Three Unique Things About Ranau

Words by Yeong Hui Min
Photos by Yeong Hui Min and Hamza Delbar


Pekan Ranau.JPGNotice board at a public park in Ranau reminding residents to keep the town clean

Ranau is a town in Sabah that we stopped by on Day 3 (29th June) of the study trip when we were on the way to the Kundasang War Memorial. Although Ranau only has a relatively small population of 100,000 people, we noticed a few things that make this town unique in its own way.

1. The Muslim-majority community

The first thing that we noticed as we approached Ranau was the prominence of the Muslim community compared to Kota Kinabalu. Many of the sundry shops, tailor shops and restaurants are seen to have Islamic names.

According to one of our guides, Nasiri from PACOS Trust, the first Chief Minister encouraged the people to adopt Islam as their religion, which is why Ranau has a large Muslim community today. However, some Chinese restaurants do put up “Pork-Free” labels to show that they are open to Muslim customers.


Ranau Muslim 1.JPGA Muslim wholesale and retail shop at the corner of a street in Ranau

Ranau Muslim 2.JPGA Muslim restaurant made obvious by its name

Ranau Muslim 3.JPGA Muslim tailor shop that sells and tailors clothes

2. Tobacco sold on the streets

One of the most unexpected things I came across in Ranau was seeing tobacco being sold in the back alleys openly. Apparently, tobacco is commonly consumed by Sabahans, even among the elderly. However, I did not see any tobacco being sold openly in Kota Kinabalu. A pack of tobacco is sold at around RM30, which will last a smoker for about a month.


Ranau Tobacco 1.jpgWomen selling tobacco at the back alley of a street in Ranau

Ranau Tobacco 2.jpgTobacco are sold in packs along with nipah (palm) leaves that are used to roll the tobacco

3. Pool as a communal sport

Pool is commonly given a bad name as the sport is usually associated with “dark”, “dodgy” and “smoky” in Kuala Lumpur. I was surprised how pool is more of a communal sport in Sabah. There are three pool centres in Ranau but I had only come across one.

The pool centre was located in a shoplot and was brightly lit. Pool players are not allowed to smoke in the premises of the pool centre as there were “No Smoking” signs on the walls. There are usually more players that will compete at night and spectators would sit on the benches outside to watch them play. One of the frequent players told us that some players even come all the way from Kota Kinabalu for tournaments.


Ranau Pool 1.JPGMen playing pool as I was talking to the man in a white shirt

Ranau Pool 2.JPGOne of the players pointing at me, asking the other player to hand me a stick and invite me to play

The upcoming tree-hugging journalist believes that there is a story worth listening to in every corner of the world and she’s ready to tell them.


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