By Siti Hawa
The second day in Kota Kinabalu started with my mum ringing me up from the hotel room next door. It was 7am sharp so I was a bit groggy and tired after the shopping spree the day before.
"Get the kids ready!" ordered my mom, "We're going to have breakfast and then off we go."
I practically had to drag my two protesting children to the bathroom where they then refused to come out after busy playing and splashing away with the soap bubbles and imagining that they are superheroes fighting villains in the vast sea (bath tub).
Our tour guide, Ismail, was waiting for us at 9am. He briefed us on where he was going to take us that day. Mount Kinabalu
, Hot springs and the Canopy walk at the Kinabalu Park
, he said firmly. Little was he to know, the demands and how my family can be quite sidetracked if something catches our eyes.
So we were bundled in a 12-seater Urvan, my dad sitting next to the driver and the rest of my family, four garrulous kids and seven adults at the back. Up we went through the winding road, with mum occasionally reciting a doa, causing my brother-in-law and youngest sister to snigger especially when there was a long trailer with metal wires jutting out its back. I was also in a state of constant anxiety, fussing over my two kids whenever our van tried to overtake these long trailers. On the way up though, we noticed that houses are quite a distance away from each other and that there are a number of churches along the area. There are orchards and plantations, which explains the abundance of stalls selling fruits and vegetables.
After one-and-a-half-hours on the road, my family was getting restless. My son and nephew were forever asking, "Are we there yet?" similar to the donkey in Shrek! And similar to the troll, I got so fed-up that I threatened to leave them at the side of the road if I had to. The view, however, was breathtaking and fantabulous and we just wanted to get out of the van and get busy with the cameras. So dad finally told the driver to stop, which he did at Pekan Nabalu.
Pekan Nabalu is a small town where tourists usually stop by to get their pictures taken at the ridge overlooking the majestic and grand Mount Kinabalu. There are small stalls selling local handicrafts, food and the famous local honey; they are open to bartering. To attract visitors as well, a converted longhouse was used to sell all these mementos that can be brought back for friends and relatives. For those who need to replenish themselves with local delicacies, small restaurants also adorn the area.
I dragged my youngest son with me, scouring the local handicrafts with its pretty vases and colourful masks. I would have taken a much longer time if not for the drizzling rain that I found out was quite common up in the highlands. So we continued our journey upwards to the Mt Kinabalu Heritage Park.To enter, we had to pay a small fee. We took pictures in front of the "Selamat Mendaki" signboard with no intent of climbing. My pa asked some questions and was told that one would take nine hours to climb and that in the end a certificate would be given to verify the climb.
Next on the list was the Kinabalu National Park where in our minds, we'll have time to dip in the hot springs and enjoy a short canopy walk on the way. So off we went, till everyone complained of being hungry. We stopped at a nearby local restaurant which I eyed suspiciously having experienced a bout of stomach cramps the day before. But to my delight, the soup was totally yummy and the main dishes appealing. We filled our tummy with my pa making small talks with the local people and visitors alike. Tearing my dad from his chitchat, we then proceeded on our journey.
"Solat!" exclaimed my dad, so we veered off track again going first up to the Perkasa Hotel, to reminisce (we were there before 15 years ago) and then going down the trail stopping at a local surau where all the males in my family performed their prayers.
"Mum, I want salak now," I stated vehemently after seeing all the fruits being sold along the road.
So mum told the driver to stop and dad went out to buy me some 'salak' with my brother and sisters shaking their heads at my instant cravings. But then, my nephew popped his head out through the window and yelled, "Banana too! Nenek!!" at which point that means an added 10 minutes as my dad bantered happily with the locals. "We're near the Australian memorial park," said our tourist guide, "perhaps, we should stop by and have a look."
We all agreed. The sky was pouring so in the end it was just me, my seven-year-old son, my dad, my brother-in-law, my two younger sisters and of course Ismail, the tourist guide who hopped out of the van, determined to explore the site which is located at Mile 8, Jalan Labuk Utara, Kundasang. The fee was just RM3 each though at the gate, the price was stated as RM10. So we went in and were astounded with the charming garden and yet saddened by the history (we read the exhibits), which then led to the establishment of the memorial site. This memorial is dedicated to 2,700 Australian prisoners of war (POWs) and others (650 Britons) who died at the Sandakan POW camp and death marches in North Borneo in World War II. Only six Australians lived to tell the story while others died in various ways. One who tried to escape had his legs amputated while others were tortured and killed. We left the area feeling melancholy and relayed the stories of these marches to my mum, brother and sister-in-law who stayed back in the van.
"No more stops," declared my brother-in-law who understandably was quite tired of the various stops we made.
"45kms to Hot Porings," I stated happily looking out the window. So we passed Ranau, with me dozing off the rest of the journey. When I opened my eyes, I found out that we have reached our intended destination. With rain still pouring though lightly, I carried my three-year-old out of the van and then discussed with other family members of what we should do next. My sister-in-law opted to stay behind as my one-year-old niece was making a huge fuss. The rest of us, including my mum, who at this point was weak with exhaustion wanted to go to the Poring Hot springs
where it is said to have medicinal values.
And lo, the sights that greeted us! The baths were literally packed with visitors and tourists alike, which dampened my mood slightly. Just as I was going to dip my foot to one of the baths, Ismail approached us and told us that we should do the canopy walk first before resting our tired bodies.
My mom refused but the rest of us were raring to go. So we trotted along the path and found out that we had to pay for the climb. My sister paid for everyone (Yay!!) and we struggled along the damped earth, which my three-year-old automatically rejected, crying, "Aiman shoes dirty!!" to my embarrassment. Luckily, our tour guide was not averse to little kids and went out of his way, chose to carry my little boy all the way up. Hand in hand, I yanked my complaining seven-year-old up to the top with him citing "if he had superpowers like Spiderman" all the way. Finally, wet and tired, we saw the canopy hanging from tree to tree.
I was literally shaking as I then dragged my youngest behind me while my first ran happily in front causing the canopy to sway dangerously. My dad was the first one to finish it though with a big smile plastered on his face. Even in his advancing years he was the one who seemed tireless, and was the one who first reached the bottom of the track while I was predictably the last.
Poring Hot Springs? We were so tired then that we all opted to go home, that after ravaging the souvenir shop at the premise. Would we do it again? I am planning a second trip there with my hubby and kids this December aiming for the Labuk Bay site, the strawberry garden, the islands and perhaps enjoying more of the seafood delicacies that Sabah is famous for. A cheap and fun holiday for all!Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin.