Return to Sabah — Kudat Town

It’s been two months since we last wrote in here. December was a busy period for us, then there was Christmas, New Year, and Chinese New Year. Now that those are over, it’s back to documenting down and sharing with you our adventure, as we continue from where we left off.

The last time we wrote here, we had come from Poring Hot Spring and stopped by Kota Marudu for a break on our way to Kudat. As we drove to Kudat, Baby Tilapia recalled what he had learned of the place.

When the British colonists first came to Kudat, they asked the locals for the name of the place. The locals misunderstood their question and thought that the British were asking for the name of the species of grass that grows in the area, which is called ‘kutad’.

The town was actually originally called Tomborungan, after the river of the same name. But that river has long disappeared, and so has the name. There is now only Kudat.

Kudat is the northernmost Malaysian town. Most don’t know that it was actually Sabah’s first capital, before the capital was shifted to Sandakan, and after World War II to Jesselton, which is now called Kota Kinabalu.

It was actually the first British settlement in Sabah, because the British discovered oil about 26km away from the town. To make sure that their recreational needs were provided for, the British built a golf course in Kudat, which still stands today.

Their next step was to bring labour into Kudat, for there was much work to be done. Specifically, they attracted Chinese immigrants, mostly the Hakka Chinese, to come by offering them a free trip here. Most of the early Hakka immigrants settled either in Kudat or in Sandakan, the second capital of Sabah.

We have friends in Pinangsoo, one of the nearby areas, who told us that their grandfathers sailed from China to Kudat. When they came, the British government here gave them each tools and a piece of land that was 10 acres big (about 7.5 football fields) that they had to clear on their own.

Half of the land they had to use to grow rice, and they were provide rice rations for their first 6 months here. The other half of the land could be used to grow other crops. Most of them grew coconut plantations on those lands. Our friends today own these lands which they have converted to palm oil plantations, which have a lifespan of about 30 years before production levels drop.

But before we get to them, first we visit Kudat, on our second attempt to reach this place. We failed to come here the last time round, because we got waylaid, which is how we met our friends in the first place. This time, we made it a point to head first to the town.

Kudat town is really small. But what was notable there was a ferry terminal with many medium-sized boats. Most of these carried seafood, but some carried cars. We were intrigued.

A ferry with two cars

Baby Crab activated her superpower and we found out that this ferry terminal provides round trip rides from Kudat to Banggi Island, the largest island in the whole of Malaysia, bigger than Penang or Langkawi islands. However, it’s not as developed as even Kudat, and they mainly produce seafood, palm oil, rubber and coconut.

The boatsman who told us about Banggi Island

As we arrived at about 4.30pm, there wasn’t much to see here as the sun tends to set quite early in Sabah. We drove around the town a bit, looking at the sports complex and the golf club, before heading to our destination for the day — Jalan Pinangsoo Loro.

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