Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What's in store at Mount Kinabalu?

Perhaps the title was a little misleading. We didn't climb Mount Kinabalu. Rather, we were just at the hillside of Mount Kinabalu. It was a very interesting experience nevertheless.

Day 1

We departed early morning to the the mountainside. Our tour guide is a friendly and cheerful lady called Karina, who is also Chee Jiat's friend. She informed us that our trip will take approximately 2 1/2 hours.

The journey on a minivan was an interesting, if not dizzying one. The roads were mostly one-lane, and occasionally we would be trailing behind a slow heavy vehicle. The driver would then find every opportunity to overtake the truck or lorry because such opportunites are very rare. Sometimes we encountered helpful truck drivers who will signal to the driver whenever it was safe to overtake. The weather that day was cool, and the mountain air was fresh and invigorating.

First stop : Pekan Nabalu

Apart from serving as a toilet stop, this place is also a popular tourist spot as it sells a good variety of souvenirs and handicrafts. So happened there was also a tamu (market) ongoing that day itself, so the place was also packed with the locals selling their produce such as fruits and vegetables.

There were many souvenir stalls in Pekan Nabalu. We went to the one in a form of a long house (pictured left). There were many choices (bags, t-shirts, jewelry, keychains, etc), and prices were reasonable after bargaining. I bought some cute pencil souvenirs for my colleagues (which ended up not enough to distribute), and a handbag for Oka-san. The ornamental bowls were nice, but none with turtle motives.

Some photos of the mid-morning scene at Pekan Nabalu :

We were happy with our purchases but we still lamented the lack of time to buy even more, so Karina promised to drop by Pekan Nabalu again on our way back tomorrow.

photo source : cuti.com.my

We made a brief stop at Kinabalu Park before heading to Zen Garden Resort for lunch. Karina explained that we were lucky to schedule this visit on a weekday because coincidentally the annual Mt. Kinabalu International Climbathon will be held that coming weekend and the roads would be closed to public. The race involves running up and down Mt. Kinabalu. The current record holders are Italy's Marco De Gasperi who clocked 02:36.59s in 2003 during the Men's Open and Anna Pichtrova who clocked 03:06.54s in 2004 for the Women's Open.

After taking pictures of the huge signboard of Kinabalu Park outside the reception area, we proceeded into the exhibit centre displaying pictures and specimens of the various flora and fauna found in Kinabalu Park. We were surprised to find out that this park is actually listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2000. Something for us Malaysians to be proud of.

After lunch, we proceeded to the Poring Hot Springs. Karina informed us that apart from visiting the hot springs, we would also be taking the Poring Canopy Walk. The pathway to the canopy walk is similar to how it would be if we were to climb Mt. Kinabalu and will take around 20 minutes time to reach the canopy walk area.

The word Poring comes from a Kadazandusun word for a type of bamboo found in the area. The bamboo here were as thick and tall as the trees!

Upon Karina's recommendation, we went for the canopy walk first. Although the feeling is similar to hiking, it certainly wasn't an easy track, the pathway was steep, uneven and slippery (it rained earlier). There was a tiny booth in between that we could take a breather before proceeding upwards. After a good 20 minutes we were finally there.

The canopy walk itself was an experience to behold. Imagine what it was like to be 80 feet above ground and looking down at the lush jungle terrain below our feet? Also, the bridge could only take in maximum six people at one time, so we had to wait for our turns to cross each section of the bridge. We were lucky to be the last persons to walk the canopy bridge, so we took our time admiring the scenery and even attempted to swing the bridge. In short, monkeying around :)

* We needed to pay RM5 fee for camera usage, so no photos for now because they are all in Eric's camera. Below photo taken from someone's blog *

photo source : focus-ed.blogspot.com

After the canopy walk, we headed back to the hot springs. Another option was to go to the Kipungit waterfall which was in another direction, but we didn't go there due to lack of time.

The hot springs area was built like mini bathtubs. One just find an empty tub and fill it up with running hot spring water. If it's too hot, just turn on the tap with cool mountain spring water :)

It took us a while to get an empty tub, but the minute we soaked our sore feet into the warm water, it was definitely worth it.

My only complain for the hot springs is that the authorities definitely need to implement some dress code in that area! There was an 'uncle' dressed in nothing but his underwear. Urgh! So obscene looking and an eyesore! Link was 'lucky' to catch a glimpse of the front view of the uncle in his wet beige-coloured underwear. Haha...poor girl...

Before we headed back to Zen Garden Resort for a scrumptious steamboat dinner, we dropped by the evening market to buy some yummy mushrooms for the steamboat and lots of fruits. Apart from the slug experience (we saw a slug for the first time), there's nothing much we could do except to watch TV before calling it a night.

Day 2

After a simple Western breakfast at the resort, we checked out and headed to a nearby rose garden.

Only that it was more than a rose garden.

There was a myriad of plants within the garden : rose, hibiscus, cactus, herbs, orchids, bougainvillea etc. One of the plants reminded me of Cousin It from Addams Family. There were even some strawberry plants, but we didn't manage to see any huge juicy strawberries.

Karina gave us a brief education on the pitcher plant and lady slipper orchid, both protected species in Sabah. This means that one must not remove these plants from Sabah. Anyone caught transporting these out from Sabah will be prosecuted. We were also very lucky to view both plants within the garden vicinity, although I have the say the pitcher plant was tiny, probably it is not grown in the wild.

We made another brief stop at Pekan Nabalu to buy more souvenirs, as well as some juicy pineapples. After that it was another dizzying trip back to Kota Kinabalu.

Next : White-water rafting