Learning to play Billiards in Beaufort, Borneo

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ March 14th, 2011. Published in: Travel blog » Sabah (Malaysian Borneo).
Playing Billiards in Beaufort Borneo

Billiards seems to be the main attraction in Beaufort, Borneo

Things to do in Beaufort, Borneo

With the North Borneo Railway now open, the small town of Beaufort is easily, and comfortably accessible from Kota Kinabalu. It’s also a stopping point to take the old train to Tenom in the morning. So if you are taking the train to Tenom, you will have no choice but to spend the night here as the train schedules don’t match up, and the once a day train only leaves in the morning.

An alternative is to simply take the bus to Tenom, but my mind was on the train all the way.

Old blue painted timber shops in Beaufort

Old blue painted timber shops in Beaufort

A day in Beaufort

After a 30 minute walk around, you will have covered the town. If you have a car, you’ll be able to do see a little more. There is some white water rafting nearby, but it’s taken up with tours. There’s also a reserve nearby that again, tours use to visit.

The main, old street in Beaufort is mildly interesting with two rows of blue timber buildings. The ground level floors are used as grocery and hardware stores. Outside each store is usually a collection of old men passing the day with chit-chat, and the occasional loud spit.

Nonetheless, people here are not used to tourists, and will take a double take as you walk by. Give them a big smile and a wave. You’ll get double in return.

Historic Beaufort

Beaufort means ‘the beautiful fort’ in old French. And, during World War II Beaufort was a scene of important battle grounds between the Japanese and Australians.

Beaufort is also home to the Kadazan people of Sabah. Something I only found out later which is a shame, as I wanted to learn more

Billiard saloon in Beaufort

Billiard saloon in Beaufort

about these people. And, their rare traditional Kadazan dishes. It’s definitely something I would come back to find out more about.

Surprisingly good food in Beaufort

There’s a really nice, albeit expensive restaurant across from the railway station. The owner set it up in the hope the reopened train line would bring in scores of new customers.

He might just have expected too much. The first two weeks were very busy. Now, aside from the top brass of Beaufort it seems only the odd person wonders in here. Still, the food is quite good.

Further into town and there are several small eateries serving Indian, Chinese, and Malay foods. Again, all quite good.

But, there’s only so much you can eat this early in the morning!

Billiards in Beaufort

Having arrived at 10am, I was already tapping my feet and wondering why I was here by 11.30. What was I possibly going to do for the day.

“The answer came as I walked by a Billiards Saloon”

No smokey den filled with bored teenagers here. The billiards room was filled with middle-aged men having a hearty few laughs while allegedly passing some ringet on winners and losers.

The Billiard challenger in Beaufort

The Billiard challenger in Beaufort

How to play billiards

“You know how to play”

I turned to see a tall big bellied man with a clipboard looking at me, “No idea.”

He nodded and his mouth turned down, “Not hard.”

I raised my eyebrows awkwardly and nodded. Knowing all too well what as about to happen.

Sure enough there I was at the middle table in the smokey room faced with a stocky Malaysian opponent.

He smiled at me as if I were a lamb to a slaughter

I cued off, breaking the billiards and sending them spinning across the table. A small cheer and a round of clapping filled the room. I told myself not to get cocky.

It mattered not. Before long my stocky polo shirt wearing opponent was pocketing billiards faster than I could make defeated faces.

To the loser goes the spoils

Utterly crushed into billiard defeat I smiled, thanked my grinning opponent for showing no mercy and turned to leave. Only now, there seemed to be a queue of old grinning men lining up to defeat the foreigner who had strayed onto their soil …

I for one, am glad I didn’t put any money on this game … A billiards player I am not! Then again, I never expected to be playing billiards in Beaufort.

A day alone in travel is good for planning

Trains and old quaint towns are not just good for travel, but also for thinking.

“Ones thoughts churn over with ease alongside the steady rhythm of a train on a journey to nowhere”

A few opportunities for me have arisen, and I need to do some hop skip and jumping in travel. Such as I planned, this year for my journey is very different from the last two.

I must leave Borneo behind for a short while, and seize the day in another destination or two.

Sabah, is a wonderful place, and I will be back in a few weeks. Meanwhile …

Coming Soon:

New destination … a blast from a very dark past, and a study of new age multi-culture …

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14 Great responses to Learning to play Billiards in Beaufort, Borneo

  1. Abby says:

    Aww it looks nice there. I never even heard of Beaufort! Still unclear to this day why my friend and I thought road-tripping in a little tin can of a car was better than the train or the bus in Borneo!

    • I think road-tripping in places with big wide open spaces can be great, you can see so much more, and go to many other places. But in jungle type areas, it can get painful alright. I’m sure you had an adventure though!

  2. Anna's World says:

    Billiards with the locals! I wonder how many tourists have done this, I think … not many :)

  3. Jason says:

    Billiards is not my cup of tea either mate, and like yourself I’ve been challenged in many nations. At least you had a shot at it, and sometimes it doesn’t pay to win in those situations anyway. Beaufort was a town I passed through when I was in Sabah a few years back. I had to check the map to make sure, as I couldn’t recall it. It’s definitely a sleepy hollow, but you’ve got me Intrigued on where your next destination is.

    • Guitars and billiards, I’m challenged with both. The first I seriously can’t, the second, I can never remember the rules. I was played well and truly here. But, at least it passed the time and people had fun watching me get decimated!

      Next destination is now, but probably won’t get to post about it until Thursday or next Monday. It’ll end up being two destinations at the end of the day!

  4. Martin Ellington says:

    I was here many years ago. The place doesn’t look like it’s changed at all. Not sure if that’s a good thing in this day and age, but thank you for the memory recall


  5. what fun! even if you lost… ;)

  6. iamthewitch says:

    The shop lots are still in blue, exactly the way I remember it when I was there 10 years ago! Ah, the nostalgia.. I didn’t notice the billiard place though, perhaps I wasn’t too keen on smokey places. But I could see the locals are loving you already!
    “Give them a big smile and a wave. You’ll get double in return.” <- LOVE this quote! :)

  7. el buen samaratin says:

    Watch out for Beaufort “Fats” and Borneo “Slim”. Word around the
    pool joints say they are there.

  8. I always liked how defeating a foreigner is looked upon as a fun thing to do in much of the world. It is sort of a way to test your place in the wolf pack male world. Sort of neat how playing a silly game is a way for men to temporarily invite you into their pack. It is even sillier how your performance in these games is used to gauge your status. I once put some effort into becoming good at a few of these games just for this reason haha. Now I don’t really care.