Thursday 12 December 2013

Mt Kinabalu 3

Having reached the summit of KT Kinabalu, we couldn't linger about long. Our guide told us that there would be others coming up. I think we eventually stayed there for just an hour - enough time for the sun to fully rise and reset the day. The date was May 1st. The last part of the climb was indeed laborious, what with the altitude affected breathing at the last stretch. (It surprised me even, that every 10m required deep gulps of air!)

But we all made it. Our guide said we were very lucky to not meet rain, which was often. This time, everything was dry and pat.

Just as we were finished talking, full daylight arisen. We could finally see everything around (and below) us. 

There was still that floating layer of cottony clouds but now it seem less frothy and more settled. In parts where the clouds parted, we could see towns and padi fields and ribbons of road connecting them.

Looking down from that great height, I thought how wonderful it would be if one could parasail or glide from the summit. In fact, some people did do just that at the time. How fantastic the feeling must have been!


As usual, as with any trip, the return journey was faster than the forward one. I was amazed at the short time we took to descend Mt Kinabalu. In fact, it was so eerily fast that I wondered why we took as long as we did going up.

With a skip and a hop, we were soon back down to those service roads that meandered from the Ranger HQ. I'm not kidding; it really seemed that fast! (Like some 2.5 hrs?)


For me, the quick descent brought on a fever. It must have been the change in weather between altitudes. The usual fit me was surprised but there was little I could do than to bear and grin it. It was a bad fever but given my history with flash fevers, it would go away after 24 hrs. But in the meanwhile, my body would be wracked with pain! That's the trade-off I had to bear with.

I remember bunking over at the Ranger HQ for the evening before heading back down to town. I was really in bad shape and moaned about it, alarming my climbing mates with my distress. I had to tell them that I wasn't dying and that I would feel better afterwards!

And as expected, I did feel better the next day, but I was still not well enough to join them for the Tree Canopy Climb. Instead, I went and soaked myself in the next door hotspring bath. There was nothing natural about the bath though. It was just a handful of tiled rectangle bathtubs set in a row and served by some taps that channeled water from an underground spring. But (unlike the local Sembawang hotspring water) the H2O here in Sabah did smell of sulphur. At least that should do some wonders for my fever-wracked, tired body!

The baths were really old-school and reminded me of those found in homes in the 60s. They were rectangular in shape and had those familiar light green tiles. My neighbour who lived downstairs in Geylang had one. But theirs was larger and waist high. And the workers would scoop water out from it to bathe or into basins to wash things with. The whole affair at the hotspring was thus rather nostalgic. 

As the water was hot, I did not soak for long. When the other guys appeared from their canopy walk, we all washed up and took the transport back to town.

As it was near sunset, our guide brought us to Tanjung Aru beach to walkabout a bit. It was an excellent idea as the sunset there was great. Better still was the big expanse of beach acessible during low tide. It seemed that one could explore the mudflats for two kilometres or more!


The next morning, the Fourth Day of our trip began. It's when we would start our land adventure proper. The first thing on the agenda was River Rafting. Our adventure tour guide arrived and met us at our budget hotel in town. 

For breakfast, he brought us to eat "kon lo meen" or dry, non-soupy noodles - a popular way of eating noodles in Sarawak and Sabah. It was quite similar to our own wanton noodles except the noodles were more wheaty in color, curlier and "QQ", i.e. springy - best to be eaten with minced meat actually,

The noodle shop was situated in a long, raised wooden shophouse with verandah and zinc roof. A short flight of wooden steps led up to it. It looked like a throwback to those shophouses we would find in our own little Chinese villages in Singapore back in the 60s and 70s. I absolutely love such buildings. I dunno; such architectures speak very well to my psyche (that and wooden rooms that jut out from walls supported by struts). I sometimes wonder whether my past lives have anything to do with it!

After breakfast, we drove to the railway station that would bring us to our designated angry river. It was supposed to be a Cat 4 one, a waterway that foamed and would toss unsuspecting tourists into water if they were not careful!

Along the way, we stopped at roadside stalls that sold 'todi' - a moonshine made from fermented coconut juice. It was alcoholic that tasted sour - not exactly pleasant!

After this, bad news. The way to the fast river was blocked by a landslide. The train could not get us through. We stood at the simple railway platform feeling rather deflated. We were all rather looking forward to a river rafting ride. None of us had done it before.

Our guide, sensing our disappointment, decided to bring us to another river. But he said it wouldn't be a Cat 4 angry one, more like a Cat 2 or 3. We all jumped at the chance as we were already imagining wet heroics.

But the river turned out to be as calm as my fish tank back home. Dang!

No matter, we went gamely along and raised our arms in mock danger each time the raft slipped past rocks and into an eddy pool. Haha...what losers we were that day!


The next day was much better. We spent it on an offshore island called Pulau Sapi. It wasn't a big island but the waters were very clear and the sand white.

We swam and ate water melons. I liked going to islands to relax and would rank this as one of the most enjoyable and relaxing. Richard and his wife dug for clams to eat, which I felt was rather cute.

But really, what more could one ask after scaling a mountain and then relaxing by a beach with pristine waters? I think all of us felt recharged afterwards.


On our last day, before we left Sabah, we visited the National Museum. At the time, it was hopelessly short on exhibits. That made me appreciate our own museums even more and got me thinking about museum Renewal, Upkeep and Upgrade. Not easy if a country doesn't make it a priority or treat museums as serious tourists destinations.

The one thing we all enjoyed at the museum were the longhouse exhibits outside. They reminded me of the one I visited as a child when I was three years old and living, at the time, in Kuching.

There was the central cooking place in the longhouse. The rattan weaved carry baskets; and the gourd water containers. 

That night, before we flew back to Singapore in the morning, we all visited the one and only shopping centre in town. We all sat on the front steps eating ice cream. That was the last take-away picture we took.

And rightly so, a very happy and satisfied group of climbers and travellers.

If there's one regret about the trip, it was the missed chance of seeing a real Rafflesia flower in full bloom. Yes, that giant of a Stink Plant.

Oh well. Better to leave Sabah on a high 'ice cream note' than with the smell of dead rotten flesh! 

So all in all, our trip to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, achieved a few things:

1) We visited Signal Hill Observatory;
2) Jumped on a few suspension bridges;
3) Ate Kon Lo Meen;
4) Reached the summit of Mt Kinabalu;
5) Did the Canopy Walk;
6) Soaked in a hot spring;
7) Watched a beautiful sunset at Tanjung Aru;
8) Tried river rafting;
9) Went to a pristine island for snorkelling;
10) Visited the National Museum.

Yes, I would definitely go there again. And thank you Richard and Peck Hong for doing such a wonderful job organising this!

Next story: Tailor Made

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