Sabah has a lot to offer, not just its delicacies, says Canadian food, travel influencer

KOTA KINABALU: Luke Martin normally features local cuisines he encounters in the countries he visits through his much-followed Chopstick Travel channel on YouTube.

The food and travel influencer has travelled the globe for the past seven years or so, in search of new gastronomic experiences to share with his followers, besides telling the stories of the people he meets in his travels through the channel.

The 28-year-old, who hails from New Brunswick, Canada, has a massive 1.4 million followers on YouTube and another 1.3 million on Facebook.

But for his ventures to Sabah, Martin has opted to break away from tradition, as he says the Land Below the Wind had much more to offer than just its local delicacies.

"The story has been about food and nature which is a bit different from my regular style but I have really enjoyed it," he said, when contacted.

"I like to do a lot of eating in my videos, particularly sampling street food across Asia, and normally, I wouldn’t include so much nature and wildlife.

"Luckily the food here is still quite interesting (and) I was able to find some really cool things to film in terms of the local cuisine but also my upcoming series are going to be unique because I will be covering a lot of nature and wildlife as well," he added.

Martin has been in Sabah with his partner since Aug 3. They had visited the state capital and the Kundasang highlands in Ranau, among others, and were presently in the east coast Kinabatangan district.

He had visited Peninsular Malaysia many times before, making trips to Johor, Terengganu, Penang and Kuala Lumpur but this was his first time in Sabah.

He said a lot of his Malaysian friends had actually recommended that he visited East Malaysia.

"So, I did a bit of research and found Sabah seemed to be quite an interesting place.

"I was really interested to come here and see the wildlife and tried to figure out how I could include the local traditional food as well as the wildlife," he said.

So, what were the local cuisines that have triggered his taste buds?

Besides the fresh and delicious seafood (and cheaper compared to in the peninsula), Martin said, it was their first-ever encounter with the sinalau bakas, or smoked wild boar.

"We rented a car and drove up to Kundasang and stopped along the way to try it. That was something I certainly haven't seen anywhere before, let alone in the peninsula.

"Another that I have never seen or tried before was seafood bak kut teh in Sandakan," he said.

But essentially, Martin said, it was the warmth shown by Sabahans that left a lasting impression on them.

"Certainly, one thing I’ve noticed here was that people are friendlier compared to in the big cities. We were really welcomed by everybody and I was also surprised to find quite a few people in Sandakan who were actually familiar with my videos.

"There are a lot of similarities of course (with Peninsular Malaysia) but different at the same time. I can still find my favourite Malaysian food like nasi lemak here but at the same time, there are a lot of things that you cannot find in the peninsula.

"One thing that also really stands out is the extreme biodiversity in nature and wildlife here which you can’t find as abundant in the peninsula," he said.

Martin said they were also impressed with the conservation efforts on the wildlife in Sabah.

"I think the wildlife here has been stunning. We visited the orangutan, proboscis monkeys as well as the sun bears in Sepilok, Sandakan.

"I found the attitude towards conservation was really strong here. It makes the culture and everything else unique - that’s something totally different from what you can find in the peninsula.

"It’s really something special and I think people should not miss Sabah on their trips to Malaysia," he added.

Martin said he would publish a host of videos on his time in Sabah in the coming weeks.

"We have had some really positive impacts on helping small businesses and restaurants previously.

"I hope we will have a positive effect on Sabah tourism as well," he said.

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