Trains and Sabah Small Town Vibes
The problem with trips, I think, is that for me, they’re like potato chips – you don’t just stop at one 😛 So I was supposed to be continuing with my Santorini updates, but I think I’ll take a short commercial break to blog about my recent (and extremely spontaneous) trip to Sabah a few weeks ago!
I was getting really restless a few days before my birthday, since my last proper trip was… well, the one to Greece and Turkey, and I thought it would be a waste not to take an extra day off since I already had a day off scheduled for my birthday (Thursday). So off I went cheap-ticket hunting, and that’s how I ended up in Kota Kinabalu on my birthday 😀
I’d been to Sabah a couple of years back but never actually had the chance to see Kota Kinabalu properly, so I was lucky enough to be hosted by my awesome hippie ex-colleague Jacqkie for two days.
Jacqkie gave me a few suggestions on what I could do during my stay, and on my first day there, I decided to take one of her suggestions to explore Sabah the hipster way – by train!
According to Jacqkie’s very comprehensive blog post about her own trip on the train (with friends like these, who needs tour guides?), the Sabah State Railway Department was established almost a century ago, and trains have been running since the 1800’s, since the British were still around.
Those are not the same trains that you’ll be riding on, obviously, the trains do keep up with the times. The train route starts from Tanjung Aru in Kota Kinabalu and passes through a number of tiny towns, connecting bigger towns such as Beaufort, Papar, and Tenom, and goes all the way back. It’s a cheap way for the locals to get around – none of the fares I paid cost more than about RM 4 – but trains only pass by a couple of times a day though, so if you miss one, you’re pretty much screwed 😛
Side note: If you have your heart set on reliving the glory days of the British occupation while visiting these small towns, you can do so with a trip with the impossibly posh North Borneo Railway! It’ll take you from Kota Kinabalu to Papar and back in about half a day, and you get to sip tea with your pinky finger up in the air (I think), but… BUT. It will cost you a whopping RM 290 for an adult pass. Looks like I was destined to travel like the locals 😛
So yes. I reached the Tanjung Aru station just in the nick of time to catch the 7.30 am train to Beaufort (again, I cannot stress how important it is to get there on time because the next train was at 11.30 am), and about two hours later, I was there.
Beaufort is a pretty small town where the tallest building is about 3 storeys high, and you can see everything in the town centre in about half an hour. One of the most prominent characteristics of the town is the rows of blue shop houses in the town centre, which are actually rather photogenic indeed.
This is the end of DSLR-shot photos for this post; there, I quickly realised it wasn’t going to fly in this small town where outsiders stand out like Lady Gaga 😛 I ended up using my trusty iPhone for most of my time outside of Kota Kinabalu.
After about an hour there, I hopped back on to the train and headed for Papar.
Papar is considerably bigger and busier than Beaufort – I experienced more difficulties trying to cross the roads there 😛 The people there are just about as shy as the people of Beaufort though – so more iPhone pics it is!
Not sure what it is about the small towns that makes them so colourful, but I’m loving it!
I didn’t spend too much time in Papar either thanks to the sweltering heat that day; I took the bus back to Kota Kinabalu after about an hour there.
All in all, it was a pretty interesting day out for this city cat, as I got to see a side of Malaysia I don’t see much back home. If you do decide to take a train ride too, do check out the route plans and timetables from the Sabah State Railway Department website to plan your journey.
Up next, markets and sunsets in Kota Kinabalu!