Friday, October 06, 2006

Malaysia: Kota Kinabalu

PROLOGUE: I'm still not feeling well (emotionally, that is). But I'm trying my best to push away evil thoughts lurking in my head (like doing some witchcraft spells on my boss). So I'm thinking of sharing with you some of my HAPPY travel moments. Hope you like this entry. And besides, I originally did put up this blog for posting our escapades. Here's another one. Enjoy!

We all know that the Philippines, our very own, is a beautiful country. But it wouldn't hurt to explore other exotic country like ours, right? I've featured Singapore some time ago. Yes, it is more on the progressive side, being a first world country in Asia, but beautiful nonetheless (and more importantly, CLEAN). And now, I'd like to share with you another piece of land we've visited --- Sabah, Malaysia. This is a place more or less like the Philippines... a place filled with nature's bounty and beauty.

arrival at Sapi island

Back in high school, there was a debate whether Sabah must be part of the Philippines or Malaysia. Apparently, Malaysia won and it's no wonder why our country was trying to make it part of our archipelago too. The moment we landed at Kota Kinabalu airport, we didn't feel any different. Apart from the Caucasians/Europeans lurking everywhere, Malaysians could easily be mistaken for Filipinos. They look like us, the sound of their language is Tagalog-like and the city itself feels very homey, as if I was just taking a stroll in old Manila. They even have a bay area very similar to our Roxas Boulevard. And the countryside felt like we were on our way to Ilocos, Bukidnon or Sorsogon.

arrival at the Kota Kinabalu airport

checking-in at the hostel

On our first night there, we sampled a few of their local restaurants and bar scenes and the only thing missing were people partying. It was a good Friday and most of the locals were also out of town. So we didn't stay very late and headed to our hostel --Borneo Global Backpackers-- a youth hostel which is a melting pot of all cultures! We made friends with travelers like us from all over the world! It's so awesome!

sampling their local cuisine along the famous api-api rd.

making friends with other travelers

The place is very affordable (56RM/night), clean, everything you need is there, and the people are so friendly. The owner of the place, Charles, has been so generous and kind. It's like having a 2nd funky dad! Anyway, One of the few times we did feel we were really in Malaysia was when we boarded this creaky old train the next day on the way to Padas river in Beaufort for our white water rafting adventure. Man! The awful smell of people around was enough to make me appreciate our LRTs and MRTs more. But then again, making friends to foreigners and Chinoys was priceless, plus, I couldn't believe I finished the whole activity alive!!!!

Padas River

gearing up for the wild river ride


train ride back with newfound friends

There were several river points (Head Hunter, Cobra, Scoobi Doobie Doo, Lambada, Barbeque) where the water was really rough and wild but I braved them all! Peter fell off the raft half of the way but it was so much fun!!! We'll do it again here at Chico River. It is shorter and less wild than Padas River so it wouldn't be a problem at all (I think!).

view of the Mt. Kinabalu from afar

cold springs braving d canopy walk

the sulfuric hot bath

with our new Japanese friend Hiromi

The next day, we also visited Poring hotsprings where we took a sulfuric bath that is believed to heal skin diseases. On the way there, we passed by the massive view of Mount Kinabalu (the tallest peak in Southeast Asia) then headed to Kinabalu Park where we visited their butterfly garden, climbed the Timpohon Gate which is the starting point when climbing Mt Kinabalu (which we plan to do next year hopefully) and did the Canopy Walk 150+ meters above the ground. Whew!

photo ops at the beach

getting ready to fly high

up, up and away!!!

Then island hopping and parasailing on our 4th day came next! We visited 3 islands - Sapi, Mamutik and Manukan (the largest and most developed).White sand and clear, turquoise water. It was heaven! There were so many HUGE fishes of different kinds. So different from our small fishes here.

trying to catch some fish while snorkeling

On our last day, we did some last minute shopping and in the evening, Charles toured us to the nearby towns and sampled some local cuisines.

by the baywalk

shopping for pasalubong

exploring the city at night

top view of the city at night

Overall, Sabah is a Pinoy-filled (mostly from Zamboanga) laid back town. It would be nice to go back there soon.

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