Sabah: An experiment from God

According to the popular travel guide Lonely Planet, Sabah is the result of an experiment from God. It goes on like this, “After the first six days of work (creation), instead of resting, He wanted to see what happens if He takes an island, covered it with impenetrable jungle, add lot of new life forms and turned the temperature up to 40 deg C. The result is the ‘tropical Eden’ of Sabah”. In my opinion, to His test tube He also added some kind of “over-sizing” portion so that everything is either the biggest or the largest in the area.

Mt. Kinabalu – one of the tallest mountains in Southeast Asia is located in Sabah. On the other side of the state are the seductive blue coral reefs of Sipadan, also called ‘The Diver’s Mecca’. One of the world’s incredible cave systems and karst formations can be found in Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak, the other state of Borneo (UNESCO world heritage site). Borneo is also home to the largest flower in the world – Rafflesia, the largest living arboreal animals – Orangutan and the list goes on and on.

Even though, I wanted to visit Sabah for the above stated reasons, none of the above was the actual reason I made my first visit to Kota Kinabalu last week. Two of my ‘self-proclaimed mountaineer’ friends were visiting the place for the sole purpose of ‘conquering Mt Kinabalu’ and exploring the Mulu caves (around 10days). Being a travel enthusiast, I immediately agreed on meeting them. Since everything was last minute, I couldn’t cater time for conquering the mountain or exploring the caves or diving with the sharks (yeah, sharks are the major attraction of Sipadan). So I decided to use this trip as a survey trip for planning the future expeditions. Also, this trip was different from my usual trips as I concentrated on ‘less traveled paths’ and of course, spending time with my friends and concentrating more on my photography skills.

Our stay - Hotel Jesselton, KK. Jesselton was the name of KK during the colonial period. Located at Gaya St. – still cobbled, another remnant of colonial rule

 Night markets of KK - Great place to spend time after dinner if you are a shopaholic, especially because there is a lot of room for bargaining.

 Handicrafts market in KK - It was too late by the time we reached there and most of the shops were closed. These shops will give you a peak in to the rich culture Borneo has to offer.

‘Street dining’ in KK – One can discover the local cuisines in its authentic form here
 We started our jungle/river boat ride from here. Located near a tropical reserve, this place is home to some of the unique species of flora and fauna.

The boat ride through the calm river during sunset was so relaxing

A lot of tourists – especially those from non-tropical countries seemed very curious about wild monkeys and got very agitated whenever one was sighted.

 A ‘family reunion’

 King of the trees -
During our jungle trek near the Mt. Kinabalu national park, the local guide pointed out this particular tree to be known as the king of trees

 Hanging Bridge Canopy walk – The view down below is overwhelming, but I wouldn’t recommend this for those who are afraid of heights and also afraid of walking on a ‘rope’.

 Nature at its best - After the trek we visited the poring hot springs. I have no idea why they call it hot springs when the water is cold and chilly. All my tiredness from the trek just vanished after a bath in the ‘natural’ pool.

 Mount Kinabalu hiding behind the clouds. A view from Pine Resorts near the national park

By the time we returned, the clouds were up on us and the air was chilly. Our guide had a hard time driving through the S-shaped roads.

 Sunday market in Gaya St. I found all sorts of interesting things in these shops. Both visitors and locals were shopping with equal enthusiasm

For Sale - A kitty in a pet stall in the market

Even though I spent around 3 days there, I parted with the feeling that I hadn’t even 'scratched the surface' of all the things I could do there – all the surprises Borneo holds. As my return flight was taking off, I was busy making a mental note of all the things I should do during my next visit.