Get a history lesson both indoors and outside at Kota Kinabalu’s Sabah Museum. This complex of four buildings, an outdoor village and a garden offers plenty to see and lots to learn. Put this stop towards the top of your itinerary to gain a good understanding of Borneo’s heritage through hands-on exhibits, a theatre and impressive galleries.
The Sabah Museum, which opened its doors in 1965 (it’s been at its current location since 1984), is an architectural masterpiece, with each of its four buildings calling attention to different aspects of this Malaysian capital city.
For example, the long houses of some of Sabah’s early tribes were the inspiration for the museum’s main building, while the Science and Technology Centre looks like a dish cover made of reeds. After admiring the buildings’ well-planned exteriors, step inside to discover their rich treasures.
The main building’s galleries focus on Sabah’s archeology, natural history, ceramics, ethnography and history; the impressive whale skeleton is a highlight. The Science and Technology Centre features a unique exhibit on the production of oil and gas.
Still another, somewhat chilling exhibit centres on traditional headhunting, a practice the local Morut group in Borneo followed until 1915 as a demonstration of their bravery. Strings of heads tied together served as their trophies.
Once you’ve ticked all the boxes indoors, head outside to the Ethno-Botanical Garden. Towering over its medicinal plants and lily-pad lake in the Heritage Village here are some examples of traditional houses of Sabah.
Check out the wedding dais at the Bajau House, and see the spookily named House of Skulls – if you dare. If you get hungry or want a memento from your visit, a cafeteria and museum shop are also on-site. Just 4 kilometres south of Kota Kinabalu’s city centre, the museum is open daily from 9am to 5pm, and there’s a small admission fee.