Long Drive to the Tip of Borneo

Tip of Borneo Map

I was in Sabah last month to explore some more places in Malaysian Borneo. I wanted to visit the Tip of Borneo, the northern-most point of the island of Borneo, and the most northerly point of Malaysia, excluding some outlying islands.

It is located just over 200km from Kota Kinabalu airport from where I rented a car. Here are some of the points of interest I found along the way.

Rumah Terbalik

The first stop-off was to see Rumah Terbalik, the upside down house near the small town of Tamparuli.

Rumah Terbalik, Tamparuli, Sabah
Rumah Terbalik, Tamparuli, Sabah

You might wonder why anyone would go to the expense of building an upside down house and not even be able to live in it. There are actually quite a few of them in the world (Germany, Austria, Poland among other places). There’s even another one in Malaysia, in Melaka, which I guess I should go and see one of these days.

Rumah Terbalik seems to be on the itinerary of many Sabah tours and draws in a steady flow of visitors paying RM10 per person (for Malaysians) and RM18 (for foreigners) so presumably it is a profitable venture. It’s quite well organised with guided tours, a gift shop and restaurant. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the house otherwise I could show you all the household items stuck to the ceiling (the owners might want to review this policy in this selfie-obsessed age).

Rumah Terbalik, Tamparuli, Sabah
Even the car and pot plants are upside down.

Tamparuli Suspension Bridge

Next I stopped to walk across the pedestrian suspension bridge crossing the Tamparuli River in this colourful market town.

Tamparuli Suspension Bridge
The pedestrian suspension bridge is on the right while the single lane road bridge is on the left.

The suspension bridge (or hanging bridge as they are called in Malaysia) is in constant use by school kids and other pedestrians. Although it sways and bounces underfoot, its structure is quite solid but you need to keep an eye out for missing planks. More precarious looking is the road bridge, just a few feet above the river level. Bridges in Sabah have a habit of being washed away in the rainy season.

Tamparuli Suspension Bridge

At the far end of the bridge is a small memorial to two British soldiers, Private JWN Hall and Driver DC Cooper who drowned here in May 1960 while trying to negotiate this bridge in a Land Rover during a flood.

Ling San Temple, Tuaran

The next settlement of any size on this road in thinly-populated Sabah is the town of Tuaran. The population here are mostly ethnic Dusans and Bajau but the sizeable Chinese community have built themselves a very fine temple with an ornate 9 storey pagoda.

Ling San Temple and Pagoda, Tuaran
Ling San Temple and Pagoda, Tuaran

According to the plaque outside, construction of the pagoda began in 1990 and was completed in 2005.

Journey to the West character at Tuaran
A character from ‘Journey to the West’ at Ling San Pagoda.

Kampung Tenghilan

In need of some water, I stopped off at the village of Tenghilan where there is a row of half-century old wooden shops of a sort seldom seen these days.

Wooden shophouses at Kg Tenghilan, Sabah
Wooden shophouses at Kg Tenghilan, Sabah

There is a small monument here with the markings 1881-1981 and a map of Sabah, appearing to commemorate a centenary. The monument is built above a small menhir which once bore a plaque but that has been removed so its significance is unknown.

Snooker match at Tenghilan, Sabah
Rustic billiard saloon at Kg. Tenghilan

Simpang Mengayau Beach

Almost at the Tip of Borneo is a magnificent white sandy beach which must be one of the best in Malaysia and a well-kept secret.

Simpang Mengayau Beach, Tip of Borneo, Kudat, Sabah
Simpang Mengayau Beach (sometimes called Kalampunian Beach), Tip of Borneo, Kudat, Sabah

As you can see from the photo, it is not too crowded. There are no lifeguards and no facilities but there are a few places to stay (Borneo Tip Beach Lodge, Tommy’s Place etc). If you want to get away from it all you should consider this gorgeous 5km long beach which is reckoned to have the best sunsets in Borneo.

Simpang Mengayau Beach, Tip of Borneo, Kudat, Sabah
Simpang Mengayau Beach seen from the Tip of Borneo.

Tip of Borneo

Finally I reached my destination.

Tip of Borneo marker
Tip of Borneo marker.

The vegetation on this windswept headland is not typical for Malaysia.

Approach to the Tip of Borneo
Path leading to the Tip of Borneo.

Some of the sheltered coves here look more like Cornwall than the Tropics.

Sheltered Cove at Tip of Borneo
Sheltered Cove at Tip of Borneo

And here, below, is the actual Tip of Borneo with the South China Sea to the left and the Sulu Sea to the right.

Tip Of Borneo
Tip Of Borneo. Visitors are asked not to go beyond the barrier for safety reasons.

In my next post, I’ll share a few more places that I covered on my Borneo trip.

4 thoughts on “Long Drive to the Tip of Borneo”

  1. I noticed there’s no mentioning of the road conditions from KK to Kudat or even to Tg Spg Mengayau. Last time I went back in 2012 they were memorably bumpy. Perhaps all are nice and smooth now?

  2. Hi Nashazly, the road from KK to Kudat was pretty good apart from a few cows on the road. The road up to Simpang Mengayau had a number of sections where the tarmac had disappeared and was just loose gravel but it was passable in my rented Honda Jazz. I wouldn’t like to do the trip in the dark.

    1. That’s good to hear! I was in a rented Proton Saga and the KK to Kudat part after Kota Marudu (the jungle part) was untarred (?) for a good 20km stretch and gave my family and me very good reasons to go for massages afterwards. Oh the owner of the car knew about the road condition although I still felt bad I’d ruin the car’s suspension 🙂
      Happenings make for good memories, though!

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