This year we decided to go somewhere cooler and went up the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, Mt. Kinabalu. I climbed this mountain about 9 years and 30 lbs ago with a Filipina friend.
We got great deals on Asia Airline, where tickets cost 60% less. We traveled with a fellow teacher and had dinner together at Chili’s and Outback. Ha-ha-ha, we just miss Western food. Kuala Lumpur is only 2 hours away from Bangkok, and is impressive, very neat and modern. It truly is a “garden city of lights.” We had fun trying all the hi-tech rides, from the KLIA Express train from their brand new international airport to the subway, monorail, and skytrain. We also visited the Petronas Towers (tallest twin towers in the world) and Menara Tower (4th tallest telecommunication tower in the world). Shopping and dining were also fun although we were warned most things are more expensive in KL than Bangkok. But of course KL has its charms owing to the rich mix of Malay, Chinese, and Indian culture. This was evident in Chinatown, the Central Market, the presence of old colonial and Muslim architecture amidst the modern skyscrapers.
After two nights we hopped on the plane again to fly to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah 2.5 hours away in the island of Borneo. Although Sabah is a province of Malaysia everyone still had to go through immigration upon arrival. We hooked up with another fellow teacher who was also in town to go diving in Sipadan. KK has changed so much since I first visited it in 1995. Like KL there are many buildings and low-income housing going up. A water village beside the sea is now fenced off after land was reclaimed for a 5-star resort with gof course. There’s a lot more traffic as everybody seems to own a car nowadays, even if they’re cute mini cars like you see in Europe.
After spending the night in town we headed to the Kinabalu Park, about 2 hours away. The drive was pleasant and the climate got cooler as we went up. We met with a teaching couple, also from our school!, who just climbed down from the summit that morning. They were tired but in great spirits. They gave us a lot of helpful tips about the trekking conditions, etc. To prepare for our own trek we hiked on the short trails around the park that afternoon. Our guide also toured us around the garden to view the flowers endemic to Mt. Kinabalu.
The next day we were ready and excited for our climb. We started at about 9 pm and trekked 6 km from 5,000 ft to 12,000 ft in 5 hours. The afternoon shower did not bother us, although we were worried that our trail would soon turn into a creek. When we reached the Laban Rata Resthouse it was already full of climbers. Our hut, Panar Laban, was still about 200 meters further up. We had an early dinner at 5 pm and continued on our way after donning sweaters and jackets. We made it just in time to catch the glorious sunset. We had an unheated room with 6 bunk beds. We found a Norwegian couple from Singapore already huddled in one bed to stay warm. I put on more layers to prepare for our summit climb. Brian and I also decided to share the same bed and use both blankets. We tried to go to bed early at 7 pm but the cold (14 degrees C) kept most of us up and making several trips to the toilet which was outside the cabin. Brian also said I snored, and that was because I was so tired.
At 2:30 am our guide Mikol came to pick us up and we resumed our 2.5 km climb to the summit. We had our headlamps but they were not necessary as there must have been a hundred climbers making their way up with us. It was very cold but we were soon sweating again from both the steep climb and low altitude. We reached Lowe’s Peak just in time for the sunrise at 5:30 am. We decided against going up the hill with the marker as it was already crawling with climbers like an anthill. We turned back and started our descent as more climbers were making their way up. Going downhill was faster but not easier. I’ve always had bad knees and Brian threw up due to high altitude sickness when we reached our cabin. We changed into warmer clothes and had breakfast then resumed our descent at past 9.
Mikol provided me with a walking stick to ease the pressure on my knees. But I was still in pain from twisting both ankles several times going down the steep trail. I took a bottle of Lipovitan and this gave me an extra boost. However, in the last 2 km I twisted my left knee and this slowed us down considerably as I was limping and couldn’t bend that knee. I was practically in tears in the last kilometer. We were all relieved when we finally reached the waterfalls and entrance gate.
After that we took a quick shower at our hotel and raced back to town to catch our flight to Kula Lumpur. Brian thought it was amazing that we climbed the summit of Mt. Kinabalu and flew back to Kuala Lumpur on the same day. We checked in our hotel and had a long and restful sleep.