The Sabah State Museum and Heritage Village complex in Kota Kinabalu contains the main building, the city’s Science and Education Center, Sabah Art Gallery, Heritage Village, and Museum of Islamic Civilization. The Art Gallery features Sabah’s natural history and exhibits in Ethnography and Archeology. There is also an exhibit about Malaysia’s petroleum industry. Some of the most popular displays are ancient ceramics, traditional weapons, local costumes, old photographs, earthen pottery, and other archeological finds that show the richness of Sabah’s culture and proofs on ancient trades with China and other Southeast Asian countries. There are also intriguing displays of human skulls and totemic figures that prove Sabah’s past headhunting practices. Until today, some westerners have this very wrong thinking the Borneo is undeveloped jungle inhabited by headhunters. Sabah’s capital city of Kota Kinabalu proves that Borneo is way over its barbaric headhunting days.
The city of Kota Kinabalu or KK is a leading tourist destination in Malaysia, which has one of the leading economies in Southeast Asia today. Tourists from all over the world come to KK to enjoy its world-class beaches, experience its eerie wreck dive sites, trek the 4,000-m high Mount Kinabalu and visit its many cultural sites, traditional villages, and natural parks. Its top attraction remains to be the Kinabalu National Park, which is home to lush rainforests, thousands of plants and animals that are endemic to Borneo, and the mountain of its namesake. The main gateway to the state of Sabah, bustling KK also boasts of several modern facilities such as upscale hotels, huge shopping malls, posh restaurants and cafés, and very busy business districts.
Other attractions within the capital city are the Signal Hill Observatory, Atkinson Clock Tower (the city’s oldest standing structure), Sabah Foundation Building (a 3-storey architectural wonder), Independence Square (or Padang Merdeka), State Mosque (which is very attractive for its gold inlays, majestic domes and honeycomb pattern designs), the new Likas Mosque, 1Borneo Hypermall (largest mall in Sabah), KK Waterfront, Sutera Harbour Resort, Marina and Golf Club, and the Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary.
Located about 4 km away from KK’s city center, the State Museum complex was built in 1985 on a former property of the British North Borneo Governor. The museum was designed to resemble the traditional architecture of Murut and Rungus longhouses. The Heritage Village within the museum complex features life-size replicas of the traditional homes of different ethnic groups in Sabah. The Heritage Village is a popular venue for important cultural activities.
To get to the museum complex, tourists may take a Penampang-bound No. 13 bus that passes through City Hall and Wawasan Plaza. The short 15-minute bus ride only costs RM1.00. By taxi, the fare is about RM12-15. The Sabah State Museum and Heritage Village complex is located on the old Palace Hill near the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The complex is open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Picture taking is not allowed inside the museum. To keep visitors comfortable, the complex also has a restaurant and coffee shop.