Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Kinabalu National Park - Page 2

Celyn Hotel was located high on the top of a hill far from the main road. The branch road lead to the hotel was too small and too steep for our bus. So, we could only reach the hotel by another 10 minutes' trip using smaller and lighter transit van prepared by the hotel.

Our trip to the hotel was turned into 40 minutes of waiting as the hotel could only provide only one small transit van for us. The van took 3 turns before we were brought to the hotel. Celyn Hotel was a terrible choice for those came in a big group with big bulky bus. The slow transit from the main road to the hotel diminished the good holiday mood.

Small, steep, and winding Semuruh Kinondusun Road lead to Celyn Hotel (upper left). The hotel provides small transit van for those who comes in big bulky bus (upper left). We couldn't leave our luggage unattended (lower right). So, the scenario which people went first and luggage followed later was out.

The room for double with mountain view (upper left). The family suite that we stayed (upper right and lower right) was completed with second floor. The path led to our room was built without cover. It would be very inconvenient to access to the room in rain.

 Good highland view is the only good thing that Celyn Hotel could offer.

Mount Kinabalu couldn't be seen during our stay. The peak was covered by the clouds.

Second day, we departed from the hotel early at 7:30 am to Poring Hot Spring at the foot of the mountain. Poring means bamboo in local. The bus took around 30 minutes to travel from our hotel to the hot spring.

As a part of the heritage site, the conservation fee was required. For MyKad holders, the fees were RM 3 for adult, RM 1 for kid and senior citizen, and free for those below 6 years old. Without MyKad, the fees were RM 15 for adult, RM 10 for kid and senior citizen, and again, it is free for those below 6 years old.

In fact, the whole area around Poring Hot Spring is big with many attractions. We can spend a full day, discovering not only the hot spring, but the butterfly farm, the canopy walk, and Kipungit and Langanan waterfalls as well. However, due to time constraint (as arranged by the tour company), we stayed there for only an hour. What a waste. We will definitely come and stay for longer time in future. By the way, Poring Hot Spring is a must visit site in the national park.

The road lead to Poring Hot Spring was well-maintained (upper left). Floats and tubes were sold at shops opposite of the hot spring (upper right). A bridge (lower right) was built to connect the entrance (lower left) to the bathing area.

The bathing area of Poring Hot Spring (upper left). Rock pool beside the bathing area offered super cooling water from the highlands (upper right). The water from the hot spring was channelled to the public bathing tubs where visitors could enjoy the warm water.

We have only one hour to spare at the hot spring, so we decided to get our feet dipped. Together with us was our tour guide Catherine.

The source of the hot spring. The water gushed out within the stones.

As the hot spring has been named Poring, then the site should has some bamboo trees. Yes, we could see some very old bamboo trees somewhere near the bridge.

Then, we went back to Ranau, where we visited Kampung Luanti Baru. The village is a part of the river conservation programme where "Tagal" is practiced. Tagal is a traditional Kadazan Dusun practice to ensure the sustainable production of the river, which the fish can only be caught during certain seasons. The catch then will be distributed among the villagers. Tagal means no fishing in local dialect.

In Luanti Baru, Tagal had turned the polluted river into natural attraction where the Pelian fish were trained to provide natural fish spa to the visitors. That should be the biggest natural fish massage pool in the world. What we need to do is, dipping our feet into the river, and the tame fish will come and bite our feet.

Painful? A bit. The fishes were too big for a gentle foot massage. We personally don't believe about the treatment or health value of fish spa, however, that was the once in a lifetime experience. The fish spa opens daily from 8:30 am - 5 pm. The fees for 15 minutes of spa, for MyKad holders- RM 5 for adult and RM 2 for kid. For those without MyKad, the fee is RM 10 per person.

More information about this huge fish spa river can be found at SabahTourism.com website.

The entrance of the natural fish spa was marked by a giant fish (upper left). A few stalls were set to sell drinks and snacks along the way to the river (upper right). The food and drink were sold with reasonable prices. We had to register at the counter by the river before we could walk into the river (lower right). The guard at the counter was the time keeper as well. Some facilities at the site were built by bamboo.

The members of our group at the river.

We had to use fish food to lure the fish to our feet. The fish food was sold separately from the registration counter with cheap price.

From Luanti Baru Village, we travelled back to Ranau for lunch at Restaurant Double Luck at 11:45 am. The food, fair taste with fair price. As our tour members were scheduled to fly back to Sibu at 7:30 pm, we headed back to Kota Kinabalu airport right after the lunch.

Ranau is the biggest town between Tuaran and Sandakan, with at least a few grocery shops, a supermarket (Milimewa), a few banks, and of course, many eateries. It is close to many attractions as well. To our surprise, we didn't see many hotels within the town area. In our opinion, more hotels should be set up at Ranau for its convenience and strategic location. By the way, Ranau means flat land in local.

Street of Ranau.

Many shops are operational at the fourth day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri. The streets were full with people and cars.

Wild boar meat is available. Our lunch with four dishes- stir fried wild boar meat with onion and ginger, steamed chicken, and two vegetables cost around RM 12 per person, including drinks.

We stopped by Kundasang market on our way back to Kota Kinabalu for last minute shopping. Local fruits and vegetables were sold with remarkable cheap price. The market is located along the main road. It always causes traffic jam for the double parking and slow moving vehicles.

Various types of vegetables, fruits, flowers, and other products from the highlands were sold in Kundasang Market. This market could be easily identified as a belt of single storey wooden structure by the main road.

Various types of honey (upper left), super hot yellow chili (upper right), and highlands rice were something that we found interesting. Flowers were available too.

Ha, try if you dare! Left photo shows Tuhao- a mixture of wild ginger and chilli, pickled in salt and vinegar. Jeruk Bambangan is showed at the middle- wild mango preserved with chili and salt. The right is a mixture of Kepayang fermented with raw fish, rice and chili. All these authentic Sabah food can be found in the markets at Kundasang and Pekan Nabalu. You can find more information about these only-at-Sabah Food here with recipe. Photo of Bambangan is available here.

Flowers and other highlands plants were sold in the nursery.

Overall, our two days' trip was concluded as "too rushy". Kinabalu Park deserves more exploration, even for someone who has no intention to go above 4000 meters. The public transportation in the park was next to zero. The taxi was the second best option, if you don't dare to drive by yourself (a rental car from KK Airport is from RM 160 a day, you can get even better deal at KK town). 

"Minibus" operated by the local individuals basically helped a bit to bring tourists from a place to another. However, the operation goes without fixed schedule, and the fare was determined according to the number of passengers (the more the cheaper). According to our tour guide, the fee for the minibus from Kinabalu Park Headquarters to KK city was around RM 17 - RM 20 per person if the bus was fully loaded.

About the food, according to our observation, many restaurants were attached to the hotels, and the hotels were far from each other. Dine in your hotel might be the only option that you have without own transport. Basically, the food that we had were quite nice, except the steamboat dinner that we had at Celyn Hotel. The steamboat dinner was too expensive and not worth the money paid- RM 38 for a dinner full of noodles and fish balls (and other types of processed food).

As we were much adapted to free-and-easy and back pack style of travelling, we were not used to the itinerary arranged by the tourism company. However, we had to take it, or leave it. Of course, next time, we will drive. 

Kinabalu National Park is the place we will definitely go back for more exploration. We would like to take our opportunity to thank our freelance tour guide, Miss Catherine for her dedicated assistance, and Borneo Legend for arranging the bus for us. Catherine can be reached at cathtyy@gmail.com.

For more information about Kinabalu National Park, you can visit SabahTourism.com, Sabahparks.org, and ClimbKinabalu.com

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  1. Appreciate your sharing. Good write up and very consistent as I browse through the whole blog.

  2. I stumbled on your blog and it's good to know how others view my hometown Ranau. I don't live there anymore and depend on hotel accommodation whenever I and family go back.

    By the look of the road leading to Celyn Hotel, I know that it's quite steep but the view from up there must be beautiful.