Monday, February 06, 2017

Ven Going Places: 2016 In Retrospect - MT. KINABALU


I reached Mt. Kinabalu’s Lowe’s Peak at around quarter to 7am, meeting several of my (fast) team mates who were already going down. 

I looked at my watch thinking I need to make the cut-off time at Sayat-sayat for the Ferrata, so I have an hour to get down to km7 or known as the checkpoint.

Can I make it on time considering the steep descent, rope segments and my knees?

Thankfully, I did not suffer headache, a symptom of altitude sickness which meant I was able to cope with altitude.

I asked a fellow hiker who was already going down to take photos of me with the signage, he gladly obliged.

He even asked me if the shots he took were okay, I smiled and said yes, thank you and he left me to catch up with his buddy.

I was left alone at the peak.

Looking at the vast granite floor in front of me was like looking at a dead landscape, stone laid out in a flat fashion smoothed by elements of nature.

No trees in sight, beyond that are mountain ranges that composes the landscape of Kota Kinabalu then the clouds and the bluest sky.

The sky felt so near that in my mind, if I decided to reach out I can touch it.

I looked at the other side and saw a huge caldera and the rising boulders and I wish I could stay a little bit longer, the beauty was so eerily captivating.

I can feel the euphoria taking over my being.

But 10 minutes was gone too soon and I started my descent, meeting several of my friends midway, I congratulated them and said “I need to get down”, I was in a rush that I forgot to take a photo of them, a photo of us, to celebrate with them the joy of reaching the top.

I think I would always regret that, a lesson learned.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Ven Going Places: 2016 In Retrospect - MT. KINABALU
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Sabah backs MASwings overhaul commitment


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is all for the MASwings 2017 overhaul commitment of becoming a better and more dependable airline for East Malaysia.

Assistant Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Nyuk Ming said MASwings ‘Fleet Improvement Program’ commitment, which will lead the initiatives for greater reliability and quality customer-centric travel experience, is essential for the state’s tourism industry.

“This movement is essential to the tourism industry, especially when the ministry and other travel and tourism players are aiming to receive more tourists through the events that will be happening all across Malaysia,” stated Pang at the MASwings Rock N Roll Annual Dinner and 9th Anniversary Celebration here on Saturday.

“What better way to encourage local travels and interested foreigners into our beautiful homes than by providing them an unforgettable journey right at the beginning – from their flights,” he added.

The minister urged MASwings to continue with their aggressive promotions during major festivals, which supports homegrown products such as last year’s Sunset Music Festival at the Tip of Borneo Sabah and the upcoming Miri Country Music Festival at the end of February.

“I would also like to take this chance and emphasize that we as the locals should take pride in our homegrown offers and take initiatives to discover our own backyard,” said Pang.

“I believe it is high time we become real Malaysians, especially as Sabahans and Sarawakians by appreciating our beautiful land.

“I believe we as the industry players should also play a part to support the airline to achieve its target,” added Pang.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sabah backs MASwings overhaul commitment
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Labuan’s tourism products to be packaged with Sabah, Sarawak sectors


LABUAN: Labuan’s tourism products should be packaged with those of Sabah and Sarawak to help boost the island’s tourism sector in the long run.

Labuan MP Datuk Rozman Isli said the island which was strategically located within the two states’ tourism spots would help it (Labuan) to be accessible to both domestic and foreign visitors.

“If we look at Labuan’s location, it is close to the popular tourism spots of Klias Wetland, Beaufort, Sabah with its large proboscis monkey population, fireflies and the uniqueness of the Mulu Caves in Sarawak.

“Our existing tourism products are ideally packaged to be in line with those from Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

He was speaking to reporters after flagging off the inaugural Bukit Kubong Extreme Sport Game and Bicycle Fun Ride at Kampung Lubok Temiang here yesterday.

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Sunday, February 05, 2017

Bring your baby abroad: Diving at Sipadan Island last minute without breaking the bank


Acquiring Open Water PADI certification in Vietnam was one of the coolest things we did in SE Asia. Scuba diving invited us into a completely different world, a world we loved so much! Since our first dive we knew that from then on it was and is “our thing” that we will pursue to our best ability.

After Vietnam we went to the Philippines where we dived at the Palawan islands among shipwrecks and after that we headed to Borneo. Imagine our surprise when reading about the best dive sites in the world we found out the top of most lists was in Borneo- around Sipadan Island!

What a lucky coincidence we thought already having flights to Borneo. After reading about people’s experiences and looking at the jaw-dropping pictures we realized that we just HAVE to go there!

Once this goal was set there was some research needed.

Here are few crucial facts we found online:

  • Since 2005 Sabah National Park instituted a permit system therefore the amount of people is limited to 120 per day.
  • It is recommended you book the permit ahead of time.
  • If you are doing everything “right” and trying to book ahead it is very pricy since you are offered package tours.

Needless to say, the permit system as well as very high priced package tours discouraged us.

The prices I am talking about are roughly 550 dollars per person being the cheapest option. It is 4d/3n package with only 4 dives at the Sipadan Island and 9 dives at the other islands. So for us it would cost 1,100 dollars for 4 days, plus we would have had to organize a babysitter for all these days.

Nevertheless, it wouldn’t be us if we didn’t try to find a better option. Keeping our heads high we decided to conduct a “field research” and see what is actually going on in person.

We flew to Kota Kinabalu, did a 2-day trip to Brunei and took a night bus straight to Semporna, the closest city from where you can organize your dives to Sipadan. Once in Semporna we started visiting different agencies (and there are very very many) to collect information.

Here is what we found out:

  • You do need permit and there are only 120 people allowed to dive per day. No jokes, no bribes.
  • It is possible to organize 1 day dive (3 dives) at the Sipadan island (so without a package tour)
  • The price for 1-day dive is around 800 Malaysian ringgit ($180) per person. It includes equipment, lunch and transportation.
  • Big companies whose website we encountered on Internet offer only packages
  • 1 day dives are run by local small tour operators

We arrived on Monday and the next 2 available permits were for Saturday. We booked them immediately and left Semporna to explore Kinabatangan River and the Orangutan Sanctuary.

If you are short on time, I recommend giving your phone number/hotel number to as many offices as possible in case a permit opens up so that they can contact you. It happens quite often that people cancel their trip and usually up to 3 permits opens up every day. But that’s testing your luck ?

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Saturday, February 04, 2017

Mount Kinabalu peak coldest in Malaysia


The tourist attraction in Sabah, Mount Kinabalu Peak which is 4,095 metres above sea level, is the coldest place in Malaysia.

The Director-General of the Malaysian Meteorological Department, Datuk Che Gayah Ismail said the temperature at Mount Kinabalu, which is the highest peak in Malaysia and Southeast Asia could come down to two degrees Celcius.

“Generally, the temperature can come down at the rate of 6.4 degrees celcius for every kilometre in height.

As such, the coldest place in Malaysia is the Mount Kinabalu Peak which has a height of 4,095 metres above sea level where the temperature can drop up to two degrees Celcius,” she said in a statement, here yesterday.

However, she said the department did not have a Meteorological Station at the peak of the mountain except for the station at Laban Rata which is the transit point before going to the peak of Mount Kinabalu.

Besides the peak of Mount Kinabalu, Che Gayah said that based on the records from 44 major stations nationwide, renowned resort centre, Cameron Highlands was also among the coldest areas in Malaysia with the lowest temperature of 16 degrees Celcius recorded last January.

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