Last Day In Kota Kinabalu

Rested, refreshed, and rejuvenated after a great night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we set out to explore the rest of Kota Kinabalu before flying back to Manila.

Joel took us to the little market for some souvenirs. Native goods such as woven bags, carvings, and of course, Tshirts were available for cheap prices. Bargaining is encouraged!

We also saw trinkets and costume jewelry.

Speaking of jewelry, Joel took us to a nearby store where there was some serious jewelry for sale. South Sea pearls, in all colors! The girls looked around avidly (didn’t buy anything though!) while the guys patiently sat in the middle of the store.

Next stop: clothes! Colorful and light summery dresses and shirts.

All this shopping of course made us hungry, and we have a quick lunch at a nearby local restaurant.

Stopping by a mosque before reaching the airport.

Kota Kinabalu is a pretty small island, so getting around took no time at all. It was handy to have Joel and his van, so that we knew exactly where to go, but I don’t think it’ll be too hard to get around on your own. Of course the highlight of our trip was our climb, but am sure the resorts like the Shangri-La would be worth a visit next time we come over.

Day 2 Climbing Kota Kinabalu: Going To The Top!

We woke up at 1:30AM to get ready to start off at 2AM. None of us slept very well. We were all to excited and it was strangely difficult to sleep in high altitude. Laban Rata had very decent and clean beds and baths, so it wasn’t as if it was uncomfortable. But it didn’t take long for adrenaline (and coffee) to kick in, and we were all ready and energized to climb.

The weather was quite cold, and we were warned that the temperature would further drop the higher we got.

The first part of the trek was more like what we went through getting to Laban Rata: foliage, mud, some stairs. It felt quite surreal trekking in the dead of night, with only our headlamp as illumination.

Eventually the landscape changed to bare rock, as we crossed the tree line. We also reached a point where we needed ropes to scale the side of the mountain. The air was also quite thin, and we would be out of breath every 10 steps. It was quite difficult.

I remember thinking at this point, “What the hell am I doing at 3am scaling a steep side of a mountain, possibly putting my husband and myself in danger?!?!”.

When the sun rose, we finally had enough light to appreciate the stark beauty of Mt. Kinabalu.

We could also see the clouds below….waaay below!! It was a heady feeling (also maybe because again, the air was so thin!).

Vincent and Maget reached the top and took out their Philippine Flag!

We actually couldn’t stay very long (nor did we want to, as we were really so cold and tired!), so we took our pictures and prepared to descend.

Going down was much easier, and since there was light already, we could take more pictures.

We went down the same way: via ropes. But this time, we could see how high we were.

Coco actually is hyping his fear here. As you can see, Joel is smiling below.

Finally reached foliage again! That meant we were near Laban Rata, and near…..BREAKFAST!!

Back in Laban Rata, we hunker down for a huge carbo-loaded breakfast, before setting off to descend back down to the base of Mt. Kinabalu.

We also regroup with the other climbers, and hear their war stories.

The trek back down was again much easier than going up, but we could all feel the stress on our knees. We were also very lucky with the weather, since it only rained the last 10 minutes of our trek.

We reach the same gate we began (deciding NOT to go to the alternative route, and just go the same way, and back to the same hotel). We were wet (heavy rainshower the last 10 minutes), hungry, and tired, and were so happy to see a store selling hot, noodle soup at the gate! Perfect!

Our group picture ending our trek. You can see the happy faces…..happy at the thought of going back to the Meridien for a hot bath and a soft bed.

Day 1 Climbing Kota Kinabalu: On The Way To Laban Rata

This map shows the trail up to the summit, passing through Laban Rata, our stop for the night. It doesn’t look daunting, given that its only 6km. However, it doesn’t show the challenges of trekking in high altitudes. We were warned to expect altitude sickness: headaches, shortness of breath, and maybe even nausea.

The trail actually isn’t that hard or rough per se. There were some parts that were actually stairs.

Shelters were also conveniently located approximately every kilometer…….

…..with clean bathrooms, so there was no need to “rough it”.

It didn’t take us long to reach Km. 1. Check out the altitude.

There were also constant reminders to keep the park clean, which was nice to see.

What made the trek difficult was that it was a CONSTANT climb, so that even though it was paved at some parts, pretty soon our legs were feeling the challenge. Add to this the thin air, so what would normally be a pleasant walk had us huffing and puffing.

The weather quickly turned cold as well. You can see us slowly putting on more layers of clothes.

Now it gets REALLY cold.

The last stretch towards Laban Rata becomes very rocky AND steep. We’re really exhausted by this time.

We finally reach 5.5Km. Such a short distance, but the altitude says it all. Luckily, no one experienced nausea. Just headaches, which were banished by painkillers.

Now its just a few more meters to Laban Rata (distance-wise, but again, altitude-wise, a lot higher!), where we arrive just in time for a very early dinner, and to sleep.

We were scheduled to start our trek to the summit at 2am!

Getting Ready To Climb Mt. Kinabalu

We couldn’t have picked a better day to climb Mt. Kinabalu, the 20th tallest mountain in the world. Talk about blue skies and sunny weather! Just gorgeous!

Joel picked us up from Le Meridien (where we all slept so well!) at 6am, so that we could have an early start. It was around 1 hour to Mt. Kinabalu park, where we would start our trek.

Before entering the park, Joel had to secure our climbing permits. The park is quite organized, and all climbers must be registered so that all visitors are accounted for. Joel also hired a porter for us, so that we wouldn’t have to carry our heavy packs but just a light day pack with water, snacks, and our jackets. Michael, our porter, didn’t seem fazed when he saw all our packs, and carried all of them easily! Definitely put us to shame.

You can see Mt. Kinabalu’s peak above the clouds. It looked quite daunting, and I couldn’t believe we had to trek all the way up THERE!

Of course, to document our trek, we take a group picture at the gate of the park.

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!