Le Meridien Hotel in Kota Kinabalu

I saw some pictures of Kota Kinabalu’s summit online, and fell in love with the cold, granite surface of the mountain. It looked beautiful! So on Sept. 2009, V, M, C and I took advantage of Cebu Pacific’s promotional fare and flew to KK to climb Mt. Kinabalu, the 20th tallest mountain in the world.

Our first night in KK was spent in comfort: Le Meridien Hotel in central KK. We wanted to be well rested for our climb up the mountain, and decided to splurge on pampered surroundings (pampered compared to where we were going to sleep the next night: in the resthouse in the mountain!).

I have to say there was nothing really different about this Le Meridien. It looked like a typical 4 star hotel. We met our guide, Joel Gabutan, in the lobby.

It also had the standard breakfast buffet, and well-turned out rooms.

For dinner that night, we asked to try some local fare. Joel brought us to the boardwalk, where there were open-air restaurants. I felt that it catered to tourists, as most of the restaurants had huge picture menus with English text.

It was very easy for tourists to decide what food they wanted, since the pictures were very descriptive.

We ordered laksa…..

black pepper crabs…..

and nasi lemak, which was fried rice wrapped in scrambled egg. Need to carbo load for tomorrow’s climb!

A Day of Sightseeing in Canberra

Nathan was going to go around Canberra to shoot some local scenery, so I took advantage of the unofficial hop-on-hop-off van. Its was a serendipitous way to see the city!

Nathan and I were accompanied by Mark, who acted as our guide. We first went to the Australian War Museum (I told you it was THE thing to see in Canberra!). After a few quick shots of the Commemorative Courtyard, we sped off to the next site, the Limestone Plains. Here, I saw a map that showed the planned layout of Canberra. Canberra was a designed city from the beginning, and the architect envisioned the whole city laid out in geometric simplicity.

Here we had a beautiful panoramic view of Canberra, which was a nice way to see the city. I saw that Canberra was mostly flat. The usual skyscrapers were noticeably absent.

Mark said that there were also several trails starting from this point. If I had more time, I would have gone on a little trek, as the day was just gorgeous for walking.

Mark said that Canberra is a totally man-made place. Even the lake is artificial. The Aussies chose Canberra as their national capital (as per Mark) because at that time, Sydney and Melbourne were both lobbying for this honor. In order to show no favoritism, Canberra was chosen.

Our next stop was Lake Burley Griffin (the artificial lake I mentioned), to see the Captain James Cook Memorial Water Jet. Lake Griffin is in the center of Canberra, and is surrounded by important landmarks, such as Parliament, the National Museum, and the National Library. It is named after the American architect that won the honor of designing Canberra back in 1912.

The lake even had graceful black swans on it, and they were quite fearless in front of people.

The James Cook Memorial Jet is a show stopper. This powerful man-made geyser blasts water sometimes to the height of 150 meters. Its very impressive, particularly because the lake is so serene and calm, and then all of a sudden you hear this tremendous “whooooosh!”, and a small “explosion”.

Tourists should know that it is only on during certain hours of the day (one website says 10am-12noon, and 2-4pm), so make sure you schedule your day around it. It looked especially gorgeous with clear, blue skies.

After the lake, we set off for Parliament. Don’t be deceived by its seemingly low rise appearance: there are several floors underneath the ground. If you look carefully, you’ll also notice that the top of the building is actually grass, and I was told that people walk on top and actually picnic sometimes. Mark told me that the reason why people are encouraged to stroll on top of Parliament is so that Parliament will never forget that they are “under” the people…literally and figuratively.

Next stop (for me…Nathan had to go back to official business) was the Manuka mall. It was nice to see what downtown Canberra looked like, after all the tourist spots. Manuka looked like an upscale neighborhood mall, with a large grocery and nice dining spots. They even had a small artisan bakery/cheese place which was a welcome stop for coffee. This was around 4pm, and there were hardly any people around.

I decided to end the day with a stroll along Lake Griffin, since our hotel was right at its side. Lake Griffin had a nice asphalt lane that seemed built for walking/jogging.

It was dusk already. The temperature was dropping, the wind was picking up, and the sun was setting, so it wasn’t a very long stoll. Just long enough to snap some pics.

Sunset at Lake Griffin