Sunday, October 09, 2011

Blazing Sabah - 3 days with only RM 500

The challenge was to spend three whole days in the “Land Below the Wind” which is Sabah, Malaysia with only 500 Malaysian Ringgit in our pockets. Could we handle it? Armed with hungry eyes and ears for information, an ample amount of curiosity, my travel buddy Rey Rivera of the Philippine Star and I, toting a handsome pair of Canon cameras, gamely took on the challenge. Kota Kinabalu, here we come!

Heart of the city

The challenge started at the city’s zero kilometer point located at the Sabah Tourism Building. Our first task was to secure lodging. Just a couple of blocks from the zero kilometer point, at the middle of the city’s Australia Place is a backpacker lodge called Lucy’s Homestay. Other backpackers from all over the world were also lodged at Lucy’s Homestay and so it became the melting pot for people with a single mission: To blaze Sabah.

Our first stop was the Signal Hill Observatory. Our roving eyes spotted eyes spotted a trail in Lucy’s backyard that cuts through the mountain side going up, which made it easier for us to reach the view deck. The place was a good place to start because it offered an excellent view of Kota Kinabalu City’s skyline. From there, it was another short walk to see the Atkinson’s Clock tower, an enduring landmark which serves as the city’s official time piece.

We then walked westwards towards the harbor to check out the scene at Kota Kinabalu’s Esplanade. The spot offers an excellent view of the sea as well as the five islands that make up the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park which is located just off the city’s shore.

On our way to the city’s public bus terminal in front of Wawasan Plaza, we followed the harbor going south and came across the Central Market, the Wet Market, as well as the Handicraft Market which is also known as the Filipino Market because of the many Filipino merchants selling various products for tourists and locals alike.

Taking a bus that travels the line going to Penampang took us to the Sabah Museum Complex which houses several facilities that offer a glimpse of Sabah’s culture and lifestyle. Aside from the museum which gave us a glimpse of the province’s history, the complex also has the Sabah Islamic Civilization Museum and the Sabah Art Gallery which is a repository of contemporary pieces by local artists. Also inside the complex is a Heritage Village which depicts the people’s living conditions from the past, from its structures all the way to the tropical landscape where they settled.

We then took off to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park which is approximately five kilometers from the town of Kinarut. Along the way, we saw local wildlife including the Borneo Pygmy elephants, Malayan tiger, Proboscis monkey and the famous Orangutan.

This was followed by a trip to the iconic Menara Tun Mustapha, also known as the Sabah Foundation Building, to catch a glimpse of a fantastic view of the sunset. About 15 kilometers away from the city center at the Likas Bay area, the 30-storey high steel and glass tower draws a poetic scene when set amid the setting sun, definitely one good way to end a tiring day.

Welcome to the jungle

My travel buddy and I agreed to spend the second day with a trip that would traverse the area around Mount Kinabalu. We left Lucy’s early to get a ride going to the National Park. Because our itinerary would also cover the locations around the Kundasang village and Ranau town area, we opted to charter a taxi to take us to the destinations that we planned to see for a fixed rate. Fortunately, our driver, Mr. Yap Nyun Sang, was sympathetic and gave us really cheap rates.

The trip took us eastward towards the Ranau district and as soon as we left the city proper of Kota Kinabalu, it was all pristine landscapes and lush greeneries. The road going to the park proved to be a spectacular one as it elevated well above sea level. The view of the jungle canopy below, as well as the looming presence of Mt. Kinabalu served as a refreshing start to what was expected to be another tiring day.

Before getting to the Kinabalu National Park, we stopped over the town of Nabalu. Set up right beside the road is a complex that offers food and beverage as well as stalls selling souvenirs for tourists. The best thing about the spot is that it has a spectacular view of Mt. Kinabalu which we gladly took advantage of and captured great images of the towering peak.

As soon as we reached the Kinabalu National Park, we immediately sensed the altitude because of the cold climate and the distinct vegetation. The cool mountain breeze greeted us as we walked from the park’s entrance. It wasn’t long before we saw a trail that left the paved road and went deep into the woods.

We followed the Pandanus Trail, which was a 598 meter trek through a thick forest teeming with different types of vegetation. Although the distance was short, the trek was mostly uphill so it took us about 20 minutes to go through the trail. Climbing up the steep track wasn’t as hard as it seemed because of the cool temperature. The scene was made even more dramatic once the fog rolled in which gave the landscape a mystifying effect.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Blazing Sabah - 3 days with only RM 500

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