These photos were shot while touring an old Chinese cemetery in Kampung Bakut, a village just outside of Tuaran in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Many Hakka Chinese migrated to this area in the late 19th century, hence the need for a place formally known in Malay as Tanah Perkuburan Orang Cina Tuaran (Chinese: 斗亞蘭華人福壽山). It is a forlorn, neglected place: a hilltop encrusted with elaborate tombs in an elegant state of disrepair. Cemeteries are typically avoided by the local people, a consequence of the widely-held belief that anything to do with death will bring bad luck. Even so, these burial grounds are littered with rubbish and empty glue canisters—an indication that the cemetery entertains at least a few visitors now and then.
I discovered Kampung Numbak using Wikimapia, a mash up of Google Maps and Wikipedia, while staying at 1Borneo, a megamall on the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah. After finding it online I decided to pay Numbak a visit. There was something very strange about the juxtaposition of Borneo’s biggest mall and this impoverished village of 5,000 a stone’s throw away.
One of my stranger day trips in Malaysia was to the mystic island of Pulau Besar in the state of Melaka, better known as Malacca to most English-speaking people. Situated in the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s most important shipping lanes, the small island of Pulau Besar is steeped in myth and legend. It is also widely considered to be haunted—which partly explains why most of the island is abandoned.