Tuesday, December 27, 2016

First Driving Experience to Kinabalu National Park

We took the opportunity to drive to Kinabalu National Park and the surrounding area middle of this year, bringing Ling Shing's parents, sister, and brother in-law for a two-day-one-night trip. Our brief itinerary- Upside down house at Tamparuli, Pekan Nabalu, Kinabalu National Park, and Ranau Town on the first day. Poring Hot Spring, Kundasang Town, and Desa Dairy Farm, before we went back to Kota Kinabalu on the second day.

Driving by our own to Kinabalu Park and the surrounding area was enjoyable. We could travel with our own pace, with our own way. Well-maintained road and clear signage made the driving easier, compared to Cameron Highlands. Although Waze couldn't be used at high altitude area, Google Map could be accessed all the time.

We rented a Toyota Innova 2.0. The MPV was big enough for a comfortable trip, but a bit under-power at some sloppy area. Anyway, the car managed to travel at 40 kmph, but we needed to use low gear and press the accelerator way down to the bottom.

We got our car rented online. The rate was cheap- RM250 per day for Toyota Innova 2.0. The car was delivered to our hotel at Kota Kinabalu 1 hour late. We checked the car on the spot and found that the third braking light (stop light) was not functioning. One of the tire was punctured as well. The staff apologized and advised us to repair the car before we departed to Kinabalu Park. Well, the car was repaired at one of the workshops along the way, with the charges paid by the car rental company. Issue solved in 30 minutes.

Our first stop- the Upside Down House at Tamparuli. It is the first upside down house in Malaysia and has been listed in Malaysia Book of Record.  The house is located right on our route from Kota Kinabalu to Kinabalu National Park. The entrance fees were RM10.60 for adult with MyKad, RM19.10 for adult without MyKad, while flat rate of RM5.30 applied for child below 12 years old.

It was an interesting place to visit, but it was not a must. It might not be a place that worth driving a long way to visit, but since we would pass by it, then why not? We reached the house at around 10:45 am, and stayed there for around 1 hour. More information about the house can be found at the Official Website.

We had been to Kinabalu Park and its surrounding area for many times. This time, we would like to share the photos of the places that we had visited.

10:45 am. We reached the Upside-down House. Ample of parking space provided by the management of the Upside Down House (upper left) next to the ticketing counter (upper right). The souvenir shop was comfy, but the items sold was quite expensive (lower right). Was the place a hot tourism spot? We could find the answer by looking at the buses parked in front of the ticketing area.

An upside-down rumah kampung (village house) with a nicely decorated garden. Luckily the coffee shop next to the house was not upside down, or it would be too bad for the coffee served.
Our group photo. The staff there were well-trained photographers. They were friendly and helpful.

Some upside-down mind-blowing scenery around the house. These photos were taken with absolutely zero Photoshop special effect.

Upside-down car park with an upside-down car.

We left the Upside Down House at around 11:30 am, and reached our next stop- Pekan Nabalu one hour later. We took our opportunity to hunt for souvenirs there. Pekan Nabalu was the best place for souvenirs- T-shirts, pants, scarfs, key-chains, wood crafts, hats, caps, etc. The best part was- the price could be bargained. We could get at 20 - 30% off if we bought in bulk. Read more about our experience there on our previous posts.

The condition of the road was good. The area for overtaking were built along the road. The Peak of Mt Kinabalu can be seen from afar.

Pekan Nabalu was still the best place to get our souvenir.

A nice view of Mount Kinabalu from Pekan Nabalu.

We took a 15-minute drive from Pekan Nabalu to Kinabalu National Park. Tickets were required and could be bought at the entrance. With our own car, we could explore more by driving to Timpohon gate- the deepest point reachable by car, some 20 minutes by car from  Liwagu Restaurant and Kinabalu Park Hotel. Timpohon gate is not accessible by big bus, thus not been included in most of the tour packages. We passed by the memorial built for the victims of the earthquake on our way to Timpohon. Several part of the road to Timpohon was narrow, steep, and with sharp corner. But the nice view worth the 20-minute drive from Liwagu Restaurant.

"In memory of eighteen; mountain guides and climbers, who lost their lives on Mt. Kinabalu during the Kinabalu Earthquake at 7:15 am, June 05, 2015", names of the victims follows.

Cooling temperature with lush green environment brought peace in mind.

The observation area at Timpohon was surrounded by clouds. Visitors could bring their snacks, coffee, or tea for an afternoon rest at the observation area.

Tame critters around Timpohon. These squirrels would come very close to humans, hoping to get some peanuts or fruits.

A few stretches of road to Timpohon were steep and narrow.

We took our lunch at Liwagu Restaurant, Kinabalu National Park before we went to our hotel at Ranau. We reached our hotel at around 5 pm. Ranau is a small town with some 21 km away from Kinabalu National Park. We took almost 1 hour to reach there due to the heavy rain.

We stayed in MK Hotel, with only 4 rooms. The hotel was located at the heart of the town, behind the petrol stations beside Ranau-Tamparuli Road. Although the hotel was small, the room was big and comfortable with LCD flat screen, coffee making facility, water heater, air-conditioner, and room service (upper row). A shared balcony with town view was available as well. The owner of the hotel was very friendly and helpful. He recommended nice food around Ranau to us. If you are looking for a place just to stay overnight, this hotel is the best around Ranau.

Ranau is a small town with 100 km away from Kota Kinabalu. It is a town that serves the locals rather than tourists. So we shouldn't expecting top hotels, international franchise fast food and eateries, and shopping malls to be found there. There were a few convenient shops, local banks, a small supermarket, local eateries and food court, to carter our needs. By the way, we found KFC there. The town was not busy at all, day and night. Most of the shops opened till 10 pm. A few eateries operated till mid night.

At night, we tried some food at one local Chinese restaurant not far away from our hotel. There were many local customers there. However, the food was served in small portion with average taste. We personally think that the price was a bit expensive as well. Unsatisfied with the food, we decided to drive a bit further to Ranau Hakka Food Court, as recommended by MK Hotel's owner.

Ranau Hakka Food Court was located at Ranau Tambunan Road, opposite to the hospitals and clinics. It was a distance away from our hotel. Well, we could drive there by ourselves.

Ranau Hakka Food Court was big (upper left) with stalls providing many choices of food. Clay pot noodle (upper right), pork noodle (lower right), and satay were a few types that we tried. All of them tasted good. We took our breakfast the next day at this food court as well. With wide range of choices and fair price, the food court is a good place to get local dishes.

Poring is a beautiful park located at the foot of Mt. Kinabalu. We departed to Poring at around 8:40 am. We drove for 30 minutes to reach there. Poring is well-known for its hot spring and nature beauty. Without much time constraint, we decided to explore the nature beauty of Poring by visiting the butterfly garden and canopy walk. The tickets for butterfly garden and canopy walk could be bought at the entrance. More information about Poring is available in our previous sharing.

With less constraint of time, we visited the butterfly farm at Poring. The farm was just some 3 minutes walk from the bathing area.

We couldn't see much butterflies in the garden, as they released the butterfly to the surrounding environment. The garden was not big. We completed a quick round in about 15 minutes. Frankly, nothing interesting to see in the garden except some knowledge about butterfly.

The entrance to the canopy walkway is around 50 meters away from the butterfly garden.

Some jungle walk was required to reach the canopy walk. The stairs might be challenging physically.

After 10 minutes climbing up the hill, we reached the first station of canopy walk.

Walking on top of the trees was a great experience. The whole trip at the canopy walk took around 30 minutes.

Back to the bathing area, we found a big beautiful swimming pool with entrance fee was built.
Well, if we don't want to pay extra, we can enjoy the hot water from the spring at one of the bath tub prepared. We stayed at Poring until 11:00 am. Bathroom and changing rooms were prepared for us, but we need to bring our own soap, shampoo, and towel.

We took a brief stop at the road-side market at Kundasang, before continued our trip to Kundasang War Memorial.

On our way back to Kota Kinabalu, we stopped at Kundasang to visit the war memorial there. The memorial is dedicated to the the prisoners of 2nd World War who lost their lives in the death marches to Ranau. The entrance of the memorial is located on the foot of the hill beside Kundasang Town (upper left). The memorial consists of several beautiful gardens.

There was an observatory platform on top of the hill. More information about the memorial is available in our previous post.
On the clear day, we can see nice view like this from the observatory platform.

After lunch at KFC, Kundasang, we continued our trip to Desa Farm. It was located around 15 minutes away from Kundasang Town. There was a stretch of steep road in between the farm and the town.

We were really lucky to see the peak of Mt. Kinabalu, every time we visited Desa Farm. The view there was really good. Cooling temperature and strong wind made our stay comfortable. The milk and the ice-cream could be bought from the farm. Must try? Definitely.

We started our descending at around 4:15 pm, and reached our hotel at Kota Kinabalu at 5:30 pm. We travelled during Hari Raya holiday in Malaysia, the traffic however was not heavy. We only used a full tank of petrol, which we filled at the beginning of our trip. The petrol stations are available at the Kundasang and Ranau. We were advised to drive carefully to avoid getting traffic ticket. We need to get the contact in case of emergency or car break down from the car rental company as well.

Drive by our own to Kinabalu Park and the surrounding area? That's a good idea to travel and sight see on our own pace. More about our previous experience in Sabah are available at:


  1. Nice blog. I also just love to drive fast. However, driving fast always is not good and dangerous as well. So, when i drive on the empty road, I fulfill my craze of driving too fast.

    1. You are right, my friend, driving exceeding the speed limit is dangerous, especially at the mountain area. We need to pay full attention and drive defensively.

  2. I always rent a car when I travel to malaysia. The international driving permit or license is not hard to get, and to road system is as good as my country. Just note on this- not all the sign are available in English. That bother me not as well, well, Waze can solve most of the problems.

    Love, from US.

  3. The National park is a picturesque place to enjoy the natural beauty. It seems that you have a wonderful and adventurous trip and you thoroughly enjoyed it as we enjoyed reading your post.

  4. Kinabalu National Park is always a great place to visit. Do let us know if you are planning to visit the park as well. We might be able to help.

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  6. Thanks for sharing content and such nice information for me. I hope you will share some more content about. Please keep sharing!

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  7. Thank you Deep Rana. We will continue sharing our experience.

  8. Hi , may I have the car rental contact ? Thanks

    1. Sorry my friend, we couldn't recall the contact. However, you can check this website: https://www.marisewa.org/