One climber slot on 19th March 2009

I received an email from Stacy. She is looking for a climber to join her group on 19th March 2009 as she overbooked the beds. You may contact her if you are interested.

There are 5 of us however, we booked accommodation for 6 at Laban rata room on 19 March 2009.
If there is anyone (unfortunately it’s only for one) who may interested in bunking in with us, we can accommodate. The price is MYR 347.
Please email me details if there is anyone who’s interested.


Sabah Parks said, “Take it or leave it”

Yes, that was what they said on the complaints about Sutera’s monopoly of Mount Kinabalu. If you can’t afford it, don’t climb the mountain.

Go climb other mountain in Java, Indonesia or Vietnam. Theirs are cheaper and don’t have much problem with the government. Or even spend your hard earn money in Phuket. You will thank me later.

I am glad that I was featured in their articles. The Star Newspaper (Malaysian based) write a story about the issue and compiled it with other complainants, including tour and travel operator. You can read it in 31st January 2009’s Weekender Section of the newspaper.

For those who like to read virtually, please read this 3 articles:

1. Take it or leave it
2. SSL says
3. Highly unreachable

So, what will Sabah State Government do?

p/s: It’s about time for me to climb Mount Kerintji and dive in Lembeh Straits in Indonesia. I am getting sick with the bodies who handles Sabah’s natural paradise. After all, my late great-grandfather is from Java…

Sea Squirt, Lembeh Straits, Indonesia Framed Art Poster Print by Mark Webster, 31×39

The correct version of climbing Bowen’s Route by Myles Bowen

I was so surprised when Myles Bowen himself contacted me yesterday. If you don’t know who Myles Bowen is, you can read this post about climbing the eastern plateau of Kinabalu. As the first person to ascend the eastern plateau of Kinabalu, he would like to correct some misinformation that he have seen recently in the web. Yes, the route is named after his name…

Dear Ruhaizad,
The story told in John Briggs’ book (page19) is fairly accurate, but was written from memory after our meeting in London in 1987. By 1956 I had already climbed to the western side of the mountain at least twice, starting (as we all did in those days) from Paka Cave at about 4 am. On these climbs I scanned the cliffs bordering the eastern plateau for a route up to King Edwards peak and concluded that there was one possible route.

In 1956 I went with Harry Morris, again using Paka Cave, straight across the valley (southern extension of Low’s Gully) and proceeded up the route which I had previously identified. I led the climb, bringing up Harry who was not an experienced climber. By British climb standards of the day I would have classified it as “very difficult” but not “severe”.

We were not well equipped and had lost a lot of time reaching the foot of the climb. Having passed the most difficult part it started to rain and shortly afterwards a storm broke out with fierce winds, lightning and torrential rain. We had had enough and abseiled down, having failed to reach the plateau proper…

Next year I was determined to complete the ascent and so ordered a tent and climbing equipment from London and planned a proper expedition. My companion on this occasion was Ross Urquhart, a Shell engineer, also with limited climbing experience. We started from Bundu Tuhan with about 6 porters and after the chicken ceremony set up camp approximately where the Sayat Sayat hut is today.

To take the kinks out of my new nylon rope we climbed Kinabalu South. On the way up Ross stumbled over the very dead body of a Chinese man, who we found out later had murdered his wife. This was shocking, particularly for Ross who wanted to abandon the expedition.

I then showed him my route up to the eastern plateau and he said that it was far too dangerous and that we had to find another way up. We then spent the next four days searching for one, but with no success. Finally, on our last full day, he agreed reluctantly and we reached the bottom of the climb just after dawn.

Having done it before it was no problem and we were able to reach King Edward’s peak in clear conditions where we built a cairn containing a bottle with a note recording our ascent. We then walked to King George’s peak where we again built a cairn with a bottle. We then returned to camp and got down the difficult bit before the rain started. Next day our porters arrived to take us down to Ranau whence we flew home.

Every time I climb my staircase here I look at a most beautiful painting of Mount Kinabalu, by the leading Chinese painter of the day, whose name escapes me. You are welcome to print this.

All the best
Myles Bowen

By the way, the book that he mentioned in the email is one of the rare books that is really difficult to get nowadays. I saw the book was priced USD168.29 in Amazon…

Mount Kinabalu, Borneo’s Magic Mountain: An Introduction to the Natural History of One of the World’s Great Natural Movements

The story behind SSL & Sabah State Government on Mount Kinabalu management

I received an official call from Mr. Guna, the investigating officer for our complaints against Sutera Sanctuary Lodges on the ridiculous pricing of climbing Mount Kinabalu starting from 2008. For the other 15 complaints that had been submitted (thanks for those who submitted the complaints), you will get a similar call from him soon.

Basically, this was his explanation:

1. Prior to 2003, the accommodation in Laban Rata was managed by Sabah Parks, i.e under direct supervision of Sabah State Government.

2. Starting from 2003, Sabah State Government privatized the management of the accommodation for climbers at Laban Rata, in which, Sutera Sanctuary Lodges have to pay the Sabah State Government RM1.5 million a year. The contract is that Sutera will have to run the place for 30 years.

3. In return, Sutera Sanctuary Lodges will have to manage, maintain, upgrade and do anything that is necessary to make sure the accommodation on the mountain is managed properly.

4. Sutera claimed that for 5 years (from 2003-2007), they never increased the rate. So, in 2008, without any good justification, they decided to increase the price to more than 300% as they wish. They claimed that the cost of running the place is increasing.

5. That is why they published ridiculous pricing structure starting from January 2008, without prior notice to the climbers.

So, are you happy with his explanation?

Further discussion with Mr. Guna revealed that KPDNHEP cannot do much to help us on this increase in the cost of accommodation at Laban Rata by Sutera Sanctuary Lodges.

What we can do now is complaint to the Sabah State Government, as they are the one who knows better about the situation…

Any feedback? Just drop in the comment box…

Climbing Mount Kinabalu – from a Muslim’s perspective

Yesterday I received an email from one of my fellow colleague – a doctor – who had an experience serving Kota Marudu Hospital during his early years of services with the Ministry of Health, Malaysia. He is a Muslim like me, and when I read his email, I knew that I forgot to mention in any of my writings before – how do we organize our prayer during the climb.

This ia a post for Muslim climbers. Other believers can also get benefits from this post, in case one of your climbing buddies is a Muslim.

This is his email:

Assalamualaikum Dr Izad.
I need to ask your advice / opinion.

Firstly I’m M.F., a medical officer from IMR , KL – before this doing my housemanship in HQE and MO in Kota Marudu hospital. I and several my friends plan to climb Mt Kinabalu on March 2009.

There’s 6 of us and apparently only 5 beds available – 3 in Laban Rata and 2 in Gunting Lagadan Hut. So should I take this place – I’ve heard that in Gunting Lagadan they didn’t have any¬† heated water.

How’s the condition like in the hut – if you had the experience of it, or should we reduce our group to 3 and every body will stay in Laban Rata.
Furthermore –
how’s about the Solat place?

If we stay in the dormitory – is there any praying area. I’m not asking for a comfortable place but at least there’s a place for us to pray.

How about when you ascending in the early morning? Is there any place that we can stop by for the Fajr prayer?

Ok – hope to get your reply soon and I’m really appreciated on what have you done in your blog.
BTW – missing Sabah as working in Peninsular not as nice as in Sabah – traffic jams, not so-friendly people etc.
Sabah is still the BEST place.

Waalaikumsalam F,
I am really glad that you send the email. It’s a fault of mine for not writing about the climb from a Muslim climbers perspectives. Your email is very revealing, as I am going to make it as a blog post, so that our Muslim climbers can learn.

In the first place, DON’T ever cancel the booking, although you have 3 beds in Laban Rata and 2 beds in Gunting Lagadan. Take all 5 beds. If you are lucky, there will usually be last minute cancellation whereby 1 of your group member can squeeze in. Just don’t quit contacting Sutera to ask about that one bed. You may get the chance.

Gunting Lagadan is not as bad as you think. I climbed the mountain 5 times and stayed in Laban Rata only once. Although they don’t have heated room and intermittent heated water, it’s still one of the best option for you to stay overnight.

The only thing that I complain about Gunting Lagadan is the distance of the place to Laban Rata. As Gunting Lagadan is higher than Laban Rata, you have to climb up and down to get your meals from the restaurant in Laban Rata. It’s quite annoying, especially if you are totally out of energy.

About solat: I did my prayer at Gunting Lagadan’s veranda. You just have to make sure you bring your own sejadah (prayer mat). The Qiblah is quite easy, as Gunting Lagadan hut is facing west. As long as you are facing the sunset, it will be fine.

It will be a bit awkward praying in that space as it is an open space, but I am fine with that. My experience was that non-muslim climbers who stayed in Gunting Lagadan will not disturb you, as they usually can see you praying on your sejadah.

You can otherwise pray inside the room, but it’s too small. You will not be able to sujud properly. Laban Rata rooms are usually bigger, and more conducive for you to do your prayer. You just need to inform your non-muslim room mate what will you be doing, so that they will not disturb you.

For the subuh (fajr) prayer, I usually bring my own sejadah and a bottle of mineral water. Some of my friends didn’t even bring the prayer mat. They just pray on the rock surface, as it is always suci & bersih. I performed my prayer at Low’s peak with my wuduk from the bottled mineral water. It’s a perfect time for you to pray at the peak, as most fit climbers will arrive around 5.30am.

You may have to find a spot further away from the Low’s Peak tip (where the plate is), and most probably have to sit to perform the prayer. It’s quite dangerous for you to perform the prayer standing, as the surface is uneven.

It is also good for you to bring your own Qiblah compass. Quite difficult to determine the direction at the peak. I have mine anywhere I go, especially during this kind of trip.

Yeah, I know that most Peninsular people who have worked here say the same. They always miss this place.

Good luck!

Ruhaizad, Muslim climber

Shooting sharks at Tamu Kota Marudu

We went back to Kudat last weekend for holiday. I had the opportunity to go to Kota Marudu Tamu (Sundays open market here in Sabah) for a test of my new Nikon D40 that I bought from last month.

It’s actually my Sunday mornings ritual every time I went back to Kudat – a visit to Sikuati Tamu for fresh fish and vegetables, but this time around, my wife suggested that we go to Kota Marudu instead. My brother in law also said that Kota Marudu’s Tamu is bigger, and I could find more local people to shoot.

When I arrived there, I found a lot of people and things that were very familiar to me. But then, one trader pulled my attention to what she sells – salted and dried baby sharks.

The endangered species awareness

I was did not aware that these sharks are endangered species according to IUCN 2008 Red List, until I went for my open water scuba diving license. I even promoted sharks fin in my website before but I removed the entry when somebody pointed out the issue. I will not be helping those sharks if I continued to promote sharks fin soup (which are available here in Kota Kinabalu) in my website.

If I am correct, the sharks that are featured in this blog post is Carcharhinus borneensis, or common name is Borneo shark. Any icththyologist here? Correct me if I am wrong…

The photos

It was not that difficult to find traders who sells sharks here at the Tamu. I found at least 3 traders selling sharks, a trader sells salted sharks and the other two sells fresh caught sharks. I was shocked when the salted sharks trader offers me only RM2 (~USD0.55) for a pile of 3 of juvenile (babies) sharks.

I did not intend to buy those fish at the beginning, but I did not feel comfortable shooting those sharks while the trader looking at me with a peculiar stare. After snapping few shots, I pulled out my wallet and gave her 2 RM1 notes. She packed the left pile of sharks and handed to me. After exchanging smiles, I thanked her and left.

In case you are wondering what I did with those sharks that I bought; I buried it after finished shooting the above photos. I did not have the heart to eat it. My wife thought I was weird…

With the salted sharks in hand, I then walked to the fresh fish market, hoping to find more sharks to shoot. Fortunately, I found another 2 traders selling fresh caught sharks.

The first one that I saw sells at least 3 7-kilogram sharks. Two of the sharks were sliced nicely but the one that you see in the photo is without its fins. I am not sure how much they sell the sharks per kilogram, as I did not dare to ask…

Seeing me shooting his sharks, the guy who trade the sharks mumbled with a grin, “wah… ini masuk national geographic ke animal planet?” (Will this be in national geographic or animal planet?). I smiled at him, stopped snapping and left.

The last fish monger had only one fish. Looks juvenile, around 80 cm with fins intact. Most probably they were all the same species.

The references

I wish to see alive and swimming sharks while diving here in TARP. I noticed they spotted whale sharks at Gaya Island waters in March 2008…

Reader’s mail: My advice on a site like

I received an email from one of our readers. A.M. from India emailed me on how to proceed on creating a website like I felt very honored to answer his questions, as I think there are numerous people around the net that could answer him better than I am…

Dear Dr Ruhaizad Daud

I happened to bump into your site after one of my friends trekked to Mt Kinabalu and I looked it up on Google.

The reason why I am writing to you is to get some advice from you. I am a keen trekker from India. In our Himalayas and elsewhere my friends and I are always trekking and climbing.

This passion is slowly forming into an idea that we can use our experience to build a website for some of the treks that we have done. We notice that getting information is difficult and getting them in one place is next to impossible. However, we have a lot of information about the various locations that we have trekked in, and we would like to make a website for at least one such location. And then see if we can carry it forward to other locations. We found your website really well made with links and information in the right places.

As an experienced person, can you give us some ideas or advice on how to go about creating the website or what not to do? We have already taken a domain name for one such trek. We were lucky and we got a dot com domain for the exact name of the trek.

I also realise that it takes quite a bit of money to make and develop websites. Apart from donations, is there any way we can earn some money to maintain the website?

A. M.
Bangalore, India

And this was my answer, (the exact email)…

Hi A,
Thank you for your nice email. I am glad that you asked me about how to start a website like mine, although there are a lot of other places that you can ask for.

Anyway, I love to share with you my personal experiences. You are where I was 3 years ago, few times after trekking Kinabalu, I found out that information on climbing the majestic mountain of Borneo were scattered around the net. There were no specific website that could teach a novice climber on how to go about climbing Kinabalu, from A to Z.

There was a voice inside my head, suggesting that I should do something to promote Kinabalu better on the net, and at the same time, monetize the website so that it can pay itself without having me to pay for the webhosting.

Honestly speaking, I learn how to and how NOT to create website from Ken Evoy’s SiteSell website creation system, SBI. Although I don’t use their services as it was a bit expensive to me during those days (I am a cheapskate), I found that their free ebooks are resourceful. Read very carefully the C-T-P-M system. It has helped me a lot…

I downloaded almost all their free ebooks, learn a little bit of HTML using Kompozer (it’s a what you see is what you get HTML generator) and learn the hard way of website creation and management (FTP, PHP, advertising, etc). Yes, I learned the hard way, as I like to keep the cost as minimal as possible. Although I spent more time learning how to make a presence on the net, it was really an exciting journey.

In the other han, if you can afford it, I suggest that you take their SBI system. It will shortened your learning curve, and could spend more time concentrating on creating a good website content. I highly recommend it.

Monetizing the website will only comes second, after you have created the best information website that you could ever create. I monetize with Google Adsense and it has become the primary income generator for the website. Google never fails to pay me every month for the past 2+ years. Affiliate is the other way of monetizing your website.

I suggest that you create a blog for your insider’s update, any upcoming issues and promotion, as it will become like an update thread for the website. The blog can be a good compliment for your website, but it will need updates from your own perspective.

Here are the links to the tools that I used:
1. SBI! (my affiliate link)
2. Kompozer, WYSIWYG HTML generator
3. Blogging platform

WordPress For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech))

Good luck on your quest on the website. Drop me an email if you need any more help.

Warmest Regards,

After Kinabalu, Mabul will soon be lost…

I was shock when I found out that they are planning to manipulate Mabul, the same (or maybe worse) as Kinabalu. One of my friends in Facebook invited me to join another cause that could hopefully spread the awareness on how human greed can destroy the future of Sabah. Although I am not Sabahan myself, my kids are…

After Kinabalu and Kudat Riviera (have anybody heard about that?), Mabul Island will soon be transformed.

She was asked to comment on plans to build the Mabul oceanarium, comprising among others, 214 seaview bungalows and semi-detached villas…

I quoted the above sentence from our Ministry of Tourism website. Here is the original link:

Hmm… Another one project that will benefit few people, but harm the ocean and the poor native Sabahan people. And this issue has also tarnish the good image of Mabul among the diving communities. Try reading some scuba diving forums online. Criticism are everywhere against the plan.

Join the cause with me. Save the environment for the future. Let our kids see what they deserve to see…