PENAMPANG: The warmth and friendliness of Sabah people, the beautiful terrains and its nature, and the uniqueness of its cultural diversity may all sound like words taken directly out of tourism promotional reading materials.
But these qualities remain to be the very reasons tourists from across the globe come to the Land Below the Wind and make that decision to visit this multicultural state, and for some, to keep coming back.
A visit to the Kaamatan Festival at Hongkod Koisaan KDCA yesterday affirmed that these attributes remain relevant to this day.
Australian couple, Kevin, 59, and Linda Jones, 64, have visited Sabah for the fourth time.
For them, the hospitality of the people is one of the many reasons that made them keep returning to Sabah for vacations.
Having visited many countries, they were pleasantly surprised by the friendliness that Sabah people in particular, showed.
“It’s the people,” replied Linda when asked why the couple kept coming back to Sabah.
“Other than being welcoming and hospitable, it is also interesting to see the multicultural backgrounds they come from and it is enlightening to learn about people that way,” she added.
“Yeah, we have been to Bali, Singapore, Hong Kong and other countries, but it’s better here. We have random people just coming up to us and greet us,” her husband, Kevin, concurred.
Although it was their fourth visit to Sabah, it was the couple’s first visit to the mammoth Harvest Festival celebration at Hongkod Koisaaan KDCA.
“We heard about this festival when we were on board the cruise ship that took us to Kota Kinabalu. We heard it would be grand but we did not know it would be this big, nor did we expect it to be this interesting,” said Kevin.
“It’s always interesting to learn about people of diverse cultures and coming here today to see all those colourful crafts produced by the locals, the traditional costumes, traditional games and dance performances, it just keeps getting better,” noted Linda.
Another interesting bit of the Kaamatan Festival for the Jones was the free entrance.
“In Perth, we have the Royal Agricultural Show, which is almost a similar festival but not as cultural as this, where local farmers bring their agricultural produce to showcase and sell.
“The better thing about the Harvest Festival here is the fact that you don’t need tickets to enter, compared to the Royal Agricultural Show in Perth. It’s nice that they let people in to have a look around without having to pay for it and only spend money on whatever it is that you want to spend on,” they said.
For Japanese couple, Humiyo and Izuo Hayakawa, visiting the grandeur festival on their first ever visit to Sabah also made it easier for them to learn about the state as a whole.
“This is our first time here and we find it so interesting that culture can be as vast as this.
“Back where we come from in Tokyo, we have the Cherry Blossom or Autumn Festival which is also a very grand celebration.
“But this (Kaamatan festival) is even more engaging. To see so many cultures in one place is just so intriguing,” said the Hayakawa couple, when met at the Rungus longhouse at the KDCA grounds while they were trying to play a Rungus traditional game called ‘inuogdazang’.
May 30 and 31 mark the climax of the month-long Kaamatan Festival which culminates at the Hongkod Koisaan KDCA grounds.
This time of the year would mean massive traffic congestion as vehicles are parked miles-long along the sides of the road leading to Hongkod Koisaan, as locals from various districts flock the grounds to take part in numerous activities.
Whether it’s to take part in the traditional sports and games, watch and learn from cultural demonstrations, dance performances, or simply to visit stalls selling and promoting various products from foods, clothing, handicrafts, and many others, it is always a time for Sabahans from all over to gather and celebrate the Kaamatan festival in unison.