English: There, here and over there. Basically, in a sense, to mean restless. A collection of thoughts, musings and ramblings...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chanteek Borneo - Beautifully handmade souvenir dolls

Picture this: You are overseas on a trip, and on your last day on a foreign land, you decide to get a little something local to bring back home. Preferably something unique to reflect the culture of that place. Something you can look at and go, "Ahh... I got that beautiful piece when I went on that great trip to So-and-So Land."

You scour the local souvenir shops, only to be disappointed with the selection of goods that are either 100% 'Made In China' but designed locally, or totally common and may easily be found anywhere else on planet Earth. 

So again, you come back home with a bag full of the usual type of souvenirs, but just how many more corny t-shirts or mugs or fridge magnets do you need?

The short story above was kind of like how Ms. Anne Antah, the founder/owner of Chanteek Borneo, first got her idea to start making and selling dolls wearing traditional costumes.

I had the pleasure today of visiting the Chanteek Borneo office today, with all the excitement of seeing something like a Santa's workshop churning out pretty little dolls in full steam. (Yes, I used to play with Barbie dolls... busted!)

Popular with tourists as souvenirs, these beautifully dressed dolls can also be given out as corporate gifts, or used as decorations for places promoting local culture.

The dolls each sport different attires of the various tribes in North Borneo, including Dusun Tambunan, Dusun Papar, Lotud, Murut, Rungus, Brunei Malays, Bajau, and even traditional costumes of the community in Pulau Banggi! They are also currently making dolls wearing traditional clothes of the West Malaysian, for example the Baba-Nyonya, Indian, Malay and Chinese communities.

No details were spared in the designing of the clothes. Great amounts of research has been done in order to replicate the costumes of the real life communities, right down to the headgear, hairstyles and beads. Some people (the local communities) actually do get upset if they find some details that are wrong on the dolls, according to Anne.

I must say I was very impressed with the intricate details, thinking about how much we could learn about the culture of the Land Below The Wind, just by examining the dolls. Details that are mostly lost in today's generation as not much of this has been made publicly known.

According to Anne, they have about 10 - 12 varieties of costumes for offer. However, this is just a small slice of the pie, if you were to consider that there are actually at least 50 different communities / tribes throughout Sabah, each with a different costume. One community might even have more than 1 traditional attire - they may have a different one for say, traditional dances, or weddings.

The most interesting of all the dolls, I found, was the Bobohizan (witch doctor) version. But might have been better if the dolls could be 'aged', as most Bobohizans are in their late 80s or even 90s...

Normally they can manage to make around 3 dolls a day. Each doll has been ordered specially with requested skin, eye and hair colors to match the locals as closely as possible, though the mould could only produce dolls with pointed noses, unlike the flatter noses of locals. "The first dolls that came were Caucasian!" laughs Anne, recalling her first attempts at making the dolls.

The dolls, weighing at 105grams for male and 95 grams for female, is for sale at the recommended retail price of RM218.

Currently, only Shangri-la Rasa Ria has them in stock for a slightly higher price, but the dolls will also be available at various souvenir shops in stages over these next few months.

Alternatively, the dolls can be ordered directly from Chanteek Borneo, and at a special price. Customers can also put in a customised order for a specific traditional attire, if they wish.

The dolls come covered in bubble wrap before being put into a cardboard box, to ensure that everything is still intact during the envisioned perilous journey home halfway across the world. They also come with a stand each for proper display.

Should they prefer something a little more grand, for example as mementos for VIPs, customers can request the dolls to be placed in a frame or a glass box for display.

Or, they can also choose the dolls to be placed into a beautifully coloured, traditionally designed serdang box, custom-fit for the dolls at an additional cost of between RM30 - RM50 only.

 Check out the selection of dolls in the slideshow video below!

Ready to bring a little piece of North Borneo back home? Or looking for that gift that is uniquely Sabah? Here's how you can contact Chanteek Borneo:-

Facebook page: Chanteek Borneo
Email: chanteek.borneo@gmail.com
Telephone: 088-231018
Mobile: 019-5300018 (Anne) / 016-8287352 (Adeline)


  1. So lovely the dolls, however, they still look very much like ang mohs, I wonder if the tint can be more darker and the eyes more asian? Rm218 is quite expensive but she has found a market for them and I say 'good on her!'. Did you manage to get one for yourself?

  2. Ooo.. I think I forgot to mention that RM218 is for a pair of the dolls, and they can also be sold separately for RM109 each. I haven't gotten one yet, but soon maybe :)

  3. May I know where exactly is this souvenir shop? Im interested to get a doll.

    1. Hi, we are located at Tamparuli Road. for more infor, please email us at chanteek.borneo@gmail.com.

    2. Hi, we are located at Tamparuli Road. for more infor, please email us at chanteek.borneo@gmail.com.


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