Return to Sabah — Tuaran

If you are headed to Kota Belud or Kudat from Kota Kinabalu, you are sure to go past the town of Tuaran. And though Kudat was our original destination, we decided to go to Kundasang first. This has mainly to do with availability of accommodation.

At Kudat, we had guaranteed accommodation, whereas if we went to Kudat first, we would have ended up in Kundasang on a Saturday, and we were unsure of how crowded it would be.

Actually, we later found that there was nothing to fear, because wherever you go to in Sabah during this period, there are sure to be accommodation available for you.

From Telipok we made our way to Kundasang. However, there was an option to detour by about 9km to go visit the town of Tuaran first.

Pekan Tuaran

Tuaran has a population that is 50/50 Dusun and Chinese. It is surrounded on 3 sides by the Tuaran River, which is actually a rather beautiful river.

It is most famous for Tuaran Mee, which is a type of noodles created by the Hakka Chinese community that lives here. They are made from a batter of egg yolk and flour, fried in high heat, and results in noodles that are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

We visited the famous Tuaran Mee Restaurant, which has a branch in Kota Kinabalu. Initially, we had some apprehension, given our experiences with the so-called famous places we visited in Kota Kinabalu. So we went with lower expectations.

To our surprise, we found that the food was quite okay. Not spectacularly good, but the important point was, we found a tourist place where the food was not bad 😂. Maybe it was because of our lower expectations, but actually, we think it’s because it’s a restaurant that is popular with the locals as well.

When a business doesn’t depend mainly on tourists, it can continue to do reasonably well even in the midst of a pandemic, because it still attracts locals. It is unfortunate that many of the businesses that we see around Kota Kinabalu seem to have forgotten that locals are the ones who made them popular in the first place.

Pagoda Ling San

Another place that the town of Tuaran is known for is a beautiful house of worship called Pagoda Ling San. On a normal day, one can climb the 9-storey pagoda to the top and get a bird’s eye view of the town below. But unfortunately, the day that we were there was not a normal day, and the pagoda was closed. Nonetheless, we explored the temple grounds.

Pagoda Ling San
There was a Hilux below, providing a good comparison of relative size.

There is a 9-tiered mini pagoda on the top of the 9-storey pagoda.

Buddha statue

Journey to the West set on the pagoda grounds

Our initial plan was to see the nearby kampungs across Tuaran River, but since we couldn’t do that, we decided that we would drive there instead.

While there is actually a bridge linking the central part of Tuaran town to the kampungs, Google Maps was unable to provide us with a street view of it. So instead, we made a long detour round to enter the kampung area from the other side… only to later find out that the bridge is indeed passable. 😅

We drove around the kampung area until somewhere around the halfway mark. Since Google Maps showed that there was indeed a road that led back to the main road, we continued. For the next 7km, we traversed unpaved gravel roads, through rubber plantations, past Catholic churches located in secluded parts of the kampungs.

The roads here, when there were roads, were so full of potholes that there was no way to avoid them. At some sections, the pothole was larger than the road available to drive on 😅, and at one point, our tyre got stuck in the mud. It was only through Baby Crab’s amazing driving that we go through the place.

It was quite a fascinating, albeit slow, drive through the kampung, but it gave us all a deeper appreciation of the lives that people in the kampungs of Tuaran live. We finally exited the kampung area somewhere in the hills, and made our way back — on proper tarmac roads — to the main Jalan Tampurali-Ranau road that will bring us to Kundasang.

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