Ghost tourism mulled

Sabah planning holding cultural festival featuring mythical creatures

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah wants to be known for more than just its scenic surrounding and warm hospitality.

This year, the State will introduce to the world its other hidden charm – the spine-chilling, scary-world of supernatural and ghosts!

The Ministry of Tourism Culture and Environment is mulling over the idea of having a cultural festival where mythical creatures such as ghosts, are the highlights of the event.

With interest in the supernatural spreading like a plague, and ghost or paranormal tourism sky-rocketing worldwide, this may not be a bad idea at all.

Ghost tourism has boomed over the past decade, and today is almost as popular as health tourism, shopping tourism or even the conventional eco-tourism.

There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of ghost tours offered on line, attracting a stream of travellers looking for that tingling hair-raising sensation back their neck.

Not many cities in the world today are without their own spooky attraction, mostly in a form of haunted places. Perhaps it is time for the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) to call for a few ghosts of their own and scared the life out of some tourists.

This year’s Folklore Festival could indeed be a turning point for Sabah to explore this new and exciting tourism niche.

After all, the belief in and the fear of ghosts among the various ethnics in Sabah are often kept alive through story telling and folk tales.

Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Bolkiah Ismail said introducing a cultural festival that features mythical creatures, specifically ghosts, is a good way to understand the way of life of the ethnic communities.

These creatures, to be portrayed based on the beliefs of the 32 ethnic groups in Sabah, would offer a glimpse into the myths and folk tales of our communities, an interesting offering for the curious visitors.

“We cannot escape myths and folk tales of our communities that affect our way of life. Having a festival like this can also clarify a lot of misconceptions, especially mythical creatures like ghosts,” he told reporters after the launch of a mascot for the Sixth Sabah International Folklore Festival 2011 here  yesterday.

The mascot known as Bal-Bal, a bird to symbolise a person with black magic, was launched by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

Bal-Bal, according to Sabah Cultural Board general manager Datu Rosmadi Sulai, was actually a form of black magic practised by the Iranun community in the past.

It was often confused by society with the flying vampire known in Sabah as Balan-Balan or Hantu Penanggal in the peninsula, a creature which head can detach from its body and fly out into the night to seek its victims.

Balan-Balan is just one of our many mystical creatures, in addition to countless types of ghosts that are feared in our society.

If the west have their vampire and the undead, we have tompulalanggoi (means a very tall or giant ghost in Dusun), kelindahau (a sort of ghost in Brunei language also known as Hantu Tetek among other ethnics), hantu raya, hantu bangkit and many more.

Those who are familiar with the local folklore in Sabah knows that our cultures are steeped in the secrets of the paranormal.

But while other characters like Count Dracula need no introduction, ours like balan-balan, tompulalanggoi and kelindahau are less famous, which makes them even more mysterious and appealing to the outsiders.

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