Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Three mountains in Sabah that give you absolute thrills

If your idea of paradise is scaling the great heights of grand mountains, then Sabah is the place to be. We list down three amazing mountains for those seeking a holiday that sets your adrenaline flowing and your eyes enraptured.

Mount Kinabalu

This majestic icon does not need much introduction. Many have visited Mount Kinabalu to conquer its summit. But there’s so much to do here, than just mountain climbing.

For extreme sports enthusiasts, try out Via Ferrata, Alpine rock climbing and paragliding is the aim here. Of course, scaling those great heights should still top your itinerary. Sabah Parks has developed two new summit trails.

The current trail to the summit is Ranau Trail, which will take climbers on an easterly route. The new Kota Belud trail brings climbers from Panalaban (previously known as Laban Rata) at 3,272m to Sayat Sayat (3,668m) then continues on to the summit trail to Low’s Peak at 4,095.2m.

If you’re debating on the more scenic route, fret not. Both trails offer spectacular views of the district of Ranau; Kundasang; and even the coastal line of Kota Kinabalu’s west coast.

While special skills aren’t needed to climb, you must at least have the basic fitness level. Advance booking is recommended, as there is a limit to the number of climbers each day (135). There is a long queue as demand is high.

Once you’re at the summit, post a postcard from the country’s highest post box! Yes a post box – we kid you not!

Mount Trus Madi

Love the high terrains and have a thirst for adventure? If you’re looking for a challenge, look no further than Mount Trusmadi.

Located about 70km southeast of Kota Kinabalu within the district of Tambunan, the second highest peak in the country stands at 2,642m tall and offers a thrilling climbing experience.


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Sabah blessed with natural wonders, rich cultural heritage and friendliest people in Malaysia

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah remains committed to protecting its diverse biodiversity, natural ecosystems through green conservation efforts and ecotourism, said Sabah Tourism Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun.

“While the State is undergoing rapid development, we also recognised the need to conserve the environment to protect Sabah’s rich biodiversity for future generations, he said, noting Sabah is richly blessed with natural wonders and rich cultural heritage which makes it an ideal destination for ecotourism.

Speaking at the welcoming dinner at the ASEAN Celebrity Explore Quest Malaysia on Sunday night, Masidi highlighted Sabah’s proud multicultural identity is the epitome of racial diversity and multi-religious harmony in the country.

“Sabah, being Malaysia’s second largest state is home to around 3.3 million people living together with harmony despite different cultures, religions and backgrounds,” he said.

The state is a melting pot where intermarriages are common and almost everyone having relatives-immediate or extended – of a different race, ethnicity or religion.

Masidi also added: “Sabahans are also recognised as the friendliest people in Malaysia, we pride ourselves in celebrating our differences which binds us together and don’t see ourselves according to race.”

About 85 ASEAN celebrities were warmly received at Pacific Sutera for the welcoming dinner before setting off to spend time together for three days filled with activities and challenges involving Malaysian culture, people, nature and food during their tour visiting attractions around Sabah, including Mari-Mari Cultural Village and white water rafting in Kiulu among others.

Participants joining this year’s programme include celebrities from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia and Brunei Darulsalam.


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Monday, October 10, 2016

Lydia French: Sarawak, Borneo

I had wanted to visit Borneo more then anywhere else on our travels across SE Asia. I am fascinated and enchanted by wildlife and especially those native to Malaysia - the probisicis monkey, silver langurs with orange babies, and of course Orangutang. However, having researched treks and staying, I found out that a lot of rainforest accommodation on Borneo is extremely expensive, geared up for the smart end of tourism, and guides are mandatory in many areas of rainforest and also costly.

So unfortunately - as we don't have the survival skills of Bear Grills nor the temperament to cope with giant ants and mosquitos, the idea of camping in the jungle was naive and also off the cards. I thought I would have to miss out on Borneo. Fortunately I was wrong! Rachel recommended we visit some national parks into wild Sarawak through the city of Kuching in Malaysia and to do some unguided treks and explore the wildlife and rainforest at Bako national park. She showed me a picture of a probiscis monkey (we nicknamed the penis nose monkey!) and I was sold. I needed to see these in real life! This sounded like a great opportunity to get close to some nature and also remote enough to feel like an exploration. The flights were booked!

After 2 flights from Hanoi we arrived late into Kuching, Malaysia, Sarawak. it was a Saturday night. On the taxi ride to our guesthouse I got the vibe it was pretty lively. There were plenty of bars with neon lights and shisha pipes on the go. Locals clinked beer bottles and the music was pumping..... about as much as the Pitbull album playing the whole way in the taxi. Now all I can think of is "drinks, hotels, sexy bitches" on repeat. Mr Worldwide can do one! I got the vibe of a young persons town - all of the small cars had been pimped up, lowered and bass systems installed.

It was like a Saturday night driving around Ipswich!! By day the town is far different, quite sleepy with plenty of cafes and restaurants but most quite empty. In fact all the other nights we spent there the bars were empty. This may have been because we timed our trip with Islamic new year - so perhaps after a blow out on Saturday - Sunday onwards was downtime. The city was clean - i noticed a prominent difference to Vietnam and Cambodia , and it was common to see different bins for recycling and refuse which was pleasing. But I still wouldn't call it smart. 

Encroaching on the city was the lush greenery of the marginal rainforest, turning your head whenever in a car to see what you can spot in the trees. At night and early in the morning we could hear the calls of the forest even in the centre of the city - birds, crickets and perhaps macaques over the sound of the bar music below. The name of the city - Kuching, is Malaysian for cat, which we were made well aware of from the central roundabouts which were enshrined with cat statues. Restaurants and hotels used the familiar iconography for decoration and artwork. All they needed now was a cat cafe! Ironically I didn't see one stray cat here on the entire visit... a few token dogs of course still roamed around for scraps.

Wanting to clear our heads when we arrived at our guesthouse and excited about what adventures lay ahead we knocked back some beers and spoke to the owners and some other tourists about their experiences of Sarawak. The guesthouse we were staying in - Borneo Seahare was quite random - a converted office block with that old thin school carpet (gum stains and all!) and just converted into bedrooms. It felt random sleeping with a block ceiling light and facade wall separating our room from another. But it had a hip and friendly vibe about the place and was clean.

The next morning we were eager to see what Kuching had to offer. We arranged a private trip to the Semenggoh nature reserve - about 20km outside the city, with one of the French volunteers at the guesthouse. Although this round trip ended up costing us about £25 instead of £5 for the bus - it was the best option because if we got the bus it would only leave us with 40 minutes inside the park before the last bus home. We wanted to maximise any chance we could get with the orangutangs so we went VIP style!

The orangutangs are left to learn to fend for themselves in the protected reserve of Semenggoh because they are being rehabilitated, eventually fully back into the wild. They have been rescued from all over Malaysia from poachers, locals trying to hunt them for meat or to sell the babies, and any orphan orangutans - the nature reserve is 740hectares so they have ample space to roam free almost wild. The centre has feeding stations where they lay out food twice a day to check the condition of the orangutans and to help them on their way with learning to feed.

There was a chance we could see the orangutans at 9am or 3pm when food was left out. We were told that because there was a 3 week old baby Orangutang, it is likely that him and the mother will come to the feeding station for a reliable food source. We hope we were in luck! We visited for the 3pm feed, and even by 2.45 when we arrived, there were 2 females in the forest trees just adjacent to the park internal road. They were incredibly cautious! 

Although they would have had interaction with humans before they waited for a good 5 minutes taking in their surroundings and some tourists with their cameras before swinging out of the trees and tip-toeing across the road towards the feeding platform! I was so surprised to see them that I took about 100 photos in the space of 5 minutes and 3 videos - certain that would be the only sighting....

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Lydia French: Sarawak, Borneo

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Sabah International Tattoo Convention: Meet tattoo artists from all over the world in Sabah

Been thinking of getting a tattoo but not sure where to go or what design to get?

Well you can get the chance to meet tattoo artists and enthusiasts from all over the world at the 2nd Sabah International Tattoo Convention.

The convention, happening from Oct 21 to 23 in Kota Kinabalu, will feature 66 tattoo artists from 20 countries. This includes a handful of artists from Malaysia like Shane Leong (Terengganu), Darren Wen and Pit Fun (Penang), Cliph Nevilleson, Taco Joe and Jim Losaria (Sabah) and Ernesto Kalum (Sarawak).

Organised by Koiyak Gloves, the three-day convention is set to showcase not just artwork by the artists but also various tattooing methods, including the more traditional needling styles that are still being practised today. At last year’s convention, booths featuring traditional Bornean and Buddhist sak yant tattoos drew many curious onlookers who were eager to learn more.

You can also get inked by any of the artists featured at the convention (for a fee, of course!). Among the renowned international artists who will be in KK are Mattia Maranggoni and Marco Leonie from Italy, Guy Le Tattoer from France, Nic Tse from Hong Kong, Jun Chihara from Japan, Christian Nguyen and Raphael Buhlman from Switzerland, Gino Angelov from Britain, Captain Wonderful from Austria, Joel Ang from Singapore, Jimmy Toge from Indonesia, and Rojan Shrestha from Nepal.

Also available is Carlos Benny Majakil from Malaysia, convention founder/organiser and owner of Koiyak Gloves, a local brand of non-powdered black latex gloves used by professional tattoo artists around the world.

Majakil and fellow artists Kalum, Leonie and Jimmy Wong (Thailand) are part of a jury that will be judging numerous contests during convention.



Donggongon a town of contrasting scenes

The town of Donggongon in Sabah can very well be the definition of the word contrast.

Located on the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu, Donggongan is the administrative centre of Penampang district.

Here, Sabah’s longest mall is just across the road from a tamu or traditional farmers’ market.

While the latest handphones and electronic devices as well as a supermarket chain can be found at the Megalong mall, it is a different scene altogether at the tamu across the road.

As they have been doing for generations, rural folk living along the Crocker Range and other areas bring their produce to the tamu.

Local vegetables such as losun or wild spring onions, bambangan or wild mango, tuhau or wild ginger, timadang or tarap fruit and karok freshwater fish are just some of myriad of local produce sold at the tamu held every Thursday.

Also to be found there are gongs, sigup or local tobacco and delicacies such as kuih pajaram or fried pancakes and kuih terang bulan or peanut pancakes.

For those looking for a more exotic fare, butod or insect larvae found in the sago palm is also available at the tamu.

The tamu that attracts hundreds of people to Donggongon as early as 6am every Thursday causes the weekly traffic slowdown in the town.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Donggongon a town of contrasting scenes

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