If you happen to visit Sabah, please time your visit so you can go to one of the weekly “tamu”.
Pronounced as “tah-moo”, the weekly market (or Farmer’s Market) where vendors gather to sell different produce and products.
Different areas have different tamu days. For example, Donggogon’s tamu is on Thursday and Friday. Putatan’s tamu is on Saturday and Sunday. Kota Belud has one on Wednesday. Kinarut is on Saturday while Lok-Kawi where my parents have a shop has tamu on Thursday.
In olden days, it was a day in the week where villagers flock to a central location to either sell or buy their excess agricultural or anima stock. Nowadays, you will find all sorts of things on sale at a tamu, including clothes.
Seeing the Kota Belud tamu on Wednesday
I had the chance to visit the tamu in Kota Belud on the day of the roadtrip to Kudat. Kota Belud is a little town halfway between Kota Kinabalu and Kudat which takes about 1.5 hours to reach there by car.
My family began our journey to Kudat on a Wednesday. On the way, we stopped by Kota Belud for lunch. We were in luck since Kota Belud’s tamu was on a Wednesday.
According to a guidebook which I just returned to the library today, Kota Belud is the home of tamu. I couldn’t really tell when I was there.
It was fruit season that period and my parents managed to buy durian and rambutan for cheap.
For those used to the sanitized markets in the western world, Sabah’s Farmers Market might be a culture shock with overpowering smells, heat and humidity.
Vendors lay their wares on sheets of plastic. For peel-able fruits, you are able to taste some before you decide on buying more from the vendor.
In Kota Belud, most of the durian sellers (who also sell mangosteen and rambutan) were lined up on the pavement and not in the real market area. Some of the vendors bought the fruit wholesale and didn’t plant it themselves.
If you speak Malay, bargaining can be easy. I’ve not seen vendors quoting prices to those who do not speak Malay but I suspect they will not rip people off too badly.