I am climbing Kinabalu – again…

I am climbing Kinabalu again on 18-19 April. It is not going to be a leisure climbing this time, as I am standing by Special Olympic team, as a medical doctor.

This is my second stand-by duty for Special Olympic. The first was in 2002, in which I had to sleep in Layang-Layang hut for one night. For your info, Layang-Layang Hut is NOT meant for casual climbers. It is actually a staff quarters, which don’t have heater and very basic necessities.

This time around, I won’t be staying in Layang-Layang, as they have revised their schedule.  And the event is listed in Sabah Tourism website here.

My STAROBA Sabah PADI DSD (Discover SCUBA Diving) in Mamutik Island

At last… After more than 7 years staying in Sabah, I’ve got the opportunity to go SCUBA diving!!!

When I received the invitation by Roslan Mokhtar, one of my senior from STAR Ipoh for a SCUBA diving session here in Pulau Mamutik, I was really excited – but then, I just realize that I don’t know how to swim (there goes my secret)… Fear of drowning was there, as I have experienced it once before.

4 stooges…
Roslan, Rahman, Nazul and Me…

Anyway, I overcame my fear and just followed Roslan’s words – you don’t have to know how to swim to SCUBA dive. But if you know how, it would be an advantage.

Borneo DiversIt cost me RM190 for a DSD (Discover SCUBA Diving) package by Borneo Divers. It was almost 25% discount from the original price of RM265 if you go by yourselves. The package includes almost everything – boat ride from Sutera Harbour Marina, Sabah Park fee, jetty fee, all the SCUBA diving and snorkelling equipment, diving fee, instructor fee and the MEAL!!!

It was a very nice and sunny Sunday, 30th of March 2008. I woke up early to buy some groceries from Putatan Tamu and had some nice banana leaf packed nasi lemak for my breakfast. At about 8.15am, Nazul arrived at my house and we went straight to Sutera Harbour Marina with his SLK (small little Kancil).

We were the first to arrived, followed by Rahman Din and Roslan (our STAROBA Sabah Presiden cum SCUBA diving introducer). Unlucky for Shukri, he had some family problem and could not join us that day.

After filling a PADI DSD form and paid Roslan for the trip, we started our journey by boat at around 9.30am. It took only less than 15 minutes for us to get to Mamutik Island from the marina. It was a smooth ride as the water was a bit calm that morning.

Upon arrival, we were guided (of course, by Roslan) to Borneo Divers diving camp, where we were introduced to our instructor for that day, Andreas. He prepared all our equipments and suits as we really don’t have a clue what was going on, and what it’s going to be that day.

A simple lesson of SCUBA dive was thought by Andreas, and it only took less than 10 minutes to finish at the camp. We were then was given wetsuits to wear, and at that time, I felt like a surfer (or Baywatch guy maybe?). It felt good, until we were given the weighing belt (with weight) and the tank. Damn… It was so heavy that I said to myself “How do I dive with all these this heavy thing?”. After some calculation, there were about 30 kilos of equipment attached on our body!

Wetsuit models…

We then walked for about 100 meters to the starting point. For your info, it was a shore dive. So, there will be no back flipping from the edge of the boat which you can see from the television. And the first challenges that day were to put on my fins (on the foot) in the water. It looks easy, but you should try it yourself…

Teaching lesson

The first unforgettable experiences that I had inside the water was the sea water. You will surely get the sea water into all your orifices, especially your eyes, mouth, nose and etc…

SCUBA diving

Damn… My eyes were really painful as the sea water went into, and I felt it was even worse with my throat. Luckily, the burning sensation in my eyes faded less than a minute or so. Andreas told us that salt water will make your eyes uncomfortable for only 30 seconds.

Me with Andreas

We started at 1 meter depth, where Andreas taught us with the basic SCUBA diving techniques, and the 5 things to remember as you are under water (and I forgot all 5 already). It looked quite easy off the water, but when I was under, the feeling was totally different! He then asked us to do what he taught, one by one, so that we will do the right thing under the water. We even have to stand on our knee, submerged in the water and do all the things again, until he is satisfied with our technique.

SCUBA diving

The fear of drowning? I had it for only few minutes before Andreas asked us to empty the gas from our buoyancy compensator. As I went down, the feeling disappeared. And down we go!

It was quite difficult for me to adapt to the new underwater environment. After comforting myself and slowly breath through the mouthpiece and the regulator, I found it quite easy. It was quite boring at the beginning nearer to the shore, as I could only see sand and more sand.

So, Andreas brought us further away to the artificial reef area, where they artificially planted and put reef inside the area, to attract other creatures (like Nemo) to live there. This artificial reef was made for divers to see (especially for beginners like us), so that we don’t have to dive and look anywhere else to see the underwater living.

I did not realize the depth of the area until I glimpsed at the altimeter – 15 feet! And I totally loss the orientation of time also!

What I saw was amazing. The view of the environment was quite similar with the one that I saw in Discovery Channel and National Geographic – but it was slightly enthralling as I saw it live!

The star of the day was always Nemo, because it was the only creature that I recognized under the water. However, as I was trying to get really close to the reef where it stays, Nazul came from behind and kicked the nearby floor. All of a sudden, my view was blocked by the uprising sand!!! It took more than few minutes for the sand to clear up, and as I could not wait any longer for that Nemo, I swim away from that area.


There were a lot of things that I saw, which mostly consist of colourful fishes and reefs, which none of them that I recognized (except Nemo). I might have came across a group of anchovy fish but I don’t know whether I was correct. I have difficulties on propelling my body forward, as the fins that I rented was really on a bad shape. Anyway, after about 30-45 minutes underwater (I told you I lost the orientation of time), we wet out of the water. I don’t know why, but I felt the tank that I put on my back weight twice as much as before we went into the water!

We walked back to Borneo Divers camp area and I was a bit giddy. I could feel my semi-circular canal did not able to cope with my position. I just sat down and it took another 15 minutes for my body to stabilize. We had a very nice lunch, prepared by Borneo Divers.

We rested for another hour, before I decided to go for snorkelling. I have never done snorkelling before (yes, it’s true), but I think as I was there it’s good to do it anyway. I still afraid of drowning, but after all, it is sea water and I was wearing a wet suit. That should be able to keep me afloat while in the water.

Oh, if Nemo was the star of the diving, sea cucumber was the star of the snorkelling. This was also my first time seeing a live sea cucumber, and I also had a chance to hold it in my hand (eeeeewwww!). Roslan even make jokes out of the creature. (It feels kind of velvety…)

Mamutik Island Jetty

After another hour or so, we started to feel a bit tired, and decided to call it a day. A very nice experience for me and my two other brothers-in-arms which never did SCUBA diving before. As we finished cleaning and packing everything, my watch showed 2.30pm. Wow… Time flies too quickly when I was enjoying myself there!

Certificate giving ceremony was held at the Mamutik Island jetty, just before we head back to Kota Kinabalu. Although I was tired, a bit giddy and had some tan on my skin, it was surely a worthy experiences…

Boatride to Kota Kinabalu

So, my next step would be:

  1. Shopping for my own SCUBA diving equipment.
  2. Get a PADI Open Water License.
  3. Sipadan… Wait for my visit!!!

Check out more photos in my flickr!

Paddy harvesting – Using the Rungus traditional way

My father in law was sick, when he fell down about 2 weeks ago. He could hardly stand by himself, his right side of his body felt weak, and his right leg was really painful. The worse thing is, this is harvesting season. He had to look for (and pay) somebody else to harvest his paddy because of his condition at this moment.

So, as a good son in law, we went back to Kudat few days back, during the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday and Good Friday, to see how’s things going on for him. I brought him some expensive painkillers (which I got from the clinic – free sample), hopefully, it could gave him some relief. Luckily, after examining, he got no fractured bones, but have some old bruises and few muscle and tendon sprain, which usually needs longer time to resolve due to his age.

I mentioned to him that I would help him harvesting, as I have done it before, while I was dating his daughter (she is now my wife). I know, not much could be harvested in this short visit, but I think the most important thing is I have made an effort to do it, and don’t just laze around in his house all day.

Oh, I have to tell you that my father in law still use the Rungus traditional way to harvest paddy, which uses manual labour. Most of the people in Kg. Tinangol still uses the same technique, and I have not seen anybody uses heavy machinery to harvest paddy. And the way they cut the paddy is also a bit different from the way that the do it in northern part of Peninsular Malaysia (i.e. Kedah and Perlis paddy farmers).

I managed to snap some photos and recorded a very short Youtube clip for your viewing. I am not sure how long this technique will last, as younger generations of Kg. Tinangol has moved away from the village and none of them are interested in being a traditional paddy farmers. My parent in law are also getting old, and I don’t think they would be able to continue to plant paddy anymore, maybe in few years time.

Paddy harvesting - Using a Rungus traditional way

Paddy harvesting - Using a Rungus traditional way
The tool to cut the paddy and “guni beras” at my left hand.

Paddy harvesting - Using a Rungus traditional way
It was raining heavily the week before, and the paddy field got flooded. So, some of the paddy was destroyed by the flood.

Paddy harvesting - Using a Rungus traditional way
Some of the paddy that I harvested. Did you see my Crocs? (It’s asadi actually…)

Paddy harvesting - Using a Rungus traditional way
You see how wet it was???

Paddy harvesting - Using a Rungus traditional way
My brother in law followed me later. And he is not showing you the right way to harvest paddy – short sleeves and a bermuda??? The only thing that looks good is his cap!

Paddy harvesting - Using a Rungus traditional way

Paddy harvesting - Using a Rungus traditional way
Our harvest!

Paddy harvesting - Using a Rungus traditional way
My son is always with me.

Paddy harvesting - Using a Rungus traditional way

Paddy harvesting - Using a Rungus traditional way

Paddy harvesting - Using a Rungus traditional way

And I manage to record a clip of the process. Apology for the sound and the visual…

A letter from Mr. Bruce James

While I was away during our 12th Malaysian General Election (I was away for 2 weeks, back in Muar where I voted), Mr. Bruce James, father of the late Ellie James, emailed me. Here is the email:

I was, of course, interested to see your tribute to my daughter Ellie.

I notice that all the information comes from the internet press. Not all the details are correct.

For instance, Ellie was born in 1986 – December 2.

She was the cleverest person I ever knew and we miss her very much.

If she had not been so supremely fit she would have come down from the summit more slowly and not diverted from the path at the point where it went sharply left.

Ellie and her brother descended to the west of St John’s Peak. Subsequently, Ellie struck out eastwards and climbed the peak but became marooned on the east side of St John’s Peak and was marooned above a sheer drop. Her brother, Henry, stayed put and was discovered by one of the guides later the same day.

Some of the guides heard her cry out from this position but could not believe that she had arrived at a point which people had only reached previously with ropes and other equipment.

As soon as the weather cleared she was spotted immediately. She had tried valiantly to stay warm and must have know that in few more steps she would have fallen to a quicker death.

She died of hypothermia – but we don’t know when.

A question: Why did you choose to compile the information about Ellie?

Yours sincerely

Ellie’s father

Bruce James

And this was my answer:

Hi Bruce,

Thank you for your email. I was surprised when I received your email about Ellie. About your question why… Well, I guess, as I wrote a blog about Mount Kinabalu, it is good for the readers to know a little bit about the tragedy that happened on the mountain, so that climbers will take good care of themselves during the trip, and take the best safety precautions while on the mountain.

I hope the explanation is good, as I don’t have any other reasons for that.

And I am sorry for the incorrect information. I will of course,
publish your email in the blog, so that everybody knows about it.

Take care.

Ruhaizad

So, if you want to send him regards, just jot a comment below.

Where are other accommodation at Laban Rata?

Apparently Sutera have edited and upgraded their website. Gone are the basic information about the different types of huts that are available at Laban Rata. For seasoned climbers, they will know that there are 4 accommodations/huts in Laban Rata;

  1. Laban Rata Resthouse itself, which the only accommodation at Laban Rata which has heated room.
  2. Gunting Lagadan, non-heated.
  3. Waras Hut, non-heated.
  4. Panar Laban Hut, non-heated.

I was really surprised to see the website today, after receiving an email from one of my website visitors, saying that he could not find the huts that I mentioned from my website in Sutera’s new website. The old website showed each and every accommodation available in Kinabalu Park, Mesilau and Laban Rata, but this newly edited website did not show it.

Sutera Sanctuary LodgesThey only shows Laban Rata accommodation (Laban Rata Room 1, 2 & 3). All of the rooms are shown with a specific package which comes with it. And you will be shocked to death when you see the price!

Why they omitted the other accommodations from the website? Maybe they purposely (or is it by accident?) did not put up the other accommodations – Waras, Panar Laban and Gunting Lagadan – because it is not the same standard with Laban Rata.

Or maybe they just want to sell it to international travelers, which could afford that much money to spend climbing Kinabalu.

I used to spend only RM50 per bed in Laban Rata. Sigh…

*****

I have helped thousands of climbers of Mount Kinabalu to book their climbing spot since 2006. If you want me to help you, just fill in the form below and send it to me. Thank you very much! 

Mount Kinabalu package in MAS Golden Holidays?

Dorene commented on one of my previous blog post about MAS Golden Holidays. It makes me curious to know more about it and how does it fares to both Malaysians and international travellers.

MAS Golden HolidayLet’s take a look at the first page of the promotion. The package was labelled as “Santai” package, and you could see that the price was stated “from MYR 1,090”. Don’t get fooled here, as it is the price if you are travelling from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu.

You have to pay MYR 1,370 if you are travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu (per person, minimum of 2).

As it is for 4D3N package, you will stay in Promenade Hotel (2 nights – the first and third night), and Laban Rata *dormitories on the second night. The price will includes most meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and transportation from Kota Kinabalu to Kinabalu Park.
*they did not state which dorm you will be put in. Or even heated or non-heated. If they play dirty, they will put you in the non-heated room (like Gunting Lagadan Hut) and still, you have to pay the full price.

You will start your journey from Timpohon Gate, means that if you want to climb via Mesilau, you either have to pay more or seek some other agents.

The package will also NOT including the guide fee, porter fee, insurance, entrance fee, certificate and climbing permit.

How does it cost?

MAS Golden HolidayStandard price (MAS Super Savers) for a return trip from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu is MYR 732, that means you are paying MYR 638 per person for other than flight expanses, provided that you go with another person.

Personally, it is too costly for me (and maybe some of local Malaysian climbers), as you could get half the price of the package, by taking Airasia and stay in one of the few nice hostels & lodges around Kota Kinabalu.

My 2 sen: Most probably SSL (or maybe Sutera Harbour Resort), is aiming on international travellers more than local travellers. They could earn more than double from one international traveller compared to our own national citizen.

It is because most international travellers travel in small group, compared to Malaysian which usually comes in big groups to cut cost. I don’t think they even care about us after all.

What do you think?

An email from Desmond Kong…

I received an email from Desmond Kong, a good friend of mine who is an avid mountain climber. He was really frustrated with Sutera Sanctuary Lodges. He also forwarded a chat transcript with his friend regarding the issue…

(Apology for the grammatical errors. I “cut & paste” the email to preserve the originality.)

Hi Ruhaizad

Since last year i hav told you that my friends and i are planning to climb Mt KK on 24-28 march 2008 and i hav told how exited am i about it. Until u forward me the website and the increase of price we were devastated. KK park hav package it. The price is ridiculous high of course is still very cheap for foreigners due to exchange rates. They do have local rates like what RM50 difference! Might as well dont have it. RM50 differences in USD is only $15 differences, the mat sallehs will laugh their way up to Low’s peak. Why should we pay so much to visit our own heritage it will kill local tourism. Just the climb alone it will come to Rm 800 if we climb Mersilau trail. Which i only spend slightly above Rm 1000 my 2006 trip. Including 1st nite at KK park (garden lodges ), 2nd nite laban rata, 3rd nite KK park (garden lodges). 4th nite camping in island, 5th day shopping at KK town & flew back. 6 of us each spend RM 1100 – 1200. We accept price increase as everything increases since petrol went up but not until like what 300%.

My friend even went to KK park when he was there for biz trip during Oct 07 remember & i ask u how come is not open for booking then u send me the new price website. When Jan 08 comes we saw the price went down to more reasonable price it gave us more hope as not everyone can afford not that everyone cant afford is it worth it or not as we also have our own commitment in financial. The person my friend s***** been coresponding is not responding. It make us very frustrated and now is fully booked and we burn our air tickets, 12 ppl’s air tickets. U can see my recent chat with him in msn the situation to book is totally disappointing which can be describe typical malaysian way of doing things.

After this incident i do not know we will climb Mt KK again. As is difficult to ajak ppl again. If go also i must find new kaki. Aiyah….

Des says:

so how is KK trip?

s***** says:

dead

s***** says:

cannot book for climb

s***** says:

so, everyone’s out except sugu, hh and you

Des says:

y cant book huh?

s***** says:

so annoying… i’ve been emailing

s***** says:

remember i fwd the email for the rates to you all?

s***** says:

then when i email to book, no response…

s***** says:

i resend the email twice

Des says:

they din response?

s***** says:

still no response

s***** says:

so i call

Des says:

emm

s***** says:

call and call and call

s***** says:

either engaged or ring no one answer

s***** says:

so i wrote and faxed

s***** says:

no reply

s***** says:

so i just keep calling la

s***** says:

everyday

s***** says:

different times

s***** says:

then finally i get thru

s***** says:

oh, before that i call kinabalu park

Des says:

ya….

s***** says:

they said the number is correct

s***** says:

try again

s***** says:

so i keep trying lo

s***** says:

finally on cny eve, i get thru

s***** says:

they tell me that the girl who was answering my emails not working there anymore

Des says:

WAT!

s***** says:

and they have only 2 staff working but there are 6 lines

s***** says:

and that it is all fully booked

s***** says:

i keep talking to her cos i dont want to put down the phone

s***** says:

cos so hard to get thru

s***** says:

so, like that lo

s***** says:

sugu and hh dont mind going to jalan jalan

Des says:

so finally is fully book n we plan so early for nothing

s***** says:

yeah, remember, i was there in their office in october last year

s***** says:

to book but they said not open for booking yet

Des says:

ya

Des says:

next time wan to plan also no mood, when book air ticket

Des says:

so r u going jalan2?

s***** says:

dunno la…

s***** says:

like no real purpose like that…

s***** says:

i will have to discuss with the girls to see what they wanna do

Des says:

that is hard without purpose

s***** says:

dont really wanna waste 1 week’s leave jsut to jalan

Inside view of Rungus Longhouse

No, they don’t have skull hanging on the ceiling, if you’re asking by the way.

I post few photos on the outside view of the longhouse few days back, and felt that by separating the outside and inside view of the longhouse would be better for viewers to visualize the place.

Rungus Longhouse
The gasoline lamp that we use when there is no electricity.

Rungus Longhouse
One of so many doors/rooms in the longhouse.

Rungus Longhouse

Rungus Longhouse

Rungus Longhouse

Rungus Longhouse

Rungus Longhouse
Beads accessories are made here.

Rungus Longhouse

Rungus Longhouse
The “Gong”, traditional musical instruments which is always used during festivals, especially weddings.

Rungus Longhouse
Inavol – A Rungus traditional handicraft which could be tailor made to your request.

Rungus Longhouse
The other end of the entrance of the longhouse.

Rungus Longhouse
Guess what? This is the only part of the whole place that is NOT traditional. Toilet. Unless you want their original type of toilet… Which you may need to ask Mr. Maranjak to show you!

Maranjak Homestay – Rungus Traditional Longhouse, Kudat

A good 2 day getaway from my usual clinic work during CNY. Went back to Kudat with my family, including our new born baby boy. I know, Malay custom usually prohibit delivered mother and their new born baby to go out from the house during “pantang” (I could not figure out the good word for it in English), until about 40 days, but I did it with all my 3 children anyway. It’s modernization flexibility, I guess…

Anyway, I just would like to share some of the photos that was taken during the short period of visit. All of the photos here are the external view of the longhouse. I have to get my eldest son to be the model in some of the photos…

The signboard
The signboard for Maranjak Homestay, just in front of the longhouse.

Rungus Longhouse
By the way, my wedding was held here, and I sometimes sleep here with my family. Really cool at night…
Rungus Longhouse

Rungus Longhouse

Rungus Longhouse
The side view (front part) of the longhouse. Oh, they don’t have any pigs underneath the longhouse. My wife said, they used to have pigs underneath, but it was long time ago…

Rungus Longhouse

Rungus Longhouse

Rungus Longhouse
Reception booth (left upper), parking lot (with my maroon coloured car).

Sulap
“Sulap”, a place where Rungus people keep their harvested paddy, to keep away from rodents and flood.

Sulap
Front view of the “Sulap”.

Rungus Longhouse

Rungus Longhouse

Just drop me an email if you want to go there!