Friday, August 29, 2014

Climbing Mt. Kinabalu In 1 Day, Not 2


Background:

My wife and I travelled to Eastern Malaysia in mid-August in hopes doing some scuba diving, finding orangutans, going on river cruises, and climbing Mt. Kinabalu.  Before leaving Korea for our trip, we researched for hours on the web and found it was best to climb it in two days.  “Ok” I thought, no biggy.  So I looked into getting a reservation at Laban Rata, but only found accomodations through tour groups, and the prices seemed quite high.  So I dug deeper, and found the company itself that owns the lodging.  After contacting them directly I learned they were all booked for the dates we had available.

To be honest, it was a bit frustrating… everything we were finding directed us to climb Kinabalu in two days, not one.  On the first day you’d climb to Laban Rata, about 6km up the trail, resting for dinner and a short sleep before climbing to the summit in the cold, dark hours before the sunrise.  The prices to do this were astronomical, in my opinion.  After all, this was a National Park, and I was a bit confused why a private company seemed to have a monopoly in the lodging options in the park.  Also, Laban Rata was all booked!  No vacancy.  Keep in mind, I was emailing/calling 2-3 months ahead of time. 

Kinabalu is a popular spot, and clearly we came into the game a little late!  I wasn’t going to try to change the system, I simply wanted some answers on whether or not we could hike in one day, just by ourselves (no tour group),  and that particular information was difficult to find.  I eventually found enough info to point us in the right direction, and I’m happy to report that we completed Kinabalu in one day, more details of that is located here.  The goal of this post is to lay out what we did to hike Kinabalu in one day.  Hopefully, it can help others who are currently experiencing headaches over trying to plan their trip to Kinabalu.  If that is you… don’t worry, it’s really quite simple.

Pre-Game Preparations:

Arrive at Kinabalu Park HQ early in the morning the day before you plan to climb Kinabalu.  I’d suggest staying somewhere close to the park, within walking distance.  We stayed at Kinabalu Mt. Lodge.  It was a great accomodation and only about 1.5km from the park.  There’s a few other options near the park, so shop around if you wish, but I’d recommend Kinabalu Mt. Lodge.  The park opens at 7:00am, so I suggest arriving before 8:00am for sure.  You’ll need to impress the staff and Park Ranger, Mr. Dikin, so he may grant you permission to climb in one day.  There’s rumors floating around that they have only ‘X’ amount of permits per day, but I’m not sure about this. 

The day we climbed, there was only one other gentleman from Japan doing the one-day climb, and us.  The day before that, our guide Johny informed us there was five groups attempting the one-day journey.  So who knows?  All I know is that if you want a shot, arrive the day before and apply early.  The desk workers will send you to speak with Mr. Dikin.  After a five minute conversation about hiking, the process, the weather, etc., he will call the desk workers and give them go-ahead.  Then you can fill out paper work.  Bring your passport, they will make a copy.  No need for cash on this day, you’ll pay for everything tomorrow when (if) you hike.  All this took less than one hour, so we fumbled through the tiny gift shop, grabbed more information, and went to Poring Hot Springs for the day.

It’s also important to purchase food for your upcoming hike.  Take more than you think you’lll need.  There’s drinkable water at many spots during the climb, so one or two med-sized water bottles would be sufficient.  Purchasing food the morning of the hike may be difficult, the gift shop doesn’t open till 8:00am and the restaurant across from Park HQ doesn’t get rolling till 7:00am, either.  We did, however, manage to purchase ‘to-go’ lunches from the restaurant.  It was a sandwhich, some chicken, apple, egg and water for 15MYR.  If you prefer this, arrange it the day before and you can pick it up at 6:45am before your hike.  For snacks, try the gift shop at Park HQ, or the restaurant across the street from Park HQ also has snacks/drinks available.

A note about clothes:  if you’re expecting it to be warm, think again.  Pack extra layers, for sure.  I love to travel light, so I did the hike in shorts and a light jacket and was borderline miserable near the summit.  Definitely bring pants, light thermal layer, and rain gear.  It will probably rain on you, so be prepared.  Thin hat and gloves would be recommended, too.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Climbing Mt. Kinabalu In 1 Day, Not 2
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MASwings soaring through turbulence


KUCHING: Malaysia Airlines subsidiary MASwings has not been affected by the rise in resignations faced by its parent company following the double tragedies that struck the national carrier this year.

MASwings chief executive officer Captain Ritzerwan Rashid told a press conference yesterday that MASwings crew members have been advised to stay focused on their duties.

“We do not see our cabin crew members making the move. In fact, MASwings will continue to stay focused and will only act when there are directives from our parent company MAS,” he stressed.

In a statement on Tuesday, Malaysia Airlines said 186 of its crew had resigned between January and July this year, with many citing family pressure due to the MH370 and MH17 tragedies as the reason.

Meanwhile, fellow Malaysia Airlines subsidiary Firefly would soon see more crew members joining the airline.

“Nobody is leaving Firefly but instead we have more coming in to join us,” said its chief executive officer Ignatius Ong.

“Our current fleet size is 15 and we are looking to increase the number of aircraft to 17 within the next four years. With this rapid growth, we are looking for more to come in and join us.”

Ritzerwan and Ong later jointly launched the MASwings-Firefly Cabin Crew Integration Programme.

Under the programme, 10 MASwings cabin crew from East Malaysia will fly alongside Firefly crew members on flights around Peninsular Malaysia, while 10 Firefly cabin crew will be integrated into MASwings’ flights and routes.

Held for the second year running as part of efforts to strengthen greater national integration as well as to mark National Day and Malaysia Day, passengers flying MASwings and Firefly will get to be part of this unique experience from this Sunday (Aug 31) to Sept 16.

Ritzerwan said passengers of both airlines would be able to appreciate a different level of customer experience during the programme.

“What’s different about this programme is the exchange of knowledge, places and cultures within Malaysia,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: MASwings soaring through turbulence
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sabah to see first Borneo Rhythms of Rimba Wildlife Festival


A festival to present a mosaic of the amazing tapestry of Sabah’s biodiversity is set to be held for two days in October.

Dubbed the 1st Borneo Rhythms of Rimba Wildlife Festival (ROR), it is scheduled on Oct 3 and 4 in the nature destination town of Sandakan.

The outdoor festival will be held at the Rainforest Discovery Centre, in the Sepilok forest, well known internationally for the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre and the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC).

Facing the lush 4,294ha tropical forest of Sepilok, the programme will feature presentations from the government, conservation and academic organisations, including the Sabah Forestry Department, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA), BSBCC, HUTAN, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), University of St Andrew’s Scotland, University Malaysia Sabah and Reef Guardian.

Their collective work covers the gamut of Borneo’s forest habitats, elephants, rhinoceros, orang-utans, sun bears, pangolins, whales, dolphins and marine life.

Intertwined with the above will be musical performances by Amir Yussof, Jason Lo, Pink Tan, Carburetor Dung, Guba, Jin Se and many more.

In addition, numerous arts and crafts workshops, zumba, yoga and contemporary dance presentations will also make up the colourful, wildlife and nature-centric vibe of the festival.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Lifetime of Saving Orangutans


I finally have met the third person connected with one of Dr. Lewis Leakey's greatest legacies. He had personally chosen three women to spearhead field research on primates, as he believed they were key to understanding the mysteries of human evolution. He referred to the women as the Trimates. Each one -- Jane Goodall (chimpanzees), Dian Fossey (gorillas) and Biruté Galdikas (orangutans) -- became the super-stars of their field.

I had only met Jane Goodall at a cocktail function, although I did spend time in Gombe Stream National Park where she did her ground-breaking work. I met Dian Fossey in 1976, and spent some time with her, while Kenyan filmmaker Simon Trevor and I worked on a World Wildlife Fund film about forest destruction in East Africa.

I met Dr. Biruté Galdikas on a hot afternoon this past August when our rather ancient Trigana Air 737 landed in Pangklanbun, Borneo. We were 14 friends and family. It had been quite a trek to get here and, by the look of the airport terminal, we were most definitely not in Kansas anymore.

I felt deeply moved at meeting her, that she had made the effort to come to the airport, that she was taking her time to be with us for the next three days. The idea that a person would dedicate their entire life to understand and protect a single species is remarkable, and the people who have chosen to do that have a rare and unique character. One feels a certain sense of awe in their presence.

In any case, Dr. G. (it was suggested that this was an appropriate reference) laid out the rough plans for the next days and, while waiting for our luggage, talked about the visit the week before of President Clinton who had come with a group of donors to the Clinton Global Initiative to see first-hand the orangutans threatened by forests rapidly disappearing due to logging and palm oil plantations.

Clearly she was very pleased about his visit. Her perceptions of President Clinton were precise, from his grasp of information, to how he engaged, to how he radiated empathy. It was as if Clinton were an orangutan being studied.

We took a short drive down to the Kumao River, boarded two klotoks, (traditional river transport boats), and headed up a tributary to Tanging Haropen, one of several feeding stations. These are places where wild and rehabilitated orangutans can come for a reliable feeding. This is especially important in the dry season when wild fruits are less available.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: A Lifetime of Saving Orangutans
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

AirAsia ‘Free Seats’ promotion is back


KUCHING: AirAsia Bhd (AirAsia) is back with another ‘Free Seats’ promotion to all AirAsia and AirAsia X destinations with three million promo seats made available for immediate booking.

According to a press release, the Free Seats are available for booking until August 31, 2014, for the travel period from March 1 till October 24, 2015. AirAsia X is offering the lowest all-in-fares from as low as RM229 one way to its long haul destinations.

This free seats promotion offers flights to various domestic and international destinations across the airline’s extensive network, such as to Langkawi, Manila, Guilin, Yogyakarta, Krabi, Kochi and many more destinations from klia2, as well as other exciting destinations from the airline’s other hubs in Penang, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.

The Free Seats promotion is available online at www.airasia.com and also via AirAsia’s mobile apps on iPhone, Android devices and the Blackberry 10, and also AirAsia’s mobile site at mobile.airasia.com.

AirAsia group chief commercial officer, Siegtraund Teh said, “With an RM0 base fare, everyone can enjoy wonderful holidays at their dream destination.

“This is also our way of saying thank you for all the support for making us the leader in low cost travel and voting us the world’s best for six consecutive times.”

AirAsia X is also offering the lowest all-in fares to its destinations from RM229 one way on Economy for flights departing from Kuala Lumpur (klia2) to Sri Lanka (Colombo), Japan (Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo via Haneda & Narita), Australia (Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Gold Coast), South Korea (Busan, Seoul), China (Chengdu, Hangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai), Taiwan (Taipei) and Nepal (Kathmandu).

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