I will be travelling to Malaysia (Sabah region) to teach in a village school. Any advice on clothing appropriate for women would be appreciated, especially considering weather and culture. I plan to invest in new shoes for treks through rain forest, plantations and excursions. Should these be light weight closed boots or the open sneaker types that allow water to squeeze out? Don't want to be too heavy but read about leeches and such in blogs! Thanks!
K it is a bit tough to answer this without knowing exactly whereabouts in Sabah you will be. There are villages in or near the capital of Kota Kinabalu but then there are others in remoter areas and then again others on the other side of the island...around Sarawak and those places. As it will be a village I think you need to establish whether they are severely Muslim or not. If they are then you would need to have head covering but not necessarily the face. On the other hand they may not be strongly Muslim. Sabah is a place of many Christians and they would understand if you dressed to suit the climate. In the rain forests there are indeed leeches but the villagers will let you know about that. I would be more prepared I think to go with what you think, get there and ask the villagers what you should wear. That will show respect for their feelings and acknowledge their knowledge of the conditions. Do make sure you get all the necessary vaccinations of course.
1. In the city, you might be surprised at the dressing there. Very cosmopolitan. In the villages, something decent should fine. Pants and decent short pants (not the micro-type!) are recommended. Get the straw hats here if you want, but any headgear made of cloth would quickly be soaked in sweat. A bandanna tied over the head would be an alternative, and might serve as a 'white-man' kind of head covering.
2. Shoes: I don't wander in jungles anymore. It is too hot! I, would prefer to wear high-top boots to keep all the nasties out, but at the risk of over-sweating your feet. Still, it's better than getting cut or bitten by something with a virus. Carry sandals or local slippers and use them when not running around the jungle. Oh, and don't leave your boots unattended when you do that.
3. This is the tropics. There are plenty of tropical diseases including those undiscovered yet. I wouldn't go splashing around any rivers or ponds if I were you. The hygiene needs to go up a notch from what is common to colder countries. Germs find these conditions very much to their liking.
You should be decently clothed, that is pants or long skirts and loose blouse that is not tight. As far as public schools are concerned , it is not mandatory to wear headscarves or 'tudung. They will know you are someone from other country , so they do not expect you to conform totally to their culture. Do take off shoes when entering houses, and mosques. Be polite and friendly and everything should go on fine !
As for shoes, better to wear boots when in the country side or plantations where there are tall grasses. Keep the sandals or good shoes for shopping or going out where the terrain is not unfavourable. If you are afraid of leeches, etc, it is suggested you spray 'Baygon ' to your boots to keep them away. Hope this helps.
Kathidi, for rainforest trekking best option is "adidas kampung":
p.s. I just returned from Sabah. It is wonderful! Good luck!