So, you came to Borneo to meet your distant cousins at the Orang Utan rehabilitation center in Sepilok, climb Mt. Kinabalu or hike through the rain forest in Danum Valley – and you have some time on your hand in Kota Kinabalu and really want to know more about the local history? You should pencil the Sabah Museum and Heritage Village into your agenda for 1-2 hours of your time!
The Sabah museum is located outside the city center of Kota Kinabalu – it’s a very, very long walk and the buses are unreliable, so you are best of to take a taxi from your hotel. It’s open daily from 9:00am – 5:00pm and the entrance fee for foreigners is 15MYR ($4). There are free tours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 10:00am and 2:30pm.
The main building is designed after a traditional long house and houses several diverse exhibitions: I like to understand how locals view their history, so I started with the history exhibit. While it goes back to the beginning of mankind, the most detailed and interesting to me was the exhibit from before the European colonial period to the founding of the Malaysian federal state. There are always surprising aspects covered, so it was worth my time. A truly “only in Borneo” exhibit covered the history of head hunting on the island, including some weapons and skulls dangling from the ceiling… The natural history exhibit gives you an idea of the local flora and fauna – probably not a bad idea to check out if you plan extended hiking in Borneo. There are also ceramics, weaving and modern art exhibits – and a humongous skeleton in the lobby that will keep the kids busy.
Outside the main building is a garden, showcasing local plants, and a heritage village of traditional buildings set around a pond. It’s a very nice set up and gives you a good idea of the styles of buildings of the different ethnic groups living on Borneo. There are small signs at each building, providing some basic information what you are looking at.
The design of the museum got a lot more attention than the maintenance, so it looks a little run down. That doesn’t take away from the information available though. While I wouldn’t adjust my travel schedule to see the museum, if you have a little time at the beginning or end of your stay, it’s worth the trip to see it.