Long before Islam and Christianity became the two most influential religions in Sabah, the state occupying the North Malaysian Borneo, doctrines then preached that when a person is deceased, his or her spirit will rise to the peak of Mount Kinabalu. At 4,095 meters above sea level, Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Sabah and in Malaysia.
I began my Sabah adventure on Saturday, May 13th, after two anxious days of waiting not knowing if I would ever be able to take the tour of the Kinabalu Park & Poring Hot Spring. The particular tour that many local travel agents promote were floated for a minimum of two persons or more, many of them didn’t have a rate for a single person; even if they had a rate for a single person, it was very expensive. One particular travel agent that I made contact on Facebook, the Amazing Borneo Tours struggled and got me an opening during last minute for a special rate.
I was picked up from my hotel at 8.45am, Richard, a representative from the Amazing Borneo Tours escorted me to a large bus parked a few blocks away from the hotel. We drove off to collect a few more people who were joining the tour, soon when we had everyone picked, Richard introduced himself as our guide for the tour and gave us some insights of Kota Kinabalu, some of the surrounding places and attractions, he frequently cracked jokes and made everyone laugh. We watched scenic landscapes, paddy fields laced with dense tropical greenery and finally arrived at the town of Tamparuli.
All of us got off the bus and followed Richard to cross the bridge. It was a shaky experience, some tourists were thrilled by the “swing and sway” nature of crossing it. I made several stops over the bridge taking photos of the surrounding landscape from different angels and positions. Richard waited along with the first few ones that crossed the bridge until the rest reached the end safely.
Next, we proceeded to a market managed by the local trade community that sold a huge range of organic produce including fruits, vegetables, snacks and delicacies, fresh fish, sweets and spices. I bought 3 sugar doughnuts for RM6.00 sold at a stall managed by two young children.
We spent about half an hour at Tamparuli market and proceeded to our next stop at the Pekan Nabalu Handicraft Market. It too had a rich variety of local products, souvenirs and fresh cut fruits, vegetables, snacks and handicrafts.
There was also an observation point to view Mt.Kinabalu and its breathtaking scenery, it was much more than scenery. I captured some shots of the stunning panoramic views, it was catching the clouds and shading the valleys. I think it’s important that one has to give full attention to understand how special Mt.Kinabalu is, the states’ biggest tourist attraction, truly it is. Depending on the weather, a clear view of the mountain is said to be visible between 9am and 11am, and then gets thoroughly wreathed in fog.
After a short break for snacks and viewing Mt.Kinabalu, we continued our journey to Kinabalu National Park, home to 4,500 species of plants which include 1,500 species of orchids, 77 of which are endemic to Kinabalu.
Surrounding the Kinabalu Park is a diverse spectrum of natural attractions and adventures such as mountain biking, golf, birding, farm tours, canopy walk and nature photography. A wide range of accommodation options are also available inside the park and in the surrounding vicinity. During our visit, the weather was nice and the humidity was pleasant. We followed Richard to the Kinabalu Botanical Garden, he was very informative and frequently shared interesting facts. From carnivorous Pitcher Plants to rare Orchid species, the garden showcased a broad collection of endemic plant species found in Mount Kinabalu’s unique climatic zones. We also got to see the smallest orchid in the world and the most expensive orchid in the world.
All of us were very exhausted and hungry, our next activity was a scrumptious buffet lunch at the Balsam Buffet Restaurant, it was located within the compound of the park and served indoor and outdoor area tables; the dishes maintained a balance in western and local cuisine.
Richard gave us 30 minutes to have lunch and as soon as we were done filling our tummies, we headed for the highlight of the tour, the canopy walk. A 20-minute hike took us to the starting point, it was built on treetops, a 175-meter walkway suspended 60 meters above lush jungle tangles. In a matter of minutes, we watched a bird’s eye view of the splendor of a hundred million year old rain forest, the sights and sounds were soothing. A maximum of six people were allowed on each platform at a time, this was to maintain balance for safety reasons.
Our last visit during the tour was the Poring Hot Spring resort, not far from the Kinabalu National Park, popular for its Poring Hot Springs. These springs are ideal for a soothing sulphur bath which are said to have healing and therapeutic properties in the Japanese-styled open air tubs. The resort was quite crowded since it was the weekend, there were lots of tourists and locals with their families enjoying a healthy bath at various types of pools.
I am not a fan of swimming pools and didn’t bother getting in to any of the poring spring pools, instead spent my time taking photos around and speaking to Richard. We spent an hour and got on the bus to return to Kota Kinabalu city which was an hour’s drive, we were all dropped back to our hotels one at a time. I had an amazing long day at the Kinabalu National Park and the Poring Hot Spring, I was tired, sleepy and didn’t really do anything the following evening other than having a good sleep to wake the next morning to catch a ferry to Brunei.
Notes: Special thanks to Carol and Richard from the Amazing Borneo.