Introducing Kota Belud
You might think Kota Belud isn't much to look at, and frankly, you'd be right, but the town's Sunday tamu, or market, is definitely worth your time. It's a congested, colourful and dusty melee of vendors, hagglers, browsers, gawpers and hawkers, all brought together by a slew of everyday goods in a bustle that consumes the whole town every week (and a smaller version takes place on Wednesdays!). The most impressive site in Kota Belud is sadly an uncommon one these days: a procession of fully caparisoned Bajau horsemen from the nearby villages, decked out, along with their steeds, in vivid, multi-coloured satin 'armour' and embroidered barding.
A tamu is not simply a market where villagers gather to sell their farm produce and to buy manufactured goods from traders; it's also a social occasion where news and stories are exchanged. These days tourists now often outnumber buffalo, and the horsemen have mostly moved away from the car park, though some do put on a show for visitors.
Visitors looking for tribal handicrafts and traditional clothing may find a prize here, but it's cheaply made stuff for tourists. Ironically, the best way to experience this commercial event is to come not expecting to buy anything – soak up the convivial, occasionally manic atmosphere, enjoy a good meal at the lovely food stalls and just potter about like Grandma at a Sunday flea market.