Showing posts with label Kota Kinabalu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kota Kinabalu. Show all posts

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Malaysia: More adventure activities in Kota Kinabalu and Sabah

I flew back to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia a few days ago. After doing the leisurely activities around Kota Kinabalu and Sabah last month, I decided to do the adventure stuff for my return trip. I visited Kinabalu Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and trekked up 3554 meters of Mount Kinabalu. The day after my descent, I tried out whitewater rafting on the Kiulu River. Watch out for the continuation of my Kota Kinabalu and Sabah series.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Malaysia: Gaya Street Sunday Market in Kota Kinabalu

Every Sunday, Gaya Street is closed to vehicular traffic as it hosts the Gaya Street Sunday Market. If you happen to be in Kota Kinabalu on a Sunday, you might want to pass by Gaya Street.

They sell almost everything one looks for in a market including souvenirs and handicrafts, gadgets, fruits and produce, plants and pets, food and snacks, Bornean coffee and other interesting local items you might want to take home. It’s best to be there early in the morning because it can get quite warm close to lunch.

Malaysia: Klias River cruise and Borneo's Proboscis Monkey

One major attraction of Sabah is its nature and wildlife. That is why I looked forward to visiting the Klias River to observe Borneo’s endangered Proboscis Monkey (Nasalis larvatus) in its natural habitat. If you decide to take the river cruise, you’ll be free for the morning. Tours are usually in the afternoon because the Proboscis Monkey comes out to feed very early in the morning or late in the afternoon just before dusk.

The tour operator picked me up at my hotel at 2 p.m. From my hotel, we went around for more passengers before driving two hours southwest to Kota Klias, the jump-off point for the Klias River cruise.

The Klias River is a large area of peat swamp which explains the brown color of the acidic water. The characteristic dark brown color of a peat swamp is a result of dissolved peat tannins in the water. At the port, we were served local snacks and coffee while we waited for ever more passengers from other tour companies to arrive.

At about 5 p.m., we were invited to wear life jackets before we boarded the small boats. We left in five boats. Each boat could seat about 15 to 20 people and had a guide who would spot the monkeys and inform the driver to stop and move closer.

It was challenging trying to locate the monkeys since they are quite elusive and know when there are boats around. At first, you would see only movements in the trees. Then the guide would point and let you focus your attention on the Proboscis Monkeys silently feeding or moving about. Many times, they’d be in groups so you’d see mature male monkeys, which are the most peculiar because of their long noses and large bellies, female and younger Proboscis Monkeys.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to appreciate the features of the Proboscis Monkeys unless you have binoculars or a camera with a really good zoom. You only get to observe them from a distance especially since they are perched high up the trees and the boats can only go as far as the river banks. And taking photographs isn't that easy since the monkeys keep a safe distance from humans, the lighting is a bit dim, and the boats are quite wobbly especially when everyone stands up and tries to take photos.

We went from one area to another just observing the monkeys in their natural habitat. This is much better than seeing them in zoos. While reading some literature at the port, I found out that you should never feed these monkeys fruits or any sugar since their digestive system cannot process sugar. It turns directly into gas and that would kill them since their stomachs will explode. I wonder how true this is.

When it started to get dark, we proceeded back to the port for dinner. We’d stop every now and then as the guide spotted more monkeys on the way back. At the port was a buffet dinner of Malay dishes.

After dinner, we boarded the boats again for a quick river cruise to experience an early Christmas as the guides would call it. This time, we were out to appreciate the fireflies as they lit up the trees in the night sky. After showing us one tree with thousands of fireflies, we proceeded back to the port to board our vehicles back to Kota Kinabalu.

If I had another day, I would have wanted to see the orangutan and other wildlife, and rafflesias in full bloom. Hopefully that happens really soon!

How to get to the Klias River
The Klias River is about 100 kilometers southwest of Kota Kinabalu, in Beaufort District. It takes two hours to get from Kota Kinabalu to Kota Klias. You will have to book a tour or rent a car to get there. Tours cost between RM180 to RM200 per person. And that includes transfers, the river cruise, snacks and dinner.

Since the Proboscis Monkeys keep their distance, don't forget to bring a pair of binoculars. And since it's a swamp area, insect repellent will prove to be handy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Malaysia: Island hopping at Kota Kinabalu's Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park (Manukan & Sapi Island)

The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park is a protected area off the coast of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. It's composed of coral reefs and five islands namely Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, Mamutik and Sulug. One of the more popular recreation activities in Kota Kinabalu for both locals and foreign visitors are visits to the various islands of the park to swim, snorkel or dive.

I had previously been to Manukan Island, the most popular with local residents, being the most developed of the five. For this trip, I was returning to Manukan and visiting Sapi Island as well.

Boats to the islands leave from the Kota Kinabalu Ferry Terminal in Jesselton Point. There are no slow pump boats here, only speed boats. So expect to be at the islands in 15 to 20 minutes. There are several boat companies which ferry passengers to the islands and between islands. It costs RM23 (RM25 for Sulug Island) for a round-trip ticket to one island and an extra RM10 per additional island. You basically fix your itinerary for the day (time you will transfer from one island to another) while at the ferry terminal. There is an entrance fee of RM10 per island for foreigners and RM3 for Malaysians.

Our first stop for the day was Sapi Island. It has one of the nicest beaches of the park. And it's a popular snorkeling and diving area for tourists. In fact, I did my own snorkeling off the island. What I like about the park is that even close to the shore, you will already see a lot of fish swimming around you.

We stayed in Sapi Island for about three hours before moving to Manukan Island. Since it had the resort facilities and a restaurant, this was where we were going to have lunch. It was a grilled meat and barbecue buffet at the restaurant which costs RM95 per head. Unfortunately we arrived a bit late and some of the grilled meats were not fresh anymore. It's best to arrive there by 11:30 a.m. when the buffet opens.

But if that's too much for your budget, Manukan Island also has a canteen which serves affordable meals. The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around the beach of Manukan Island. The island also has hiking trails through its dense vegetation. If snorkeling bores you, then try the Scuba-Doo which is a motorized scuba bike.

If two islands are not enough for you, you can also visit Mamutik Island on the way back. We were in Kota Kinabalu by mid-afternoon.

Back at the hotel, I took a nap and rested, a perfect way to end a very sunny day at the beach in an otherwise rainy season. Maybe next time, I could stay overnight in Manukan Island.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Malaysia: Hello again from Kota Kinabalu!

Hello again from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia! I found myself back in the city where Ivan About Town was born. I wrote my first blog entry in Trekkers Lodge, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia on April 19, 2005. Sabah then was such an exotic destination to me. It still is now as I discover new places outside Kota Kinabalu.

The Sabah Tourism Board had graciously arranged my itinerary for this trip. From Terminal 2, I was brought to the Novotel Kota Kinabalu 1Borneo which would be my home for the next three days. It's several kilometers from the city center but is integrated with the 1Borneo Hypermall together with several other hotels. 1Borneo has a free shuttle service between the complex and major points of interest in the city every 30 minutes.

The rooms are very chic and modern with really comfortable beds. And there's free LAN Internet access in the rooms which is obviously very important to me. Breakfast was a feast. And I enjoyed in particular the roti canai and other local dishes that is included in the international breakfast buffet they serve every morning. I was guilty of a food binge almost everyday.

During this visit, I got to return to Manukan Island and visit another island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park called Sapi Island. I also got to visit the Klias River in search of Borneo's Proboscis Monkey. I'll talk about that in my next posts.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Brunei & Malaysia: It's home for me tomorrow

I'm back in Kota Kinabalu. The trip was shorter this time. I left Brunei at 1:00 p.m. and got here in KK at about 6:15 p.m. Lesser waiting time and this time, we used the highway going to Muara.

Last night, together with other BPYs including my SG-mates Zam and Sharin, I tried Brunei's favorite dish, ambuyat, a sago-based paste that you dip in pungent sauces. It's sad Siti Raisa wasn't able to join us since she left for Mecca today. Quite a funny dish but not bad. It's like eating sticky gawgaw paste and dipping it in curry, chili or durian sauce. You twirl the paste in between bamboo sticks, dip and eat.

After dinner, we chilled out in Wandi and Yati's apartment. Then went for some roti john... beef, eggs, green onions, chili sauce and mayo cooked into a bun.

This morning, Wandi and Yati brought me to Muara for my ferry to Labuan. It took about an hour and thirty minutes. Got there in time for the 3:00 p.m. ferry to KK.

This time I'm staying at the Hotel Malar Kinabalu for my last night. I wanted a room for my own so that I could fix my stuff for the plane tomorrow. I had Indian food again for dinner, this time lamb murtabak and roti telur. In the middle of my murtabak, the cook told me the Malay name, muratbak kambing, which made me quite uncomfortable eating the rest of it. But it's sheep, not goat. The whole meal cost me only RM8 which is about P120. Expect to spend approximately RM10 for every meal if you plan to backpack here in Malaysia. That meal was quite filling.

I'm off to the hotel now to rest. I'll do some last minute shopping early tomorrow at the Sunday market which I've been waiting for all week, before I go to the airport for my 2 p.m. flight back to Clark.

See everyone soon!

Part 1: Hello from Kota Kinabalu!
Part 2: Ferry from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei
Part 3: I saw the Sultan of Brunei!
Part 4: Kampong Ayer, water villages from Brunei's past
Part 5: Still in Negara Brunei Darussalam

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Brunei: Ferry from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei

I arrived in Brunei today on a ferry from Labuan Island. I left Kota Kinabalu at 8 a.m. and reached in Labuan at 11 a.m. I went through Malaysian Immigration, boarded the next ferry and left Labuan at 12:30 p.m. and finally arrived in Muara at about 2:00. I took a bus from Muara to Bandar Seri Begawan (about B$2) at the ferry terminal which was about 45 minutes. Cabs are very expensive so try to avoid them if you're alone.

Hungry and thirsty after traveling for 7 hours, I ate at the first food joint which I saw and it was Pizza Hut. How ordinary you would think but their menu is totally different from ours since most of our pizzas in Manila have pork and Brunei is a conservative Muslim country (no alcohol, no discos and pubs, etc.). I took the roasted garlic chicken pizza, really good! They should bring those pizzas to Manila.

After a few minutes, my friend Rewandi (an ex-PY from SSEAYP 2002) passed by for me. And in my rush to the car, I left my camera on the table! I found out only at Wandi and Yati's apartment and Wandi assured me that it was totally safe in Brunei. Yup, I was able to get my camera back. As Wandi told me, when you leave stuff on the table, more often than not, it's still there when you come back for it. I was surprised people just left their cars running when they went down to get stuff. And these aren't just ordinary cars mind you. People in Brunei are known to sport the latest car models.

We then left to pick up his wife Yati at work (also an ex-PY 2002) and proceeded to Yayasan Complex, the most popular shopping area of Brunei. Beside it is the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, a royal Islamic most considered one of the most spectacular in the Asia-Pacific Region.

After chatting with Wandi and Yati, I discovered more than the well known fact that Bruneians don't pay taxes. Education is free and the government gives you an allowance to study. Health services and medication are free as well and the government would even send you abroad if you need specialized treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, etc.) and it's all paid for by the government! If you are a government employee, you can get a 0% interest housing loan (in the Philippines, you get charged a high interest rate which is where our corrupt GOCC officials get their benefits). The list just goes on and on! Sigh!

I thought everything was more expensive here in Brunei. But I found something which was much cheaper here than in the Philippines... gas! Yes people, gas here is still P15 per liter, the perks of an oil-producing state. I hope our government officials stop that self-interest thing and get Malampaya working to its capacity!

And to think all this only started to peak when Brunei became independent in the early eighties. I saw the Sultan's first palace and it was nothing but a wooden house which would have been a sorry sight if put beside our own bahay na bato. But look at the current palace, splendid, sprawling and elegant!

For dinner we had sate and wet fried noodles. I missed satay so much especially that peanut sauce which accompanies it.

Part 1: Hello from Kota Kinabalu!
Part 3: I saw the Sultan of Brunei!
Part 4: Kampong Ayer, water villages from Brunei's past
Part 5: Still in Negara Brunei Darussalam
Part 6: It's home for me tomorrow

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Malaysia: Hello from Kota Kinabalu!

What a way to start my blog, writing about my journeys in some really exotic place!

Yup, I took advantage of those AirAsia trips and it's a real bargain. I'm here in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia right now which is the capital of Sabah. I took a ferry to Manukan Island yesterday which is part of the Tungku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Malaysia's premiere marine sanctuary.

It's a 15 minute speed boat ride from the ferry terminal. As soon as you left the terminal, you already saw corals below and right at the port of Manukan, you had schools of fish greeting you. At the beach, you swam with fish as well! Great beach! And a really great experience!

I went back to Trekker's Lodge (which is a bed and breakfast place) where I was staying, my way of living the backpacker culture for the next few days. For dinner, I had nasi lemak (chicken with coconut milk, pandan rice and sambal sauce) and kiwi lou (just as I did the previous night) at a seaside cafe and enjoyed a really great view of the Sabah sunset.

I'm off to Brunei today. I will take a ferry to Labuan Island, then take another ferry to Muara in Brunei.

Great to hear we have a new Pope! Viva il Papa! Anyway, have to rush! See you!

Part 2: Ferry from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei
Part 3: I saw the Sultan of Brunei!
Part 4: Kampong Ayer, water villages from Brunei's past
Part 5: Still in Negara Brunei Darussalam
Part 6: It's home for me tomorrow
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