Sunday, April 20, 2014

Climbing Mt Kinabalu and more

My girlfriend Kanya and I just came back from our trip to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia last night after 9 wonderful days on the road. The plan was to escape Sonkgran (Thai new year) and see some other places for a change. I fought the water fight last year for days in a row and girlfriend has had enough of it so it was a great time to plan a getaway. So we were off to Kota Kinabalu via Kuala Lumpur to take some time off and relax.

The early part of the trip was dedicated to exploring the city of Kota Kinabalu, where about 450,000 people live. The city has plenty of tourists and the locals know the value of tourists but the city is a nice place to visit, locals are not selling anything in your face and you still get the strong feel of local culture since the place is not filled with tourists just yet

The city center is fairly small and takes about 30min to walk through it from one side to another. We took it open ourselves to explore all sides of the local cuisine, which offers a wide variety of Malay, Indian and Chinese food.  I love the local food, although as a European I get fed up with it fairly fast which is funny since I never get tired of Thai food back in Bangkok. The Maleasian food is fairly heavy with the curries so that might be the explanation. My personal favorites are the curry laksa (Malay) and lamb curry (Indian).

The city is not really a shopping paradise, even though the markets offer a very nice selection of local handcraft, some of the art and items were really nice. Kota Kinabalu is a great place to relax and explore outdoor activities. On the 3rd day of the trip we headed out to dive (Kanya is an avid diver) and snorkling (yours truly, need to grow a pair of balls to go 20m under water).

The red tide was disturbing our efforts on one of the islands, at the rest of the diving areas (only a 15-20min boat ride from the city btw) the visibility was good, about 10-15m and we were lucky to see plenty of exciting firh such as Clownfish (think Nemo), Trigger fish (swim away fast) and many others.

After a day’s rest, we got picked up at 6.30am to head to the “base camp” of Mount Kinabalu, also known as headquarters of the Kinabalu park. The ride took about 1hr30min up to 1800m above sea level, the road was actually pretty good all the way up even the driver warned us about the bumpy serpentine roads… I’ve seen much worse roads than that even in Finland. After checking the permits and have our guide assigned to us, we were off with our climb at around 9am!

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