In this first article, we'll take you to a remote island right at the northernmost tip of Borneo. It is called Banggi, the largest among all islands in Malaysia, with a population of about 20,000 people. The people there earn their living by fishing and farming, mostly below the poverty line. Last we heard the government has started a land scheme where the locals get a few hectares of land to farm plus a house and a regular stipend.
Tourism is not a big thing yet and general infrastructure is still so-so. There's only 25km of tarred road and only one ferry service linking the island with the mainland. Last we checked, there are two services in the afternoon (1.30pm and 2.30pm) from Kudat (mainland) to Karakit (island) and another two in the morning (7.30am and 8.30am) from Karakit to Kudat. So, you'll have to really plan your stay there.
What the work was all about? Oh, several months ago Mama's office received a letter from the teachers at the island's only secondary school there, requesting help for some students who have poor eyesight but couldn't afford to buy prescription glasses. Mama's office then initiated a fundraising drive and managed to collect some funds to cover the costs of making the spectacles. Mr Lee, who is Mama's optician at Bangsar Optometry, supplied the frames and glasses at cost. (Thank you Uncle Lee....). In the meantime, the teachers took the students concerned to the hospital and get their eyes examined, took their mugshots and emailed everything to Mama (isn't the internet wonderful???)
As Mama and Dad were already going to visit Sabah for another project, the trip to Banggi was added to the itinerary. They took the 5pm flight from Tawau, reached Kota Kinabalu Airport at almost 7pm, took a taxi to KK, stopped for dinner, then another taxi to Kudat, arrived there three hours later. So they spent some time getting to know Kudat before boarding the 1.30pm ferry to Banggi.
|The jetty in Kudat. Lovely clear blue sky there.|
|The sweet lady manning the ticket "counter" at the ferry terminal.|
|Economy class at just RM15 one-way.|
|Hustle and bustle at the jetty in Banggi.|
|There is no public transport in Banggi but there are private utes for hire. They charge per head per journey.|
|Dancing troupe, teachers and students await at the school. There was a formal event organised...Mama cringed as she was very casual for the visit...you know....jeans and sneakers...|
|Some of the students who received the spectacles. Mama coined that phrase: Better Vision for Better Future. There's a recording of her speech somewhere.|
|Now...this is interesting. A replica of a bunch of tapioca (also known as cassava). I'm guessing that this is the main produce of the island.|
|The rest house where they stayed. Old and rickety but clean and NOT haunted.|
|Where they had dinner - a row of stalls selling fried rice, noodles etc.|
|Interesting stall selling local produce....|
|Note the price on the coconut...|
|...and the cucumber....interesting indeed.|
|While we applaud the tree planting effort of the locals...err....may we point out that this plant is not a tree? More like...errr...shrub?|
|The two ferries that would take us back to the mainland the next morning.|