Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Around Mt. Kinabalu

Day 2 in KK, and we rented a minivan (an FX) for me to drive all the way to Mount Kinabalu. The drive took 2 hours, as the vehicle I was driving wasn't fast enough (if you're travelling with a group of 4 or more, consider driving when exploring, it turns out to be cheaper, and more flexible). We stopped over a restaurant called Strawberry Lodge, and had curry for lunch. We then zoomed off to our accommodations in the highlands, the Kinabalu Pine Resort.

It turned out that the lodge wasn't far behind our lunch venue. It was situated in the town of Kudasang, just 10 mins. drive after the Kinabalu Park. It had spectacular views of Mount Kinabalu, and the surroundings. Better take a room that's got one. The best thing about this place is its rate. We got three rooms for one night for RM180 each, all with breakfast and dinner. That's around P1,500 per person for the entire time. Great deal.

After checking in at the lodge, we headed off straight to Poring Hot Springs, which is 45 minutes away. There, we hoped to just laze around in one of the springs and pass the afternoon by. But we were in for a surprise.

It turned out that Poring Hot Springs had several other attractions. It had a canopy walk that had five bridges, which was quite long. We hiked up around 1 km to the top where the canopy broke to reveal the bridges. Each one of us crossed, till we reached the end, clicking away to the wonderful forest views. It was safe, though some of our colleagues had a difficult time crossing because of fear of heights.

As we walked down the trail, we passed by streams, huge and ancient trees and muddy pathways. It was a jungle hike, that would probably compare to the one we should have took on the way up to Mount Kinabalu (more on why we didn't climb later).

After exiting the trail to the canopy walk, we were met with a sign that led to a waterfall. It was already 5PM, and the park closes at sundown, 6PM. Wanting to make most of our time, we headed for the waterfall which was just 500 meters away. We reached the waterfalls after a 10 minute hike up and down slippery pathways. We were greeted by a small yet cozy waterfall, with fresh mountain spring water flowing through several rock passages. We made a quick dip into the water and headed back to the springs area at 6PM, just as the sun started to set.

It was a good thing that the pool of springs closed at a much later time, 730PM. The hot springs were set up like a huge public bathing area, Japanese style. Some pools fit more than 6 people, while some were built for just one person to submerge into. The smell of sulfur was strong, and the water was extremely hot, but it was so inviting after hiking unexpectedly in the jungle. After the first dip, you could just laze in the water forever.

We headed back to Kinabalu Pine Resort at night, with the road completely covered in fog. It was a bit scary, since the roads were winding. We reach the lodge safely at 8PM, had a free-of-charge festive Chinese dinner and hung out in one of the patios in front of our rooms. It wasn't too cold, just around 12 degrees, while we drank beers and gin coke till 1AM.

We woke up the next day refreshed. The breakfast included in the package was a choice of continental or asian fare. The servings were enough to keep us alive the entire morning. We planned to go back to KK after lunch, just in time to catch the sunset in Tanjung Aru. So, after taking a lot of pictures in the resort of Kinabalu, we started going down the mountain at 12:30PM.

Oh, and the reason why we didn't climb Kinabalu was because of 2 reasons. One, it was just too expensive (around RM900 per person was way over). Two, I believed not all of us could hike up (be fit enough). So with this, I decided to still head for the mountains, but just to relish the views. So here we are at the Kinabalu Pine Resort, one of the best accommodations in the area. And visit the Poring Hot Springs. It can give you a taste already of the jungle. By the way, we didn't visit the Kinabalu National Park itself, because we thought it was just going to look the same. So, we skipped it already on our way back to KK.

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