400 billion stars, possible with the naked eye.

The cloud-like stretch of stars across the sky, in the south-western direction, is mesmerising and will spellbind anyone, especially astrophotographers.

With its long unspoilt beaches, the Kudat seascape also offers one of the best scenes for photography.

The ever-changing seascape as the sandy beaches shift between the wind and tide, unveiling hidden rock formations.
The ever-changing seascape as the sandy beaches shift between the wind and tide, unveiling hidden rock formations.

For the past four years, I have been travelling to this remote destination for my love of  photography – from Kota Belud to Simpang Mengayau.

I often spend hours at night until the wee hours of the morning, recording the captivating and pristine Kudat night skies.

This district, which is much bigger than Penang island, never fails to impress with its view of the Milky Way on each visit.

Having spent many hours in various locations in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia to capture the stars, Kudat’s sky has plenty to offer.

It also has beautiful sunrises and stunning sunsets, especially during the blue hour – at twilight, just as the sun disappears below the horizon.

Volcanic activity that took place centuries ago also left behind unique and beautiful rock formations on some of Kudat’s remote beaches – creating postcard-worthy photos.

The ever-changing seascape, hidden rock formations and sandy beaches that shift between the tide and wind, reveal the beauty of this countryside.

Stunning sunrise in Kudat at one of its isolated beaches. — Photos: EDDIE CHUA/The Star

So much so, I have made this place a home to teach astrophotography to enthusiasts and stargazers.

Kudat, was once the capital of Sabah, shortly after the British North Borneo Chartered Company leased the territory from the Sultan of Brunei and Sulu.

It is also known for its inexpensive fresh seafood. But finding good food here can be difficult, as there are only a handful of restaurants that offer cooked meals.

For accommodation, one should not expect too much, especially in terms of luxury facilities in this town.

There are only about half-a-dozen budget hotels in the heart of Kudat town, with four two- and three-star rated hotels for visitors.

Aside from that, there are simple huts, mostly mid-range resort-type lodging available by the seaside, especially in Simpang Mengayau.

A Rungus boy playing a Sompoton, a bamboo pipe, in his colourful traditional costume.
A Rungus boy playing a Sompoton, a bamboo pipe, in his colourful traditional costume.

Kudat is home to the Rungus community, who are known for their beauty and distinctive costumes with handmade bead necklaces and bangles.

A majority of them are farmers or work in the agricultural sector. They are Christians with unique legends and practices.

So the next time you think about going on an adventure and want to see beautiful people and learn a bit about Malaysian culture, head to Kudat.

Its pristine dark skies also promises an enchanting hidden treasure.

Follow Big Picture on its photography journey on FB at http://bit.ly/2417BfK


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