18 Things Not To Miss in Tenom, Sabah

Coffee, Murut culture and even more coffee – Clara Joan Joachim shares 18 things you must not miss on your trip to Tenom, Sabah.

Tenom is the agriculture hub of Sabah and locally known as the town of coffee. Located in the interior part of Sabah, it is one of the favorite holiday destinations for Sabahans. If you ever get the chance to visit the state, you would not want to skip Tenom as the must-go-place in your list. On average, it takes less than 3 hours to drive from Kota Kinabalu International Airport to Tenom Town.

Once you have reached here, be sure to try these 18 incredibly local activities in Tenom!

1. Hop on the oldest train in Borneo

Since the 1900s, the North Borneo Railway has been the only transportation for farmers to mobilize their crops from Pangi to Tenom Town. Thus, it holds a deep historical value for Tenomites.

Tenomites commuting using the old train.
Photo : ekspirol
Enjoying the view of the railway with Padas River.
Photo : claressaray

Get on the train from Tenom Station heading to Beaufort. Along the way, you will get to enjoy the scenic view of Padas River, surrounded by beautiful sights of paddy fields, rainforests, rubber plantations and villages. There is something nostalgic about being in a vintage train as it feels like you are being whisked to the past! The seats are quite limited but why not do it the local way and get comfortable on the floor?

Train operating time: Train schedule
Train fee: RM2.75/traveller (one-way ticket)
Distance: 48KM

2. Feel the Thrill with Padas River White Water Rafting

Claimed as the top 7 best rapids in Southeast Asia, rafting at Padas River is another activity you can look forward to while in Tenom! Experience any of the 9 main rapids of class III to IV, each with their own amusing names, including Merry Go Round, Cobra and Washing Machine!

Rafting at Padas River, a challenging and the best rapids in Malaysia!
Photo : navistyle

The rafting begins at Pangi which can only be reached by the old train, so you could kill two birds with one stone.

Book a Padas White Water Rafting experience on LokaLocal

3. Go on an educational visit at Taman Pertanian Sabah (TPS)

As huge as 200 hectares with various species of plants, Taman Pertanian Sabah, or Sabah Agriculture Park, was created for both recreational and educational activities. The park is home to numerous types of wild orchids, tropical plantations from fruits to vegetables, as well as commercial crops such as tobacco and coffee. TPS usually welcomes more visitors during Flower Festival, which celebrates Sabah’s rich floral heritage with shows, competitions, games and flower sales.

Educational park in Tenom consisting of various species of plants.
Photo : Taman Pertanian Sabah

Location: Lagud Sebrang, Tenom
Operating hours: Tuesday – Sunday (9am – 4pm), Closed on Monday except for Public Holiday

Entrance fees:

  Adult Students (high school/college) Below 13 Family package (2 adults + 2 kids below 13)
Malaysian RM10 RM7 RM5 RM20
Non-Malaysian RM25 RM25 RM10 RM50

* Free of charge for kids below 6

4. Cycle and take beautiful pictures at Melalap paddy fields

Yellow paddy field in Melalap, a good spot to have a photoshoot
Photo : annyymay

You would not want to miss visiting the Melalap Paddy Fields. The vast and breathtaking paddy fields here is perfect as a romantic sunset backdrop. Visitors usually come here for photo shoots – plus, it’s FREE!

If you enjoy cycling, you can make your way down the Keningau Cycling Trail, which cuts straight through the Melalap Paddy Fields.

5. Visit the Coffee Factories of Tenom

If you haven’t figured out why Tenom is known as a coffee town, it has its own coffee production factories! Two of the famous factories here are Yit Foh and Fatt Choi. For a coffee lover like me and those who appreciate coffee so much, you do not want to miss visiting them.

Yit Foh Coffee Factory

Visit Coffee factories in Tenom, you will then understand on why Tenom is known as a coffee town!

Photo : Edmund Samunting

Founded in 1960, Yit Foh Coffee Factory is the oldest coffee factory in Sabah. The factory produces a perfect blend of the finest roasted Robusta, produced by coffee plants that are grown in Tenom. Yit Foh uses the traditional way of picking and roasting beans.

Location: Jalan Tenom – Sapong, Kampung Chinta Mata
Operation time: Weekdays (8am – 5pm), Sunday and public day (9am-3pm)
Cost: Free of charge!

Fatt Choi Coffee Factory

Another coffee factory you can visit is the Fatt Choi Coffee Factory. Founded in 1986, they specialise in low-land robusta coffee bean. Here, you can also learn about the coffee producing processes, from the picking of the coffee beans to the roasting and packing!

Location: Jalan Tun Mustapha, Tenom
Entrance fee: RM10/person and minimum 10 persons.

*Reservation is needed prior to visitation.

6. Learn about Murut Tribe at the Murut Cultural Centre

While Kota Kinabalu has Mari Mari Cultural Village, Tenom has its own Murut Cultural Centre too! Since Tenom is populated by the Murut tribe, this is a perfect place to learn about Tenom’s culture as a whole.

Murut Cultural Centre in Tenom. If youre lucky, you will be welcome by a traditional Murut dance.
Photo : Pusat Kebudayaan Murut Tenom
Creative sculptures being exhibit at the Murut Cultural Centre. The art symbolizes the activities of Murut in the past.
Photo : junnjones

The cultural centre offers an interesting gallery which displays many artifacts such as jars, gongs, and traditional designs of the indigenous Murut inhabitants. If you are lucky, you will get to see Murut dance performances!

Location:  Kampung Pulong, Tenom
Operating hours: 2pm – 430pm Wednesday to Sunday (Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)

  Adult 17 years old and below
Malaysian RM5 RM3
Non-Malaysian RM10 RM5

7. Experience the local farmstay at Yong Farmstay

A farmstay in Tenom where you can come over the weekend to enjoy the peaceful rural atmosphere.
Photo : Roger Fong
Beautiful glass bridge in the farmstay.
Photo : 杨家村

Here, you can do a lot of village activities such as visiting numerous animal farms (with both domestic and wild animals), walking on the glass bridge and riding an ATV in the oil palm plantation. You can have night stays in the farm and live in an authentic bamboo house.

Memorial house where all belongings of the great grandfather of the farmstay owner is being kept.

Photo: Roger Fong

Be sure to check out Ken Lin Memorial Hall, built on 1966 and reconstructed in 2009! The great grandson (owner) has kept all of his great grandfather life trail in this memorial hall.

Location:  Kampung Pulong, Tenom
Ticket fee: Adult – RM28, students – RM15, below 90cm – Free

8. Relax at Pammos View Recreational Park

Pammos View is suitable for place of gathering on the weekend with family and friends.
Photo : @ArhamMdAli

Pammos View is popular as a recreational park with a village concept. The landscape of the park is naturally composed of crystal clear river flowing, fresh air and beautiful scenery. Time to relax and get out from your busy schedule. Set up a tent, take your guitar with you and sing along by the riverside. You can do BBQ too!

Location: P.O.Box 627, Jalan Tenom – Keningau, Kampung Pamilaan, Sabah, 89907 Tenom
Entrance Fee: Adult – RM2, Free for kids below 5

9. Enjoy the view of Tenom Town and Padas River from Fatt Choi Coffee Tower

Situated on top of a hill, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Padas River and Tenom town from Fatt Choi Coffee Tower!

Fatt Choi Coffee Tower on a hill
Photo: Fatt Choi Coffee Cabin
Breathtaking view from the cabin
Photo: Alizah Arif

Entry fee is free, unless you want to have some coffee and hot burgers! If you want to experience staying in a coffee plantation, you can also spend a night in the cute eco-friendly cabin.

10. Learn the history of Tenom’s warrior at Antanom Museum

Antanom Museum was built in remembrance of Ontoros Antanom, a legendary Murut warrior commemorated for leading an uprising against the British colonists in 19th century. While he died during the battle, his name is still honored amongst the community. Visit the museum to find out about how Tenom’s local hero defended the rights of his people, and the forgotten history behind his efforts. 

Location: Jalan Tenom Kemabong
Entrance fee: Free
Opening Hours: Everyday, 9am – 5pm

11. See the Lumuyu Rock Carving of Kuala Tomani

Located at Kampung Bakuku, Lumuyu rock carving or also known as Batu Vinatikan was discovered by villagers in 1971. The rock is carved with unique patterns of human-like faces, foot prints and many other patterns. According to folklore, the carvings were believed to have been made by six brothers, grieving for the loss of their youngest brother who was murdered. If you are planning to visit the rock carving, be prepared to walk and hike for about 30 minutes.

A heritage site for the Murut tribe. Patterns being carved on a big rock.
Photo : tribalsouladventure

12. Chill at local coffee shops

Once you step foot in a coffee town, you can’t get away without tasting a good cuppa at the local coffee shops. If you are travelling solo, the coffee shop is the best place to have a chit-chat with Temonites! Tenom Coffee Valley, Yit Foh Coffee Park and Therami MS Café are some coffee shops that locals in Tenom would recommend.

Creative decorations of hanging umbrellas at Yit Foh Coffee Park. One of the places you should not miss visiting.
Photo: @yitfoh

Opening Hours: 8am to 5pm

Read next: 50 Traditional Arts, Crafts and Trades of Malaysia

13.  Experience Murut traditions at Kampung Marais

Want to immerse yourself in Murut culture and experience the real local lifestyle? You should try staying at Kampung Marais.

Video : annyymay

The hidden gem of Tenom, Kampung Marais is about an hour from Tenom town. The village is featuring a community-based tourism project to promote the unique local community activities. Travellers will get to learn and see local living in a new level as you can stay with families of weavers, farmers, fishermen and more. Stay for 1 or 2 nights to learn rubber tapping, weave the lanjung (Sabah rattan basket), Muruts bead crafts making, fishing net and trap making and also experience the Murut Traditional Dance. The community welcomes outsiders with friendly hospitality.

14. Visit Rundum Highland

Located at Kemabong, Rundum Highland has become a hot spot for tourists nowadays. Besides the cool climate, the breathtaking view from the highland will give you total peace of mind.

Glamping site at Rundum Highland. On the hill with cold temperature, place to relax and enjoy the nature.
Photo : Jamawijaafar

Activities that can be done at the highland include motocross riding, hiking to the British stronghold and Umit Waterfall, paragliding, horse-riding, glamping, and watching cultural performances!

15. Visit the majestic waterfalls of Tenom

Suitable for those who love to hike in the forest and be one with the nature, Tenom offers beautiful waterfalls for you to discover! Among the famous ones are the waterfall of Kallang, Amboi Waterfall, Sapong Waterfall and Baru Jumpa waterfall.

Ulu Kallang Waterfall, among the majestic waterfalls in Tenom that you should visit!
Photo : AROHA WHANAU

16. Experience the Kalimaran Festival

A great festivity for the Murut Tribe, Kalimaran Festival is celebrated on March 31 every year.During Kalimaran, you get to enjoy the gong playing with beautiful performances. Be sure to check out the local handicrafts and try out many of exotic traditional foods.

Kalimaran Festival anually celebrated by Murut tribe.
Photo : Mansur Asun

While Kaamatan has its Unduk Ngadau and Buvazoi Tavantang beauty pageants, Kalimaran has the Ralaa and Kalawon Kalimaran! Beautiful Murut ladies and handsome young men across Sabah will gather and compete to get the name of Ralaa and Kalawon. The competition portrays the beauty and uniqueness of Murut cultures, which is why visitors usually look forward to this competition every year. Hence, Kalimaran is a perfect festive to experience the vibrant culture of the indigenous group to your heart’s content!

17. Take a ride around the small town and try the local foods

If you are a foodie, food hunting in Tenom is another fun activity you can do. Walking around in Tenom Town is very easy.

Pasar Tenom - a good place to start food hunt.
Photo : Lensa Muar

You can start from Pasar Tenom. At the first floor (the non-halal section), you can try out the popular breakfast dishes in Tenom, such as tasty Yong Tao Foo and Hakka Pork Roll. You might also want to try the popular snack Tiu Sa Biang, red bean wrapped with a thin layer of pastry. It is prepared fresh EVERY DAY! Meanwhile at the lower ground, stop by to have the taste of a Sabah kuih called Terang Bulan.

Other restaurants that you can check out include Tenom Medan Selera, Seri Menawan Restaurant and Ong Peng Restaurant. You can also food hunt at Tenom night market. The night market at Padang Bandaran Tenom starts from 4pm until 8pm every day. You can find lots of halal food there.

18. Wander around Tamu Tenom

A small town yet has many stories to tell, expecially how it is call a coffee town!
Photo : CEphoto, Uwe Aranas
Tamu Tenom, a market to visit on wednesday and sunday.
Photo: nzs

Last but not least, you might also want to check out Tamu Tenom on Wednesday and Sunday. Tamu Tenom is a farmer market where farmers will bring their crops yields and sell it here. Besides, it is also a best place for food hunting. Most snacks and foods being sell are halal. People start selling at the tamu from 6am in the morning until 2pm.

Looking for local activities and workshops? Visit LokaLocal website to see more fun tours in Sabah!

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