By GM THOMAS
KOTA KINABALU: Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean departed for home Sunday morning after concluding a three-day working visit to Sabah.
Uppermost in his mind must have been the unforgettable experience of eating the sago grub live, something which many visitors would find unpalatable, but which to the locals, it is a delicacy comparable to caviar.
“Tried the butod or sago grub which is a delicacy in Sabah,” he wrote in a Facebook posting.
Singapore deputy Prime Minister and Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Member of Parliament, Christopher de Souza, have different reactions after their first tasted of Butod while in Kota Kinabalu.
“The grub feeds on the sago palm and can be eaten live or fried. Tastes creamy with a chewy skin.”
Teo and wife Chew Poh Yim left the Kota Kinabalu International Airport via Malindo Air flight at 9.15am.
Sending him off at the airport were Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew and staff from her ministry.
During the three-day working visit, Teo, among others, attended a Sabah tourism industry briefing session by the State Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry and was feted to a state dinner hosted by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.
He also had a four-eyed meeting with Shafie, a long-time friend, over breakfast on Saturday morning, where the two discussed ways to strengthen trade, investments, tourism and education exchanges.
Shafie, keen to develop Sabah’s human resources has made enquires on Singapore’s advance technical know-how on vocational education, as the state was putting more impetus towards providing skills for local youths.
Teo, accompanied by his wife Chew Poh Yim, also called on Sabah Yang DiPertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin for an hour-long courtesy call on Saturday.
At a press conference after the breakfast meeting, Teo said Singapore is prepared to assist Sabah to develop its vocational skills training for its youths to meet the growing needs of the industry.
He said that he had invited Shafie and state officials to visit Singapore to further discuss about working together on technical skills development for the state youths.
On tourism, Teo also noted that Singaporeans were more familiar with Kota Kinabalu and Mount Kinabalu and believed that there were more attractions in Sandakan, Semporna and Tawau in the east coast of Sabah.
“I was briefed on the tourism developments in the east coast,” he said.
Shafie meanwhile said they also discussed potential investments by Singapore in the tourism industry in Sabah, as the state believed that it was important to spread out investments from different countries.
On Saturday afternoon, the deputy Prime Minister, being an ex-Navy man himself, visited the Kota Kinabalu Naval Base at Sepanggar.
Singapore has been holding joint naval exercises – codenamed Malapura – with their Malaysian counterparts since 1974, with regular interactions at all levels.
Teo was in Kuching before coming over to Sabah and apart from calling on Sarawak dignitaries, he was treated to a delicious 3.2kg Empurau.
This fish, which inhabits the upper reaches of Sarawak’s great rivers, and its exquisite texture and taste rich in fish oils comes from its diet of Engkabang nuts which fall into the river from trees along the banks.
“A delicacy of Sarawak which is described as unforgettable once you taste it,” he wrote.
After his arrival on Friday afternoon, Teo and his entourage were take on a boat cruise to the islands across the city and he was also briefed on Sabah’s tourism attractions by Christina Liew.