You think hiking Mt. Kinabalu, Malaysia, is going to be hard? Try ironing out all the logistic issues to make the trip happen, that’s hard!
To get there from the city of Kota Kinabalu, you need to take either a ride from a dodgy taxi that can charge up to RM80 for a one way trip, or share a shoulder-rubbing joyride with 5 other hippies on a mini-van for RM15 per person. Both options are available at the main Kota Kinabalu bus station. Prices may vary, depending on your bargaining skills and/or how affluent you look
The hike takes 2 days to complete (although some mad men race through this very same route within 3 to 4 hours during an annual race). As such, you would need to book a bunk bed at this creek house called Laban Rata to stay for the night, before continuing your climb to the summit in groping darkness to watch the magnificent sunrise. As there is currently a monopoly on accommodation options up there, you will have to pay close to USD100/person for a snooze-hole. The other alternative is…well, there’s no other alternative – if you don’t secure that reservation, the park rangers will not let you make the ascent. It is recommended to make that bunk bed reservations 3 -4 months in advance. Do note that the pictures on their webpage looks nicer than they are in reality. Considered yourself warned.
Other essentials include:
- Waterproof gear (it rains a lot, and you walk through clouds at times)
- Balaclava / Headgear (it gets frigid and windy at the summit. Below zero degrees Celcius with wind chill)
- Head-light (for the night climb. You’ll need free hands and hand torches are not encouraged)
- Gloves (important! there are areas you need to use ropes to climb up)
- Camera (Protect it with water)
- Water Chocolate / Bananas (to feed yourself)
- Good shoes and extra dry socks
- Lots of cash
Why lots of cash, you ask? You’ll need to pay for entrance fee to the Kinabalu World Heritage Park, a guide to bring you up the mountain (this is compulsory), insurance, climbing permit, transport from base camp to the main trail, two-way return transport from Kota Kinabalu to base camp of Mt. Kinabalu. I grow weary even by listing the things I had to pay. Again, trust money-sucking Laban Rata to come up with a nice list of things-to-pay-up here. For the record, I’d paid USD250 for all these things back in March 2009.
Despite all the unpleasant preparation work that needs to be done, and cost, I would do it again. The hike itself is too enjoyable to miss. I particularly love the landscape near the summit where you need to use ropes to pull yourself up. Hiking in the wee hours under a sky full of stars and pulling yourself above the clouds to an unforgettable sunrise is something that’s hard to forget.
If anything, you know you would want to do it now. Besides, who knows when prices are going to increase further?
I’m a big fan of mountains but Mount. Kinabalu in Borneo, Malaysia, hasn’t really caught my eye until I stumbled across an old brochure in a drawer. That’s how it all began and I recently made a trip down to the grand mountain earlier this year.
But to get there, you got to fly into Kota Kinabalu first. That’s the nearest city, 90min away from the foot of Mt. Kinabalu (or known locally as Gunung Kinabalu in Bahasa Malaysia). Here’s how you can get to the city on the cheap from Singapore (somewhat the aviation center for region):
1) Air Asia
You can fly in from Singapore for as low as SGD40 one way. You can also fly in from Kuala Lumpur for about the same price. Flights are daily, or almost daily so it shouldn’t be an issue there. The flight timings are pretty good.
2135 – 2350 (Singapore – Kota Kinabalu)
1840 – 2055 (Kota Kinabalu – Singapore)
You can also fly in from Singapore via Jetstar. Prices are usually compatible with Air Asia. I’m not loving the 7am morning flight though. As a nocturnal creature, I’m always grumpy if I have to wake up before 7am.
0740 – 0955 (Singapore – Kota Kinabalu)
1335- 1555 (Kota Kinabalu – Singapore)
At the time of writing, the route map on Tiger Airways’ website shows that it flies from (*surprise!*), Singapore to Kota Kinabalu. But, I wasn’t able to retrieve any flights or timings to Kota Kinabalu beyond Oct 09. The flight may have been suspended. I guess not many people are choosing to fly with them. I wouldn’t go with Tiger Airways if I have a choice either. Here’s why.
a) From my experiences with them, their flights are often the most costly among the three competitors.
b) If that’s not enough to put you off, the Tiger flights are always delayed. For the record, out of my 4 flights with them, 3 were delayed close to an hour. That’s a whooping 75%, folks.
c) They fly out from the cheap and nasty Budget Terminal in Singapore. Air Asia and Jetstar flies you out, in class, from Changi Airport Terminal 1.
The Tiger Airways flight might resume but I won’t take the bait. Will you?
How to get to Mt Kinabalu from Kota Kinabalu and what you need to do/bring, next.
In case you are wondering about the info-posts about Japan, they would still continue but I’ve decided to put it up in piece-meal. I’m more eager about the recent experience gallivanting around the world.
I am caught up by lots of work lately and I haven’t been able to write something proper here. Spare time don’t come easy and I can’t really justify stealing some time to release the pent up travel writing urge… which, I’m going to do now anyway.
Here are some of my favourites things in Osaka:
This castle has been burnt down in the past but was rebuilt as a philanthropic project to preserve ancient Osaka culture. Frankly, I’m more tickled to find a very modern lift inside such an “old” structure. The presence of modern technology in an ancient castle seems awkward at first but provides interesting contrasts.
2. Floating Garden Observatory
You will love the feeling of using the escalator that brings you to the top of the outdoor observatory deck. The escalator travels outside the main building 170m above ground before bringing you to the top of Osaka. Come here in the evening. You’ll get to catch a splendid sunset and admire the sublime beauty of Osaka once darkness kicks in.
Yummy Food! Glaring Neon! Great (and weird) looking crowd! Quirky buildings! The madness stretches along the waterfront, bringing endless fun to everyone. It’s like a funfair that never ends. How much more exciting can it get?
4. Shintennoji Temple
Even if you are not a religious person, you would cherish this tranquil corner of Osaka after many days of sensory overload exploring other parts of Osaka.
##Everything has been summarized in the Google map above and their locations. Of course there are much more to do in Osaka than my shoddy summary here. I would need 2 months to cover everything within this post. Or make a website. Or both. Hmmm…
In Osaka, you absolutely have to try the street food. Okonomiyaki was invented here. Takopochi’s invented here too.
Heck, even these beautiful plastic replica food might had been invented here also.
And if you are feeling old-school about your Japanese cuisine, you’ve got a great deal of them too. Here are two of my favorites when I was there.
My landlady in Japan was right. Once I left for other Japanese cities, I could not find food that tastes as yummy as the ones I’d found in Osaka. Osaka is definitely Japan’s kitchen.
Japan. The mystical land of tradition to some. The land that houses the most modern civilisation to others. For me, I enjoy being in Japan and do all kind of weird things.I can be an otaku and head out for the manga/game shops. I can be a glutton and go on a gourmet tour and sample the fine Japanese cuisine. I can also play to my nature-side and swoon at how beautiful the rural areas of Japan are. The list goes on.
The most obvious method to get there is to fly into one of the 2 major international airport (Kansai @ Osaka / Narita @ Tokyo). Airfares depend on where you are flying from/on. But, if you happen to be on a world tour of sorts, try this – get into Japan via a ferry/cruise ship from Korea. It’s cheap, and fun! Two ways to go about it :
1) Take a hydrofoil(!) from Busan and land in Fukuoka. Go with JR Kyushu on this one. Haven’t tried it but since this one is operated by the national rail company of Japan, it shouldn’t be too shabby. (The homepage shows one of its ship about to topple over though)
2) Take an overnight cruise ship from Busan to Osaka. Go with Panstar. (The site’s all in Korean but click around to see if this, well, floats your ship) Then call/email the office and get someone who speaks English to help. I had done this before and it works. If you are lucky, you get to travel with a huge crowd of teenager girls too. A mate and I got a 4-person cabin all to ourselves. And with all Asian establishments, there is a TV inside.
Cost: ~USD100 one way
Duration: 16 hours (overnight)