Wednesday, July 17, 2013

5 years into service

17th July, 2013 marked my 1825th day as an INTEL-liers.
my God, can't believe i'm sooooo old!! 

Intel is my one and only workplace since I graduated (twice!) 
and i'm loving it!!
Maybe i'm being pampered to much here ; )

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Day 2:: Brunei – Royal Regalia & Back to Labuan

W.P. Labuan & Brunei Trip 2013
Date: 10 (Sunday) - 13 (Wednesday) February 2013

Royal Regalia

Built for the 1992 Silver Jubilee of Sultan of Brunei ascension, this is where the collection of ceremonial regalia and gifts to the Sultan is kept and displayed for public to see. 

Entrance fee was free and the building is opened daily. You are not allowed to bring a camera in (leave at the reception) but once you’re done with the main gallery, ure allowed to take photos at the front gallery. The main item here is the royal coronation carriage surrounded by the regalia from the royal crowning ceremony in which the current crowned sultan was pulled through the streets of the city.

The Regalia is my final visiting place when I was in Brunei. We’re done on time close to 4pm and went directly to the ferry terminal. Luckily the ticket counter was opened so I managed to get my ticket back to Labuan.

All in all, I really had an express tour! Around Bandar Seri Begawan in 2hours hehehe. Before departing, Uncle Saiful and Aunt Alina invited me again for a visit, next time I could drive around myself. I definitely need to come back someday to go around Brunei thoroughly.

Ferry departed on time at 4.30pm and i reached Labuan shore at 6pm.

Day 2:: Brunei – Kampung Air & Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien

W.P. Labuan & Brunei Trip 2013
Date: 10 (Sunday) - 13 (Wednesday) February 2013

Kg. Air
What’s unique about the Kampung Air (Water Village) is that there are no bridge that connects the mainland to the village. U have to use the water taxi to get around the village. One way trip is charged 50cents and if I’m not mistaken, the tour around the village is B$20. Water taxis embark in front of the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah in the centre of town and the water village itself. All of the Water Village buildings are constructed on stilts above the Brunei River.

Taman Haji Sir Muda Omar Ali Saifuddien
More like a dataran in the middle of the city. At the time of visit, the place in the midst of preparing for the Sultan of Brunei’s birthday.

Tea – AyamKu Restaurant

 Before heading to the Royal Regalia, we had a pit stop at the local KFC named AyamKu. Actually, we bought some food since Insyiraah was hungry. And by having food, they could just eat in the car while me and Aunt Alina had a quick visit into the Regalia.

Day 2:: Brunei – Istana Nurul Iman & Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

W.P. Labuan & Brunei Trip 2013
Date: 10 (Sunday) - 13 (Wednesday) February 2013

Istana Nurul Iman

First stop was Istana Nurul Iman. This is the official residence of the Sultan of Brunei and the seat of Brunei governments. Civilians are not allowed to enter the castle and its compound so I was only able to get photos from the main gate.
“Upon completion, Istana Nurul Iman, became the largest residential palace in the world and the largest single family residence ever built. To be considered for the Guinness World Record, the palace must have once been intended for use as a royal residence, and only the actual combined area of the palace’s indoor floors (a measurement commonly known as floorspace) is considered. As measured by these standards, Guinness World Records currently considers Istana Nurul Iman to hold the title as the “world's largest palace.”- Wikipedia

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
This mosque was completed in 1958 and is a must place to visit if ure in Brunei. It is considered as one of the most beautiful mosque in the Asia Pacific. The most distinct thing about the build is the pure gold dome. The mosque is surrounded by a man-made lake with a ceremonial barge at the side.

Day 2 :: Labuan to Brunei

W.P. Labuan & Brunei Trip 2013 
Date: 10 (Sunday) - 13 (Wednesday) February 2013

Location: Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Weather: Sunny
Transportation: Ferry

Woke up early to make sure I would be able to get the earliest ferry to Brunei. Reached the ferry counter around 7.30am and there were 2 ticket counters opened where 1 is for domestic and 1 for international. Well, domestic is for Menumbok, Kota Kinabalu(KK) etc and International is Brunei. Queue for domestic was very long and I heard the ticket to KK that day already sold out (don’t know why a lot of people going to KK during Chinese New Year). One way ticket to Brunei costs RM35. There are 2 class and this is for 2nd class. I saw in the ferry that 1st class has bigger individual chair (like in a 3-seater bus) and more private space. Anyway, you cannot buy return ticket at the counter. Return ticket from Brunei to Labuan has to be bought at Brunei’s Ferry terminal itself.

Since it’s still early, I went for breakfast at the mamak shop across the street. There were quite a lot of people. The food price here was not as expensive as I thought, almost similar to KL.

Journey to Brunei took 1.5hrs and as I suspected, the ferry was empty hahaha! I got the whole row to myself. The aircond wasn’t that cold either and there’s a movie played but I can’t remember what it was.

Custom clearance was smooth as there’re not many people around. Upon arrival outside, I straight went to the ticket counter which is located to the left of the arrival hall. To be exact, it is located directly in front of departure hall. Don’t fret, the ferry terminal is very small. U won’t get lost. Unfortunately for me, all of the counters were closed. I (and a lot of others there) waited for an hour when I finally gave Uncle Saiful a call. Uncle Saiful is my friend’s uncle who is living in Brunei. Coincidentally  we met earlier when I went to my friends’ brothers’ house in Shah Alam. He’s returning from Malaysia the same day as my arrival. Since it’s already 11.30am, I thought he must have arrived.

11.50am, Uncle Saiful and his wife, Aunt Alina picked me up and brought me to their house. We had a chat and after lunch, we started our tour. Well, they’re asking me to just spend the night there since the time will be very tight if I were to return with the 4.30pm ferry on the very day. Basically, I will only hv 2hours in Brunei. They insisted that I stay since I hvn’t bought the return ticket but I had to decline as if I stay, I won’t have time to go around Labuan.

Around 2pm, we departed from the house- me, Uncle Saiful, Aunt Alina and their 2 youngest kids, Insyiraah and Amsyar; and the journey began!

Iteninary and Budget for the Kota Kinabalu/Kundasang Tip

Click for bigger view.

Below is the actual expenses (not including our dinner/lunch expenses as well as the souvenirs).
Breakdown per person and the souvenirs that I bought.
another additional info on car rental. this is from the guy that was together on my scuba trip. They have Kancil (manual) and Viva to be rented:
Zam 016-839 1721
Zie 014-567 3496

Final Day (5): Sabah Museum

Date: 1 July, 2013 (Monday)
Sabah Museum
Sabah Museum is located at Bukit Istana Lama. Walking from the lodge took us 30mins. The complex contains the main museum, gardens, a zoo, a 2-phased heritage village and the Islamic Civilization Museum. Entrance fee is RM2 for adult and free for students (with uniforms or student ID).
The main building also houses the Art Gallery and the building itself is located on top of the hill. So u need to walk to get to other exhibition center. For us, we went to the (outside) café first due to thirst and saw the cultural village next to it. Turned out, this was the 1st phase on the village. The place was run down and no one was around for a tour or any briefing. The traditional houses were built by its native and u can wonder around in and out the area but honestly, it’s pretty creepy for us to go in. it was dark and abandoned.
After that, we walked back to the main building. Once u stepped in, ure welcomed by the huge skeletons of a whale. This largest Bryde Whale ever found in Asia beached itself near the shallow water of Gaya Island back in December 2006. No photos here as photography is not allowed in the main building.
Once we’re done with our stroll in the museum, we walked down the hill towards the Islamic Civilization Museum. It’s pretty close, just a 5mins walk. In the museum, there are a lot of artifacts and replicas of the swords during the Prophet’s time. Again, no photographing allowed.

Last stop before going back is the 2nd phase of the cultural village. We were hoping that the 2nd village will be more maintained but boy, we’re wrong. Well, the houses are newer but it is as empty as the 1st village. What a disappointment. Well, I guess it’ll be livelier during school holidays where more people will flock in to the museum complex.

Among all, I think a visit in the main building was the best.

We left the museum complex around 4.00pm (can't believe we spent more than 2 hours there!). The walk back to the Lodge felt faster this time. picked up our bags and headed to the airport at 5.00pm. Note: Please expect VERY EXPENSIVE taxi ride if u ask the reception to call. We paid RM30!! I bet u can get cheaper rate if u stop the taxi ur self outside. 

By the time we reached the airport, the check in counters were packed. Typical of AirAsia, there is no designated counters for specific destination. Everybody queue to the same counter. What's worst is that in our line, few groups faced excess baggage problem. Come on people, don't pack 2 big bags to check in if ure travelling with 5 adults and expect it'll be under 25kg! Don't be a cheapskate and cause problem to others!!! It took us 1 hour to drop our bags.

Had our expensive @ airport dinner and went in. Faced my 1st time flight delay with Airasia (from 8.10pm to 8.45pm) and safely reached LCCT at 11.15pm.

Accomodation in kota Kinabalu: Lavender Lodge

Found this lodge when I was bloghopping. Review in TripAdvisor was good and the pricing was not bad either. I was having some trouble as to decide where to stay, either Api-api, Kg. Air or Gaya Street. Well, I settled down at Kg. Air which is close to the Sinsuran Night Market/Filipino Market. It’d be easier for last minute shopping since the markets and malls are close by. Booked in Agoda for RM180 for 2 nights.
Attractions wise, Gaya Sunday market, Filipino market, Handicraft markets, Center Point mall are only a 5mins walk away. Waterfront Esplanade (where Hard Rock Café is located) is about 15mins walk. However, the Jetty is whopping 30 mins away ‘sigh’ and this is pretty important especially once u returned from your island hopping trip as the return trip to ur accommodation is not included in the package. Atkinson Clock Tower and Signal Hill are closer to the Jetty and u have to climb up the hill to get there. In our case, this was not a problem as we dropped by earlier on before returning our rental car.
Anyway, back to the lodge. We got the room G03. The room is at the ground floor, all the way to the back. The room was small with a very tiny window. We never opened the curtain as u can see the windows from the building behind so we wouldn't want to be peeked. The room is pretty small for both us and definitely will not fit non-Asians. Heck, I think even guys will feel very cramped inside. Imagine u have a double bed in the room with 1-foot spacing with the walls around it, that’s how big the room was. 1 thing that was really a downside for us was that there was only 1 power plug so charging our tablets, hps and cameras was a bit troublesome.
On the positive side, the room and toilet was very clean. And for some reason, they provided shower gel. Same with our acco in Kundasang. English breakfast (read as toast, egg, cereal, coffee and tea) is provided between 7-10am. Of course, the reception can help u in anything u need (e.g calling taxi to the airport). There are plenty of brochures on things to do and explore, and a PC provided at the lounge for u to use. Wanna watch TV? No worries, u can head to the upper floor where there is a TV lounge.

All in all, if u don’t mind the space, this lodge is definitely a thumbs up.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Day 4: Gaya Market & Sapi Island

Date: 30 June, 2013 (Sunday)
The day started as early as 7am. Quick breakfast of toast at Lavender Lodge then off to the market.
Gaya Street Sunday Market.
This market only opens during Sunday morning (6am-1pm). From the lodge, it was only a 5mins walk. To me, the market is similar to Satok Weekend market in Kuching, only slightly smaller. There are plenty of food stalls selling food for breakfast (light food), seaweeds, vegetables and fruits. There are plenty of clothing stalls as well as handicrafts. Apart from that, there are few stalls actually selling animals; from fishes to puppies. I couldn’t find any stall selling fresh seafood like I did in Kuching, so you don’t need to worry for the smell or the dripping water or puddle on the walkway.
Since this was pretty much a walkthrough, I was searching for magnets stating “Kota Kinabalu” (but until the end of the trip, I failed to do so) and food for breakfast (after some toast earlier). Well, nothing caught my eyes so we ended up just walking to see what kind of market Gaya Street had.
Diving/Snorkel at T.A.R Marine Park.
At the end of Gaya Sunday Market, we directly walked to the Ferry. We reached there around 8am (meet up time was 8.20am). Nothing much we can do other than people watching. Food stalls not yet opened but there were plenty of people waiting for (maybe) their island hopping trip. Surprisingly, the indoor futsal center opened at 8.15am which is very early for me.
We saw a couple of mat salleh and after a while, more of the dive center staffs and divers appeared. Turned out, the meeting point inside on the upper level of the futsal place was a smaller dive shop. 8.30am, we’re all hustled up to the dive shop for group introduction and safety briefing. The dive shop of choice was Diverse Borneo.
The main reason Diverse Borneo was chosen was both on the diving and snorkeling trip. Both trip utilizes the same boat and have appointed guides (divemaster and snorkeling guide). Since my cousin is not a diver, this is a trip we both can enjoy. She was a bit afraid since she knew there was a very high probability that she’ll be the only one doing snorkeling that day (and she was right hehehe). However, this turned out to be very advantage to her. There was only 1 snorkeler so the guide could focus on entertaining her only. A 3-dive trip costs RM250 and a snorkeling trip costs RM90.
During the briefing, we were told that our dive/snorkel point will be around Sapi Island and Gaya Island. It’ll be 2 points in Sapi and 1 point near Gaya, depending on the weather. My cousin and her guide were dropped off first at Sapi before the divers proceed to our 1st dive spot. On the boat, there were 1 guy Zam doing his Advance Open Water, his instructor Apek, me, my buddy Syafiq and our divemaster Alwee (5 divers). 

After our 1st dive, we parked our boat at Sapi Jetty for our surface interval. Got a chance to see my cousin (in the water) before we saw the rain coming. It rained a bit and after an hour, we dove for our 2nd dive there before our lunch break at 12. Lunch was provided in the package and by 1.30pm, we’re back into the water for our final dive. My cousin told me that to her, the snorkeling trip wasn’t like usual. Usually, the boat just floats there and let u snorkel around on your own; or they drop u off at the island and u wander around. This time, she had the guide who was really excited to show her everything and turned out that she snorkeled the same time that we dived.
We concluded our trip earlier than schedule, arriving at Jesselton Jetty around 3pm. The thought of walking back 1.5km was dreadful but we were saved by Zam who offered a ride. The guilt is still there for soaking his car huhuhu. Jesselton Terminal wasn’t that good in providing restroom facilities. I don’t know how it is possible to only have 1 restroom for the entire jetty plaza. What worst is that there are only 2 cubicles, sharing for toilet and changing room. Heck, Syafiq and Zam changed outside behind the stalls. Then again, it’s always easier for guys.

It was already 4pm by the time we reached Lavender Lodge. A quick hot shower and we slept like a log after that. I started feeling feverish and apparently it didn’t get better even after a 3-hour sleep. My cousin went for food hunt alone that night, and I only ate bread and Panadol. By 11, we both slept due to fatigue.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Day 3: When in KK

Date: 29 June, 2013 (Saturday)
After checking in and returning the car at Api-api Center, it’s time for our walk around KK. Mother Nature was not on our side so we’re in rush to find shelter. Thank God it didn’t rain all the way through the afternoon.
Waterfront Esplanade.
This boardwalk is said to have the best view for sunset. But when we went there, it was raining heavily. Our main reason going there was to visit the Hard Rock Shop. The shop was hidden from the main road by the big residence in construction next to it. There are also food center there but unfortunately the shop I was looking for the cheese banana fritters was closed so we didn’t stop.
Filipino Market/ Sinsuran Night Market.
A daily night market were local catch is sold. Fresh seafood is the main attraction where u can order up and get them cooked on the spot to savour.

Merlin Statue.
Located in front of Hyatt Hotel, this giant statue was officiated when KK was inaugurated as a city on 2nd of February, 2000. To get to here, we walked all the way from the Esplanade, passing Filipino market, Central Market and the Wet Market. That was about a 1.5km walk.
Jesselton Ferry Terminal.
Another 1km walk up north is the Ferry Terminal to go to the island hopping. We walked up to estimate how far will it take to walk from the ferry to our lodge before our island trip the next day.
Kampung Air Night Market.
Well, we originally planned to buy all of our souvenirs here but the night market was pretty disappointing. Nothing much to be seen as all that’s being sold is clothing. More like the normal night market in the Peninsular. So we had to ditch to have our dinner here.
Handicraft Market.
Well, we walked back to the handicraft market since we couldn’t find anything worth to buy at the night market. There are a lot of reviews saying that buying souvenirs here are quite expensive but we’re out of options and since we’re not buying a lot, I thought I’d be ok.

Here, I bought the I love KK shirt for RM33, salt water pearl bracelet for RM35 and few brooches (1 dozen for RM48).

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Day 3: Signal Hill Observatory & Atkinson Clock Tower, Kota Kinabalu

Date: 29 June, 2013 (Saturday)
Lunch stop was at the same Anjung Selera in Telipok and we headed directly to our first 2 stops in KK.
1st stop: Signal Hill Observatory.
This viewing platform is the place for amazing views of the city and also the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. It is located on top of the Bendera Hill. It is due to its location that we decided to go to here first since we still have our rental car.
2nd stop: Atkinson Clock Tower.

Close to the Observatory is the Atkinson Clock Tower. The clock tower was built in the memory of the 1st District Officer of Jesselton who died due to malaria. Built in 1903, this structure survived the destruction of Jesselton town during WWII. It was built with wood with no nails.
No operating hours restriction or entrance fess for both of the attractions.

Day 3: Kinabalu Park, Kundasang & Rumah Terbalik, Tuaran

Date: 29 June, 2013 (Saturday)
The first thing that I checked after waking up is the Peak; whether the clouds are there or not. Upon seeing that the sky was clear, we checked out of Kiram around 7.45am. The journey
6th stop: Kinabalu Park.

Unfortunately, along the way from Kundasang Town, I could see the clouds started to move in. By the time we reached Kinabalu Park at 8.30am, the peak can no longer be seen. Hoping that the clouds will move soon, we drove around the park to Timpohon Gate, the starting of Summit Trail to Kinabalu Peak.

At the gate, a group of climbers was stretching prior to their climb. Some snapshots here were all we took (u can’t see the peak from her) and I saw that it’s only another 8km trail to reach the peak from here. I actually thought that the trail is somewhere around 20-30km up (but when I think again, Mt. Kinabalu is only about 4km up, so 30km doesn’t make much sense hahaha!). Then I thought, maybe 8km climb is possible for me too??? My cousin is very pumped and has officially added Mt. Kinabalu climb as one of her things-to-do list.
When we arrive back to the viewing platform at the reception office, the clouds has lessened but we can’t still see the Peak constantly. So we went up to the Kinabalu Conservation Center for a bit of Kinabalu history and profile.
Alhamdulillah, by the end of our visit to the center, the clouds has moved and we finally got a chance for a picture of Mt. Kinabalu peak from Kinabalu Park Viewing point. Satisfied, we departed for KK at 10.45am.
On our way down to KK, we stopped by the viewing area near Nabalu Town. Our last glimpse of Mt. Kinabalu for the trip..
7th stop: Rumah Terbalik, Tuaran.
This time, the mission is to find Rumah Terbalik. We were curious as to why we didn’t see the house at all on our way to Kundasang. The note clearly said it’s on the way to Tamparuli so why the heck didn’t we see it?
An hour later, once we reach the Tuaran road near Tamparuli, we decided to stop by Shell petrol station. To do so, we need to make a u-turn. Walla! There is the house just nearby!! No wonder we missed it. The signboard saying “rumah terbalik” was dull but the restaurant and restroom stop signages were more eye catching. I guess I quickly dismissed it as rest stop when we first passed through there.
Anyways, we didn’t plan on going into the house itself. I have read in few blogs that the entrance just around the house is free but WTH, turned out that we need to pay RM5 for it (RM10 for full access). Worst is that we weren’t even allowed to go around the house; just the toilet, café and shop. What a bummer and cheating way to make money.

Day 2: Desa Cattle Farm & Mesilau Nature Resort

Date: 28 June, 2013 (Friday)
5th stop: Desa Cattle Farm, Mesilau.
The journey from Kundasang town to the Cattle farm took only 10mins. Now only we realized how steep our route is as we couldn’t see the condition when we first arrived in Kundasang.
The farm is opened daily from 8am to 5pm but the milking is done once daily from 3pm to 5pm. There is a processing tour as well every Tuesday and Thursday but since our visit was on Friday, we can only observe the milking. We arrived at 2.30pm and the cows were already lining up at the center. Before that, do mind the gravel road all the way from the main junction to the center and stopped halfway to pay the RM4 entrance fee per adult.

Parking was quite limited and we’re fortunate enough to have a spot opened for our car. There were a lot of people around but it’s not too crowded. We head to the calf and kid pen first. There were few calves and kids available to be feed by visitors. U can buy the milk and the veggies there. The condition was pretty sad though, I don’t know why. Maybe coz the youngsters look really starved. But these young Holstein Cow and Saanen Goat were really adorable. Huge but adorable LOL.
Close to 3pm, we walked to the main building where the milking took place. Visitor will watch from inside of the building, directly across where the cows were lining up. Milking was done while eating and each cow is attached to a glass container. I didn’t really stay until the 1st round of cow was finished, so I don’t know how long each milking process take but the cows don’t seem to be bothered.
A quick shop for milk, yogurt ice-cream and some souvenirs marked the end of our visit to the farm. The ice cream costs me RM4 but the milk is undoubtly the best I’ve ever tasted.
6th stop: Mesilau Nature Resort
Since it’s only 3.45pm, we drove on to the ‘nearby’ Mesilau Nature Resort. Well, it’s only a 15mins drive from the farm to the entrance of the Resort passing through the gold course. But another 10mins is needed from the gate to the resort. Plus, it was drizzling and again, we seemed to be driving deeper into the forest. No more view of Mt. Kinabalu and no one else was around. Even the booth at the gate where we're supposed to pay for the entrance fee has no one there.
The Mesilau Nature Park also serves as the entry point to the Mesilau Trail—an alternative to the Summit Trail (which starts from the Kinabalu Park HQ) to conquer Mount Kinabalu. Opening hours is 9am to 4pm.
Well, it was quite odd coz when we reached the Center, it is already closed. Apart from that, we weren’t able to get a pic of the Mesilau Gate since there’re a bunch of trekkers BBQ-ing there and we’re not kin to climb up to the gate. 3.45pm, we drove back to Kiram since it’s getting dark and raining heavily; and we still have to drive out from the Resort.

KFC was calling for dinner and it’s time to pack since we’re checking out early the next day.

Day 2: Kundasang War Memorial

Date: 28 June, 2013 (Friday)
After 40mins, we reached Kundasang town at 1pm and headed to the nearby War Memorial.
4th stop: Kundasang War Memorial.

At the memorial gate, each of us paid RM2 for the entry.

“Major G. S. Carter, D.S.O. (Toby Carter) a New Zealander employed with Shell Oil Co. (Borneo) initiated the building of the Memorial in 1962, together with the launching of Kinabalu Park; to commemorate the 2,428 Australian and British prisoners who died during World War IIat the Sandakan POW Camp, and the casualties of the three infamous forced death marches from Sandakan to Ranau. It also serves as a tribute to the many local people who risked their lives while aiding the prisoners of war. Only six Australians survived in this tragedy to tell their horror and there were no English survivors.

It has four interlocking but separate gardens to represent the homelands of those who died: an Australian Garden, a formal English Garden of roses, a Borneo Garden with wild flowers of Kinabalu and at the top level is the 'Contemplation Garden' with a reflection pool and pergola.” – Wikipedia.

 The walk up to the memorial is very serene. The location is very strategic at the small hill with the winds blowing slowly. On top, there is a small booth where the clippings, signs, photos of the history of the memorial. There is also a small shop, a café and Australian Memorial Hall to enable visitors to view WW2 Documentary Films for another small fee.

As stated, there are 4 gardens. Each garden was maintained regularly. The first garden u’ll find when u climbed up the stairs is the Australian Garden. Further climbed up is the English Garden. Behind the English Garden is the Borneo Garden and finally the Contemplation Garden. At the Contemplation garden, there are rows of plague will the names of the POWs who died during the dead marches. U can walk along the pergola or towards behind the garden to get a breath-taking view with Mount Kinabalu as the background.

We spent about an hour there and decided to ‘tapau’ KFC for dinner using the coupons we received from the petrol station in KK.

Day 2: Kelah Sanctuary, Kampung Luanti Baru, Ranau & Sabah Tea Plantation.

Date: 28 June, 2013 (Friday)
We left Poring at 10.30am.
2nd stop: Kelah Sanctuary, Kampung Luanti Baru, Ranau.
Take the same way out from the Hot Spring towards Ranau. Do take note that if u search the direction from Poring Hot Spring, Ranau to Kampung Luanti Baru, Ranau, Google map will show u direction via Jalan Muruk Sendol. DO NOT USE THIS NAVIGATION. The road after the roundabout doesn’t exist. We found it the hard way that after a while, it became a dirt road and that road leads deeper into the palm plantation. Luckily there was 1 villagers working along the road and we stopped to ask. We had to drive all the way back and lost 30mins of driving time. So from the Hot Spring, follow back the road towards Ranau and once u reached the A4 junction, take right turn towards Telupid/Sandakan. It should take u only 30mins to get to the Sanctuary.
11.30am we reached the Sanctuary (left side of the road. Right before the sanctuary is the Sabah Tea Plantation). Paid the RM5 entrance fee (for feet. Whole body is RM10) at the office cum restaurant before proceeding to the back road. When u arrive, u’ll see the famous signage, a canopy with chair and the ticket booth. Exchange the RM5 ticket there and pay additional RM3 for the camera (per group, so u bring a lot of cameras but pay only RM3). The ticket stub will have a number there and the lady at the counter will shout your name once u enter the riverside. U got 15mins starting from that point. 
Here’s the thing, believe me 15mins was enough. Neither of us dared to go too deep into the river. We just stood in the water at ankle-deep and the fished swarmed us; pretty scary for a first timer. And yes, we bought packets of food (20cent per pack) to feed the fishes but don’t dared to feed them by hand hahahaha! We just threw the pallets (throw SLOWLY as the fishes will kind of jumped at it). U’ll notice that the bigger kelah will dominate the river. They’re huge and really fighting for the food. The smaller yellowish kelah will just swim around and nibble at ur feet. Pity them though.
Like I said, 15mins was just nice for us. We went up the river and were wearing our sandals when our number was called for times up. Sure enough, our feet felt really cleaned and smooth after the visit J
3rd stop: Sabah Tea Plantation.
Tea plantation wasn’t in our initial plan since we know that we can just go to Cameron. However, since it’s next door, we decided to stop by. At the entrance, the gate is blocked but no worries, the guard will let u in once he has taken ur car plate number. The road is pretty much like in the BOH Plantation but it’s only a short drive to the factory.
Personally, I was disappointed. The place looked abandoned. The tea trees don’t look green enough and dry. There is no information center or museum. You can’t walk through the factory without paying for the tour. So basically u just wonder around on ur own, sit down for a tea at the old looking café or buy some Sabah Tea/souvenirs at the shop.
15minutes were all we need, then off to our next stop in next entry.

Day 2: Canopy Walk & Poring Hot Spring, Ranau

Date: 28 June, 2013 (Friday)
My day started at 6.30am. It’s already bright and I went straight to our balcony to see the Peak. Yeay, it’s clearly there!! No clouds blocking my view!! *grin* We found out that our next door neighbor already outside, so we rushed out to take some photos out. Being in Mesilau, we could see the almost all front and side sight of the mountain. It was beautiful. Very near yet very far. I could clearly the walls of the mountain (read as “wall” since it is a straight wall, no trees). The sun hasn’t shined on yet so it has this gloomy-majestic look. I wonder if seeing peak of Kinabalu already awe me like this, what will my respond be on seeing peak of Mt. Everest??
After having enough of photos, we went in to get ready for our plan today. Today was the only full day we had in Kundasang so we need to maximize the time.
1st stop: Poring Hot Spring & Canopy Walk.
After our serunding-sandwich breakfast, we departed from Kiram around 7.30am. Including a quick photo stop at the Kundasang Town (note: there is a morning market every Friday here), the journey to Poring took us about 50mins. We planned for the Canopy Walk first before going to the Hot Spring. Actually, don’t be mistaken, both are located in the same park. To go to the Canopy Walk, u need to walk thru the Hot Spring area. Just follow the signage.

You need to pay a conservation fee of RM3 for the Park (at the carpark entrance), another RM3 for the Canopy fee and RM5 to bring your camera in (at the Canopy Walk entrance).
Here is a must if u decide to go to the Canopy Walk:
-   Determination to reach the canopy – it’s not an easy walk. Yes, the first 400m walk from the hot spring area to the canopy walk entrance is easy. Just like a typical flat walk in the jungle. But once u go into the canopy walk area, u have to face another 550m hike up the hills. I said DETERMINATION cause I don’t have the STAMINA but I can climb up slowly on my own pace. This is one of the main reasons we decided to head to the canopy walk the first thing in the morning. To avoid the crowd. Less people thru the track and less people cramped out on the Walkway later.
-    Bravery to face ur fear of height – my cousin is afraid of height. But she is determined to go through. Of coz with some cold sweats, drama and restrictions (only her in the section at a time to avoid the swinging effect. Max is 6pax per section at a time), she managed to go from start to the end J. U’ll climb from lower point to the highest point and the section also gets longer and longer. Don’t be afraid and don’t look down too much. The view is very refreshing. I even managed to spot a bushy tailed huge squirrel (but no pics as I was in the middle of the bridge when it passed by).
Lucky us, we’re the only souls at the canopy Walkway all the time. Only on our way down we passed by a lot of people starting to go up the track. After an hour there, we head down to the hot spring area.
There weren’t a lot of people there. Only few outdoor tubs were filled as well as the below pools. Since we were lazy to get wet, we just dipped our feet into the hot water. Kire ok-lah after the climbed up the canopy walk, kind of soothing. For those who wanted to take a long bath, there are also closed pools for privacy. Plenty of toilet and shower room for a change of clothes.

Nothing much to do other than that. The information center was closed for construction so after a short dip, it’s time for the next destination – Kelah Sanctuary.

Accomodation in Kundasang: Kiram’s Village

Reservation was made 2 months back. As usual, blog hopping saved me. My original plan was to stay at J Residence but the place was fully booked so we opted for Kiram’s Village. The location was further in at Mesilau. J Residence was along the mainroad about 5mins to Kinabalu Park Entrance while Kiram’s Village is 15mins from Mesilau Nature Resort. Do note that Kinabalu Park is the starting point of Kinabaly Trail while Mesilau Nature Park is the starting of Mesilau Trail. To-fro for these 2 places (J Residence-Kiram’s) is about 30mins.
The correspondence with J Residence ( or fb was really smooth. It didn’t take long for the owner to confirm and responded with me. He even gave alternatives to my dates but due to my flight tic, I had to decline.
As for Kiram's Village, u can browse thru their web to get all the details ( or fb This time, I directly called the owner instead of emailing him. I was thinking of either Chilli or Onions since both rooms cater for 2pax. Cute kn name room?!? The owner, Mr. Jamalul told me that the rooms are booked for our date but there are 2 new rooms for 2pax being constructed at the time of conversation; namely, Potato and Mushroom. The difference on the room is just the bedding, double vs 2 single beds. So of course we grabbed Potato (2-single-bed room) on the spot! Total for 2nights is RM210. I’m not sure how it’s being charges as it’s 1 day w’day + 1 day w’end rate, maybe RM100+RM110.

When we checked in, I love it! Everything is new and bathroom is spot clean. Most important, water heater is working. There is a kettle and cups provided free. However, there are no complimentary water or coffee here. There are a bunch of stuff u can rent during your stay such as towel (RM5/piece), BBQ pit etc. They also have in-house restaurant but we didn’t eat there so no comment on the food or pricing.
Being here it’s like ure in overseas. The air smells crisp and fresh, the flowers very bright and colorful. The cabins themselves are very pretty with theirs cute veggie names (Chili, Onion, Broccoli, Carrot etc). I would definitely recommend it if u decided to stay in Mesilau. Away from the noisy main road, closer to the mountain. Ah! Desa Cattle Farm is only 5mins drive from the place J

Day 1: From LCCT to KKIA

Date: 27 June, 2013 (Thursday)
This is our 2nd annual trip for me and my cousin. Tickets were purchased about 6 months earlier for RM360 inclusive of 25kg return-baggage for 2pax (so RM180 per pax). Turned out that we don’t really need to buy too much of baggage allowance since our total bags weighted only 16kg (and returned at 17kg). Flight from LCCT departed on time at 11.05am and by 1.40pm we reached Kota Kinabalu.
KKIA building is very small; comparable to the airport in Kuching and Labuan. But it has one flaw. The immigration hall is way too small. It only has 6 foreign passport + 4 Malaysian passport + 1 staff counters. Very ironic that the foreigners counter is more compared for Malaysians. We had to cramped to the 4+1 counters and the queue ended up until outside towards the tarmac. Anyway, no need to wait for our bags since by the time we cleared off, 30mins already passed.
Then, a drama unfolds. I already made our car booking via online at Perodua Viva Elite 1.0L at RM85/day (RM170 for 2 days). In my email correspondence, we agreed to give them a call once we’ve reached the airport on the 27th. I guess a part of it was my mistake to not reconfirm with them a day earlier. The person in charge was not reachable when I called from KKIA. There is no office number on the website but there are few other contact numbers. I finally got hold and the guy said that he’s not aware of my booking. This is really weird since I thought it’s supposed to be in their database since there was a booking number upon confirmation. But the guy said he’ll try to find me a Viva and he’ll give me a call within 15mins.
After all the hassle, we finally got a car around 3pm. Payment was settled on the spot and we made a deal on the returning point near our accommodation in KK 2 days later. Off we go to our 1st stop, Kundasang. Oh ya, while waiting we managed to savage few KK and kundasang maps at the Sabah Tourism booth at the arrival hall. No maps were given by the car rental but then, this is Malaysia so we weren’t worried. GPS helps a lot too.
My cousin was the driver for 2 days. She said she preferred to drive rather than figuring the road hahaha :p
We had to drive though KK town. We were quite surprised at the traffic. It’s already jammed although it’s only 3.30pm. It wasn’t even rush hours yet! At first, we planned to stop by near the UMS for lunch and to pack food for dinner. But for some reason, we couldn’t find any roadside stall in that area. So we opted for Anjung Rasa at Putrajaya, Telipok (~30mins from KK). You will not miss this restaurant as it is exactly by the main road. There is a market nearby as well as a small Giant (where we bought our water supply).

Based on my blog-hopping, the route was simple. Just follow KK -> Tuaran -> Tamparuli -> Ranau. But there was a bit of confusion there. You don’t really need to go through Tamparuli IF you DON’T WANT TO VISIT THE SUSPENSION BRIDGE. You can just go straight at the roundabout (instead of taking the 3 o’clock exit) to go to Kundasang. Our initial plan was to drop by the Rumah Terbalik today and the suspension bridge on our back later on. But it turned up the other way around. We found the suspension bridge unsuspectedly after we followed the signboard to Tamparuli (we were searching for Rumah Terbalik at that point).
Aqua square is the Rumah Terbalik (which we missed on).
Red route - if u don't want to visit the suspension bridge
Blue route - route to the suspension bridge
Yellow box - Tamparuli Suspension Bridge
Some photo session here and there, we then move on to our main destination. At that point, it’s already 4.30pm. You can either take the blue colored route or return back. We followed back the route to the same roundabout. If you follow the blue route, you’ll end up to the roundabout with the pineapple statue. If u take the red route, this pineapple roundabout is the 2nd roundabout u’ll pass through.

Anyway, we started the climb towards Kundasang soon after. The road wasn’t bad as I thought it’d be. It is exactly like the road up to Cameron Highlands. But the view was breathtaking. There were plenty of passing lanes but it started to rain so with Viva, we just take our own sweet time driving. We didn’t manage to stop at Pekan Nabalu since it’s already dark so we drove straight to Kundasang instead. Somewhere on the way up, we spotted a rest area but we gave it a pass as well.
To reach our accommodation, Kiram’s Village, we have to drive pass Kinabalu Park towards Kundasang Town. U’ll reach a roundabout, take the 9 o’clock exit and then go straight at the 2nd roundabout. The shops should be on your right, as well as the Kundasang War Memorial. The signboard at the 1st roundabout was way too small to be seen at night. There are no road lamps so we actually missed the turned. We stopped at the front to take our 1st Kinabalu pics although the sun already sets. It’s dark but you can still see the shape of the peak.

If you didn’t see Kiram’s signboard at the Kundasang town, don’t worry. You may follow any of these signs: Desa Cattle Farm, Mesilau Nature Park, or Kundasang/Mesilau Golf Course (there is only 1 golf course in the area).
The drive after the 2nd roundabout near the War Memorial was steeper and darker. U’ll pass thru the village area and after maybe a 15mins drive, u’ll see a junction to the left towards the Desa Cattle Farm. Go straight and u’ll make your way down towards the small wooden bridge (u’ll seriously feel like you’re in the middle of the jungle here). Don’t worry, just drive passes the bridge and u’ll reach Kg.Mesilau. Take a left turn at the junction and after that u’ll see Kiram’s Village on your right. If u still couldn’t find the place, gv them a call hehehehe ; )

All in all, we reached Kiram at 6.30pm. In the dark, I could see Kinabalu’s peak behind us. I’m excited to actually see it at daytime the next day! Dinner was banana fritters and maggi. When we first get in the room, it’s a bit warm. But wait for a while, it gets really cold and we slept like a log at 10pm hahahaha. Long john + socks + long sleeve shirt + sweater + long pants really helps….
More in the coming entries :D