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In SABah: Farming, Monkeys and Rice harvest

14 April 2020
Thw riter tasting the season's rice wine

Many years ago my late husband and I had a short trip to Sabah. This is a Malaysian State occupying the northern part of Borneo. We flew into Kota Kinabulu, the capital, with little knowledge about the area.

Most tourists are keen to dive and snorkel in the beautiful waters or climb Mt Kinabulu.

I tried to organise things of great interest to him as being a tourist was not to his liking. These are not necessarily what other tourists would look for. As a farmer I knew his interest was more in something to do with the land so we went to a tour office to get their recommendations. They recommended some very appropriate trips and we set off on two days of driving with our own guide driven car to explore the northern tip of Borneo.

Sarje was an educated man, similar age to us, with a background in timber milling and agriculture who was now a tour guide. Perfect!

Hillside farming – hard work

As we travelled up the state of Sabah we stopped at many locations to observe farming operations on hillsides. It showed the incredible stamina of the people of Sabah. There was no modern machinery to help them out.

They had to make a living and feed their family from about 15 acres of allocated land.

Spot the monkey

Towards sunset we took a river safari in a small boat to look for some of the famous proboscis monkeys. They are known as the Playboy Monkey as they seem to have a permanent erection. They come out to the river edge early evening for food and water. We spotted them on the branches but, apparently, we were very lucky to see so many as it isn’t always that way for tourists especially when looking for them in their natural habitat.

Mount Kinabulu appealed to many

We were in the Mt Kinabulu area but we didn’t have the 3 days required for the walk to the top. Neither did we probably have the fitness. There were hundreds of people already on the trek or preparing to leave the visitor centre. However, we did the walk along the canopy in the rainforest on the ridge of Mt Kinabulu. That was spectacular so can only imagine what the views are like if you do the Mountain climb. Mind you the swinging bridges were rather scary and quite long! Not to my liking.

The Rungus people and their Gongs

The highlight though was the visit to the home of the Rungus people. One of the most important musical instruments in Sabah is the gong. It features in many cultural festivities and traditional ceremonies of Rungus and other major ethnic groups of Sabah. The gongs are made at the Kampung Sumangkap Gong Making Factory in Kudat by the Rungus people. Gong making skills are handed down the generations.

Rice Harvest festivities

While we were in the village they were preparing for some Rice Harvest Festival activities. Fortunately, we were invited to stay and join them celebrating the opening of the season’s Rice Wine. Five villages came together for the rice wine celebration. Each village built their own stage to place their wine vats. Once complete they all marched in procession to their stage and stood for photos and singing before the drinking started in earnest. We were offered a taste of the first of the season’s wine. It was drunk from a bamboo container and tasted rather nice.

Pigs and chickens were sacrificed as part of the ceremony. They were cooked over fires ready for a feast later in the day and the sound of them squealing was a bit disconcerting but the concept of a tasty dinner appealed!

Celebrations continued long into the night

Afterwards, they moved inside for dancing and singing but we were unable to stay for this as we had other places to see. There was only one other tourist couple there to witness this festival. The Rungus people made us all feel very welcome. This was the real thing, not set up as a tourist attraction. We were in the right place at the right time.

For more on Sabah

Pictured below: the Rungus women toasting the harvest; one of the village groups; the Rafflesia – a variety of the biggest flower in the world – found in parts of Sabah.


Where did all the designer handbags come from?

30 January 2020
A beautiful designer handbag from Murano glass
Handbag for convenience

I have handbags for practical use, handbag jewellery, and even a beautiful Mirano glass handbag. I have never considered myself a fashion follower and not really keen on using them. Therefore, I couldn’t understand how I collected designer handbags. Handbags have always been for convenience rather than fashion. This is not just for shopping or social outings.

Think about when the fire alarm goes in the apartment complex. I need to have the usual keys, cards, glasses, phone, as well as passport (living in a country I am not a citizen of), torch for the fire stairs as the lights are often not working, mask in case caught in smoke behind elderly gentleman on walker, moisturiser of some sort for lips in the hot climate, drink – alcohol or otherwise, pair knickers in case out for the night. Also, if I could fit a seat in there I would to cater for lengthy waits for firemen to give all clear to return.

Not always designer handbags

Before collecting designer bags I used to have one handbag at a time, use it till it died, then buy another one. Usually black or  brown leather so they went with everything. More often than not I would leave it in the car when shopping and just take my wallet and car keys with me.  This may be because I also wasn’t a prolific shopper in my earlier years. I just hopped out of the car, ran into a shop, bought what I needed and back to the car. It helped I lived in a small rural town with no parking hassles. Furthermore we didn’t need designer handbags in the farm ute!

It all started about 10 years ago

 I suddenly found myself buying handbags on a regular basis.  It was somewhere around 20 in one year whilst living in Singapore.  My friend and I even talked about me opening a shop when I went back to New Zealand as I had so many.

It seemed most shops in Singapore only stocked clothes for Asian sized women. As a larger size lady I had no interest in looking through the beautiful fashion stores or market stalls.  I always came away annoyed I still hadn’t lost several kilos I had been promising myself since the birth of my last child 20 years earlier. So I think that must have set me on my journey of designer handbag discovery.  I had to shop for something walking through the countless Malls, MRT shopping Centres and various markets enjoying the smells and sights of many countries in South East Asia.

I don’t know how I got so many designer handbags

It started with quite ordinary bags but back then they were very nice for me to have as I had always had just the one remember. Then I progressed to designer handbags, not that I even realised.  They almost became my souvenir of choice from various countries I visited.

The black shiny GUESS handbag I bought in Indonesia didn’t make the cut. It stayed in protective wrapping for about six years before going out in a garage sale. Not the destination a designer handbag would be hoping for is it? I was introduced to Jimmy Choo bags in Macau and promptly bought an over sized one which still is used occasionally. By the way, at the time I had no idea who Jimmy Choo was but my friend assured me it was a must have brand. Oh the benefits of having daughters to keep you up with trends. Also in Macau I picked up a beautiful Murano glass bag at the Venetian Macao Resort. Hardly useful but nice to look at. The only handbag which can’t wear out although it could break. I even tried to haggle the price down as I had become so used to shopping in markets when on holiday. I was promptly reminded by the sales assistant where I was and that it was NOT a market.

Carlo Rino, Louis Vuitton bags

I added to my designer handbag collection while passing through Hong Kong airport with a French bag, in Kuala Lumpur I bought two Carlo Rino shoulder bags. In Sydney I picked up two more – one for my sister and one for me. I have a St Louis bag from Singapore, also a Louis Vuitton pouch. There is one from Phuket and the obligatory elephant inspired cloth bag from Little India in Singapore. My favourite is the burgundy bag made of cowhide and purchased at Chennai airport on way home from long weekend in India.

Carlos Rino Bag – one of my designer bags collection

Oh I also have a handbag pendant.

Designer Handbags for plus size women

When you buy a handbag do you check if it “suits” you?  I must say with many of the purchases mentioned previously I completely forgot about whether they were suitable for me or not. After all I was buying brands, right. Hence some of them have hardly been used.

The Jimmy Choo bag I chose was conveniently large and soft but spread out across my body and added to my size – my perception at least. Cross the body bags can sometimes be too short in the strap and accentuate an already full bust area! On the other hand it is so good to have your hands free when shopping. It is also safer when travelling in some countries.

The pain of bags – not just designer handbags

It amazes me what some people carry around with them.  They are just popping downstairs for breakfast at a hotel and they have a bag which seems to have all the fittings of their hotel room in it. Likewise they go out for coffee with friends and some have those large tote bags.

Consider the number of physio or chiropractor appointments women attend because of the way they hold their bags on the shoulders or the weight they carry in them. The shoulder freezes as it holds tight to keep the bag on.  Think about it – the bag doesn’t sit on your shoulder on its own. You have to tighten the shoulder muscle to hold the bag in place.

Holiday makers carry handbags

I live in a coastal resort area now so observe holiday makers head out for their daily walk. Guess what? Some of them clutch handbags as they walk along the board walk!  How many things do you need on a morning walk? I get it if you are staying in some scungy hostel where security might be dodgy but not in this location.  Not to be confused with those who have a small backpack to cater for all requirements during their day walking and dining out, relaxing by the sea. I haven’t noticed designer handbags there so often though.

So I have this lovely collection of designer handbags which are seldom used but much admired. I no longer use those which will cause pain, both mental and physical! However I have many good memories of my travels.

What do you collect on your travels?