Author Archives: drizad

About drizad

A self employed General Practitioner who lives with his lovely family in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. He dedicates his spare time serving people with precious information on climbing the Majestic Mountain of the Borneo, Mt Kinabalu. Reachable at drizad(at)gmail.com

PADI Open Water Diver course – come join me!

I blogged about my first SCUBA diving experience last April when I did my DSD with Borneo Divers. I am now going to get myself certified with PADI – to get my Open Water Diver certificate soon.

After much planning and consideration, I manage to get Roslan to help me on getting the best bargain package (without compromising learning qualities) on the course.

As I cannot get 4 days leave straight, I planned it during weekend – including 1 public holiday, Deepavali. So, this would be the tentative dates:

Classroom session: Sunday, 19th October 2008, will be held in Borneo Divers @ Menara Jubilee, Jalan Gaya. Formally, it is an 8 hour session, maybe start in the morning and end in the late afternoon. We will be teached on basic SCUBA diving using videos and maybe some online material.

In the water session: This will take 3 days straight – from 25th to 27th of October 2008, will be held in Mamutik Island. It’s Saturday to Monday – Monday is public holiday (Deepavali), so we take the opportunity to get the most out of the holiday. The best thing about this in the water session is that all 9 teaching dives will be held in Mamutik Island itself. If you do this in Kuala Lumpur for example, the session will be held in swimming pool. How not cool is that?

As the course is still open and it’s open to everybody, I would like to invite you to join me. Until now, only 2 have confirmed with me. Just drop me an email if you want to join.

The cost? You may try to ask around. If you go alone, it may cost you more than RM1000 for PADI Open Water Diver course. SSI cost is usually lower, but there are a lot of advantage on getting PADI certification. I promise to give you the best bargain around.

When you have the world’s top dive site at your own backyard, it is almost inappropriate NOT to get a diving license!!!

Come and join me. The more, the merrier…

PADI Open Water DVD

Book review: Sabah Insight Pocket Guide

I personally own this guide book. This 100-pages full coloured guide book is a comprehensive guide for travellers to Sabah, Malaysian part of Borneo. I bought the book few months back as a references for my Kota Kinabalu Travel guide which will be published soon by a4trip.com.

The guide book is written by Wendy Hutton, a reknown writer and editor since 1967 in South East Asia. It was written in a very systematic way, whereby she divided the book into day-itineraries which covers half and full day itineraries in Kota Kinabalu and the surrounding area, and excursions, which means you need to go to the places and spend more than one day to experience it.

The book highlights all the best spots in Sabah – from the majestic mountain of Borneo, Mount Kinabalu to the deep blue water of Sipadan Island. She also includes tips on shopping, eating out and nightlife, mostly around Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau (i.e. the main big cities of Sabah).

Amazingly, she also includes some history and culture of this part of Borneo, calendar of special events (in which you may get the more detail annual calendar from Sabah Tourism website), some practical tips for travelers (from air to ground), plus the list of recommended hotels and the free pull out maps of East Malaysia (Sabah & Sarawak), Sabah and Kota Kinabalu.

These are the places that are featured in the guide book:

  1. Kota Kinabalu highlight with sightseeing
  2. Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park (a group of island just 10 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu)
  3. Discover Kadazandusun Culture in Monsopiad
  4. Bajau village in Tuaran
  5. Kinabalu Park HQ
  6. White water rafting in Padas & Kiulu River
  7. Rungus Longhouse
  8. Nature trail in Rafflesia Information Center
  9. Long Pa Sia and Maga Falls
  10. Sepilok, Gomantong and Kinabatangan River for orang utan & proboscis monkey
  11. Turtle Island marine park
  12. Mount Kinabalu – to the summit of Borneo
  13. Sipadan Island
  14. Danum Valley Conservation Center

While she did not include Maliau Basin, Tenom Agricultural Park, Survivor Island Pulau Tiga and Layang-Layang, the places that she mentioned are more than enough if you really experience them all.

So, should you buy it?
Yes, definitely! Moreover if your trip is focused mainly on Sabah. It’s good for you to have it with you on your trip here, as other travel guide books may includes other states like Sarawak, Kalimantan (Indonesia) and Brunei, which the information sometimes can be very superficial.

10 FAQ on Mount Kinabalu mountain guide

I always received almost similar email every other day, asking about the mountain guide of Kinabalu. I will try to answer all the frequently asked questions here.

1. Do I need to book my mountain guide early, i.e. before I go to Kinabalu Park?
No, you don’t have to book the mountain guide early. You just need to book a climbing package with Sutera Sanctuary Lodges or Mountain Torq for the place to stay at Laban Rata. Your mountain guide will be assigned to you the morning you start your climb.

2. Does mountain guide and tour guide the same?
No, they are not the same. Your tour guide is a guide assigned to you by any tour & travel agent that you book for your trip. They may or may not be climbing up with you. Upon entering Kinabalu Park for the intention of climbing the mountain, a mountain guide is compulsory.

3. The trail on Mount Kinabalu is obvious. Can I climb without a mountain guide?
No. The mountain guide is compulsory for every climbers for safety reason.

4. What is the climbers:guide ration for the climb?
Starting from September 2008, the ratio for climbers:guide is 6:1. You can get the pricing structure of the mountain guides from Sabah Parks website.

5. Who does the mountain guide work for?
The mountain guide works for Sabah Parks, but they are not the staff of Sabah Parks. The mountain guides are usually local people from the surrounding village near Kinabalu.

6. Do I have to pay them personally, maybe tips?
They usually have a standard rate fee in which you will pay to Sabah Parks, either via your tour operator or directly to them. Tipping is not a common thing, but giving them some extra money will help them very much.

7. Can I choose the mountain guide I like?
Most probably. It depends on the situation. Some climbers would like to have a guide that can speak in their language. If the guide is available, you can surely get their services. For your information, most of the guide can speak a small amount of English.

8. What do they call mountain guide in Malay?
“Malim Gunung”

9. Can I have a guide for just me and my partner?
Yes, you can. You just have to pay a little bit more compared to climbers who climb with 5 other, as the guide can take maximum 6 climbers.

10. Do I have to book an accommodation for my guide and pay for their meals?
You don’t have to do that, as they have their own places to stay at Laban Rata. But you could always treat them with some nice meal.

Kinabalu climbing slots for 8th & 22nd September 2008

I received a call from one of my good friend who is also an ‘insider’, working freelance in tourism industry here in Sabah. He said he currently have slots (beds) for climbers of Kinabalu from one of the tour operator. Here are the details:

  1. 14 beds available at Laban Rata, climbing starts from Mesilau Nature Resort on 8th September 2008.
  2. 20 beds available at Laban Rata, climbing starts from Mesilau Nature Resort on 22nd September 2008.

Drop me an email for more information and booking. First come, first serve basis.

Happy 51st Merdeka Day for Malaysia – Hopefully a ‘new’ Malaysia

I never write about politics in this blog. It is not that I don’t know about it; I just don’t want make my blog looks like ‘rojak’. But when the results of Permatang Pauh by-election came out, I could not help but to write something about it. Congratulations to DSAI and his voters.

His winning reminds me to the year 1998 when he first involved with our country’s turmoil. I was there during that time, right in the middle of everything that happened. I was a third year medical student for UKM, in which my faculty was situated in the heart of Kuala Lumpur city.

It was just a stone throw away from Masjid Kampung Baru & Dataran Merdeka. I can still remember going to my lecture with half a dozen of FRU trucks parked just outside the faculty. The police were there for almost everyday and every night. I sometimes had my dinner or late supper with my friends after a long study group at Kampung Baru with policeman hanging around.

I could still remember the havoc that happened when few of my friends (yes, we are an ‘active’ university students that time) get caught by police and have to sleep in police lock-up after they were caught around Dataran Merdeka and Masjid Jamek area because they involved in the “Reformasi” gathering. For those of my friends who survived the FRU’s water canon, came back to the campus wet.

Me? I did not personally joined them, as I was actually ‘ordered’ by my father (he is a retired policeman now) not to get involve. Apparently he was also in the team of policeman & FRU that were assigned to take care of the area during that same time. So, it was like “I don’t want to see you get caught in my FRU truck while I am on duty” kind of order.

As a policeman, he has got to do what they have ordered him to do. And from what I could gather from him, he is not that fond of DSAI as he was also involved in the police team to control the situation during DSAI’s university student days in 1970’s.

Time passed. It has been 10 years since I really attentive to what DSAI did. He never give-up. Although he was assaulted, kicked, stripped and spent years in jail, he never give-up. His fighting spirit really struck the chord in me. No matter what happened, he just don’t give himself up. And with that, people of Malaysia (in hope for a new beginning) love him. They sent the message to the existing government that they need somebody “new” to give Malaysian a new HOPE.

Although I am very thankful to my father’s generation whom gave me the opportunity to get me to where I am now, I don’t think that staying the same will bring us anywhere. We have to take the challenge and dare ourselves to change, if we think that changing is a better option.

About DSAI’s sodomy charges? You know the answer, right?

Happy 51st Merdeka (Independence) Day, Malaysia! Hopefully a new hope for Malaysian will be born this 31st August 2008.

Kota Kinabalu backpackers list (as of August 2008)

Whooaaaa…. When I started this website and blog about Kinabalu 3 years ago, there were only about 8 backpackers / travelers lodges around Kota Kinabalu. I put a booking page for the lodges through Hostelbookers, in which received quite a number of visitors who booked their stay through the booking system.

I did an update on the page in 17th November 2006, in which I added another 13 hostels to it, to give more options for travelers to choose the place that they think is best for them.

Yesterday I went to Sabah Tourism office to look for any new updates on Sabah’s tourism industry and found out that they have an update list of backpackers for the whole Sabah. With the number that they presented, it seems that Sabah is a “heaven for backpackers”!

According to the resource, there are now 23 registered backpackers lodges here inside the Kota Kinabalu city center. The number does not include non-star, 1 & 2 star rated hotels that are abundant here apparently. All the lodges are situated around 5-20 minutes walk to all the major important places (like banks, bus station, ferry station, market and shopping complexes), in which you don’t have to worry too much on the transportation.

I will try to list the backpackers in Kota Kinabalu according to the area that the lodges are situated:

Australia Place
Lucy’s Homestay
Tropicana Lodge
Traveller’s Light Lodge Backpacker
Kinabalu Backpackers
Borneo Backpackers Sdn. Bhd.

Jalan Gaya (Gaya Street) & Jalan Pantai
North Borneo Cabin
Planet Kinabalu Backpackers
X-Plorer Backpackers
Summer Lodge
Red Palm Hostel
Akinabalu Youth Hostel
Stay-In Lodge
Globetrotters Lodge
Asia Adventure Lodge
The Beach Lodge
Trekkers Lodge

Bandaran Berjaya
Velvet Lodge & Lounge

Sadong Jaya/Karamunsing Warehouse
Borneo Rafflesia Lodge
Borneo Global Backpackers
(These 2 lodges are the furthermost place to stay from the city center. You may have to walk 20-30 minutes from there to get to the heart of Kota Kinabalu city)

Asia City
Hamin Lodge

Kampung Ayer
Borneo Adventure Center & Lodge

Sinsuran
Hotel Kota Jaya & Backpackers
Step-In Lodge Sdn. Bhd.

You can book your hostel here:
*Make sure you choose “Malaysia” as the country and “Kota Kinabalu” as the city. It will open in a new window.

Safrey managed to get fifth spot on Mt. Kinabalu Climbathon 2008

I don’t know when will we become champion again. This time around, Safrey Sumping managed to get fifth spot in the 22nd Mt. Kinabalu International Climbathon 2008 (it was yesterday). Last year he was fourth. A year before he was third. Apparently, he said that he was just recovered from flu a week ago. So, he was not having his 100% fitness during the race. Sigh…

The last Malaysian (Sabahan) runner who won this race was Guianus Salagan in 1996, which was his third consecutive Men’s Open title.

Danny Kuilin (Women’s Open) comes second.
http://www.newsabahtimes.com.my/nstweb/fullstory/20979

Congratulations for all the winners. It is just occurred to me that staying second best should not be in our mentality anymore. We should work harder to be the best, moreover when the race event place is here.

Hopefully, next year we could get better result.

p.s: Yes, this post may also be related to Lee Chog Wei’s result in the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Update 26th August: Full result get be seen here.

Mount Kinabalu via ferrata adventure FAQ

Mountaintorq.com is very kind to me. I-Gek sent me PDF copies of their brochures on Mount Kinabalu via ferrata adventure FAQ for me to share with you.

As a good operator, she feels that it is their responsibility to educate us on what to expect when going up the majestic mountain of Borneo. I know, most of climbers does not know what to expect when they climb Kinabalu despite all the information that I have written in my website and blog.

What is a via ferrata?
A via ferrata (or ‘iron road’ in Italian) is a protected mountain path consisting of a series of rungs, rails and cables embracing the rock face. It allows access to scenic sections of the mountains that are typically available only to rock climbers and mountaineers. The exhilaration, breathtaking scenery and sense of personal conquest you experience on a via ferrata are guaranteed to give you something to smile about for a long time.

Is via ferrata the same as rock climbing?
No, via ferrata is not the same as rock climbing. Although they both occur in the same area and the same environment, via ferrata climbing is easier than rock climbing and do not require you to have any previous experience.

What is Mountain Torq?
Mountain Torq is the world’s highest and Asia’s first via ferrata that starts at 3,200m and ends off at 3,800m above sea level on Mt Kinabalu in Sabah. Mountain Torq enables climbers and non-climbers to experience the thrill of mountain climbing while taking in the spectacular surroundings.

Who can climb Mountain Torq?
Climbers and non-climbers aged between 10 and 70 who are fit and healthy, not afraid of heights, and want to experience the mountain in a whole new way. Oh and by the way, you also have to be at least 1.3m tall.

Do I need any climbing experience?
Absolutely not! If you can climb a ladder, you can climb Mountain Torq.

Is there someone to guide me?
Yes, you and your group will be assigned an activities trainer. Our friendly trainer is there to give you a full safety briefing and training on how to use the safety devices. They are also there to climb with you, provide tips on how to negotiate the more difficult obstacles, as well as highlight some of the spectacular sights along the way.

Can I go without a guide?
Sorry, but NO due to safety and Sabah Park regulations, mountain guides and or activity trainers are required to accompany you at all times.

What time do I start my via ferrata activity?
Our start time is between 5:30am to 7:30am.

What other activities are there besides via ferrata?
You can enjoy a whole host of other outdoor activities that Mountain Torq offers such as sports climbing, alpine rock climbing, rappelling and basic mountain experience.

Where do I meet my Mt Torq trainer for the activities?
We will meet you at Pendant Hut on the first day and we will advise you on the actual meeting point for your chosen activity during your briefing session in the afternoon of your arrival.

Do any of your services include taking me up on the via ferrata before the break of dawn?
We do not bring clients up on the via ferrata before day break due to safety concerns.

Mountaintorq via ferrata trip preparation notes

Received an email from Mountaintorq today regarding how you can prepare yourself before going for an adventure on Mount Kinabalu. A must read for every Mt. Kinabalu climbers, especially for those who planned for via ferrata adventure.

What do I need to do to prepare for my MOUNTAIN TORQ / Mt Kinabalu adventure?
You will be climbing a major mountain and you are strongly advised to be in a physically fit condition. Here are some suggestions from the Alpine Guides Association:

The best preparation for mountain sports always involves good amounts of cardiovascular  exercise outdoors (running, cycling, mountain biking etc) and getting out for long days in the hills whenever possible. If you do the amounts of regular weekly cardiovascular exercise indicated on the fitness level for your course during the 2-3 months leading up to your trip, then you should be reasonably well prepared. Don’t forget to read the trip descriptions / itinerary carefully to find out what else is involved too, so you can tailor your preparation accordingly.

MOUNTAIN TORQ recommends all customers to participate in cardiovascular sports at least 2 sessions a week, with each session being a minimum of 2 hours in duration. The exercise program should commence at least 2 months before you start your Mt Kinabalu adventure.
To check out how mountain fit you are, go to http://www.alpine-guides.com/fitness.htm for further details.

What do I need to pack?
For personal items, here’s a checklist of the minimum essential items on that you will need to bring:

  • Raincoat or waterproof jacket
  • Warm clothing like fleece jacket, hiking pants
  • Change of clothes (you may not want to sleep in what you sweat in!)
  • Cap / beanie / head scarf (helps prevent heat loss, especially at night, so you can have a more cosy night’s rest)
  • Gloves
  • A small / lightweight towel
  • Personal toiletries
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Torchlight (preferably a head torch)
  • Your camera!
  • Comfortable covered trail/ hiking shoes
  • Energy snacks e.g. chocolate, nuts, biscuits, sweets, energy bars
  • Sun protection – Sunglass, sun screen lotion, SPF lip balm (beware of the strong UV rays)
  • A small backpack to hold your things
  • A rain cover for your backpack
  • And of course, AN ADVENTUROUS SPIRIT!

MOUNTAIN TORQ will provide all technical safety equipment required for its activities.

Where is Pendant hut?
Pendant hut is located at 3,270m / 11,000 feet on the Laban Rata rock face. When you arrive at the Laban Rata rest house, you will see Pendant hut on your right hand side perched above a rock path.

Where do I meet my Mt Torq trainer for my via ferrata briefing when I arrive at Laban Rata level?
Your trainer will be waiting for you at Pendent Hut between 3pm and 4pm for your briefing. During your
briefing, he will

  • Familiarise you with the via ferrata equipment
  • Conduct an initial via ferrata practice round
  • Inform you on the actual meeting point for your chosen activity and
  • Remind you of the cut off meeting time for your activity (6:30am – The Preamble, 7am – Low’s Peak Circuit, 7:30am – Walk the Torq)

Must I attend the briefing?
Quite simply, YES, you have to attend the briefing.

Via Ferrata

Hiking pole (or ordinary walking sticks) for your Kinabalu climb

I did not use these during my earlier trip up the mountain, as I was really fit and did not have knee injuries. However, after I sustained meniscus tear of my right knee (thanks to Sundays football @ Yayasan Sabah field) a year ago, I had to use a hiking pole for my last trip up April this year. And the pole has helped me a lot on bearing my weight while going up and down the mountain, relieving some of the burden to my right knee.

I also received an email from one of my readers, saying that she sustained knee injury, just 50m away from the peak, in which, she had to turn back because of the pain. Apparently, it was an old injury, but she did not bother to seek medical advice before going.

And guess what? She also sustained meniscus tear of her knee and had undergone laparoscopic surgery to repair her meniscus. If she happened to get an advice from a doctor before the trip and maybe using a proper walking/hiking pole to climb Mt. Kinabalu this episodes of event may have been avoided.

So, should you use hiking pole on Kinabalu?

  • It is not a necessity for healthy person with good knees, but for those who have problems with your knees, or even ankle and still want to climb, a good hiking pole is a must. Otherwise, you may end up like our friend above.
  • Hiking pole is also useful if you are lugging heavy loads up (except the porters).
  • Hiking pole will help you bear some weight that is put on both of your knees. By that, it will reduce some pain, as the climb up and down is very strenuous compared to your daily usage of them.
  • It will also increase your hill climbing power by spreading the load more evenly around your muscles.
  • It can also increase endurance, aid in crossing soft and slippery ground, especially if you are climbing during wet season and aid balance on uneven ground. Three legs is always better than two in this type of terrain.

However, you must also take notice their cons;

  • It may keep your hands full – I would advise that the hiking pole is only used during the first phase of the climb, as the second phase of the climb will need you to use both of your hands to hold the guide rope.
  • You may need to invest on some good hiking pole, in which many of us do not want to do it, as they claimed that the pole will only be used once in a lifetime. While the branded hiking pole can cost you more than RM100, buying some generics pole (made in China maybe), may saves you up to 70% of the price. Or, you may want to buy the mountain guide’s walking wood sticks – which will cost you only RM3. It’s just an ordinary sticks but some climbers claimed that it has “super power” that kept them going. They will usually sell it to you while you are in the bus from Kinabalu Park HQ to Timpohon Gate.
  • It can also get in your way while walking through some technical sections, in which, Kinabalu do not have much.
  • It can be ineffective you are not using it the correct way.

Now, let’s talk about the features:

  • One or two poles? One pole is a benefit, but two will have bigger benefits. Up to you.
  • Telescopic adjustable length or fixed length? While telescopic adjustable length hiking pole can be adjusted to your height, it can be a bit costly than fixed length poles. But, it will give you more comfort on having a pole that is correct for your height.
  • Shock absorbers or not? After much research, I would recommend you to choose the one with shock absorbers. It will help while you are climbing down the mountain, as much shock can be absorbed when the load of your body fall on the pole.

The correct length for you?
Ideally the length of the pole should be adjusted with your forearm horizontal while holding the grip. But it can be changed to shorter length when climbing up (because the ground is nearer) and longer when climbing down (because the ground is further).

Swiss Gear Hiking Pole

Hammers HP5 Anti-Shock Hiking Pole with Compass & Thermometer