Sabah Tea Plantation,  Malaysian Borneo

The thoughts that go through your head when you are terrified of heights but doing something that might kill or cure you are overwhelming. When in Sabah, despite signs saying something like “just please don’t do this if you are afraid of heights, ok? OK?!”, I kept schtum and did a very high and very wobbly rainforest rope walk anyway. I have had a year of trying to conquer my fears (doing the worlds longest island to island zipline in Sabah was another one), and forced myself.

 

It started well. Until I put my foot on the narrow plank and realised just how wobbly the bridge was. Very very very wobbly, and I started to wobble mentally too. But I put both feet on and clutching the rope sides for dear life, I walked on. Someone got on behind me – SUPER WOBBLE – and I started to panic but I curtailed it and thought THIS IS OK! THIS IS OK! In a completely manic way. I reached the end of the first bridge. Just two more to go. Easy, right? Right.

The second bridge was fine. Ish. When I put my foot on the third bridge, I could see the end, and I thought, I have done it! But then I looked down. 30 metres into the rainforest. I noticed all of the whirring and squealing, every animal, insect and bird appearing to do their bit to add to my sense of complete and utter panic. OH MY GOD. I imagined the bridge swirling with me on it, then me spinning to the ground. And then I caught hold of myself, and I walked, my heart pounding, my breath shallow but I did it. I bloody did it! And I am here to tell the tale. Fear faced, a little piece of my brain quietened for a bit. What next? We will see. 

What to do when you have just terrified yourself to within an inch of your existence, what do you do next? Why, head to a Sabah Tea Plantation for lunch! Why not? Sabah Tea is a beautiful tea plantation nestled in the folds of Mount Kinabulu. The drive there is spectacular. The clouds whirling around the mountain, said to be protected by the souls of the dead of Sabah. Locals, many of whom previously were animists (some still are), are very respectful of Mount Kinabulu and the jungle. They believe that the souls guarding the mountain and the area in general can trap you, make you lost and ensure that you die, if you don’t. There is a lot of sad history here, it was witness to a brutal death march at the hands of the Japanese army at the end of World War 2 where 2,345 allied prisoners of war died. Incredibly, only 6 survived. The Sabah Tea Plantation shows a documentary about this in the room where they serve lunch, overlooking the rolling fields of tea, and Mount Kinabalu.

We finished with a trip to the Adenna Raffleasia garden. The raffleasia is a rare parasitic flower, the worlds largest, and it smells of rotting meat. Rotting meat! It is large and red, it looks alien, like it has been crafted of rubber. But it is a spectacular thing. Tucked away after a stream and a rickety makeshift bridge over it, they bloom for only a few days, and are surrounded by the buds of the ones that follow as they do. Is it just me or do those look like gremlins that might hatch soon?

I headed back to my hotel, proud of my rope walk, my bag full of tea, watching the sunset over the hills and the sea, and pondering the mysteries of Sabah. I fell in love with Sabah that day, and vowed to return.

Reader offer: Fancy going to Sabah? I bet you do. Premier Holidays in partnership with Royal Brunei Airlines are offering readers of Eat Like a Girl incredible offers on holidays in Sabah (your honeymoon?!). Stay at the 5* Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort for 12 nights for £1199 per person, the 5* Gaya Island Resort for £1199 per person. Flights from London included. Book before March 31st, 2015 on the Premier Holidays site – all details and conditions there.

I visited Sabah & Brunei with the #LoveSabah and #TasteofBrunei campaigns, brought to you by iambassador in partnership with Sabah Tourism and Royal Brunei Airlines. As always, I maintain full editorial control. 

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Niamh

Cooking and travelling, and sharing it all with you.
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