While most people will think of Malaysia being the Peninsula, the two offshore States of Sabah and Sarawak create quite a contrast to the Peninsula States, and are definitely places that you should visit if you can.
Sabah was formerly called North Borneo and has a history going back centuries coming under the Rule of the Sultan of Brunei who in 1658 ceded it to the Sultan of Sulu who controlled it until 1888 when it became a Protectorate of Britain who then set up a base here in an effort to stop pirate raids on their ships. It would later become a British Crown Colony, and in 1963 it became part of the Federation of Malaysia.
Sabah forms the top section of the Borneo Island, with the Country of Brunei and Malaysian state of Sarawak also located on this large island mass, and Kalimantan, a State in Indonesia the southern bulk of the island.
Sabah was and still is best known for its timber, with the majority of the island covered by thick jungle forests, though fishing and Tourism also play a large part in its economy too.
Tourists come to Sabah for two main reasons – for the resorts and clear tropical waters that have great diving locations and to see the Orang Utans and hike in the wilderness areas.
To get here you fly into Kota Kinabalu (KK) from Singapore or KL, with Kota Kinabalu (KK) being the main city with resort hotels spread northwards along the coastline facing the South China Sea.
To get an understanding of Sabah's history and people head to the Sabah State Heritage Museum and Heritage Village on Jalan Bukit Istana Lama in KK. Here you will find a number of Galleries which showcase the history of Sabah and its people through the different exhibits – everything from ceramics, to weapons, tools, traditional clothing styles, Ceremonial Items, Islamic history and in the Heritage Village you will be able to see the many and varied Longhouse styles of the different tribal groups.
Also to see and learn about some of the different tribes – see the Mari Mari Cultural Village – where you can see and maybe try using a Blowpipe and learn about cooking using Bamboo, as well as the traditions associated with the different tribes, including the stories of the Murut headhunters. See www.marimariculturalvillage.com
Sabah is almost sandwiched between Indonesian Islands, the Philippines, Malaysian Peninsula, with Indo-China and China to its north. Sabah has been influenced by people coming from all of these countries in many ways, as well as by the British during Sabah's time as a British Colony, and by the Japanese during World War Two. Added to this is the role that the Sultans played in its development and the fact that there are many indigenous tribes here in Sabah too – the Kadazam-Dusan, Murut, Bajau and Runqus, all with the own cultural beliefs, languages, clothing styles and traditions. Even within these tribal groups there are multiple languages and dialects.