Category Archives: Malaysia

Hanoi (Day ½: Kuala Lumpur Layover)

Since the ticket we (me and my brother) booked for Kota Kinabalu was only one way, I decided to extend our vacation by travelling to Hanoi after. Of course, we had this planned a few weeks prior to our trip.

Our adventure starts in Kota Kinabalu. Right on the same day that we returned from our summit climb back to the city. While the rest of our group headed elsewhere before their morning flight (back to Manila the next day), me and my brother were stuck at the hotel lobby prepping up for the next leg of our trip. We already checked-out the day before so we had no choice but to fix our belongings in the lobby waiting area. I really wanted to take a bath at this point but the comfort room did not have a shower. The last time I had a proper shower was roughly two days ago – the night before we hiked Mount Kinabalu. Yuck!

It was quite late when we arrived back at the city so I rushed packed, took a half bath (You do not want to know how) and changed into fresh new clothes within 30 minutes before we headed to the airport. It was almost 8PM when we arrived at Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

Upon check-in, we were lucky to be given choice seats for our first flight and exit row seats for the second. Since we booked via AirAsia, we had a connecting flight from Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur followed by a 6-hour layover before heading to Hanoi. I was so tired at this point that I already fell asleep before we even departed.

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As soon as we arrived at KLIA2, I decided to take my brother to the Petronas Towers. It was his first time in Kuala Lumpur while it was already my fourth time to visit this city. I was expecting a quick in-and-out at the towers but our short layover side tour took longer than expected. We did not have much choice but to find a driver at the airport. And yes, I know the rate given to us was inflated.

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Despite our initial hesitation, I am glad that I was able to bring my brother here. I recommend visiting the towers at this time when no one is around.

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Going back to the airport, our driver made a slight mishap and missed the turn back to the airport. Fortunately, we took the next exit and we were able to return in time.

We grabbed some breakfast at Old Town White Coffee located right at the airport entrance. I made him try some teh tarik. Probably my favorite drink in Malaysia! A few minutes later, we were back at the departure gate ready to board our plane to Hanoi.

Hanoi (Day 1: Essence Palace Hotel, Hoa Lo Prison, Sofitel Metropole, Hoan Kiem Lake)

– The Tourist Pao

 

 

Summit to Mount Kinabalu (Day 2: Base Camp to Low’s Peak)

I was supposed to get as much sleep as I can before the morning summit. Unfortunately, I felt the altitude sickness which made it difficult for me to rest. I had no choice but to take some painkillers that night. Just as I am about to fall asleep, it was already our 1:30 am call time. Time for our early breakfast!

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At around 2:30 am, our group gathered outside Laban Rata. There were already a few groups who went ahead before we left.

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The first part of the trek was an incline which is partially made up of wooden steps. The initial assault was a bit tiring because you cannot pace yourself with the long queue ahead. Due to this, our group was separated into two. We skipped a few groups every now and then and waited for the second group to follow. Unfortunately, we could not locate them at some point and decided to go ahead if we wanted to reach the summit before sunrise.

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Upon reaching the checkpoint, your badge will be tagged to check who among the climbers have reached this area. Now is the tricky part of the climb. Coupled by the steepness and the energy exhausted earlier, I found the next part to be daunting at first.

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The trail from the checkpoint to the summit is pretty straightforward. You just follow the thick white rope which will lead you to Low’s Peak. The terrain is made of granodiorite which is the inclined rocky part you see when you search Mount Kinabalu in pictures. For me, this was the more difficult part to climb up. I had to hold on to the rope at times.

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It was very dark and you can barely see the summit which made the trail feel endless. The number of climbers you come across kept dwindling the farther you head up. Most are either at the summit at this point or still below before the checkpoint. Midway through the rocky part, I made occasional stops to take photos of the terrain. I wanted to take some sky shots accompanied by the unearth-like view but I left my tripod at base camp. It made me feel like I was on another planet!

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Out of breath, this was the time I got separated from the first group. I told them to go ahead and I would follow behind at my own pace. My steps became shorter and shorter at this point. I had one last glimpse of the first group as they shouted my name just a few meters ahead.

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Just as I thought I had enough, I made one last push to keep moving forward. I said to myself “This is the reason why I am here and I will not disappoint myself“. Next thing you know, I finally reached Low’s Peak in time! The two others climbers who went ahead from my group even said that I was just 5-10 minutes behind when they reached the summit. I did not expect that I would only be behind by that much. I guess my non-stop small steps with both my hands on the trekking pole worked!

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Reaching the summit is already a feat for me. At 4095.2 MASL (13,436 feet), this is the highest I have been on foot.

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As the sun started to rise, the beauty of Mount Kinabalu is revealed. The view is just awe-inspiring that I will never forget. I can not believe that we actually made it!

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After taking some photos, I rewarded myself with some hot tea. The reason why I bought a thermal mug is for times like these. At around 7:00 am, we were ready to head back to base camp.

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At this point, I stopped taking photos and we reached base camp just before check out time. We grabbed some quick breakfast and headed back to Kinabalu Park Headquarters. It was probably around 2:30 pm when we reached Timpohon Gate.

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We reached the city at around 6 pm and said our goodbyes with the rest of the group. Their flight was scheduled early the next day while me and my brother was just about to start the second leg of our trip. Hanoi!

– The Tourist Pao

Summit to Mount Kinabalu (Day 1: Timpohon Gate to Base Camp)

Today is the day we have all been waiting for. We woke up early in the morning and the bus picked us up from our hotel to head to Kinabalu Park Headquarters. On our way there, we were briefed by the tour operator on the dos and don’ts before falling asleep. I thought to myself: I probably will not be sleeping for the next 36 hours. For this tour, we booked the 2D/1N package with Amazing Borneo.

As we reach the headquarters, we were met by dozens of other climbers from around the world. We were each given our packed lunch as well as the mandatory ID tag which you had to wear at all times. Mine was tagged 007 for this climb. Pretty neat!

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Just before 10:00 am, we were already at the Timpohon Gate. This is it!

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We were 9 in the group including the 2 guides who also acted as our porters.

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Before the hike, we have been advised by our guides not to walk too fast. The walk will be long and the first day is just for reaching the base camp. There is also the danger of getting altitude sickness if our body does not acclimatize well.

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We weren’t used to this kind of pace which is why we were reminded to walk slower after 30 minutes. The hikes we do locally are usually day trips and the mountains range from 500-700 meters only on the average.

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As we passed each stop, you notice the shift in the terrain and vegetation. Likewise, the weather also becomes more unpredictable. We experienced hot and humid weather as well as the cold and some rain showers throughout the hike.

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Before they re-opened the mountain, due to the earthquake last 2015, they already re-routed and fixed the trail routes.

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The rest stops are quite convenient as they have toilets with running water in every stop. As a pre-cautionary measure, it is highly advised not to drink directly from the tap water. I suggest that you bring enough (at least 2 litres) until you reach base camp. Just to be sure, bring purification tablets or iodine solution in case you have to get from the tap.

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As we got closer to the base camp, the weather was getting colder. I layered up as early as our lunch stop. To keep myself energized the whole trek, I brought a good mix of trail food. I had energy shots and sweets, biscuits and some chocolates.

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With the occasional rest stops and photo ops, we did not notice that it was getting quite late already. Some of us reached base camp earlier while the others were 30-45 minutes behind. I was already exhausted and famished at this point when I managed to reach the base camp before 5 pm.

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My first impression about the base camp was “not bad at all!“.  The rooms consist of 4 double deck beds and food was served buffet style. The only other time I had an overnight hiking experience was back in 2015 when we went to Mount Pulag. We camped out in tents for that one.

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After dinner, everyone decided to freshen up and prepare for next morning’s hike. Our call time was at 1:30 am which was only in a few hours. Before retiring, I went outside to do some astrophotography. The cold got the best of me and the area where I placed my tripod setup was not that stable. Oh well! Better luck next time for me. This was officially my second try on site with this type of photography. The first being in Sagada.

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Tomorrow is the big day!

Summit to Mount Kinabalu (Day 2: Base Camp to Low’s Peak)

– The Tourist Pao

Kota Kinabalu (Day 2: City Mosque, Shangri-La’s Sunset Bar, Sin Kee Bah Kut Teh)

The second day marks our last day in the city. Our first stop is the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque (Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu). This is actually my first time to enter a Muslim mosque. I’ve been to one before in Kuala Lumpur but I don’t recall going inside. You must follow a dress code before you enter.

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For lunch, our next stop was October Coffee located at Peak Vista. The place has a very quaint feel to it. You would not think that you are even in Kota Kinabalu. I am not fond of drinking coffee when I am hungry so I only took a sip from my brother’s cup. They offer a wide variety of coffee from you standard espresso to several single origins. We also tried some of their dishes which was just okay. They also have other branches so you may want to check those too.

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In the afternoon, we decided to do another run of Escape which I mentioned already in my Day 1 post. We headed to their newly opened shopping mall called IMAGO. While the others stayed in the mall to purchase some last minute hiking equipment, some of us headed early to Shangri-la Tanjung Aru for the sunset.

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Our friend, who organized this trip, booked us a reservation at the Sunset Bar which is the place to be for the killer sunset view. We were lucky to get a spot that had unobstructed views of the sea and the sun. It was very windy during this time and the humidity from the sea is quite high. My camera actually malfunctioned for a time due to this.

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Witness the sunset…

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However, my favorite part was when the sun cannot be seen anymore. I was able to take some night shots just before the sky turned completely dark.

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From Shangri-la, our last stop was Sin Kee Bah Kut Teh which was just across Fatty Kee’s. Contrary to your typical bat kut teh, the broth was less bitter than what you would normally expect. You will probably like this if you’re not accustomed to the taste of strong bitter herbs.

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After dinner, we headed back to our hotel early since we had an early call time the next day. Tomorrow is the day we have all been waiting for!

Summit to Mount Kinabalu (Day 1: Timpohon Gate to Base Camp)

– The Tourist Pao

Kota Kinabalu (Day 1: Laksa Melaka, Clock Tower, Fatty Kee)

My first trip this year brings me to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. When you hear about Kota Kinabalu, there are two things that come to mind: sunsets and Mount Kinabalu. Truth be told, I had no idea what to expect during our city tour. I only had my mind fixated on reaching the summit of Mount Kinabalu – the highest mountain in Malaysia which I will be posting a separate blog about. Who would have thought that this trip would offer a few surprises on the culinary side of things and more.

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We booked a direct flight via Air Asia from Manila to Kota Kinabalu. Travel time from Manila takes just two hours before arriving in this region of Borneo.

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We checked-in at The Klagan Hotel. Rooms were spacious and standard in terms of what it offers. My only comment is that some rooms are quite far from the elevator.  It felt like a maze just to get to ours. I suggest that you request a room closer to the elevator. You will thank me later for that tip!

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For lunch, we headed to Palm Cafe located at the Centre Point Mall. Contrary to its name, Palm Cafe is more like a cafeteria. Don’t be fooled by how the place looks. A must try when you dine here is their Laksa Melaka. I was probably too hungry at this point that I completely forgot to take a photo of the food we ordered.

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We headed to the Atkinson Clock Tower after lunch then headed to Signal Hill Observatory. Both places can easily be ticked off your list. Their names already suggest the only thing you will need to see and do when you get there.

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Since we had some time to spare, we also tried their local breakout room called Escape. We played both The Circus located at Warisan Sqaure on Day 1 and The Maze located at 1Borneo Hypermall on Day 2. On a high note, we managed to complete both escape rooms on time. Good job to us!

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Before sundown, we headed to Tanjung Aru beach to catch our first glimpse of the famous sunset at Kota Kinabalu. Although I’ve had my fair share of stunning sunsets, the Kota sunset is a must-see if you get to visit this side of Malaysia.

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For dinner, we headed to Fatty Kee located at Ang’s Hotel. This place is flocked by locals which is a good sign! We had to wait a few minutes before we were able to get a table. As soon as one group leaves, there’s another group waiting outside to be seated.

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A must-try is their Oyster Chicken Wings. We also ordered other dishes such as Braised Pork and Assam Fish Curry which are quite good.

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We ended our first day with some drinks at El Centro. Time for a well-deserved rest after Day 1.

Kota Kinabalu (Day 2: City Mosque, Shangri-La’s Sunset Bar, Sin Kee Bah Kut Teh)

– The Tourist Pao