sickly looking me

Last year, (was it really last year? It felt so long ago!) the sisters and i + Darcy managed to conquer Mount Kinabalu despite the severity of our AMS condition. Uh huh, we never thought of swallowing any high altitude sickness pill at all. In fact, the whole lot of us (20 odd humans) went up there pill-free.

Our June 2010 Kinabalu Expedition Itinerary

Day 1 : Arrival, chill & seafood!
Day 2 : White Water Rafting at Padas and i swear, this will be my last time on a Grade 4 river.
Day 3 : Mount Kinabalu, ascend
Day 4 : Mount Kinabalu, descend
Day 5 : Sabah’s famous noodle , TAR island hopping & depart.

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Day 1 – Ascend

I was dead tired. 3 consecutive nights of 4 hour sleep.
(*note to self : bring ear plugs if i am ever staying in Backpacker Hotel)

I’m someone who needs at least 8 hours of sleep. 7? I’ll live but i will very likely be ab-normal. Best is 10. HEH.

But 4?!?! And 3 consecutive nights?!?! It doesn’t take a genius to figure what happened on my ascend eh?

We all woke up at 4am. Bus came at 4ish-5am to pick us up. For those of you who are keen to climb this mountain, my advice is to stay at the foot of the mountain the very night before the climb. You can at least sleep in for another 3 hours! Because i am also an extremely light sleeper, i didn’t manage to sleep in the bus at all. :(

I stared out the window most of the time. Sabah is breathtaking. So different. So different from West Malaysia. I likey. Oh, and the fresh and very clean air.. you know, i can go on and on and on and on. :)

At 9am, we were all ready to go. For some very strange reason, i felt pretty energized after the bus ride. I was raring to go. Never had it crossed my mind to hire a porter to carry my bag. No, really. Not because i was being arrogant or what, but i know my own fitness level – i run a couple of times weekly + yoga sessions too. After all, i did Mount Rinjani just 2 years back and i carried even more stuff then and it was 9-12 hours of solid climbing up and down for 5 days. And just 3 months before that, i was trekking at Sapa, Vietnam for 4 days with my backpack too. Zilch problemo.

So yeah, the thought of hiring a porter never quite crossed my mind.

I think it was the holiday adrenaline rush.

I was pretty okay initially despite the lack of sleep and rest. But slowly, very slowly.. i started panting and the backpack felt heavier and heavier. I was pretty shocked to be honest, especially the fact that i was just at 1km mark. Oh, we ascend via Mersilau route, which was longer. Nevertheless, i marched on.. after all, i did declare that i can lug the bag up all by myself in front of the group – Oh what’s with humans and their ego ah?! :P

What you are seeing : me pretending to be exhausted.

In real life : i was really exhausted!

Shortly, i broke into cold sweat. I was breathless and had pounding headache. Darcy was nowhere in sight. He was accompanying another lone female group member who almost couldn’t make it up, supporting and encouraging her (verbally of course) almost all the way, well alright alright, half the way at least. So desperate i was – because i was pretty sure i was gonna pass out anytime – that i actually left a huge notice (without names, but a message which Darcy will have no problem identifying who it was from) at the side of the track where oh-the-helpful-one couldn’t have missed – urging him to catch up with me as i needed him by my side.

Our local guide who was extremely friendly, strong and nice, offered to take my bag (for a fee). I didn’t hesitate one bit at that point. With the bag gone, i felt so so so much better.

But.

Not for long.

Shortly after that, i was sick again. I just can’t believe the state i was in. The husband was still nowhere in sight and i was all alone on the quiet and scary trail! HMPH!

Just when i was gonna curse and swear out loud at the husband for not being there for me, suddenly the pig appeared out of nowhere, grinning like a Cheshire cat. I almost broke down and cry. That relief + happy + angry feeling seeing someone dear to you at that point of time is rather indescribable. I pouted, went up to Darcy to hit him a couple of times before giving him my big i’m-so-glad-to-see-you-smile and a hug. *ahem* I’m tweeny bit manja if you haven’t realized that by now. :P

To cut story short, we made it to Laban Rata with much, much difficulty. I know i sure did. Everyone cheered as we arrived, together with others who soon caught up with Darcy and i. Dinner was just a few tiny bites here and there before i called it a day.

After settling down and all, it was close to midnight, again.

As some of you may have known, having AMS = insomnia, and i had just that. Panadol and whatnots were useless. Nothing worked!

Extreme headache where i literally felt the nerves pounding, insomnia, nauseous, whoaaaaa.. you just can’t imagine the condition i was in but errrr.. i still insisted on waking up at 2am (not that i slept at all) for the peak.

Yup, crazy is my middle name. LOL!

Day 2 : More ascending & descending

The husband who also had AMS, had zero intention to conquer the peak (hb is never the adventurous sort. he came because of the company).

But because i was going, he reluctantly tagged along too, (disclaimer : i didn’t force him ah!) just to be there for me.

Going higher before i had the time to acclimatize equates to suicide. Grin. Nearing the peak, it was 1/2 step forward (yup, i can’t even do 1 step then), stopped, breathe, 1/2 step forward… repeat. I had a guide (did i mention they are godsend?) holding on to me, holding my hand to make sure i don’t fall backward. I almost did, a couple of times. Heh.

But i did it.

I managed to reach the peak, not the peak’s peak though, which was merely 60-80m away? That, i gave up because i was barely breathing then. I’d be a bloody idiot if i had insisted going. Heh. My lips were blueish in colour at that point. It was that bad.

We missed out via Ferrata (!!). What a bummer but then, with my condition, it was all for the better, aye?

The sister (second sis stayed behind) greeted us with a big bear hug when we arrived at Laban Rata at 10ish-11am. We wasted no time and descended within half hour to the foot of the mountain. Oh, if you haven’t noticed, i didn’t snap any photos when i was at the peak. Reason? I didn’t bring the camera along. Some guy advised me not to (it was his third climb) and i did just that. Pure stupidity lorr seriously. But in a way, it was a blessing in disguise (n0 extra weight) cos i practically had negative ounce energy to go snapping around on the peak.

1/4 way into our journey down, it rained cats and dogs.

The whole trail was like waterfall! Totally dangerous i tell you. We were soaked inside out though i was Gore Tex-ed from top to toe. This is the sort of rain where Gore Tex is absolutely useless, rain coats get torn up, umbrella just won’t do, basically.. nothing works.

But.

We made it down there safe and sound with no tripping and falling over and we were thankful for that.

pssssstt : believe it or not, i actually dozed off while descending! the legs just went into auto-mode… 0.O

Thoughts :

1. Mt Kinabalu is a must climb. Just one time will do. The experience is priceless. Descending from the peak to Laban Rata (and vice versa) was terrifying but thrilling nevertheless. One minor slip and your life is at stake. No safety rope, no nothing. You are on your own, 100%. Pity i didn’t have my camera then, otherwise a picture is worth a thousand words.

2. Be prepared. Take AMS pills beforehand. Get sufficient sleep before your climb and preferably, stay at the lodging near the foot of the mountain.

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Currently :

I’m anemic. Pretty severe i would say. I’ve been as such for a few weeks now but last week was really bad. Mother insisted on bringing me to the doctor and i was told that my pulse rate was just 42? My iron level was extremely low and i was told to start eating red meats again. To go to high altitude places in this condition is madness not advisable, according to the doctor, unless i am better.

After reading some first hand experiences on the internet, fear crept in. I’m really quite worried for myself. With just 1 week to heal myself, i’m praying for miracle. Though i am much better today compare to last week, i’m still lethargic and half of the time, in daze, except when i am in yoga classes – an unexplainable phenomena if you will. Heh.

Meanwhile, i’m so gonna tank up my iron intake, eat well and be better. Hopefully, i will be better.

Because getting AMS is really no fun. :(

My closing post on Kuching, Sarawak. :)
(finally!)

Guess who came to say hello and welcomed us right after the boat ride?

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.

.

Hee!

Yuppie yup!

This shameless dude here did. Wild boar?!?! Methinks he was more like a goat. Really.

The boys got really thrilled at the mere sight of this fella. He was erm.. grazing? Yup, he did the goat/ cow thing actually.


Hmmm.. this is strange.

You know i complained quite a bit on the accommodation at Bako but after looking at the pictures above, somehow it looks a lot better than in reality! Why ah?!?!

But in all honesty, it was bad. I should have taken closer shots instead. :P The beds looked like they were infested with bed bugs and the bedsheets, hmmmm. Then we have bathroom and toilet…  let’s just say i was really tempted to skip shower altogether despite the fact that i was all sweaty and dirty. I didn’t even wanna step in until the very last minute. To do my business, i opted for the deserted public loo instead which was conveniently around the corner. Much cleaner!

Fortunately, the men whom i traveled with are quite something. When they are around, this mother can just sit back and watch. The men, especially the grandfather, will happily take care of everything, including bathing the boys. More often than not, the grandmother and i will stand at the side and watch happily. Naturally, this meant that i only needed to step into the eee eee toilet and bathroom just once. PHEW!

So how did i sleep at night?

I was all covered, from head to toe. Long sleeves top with hoodie (uh huh, i had the hoodie on while sleeping!), long pants and socks! I totally chucked the pillow and made used of my own towel. And nope, none of the accommodation here is air conditioned, which was quite alright. Natural breeze, best!

However, don’t let this deter you from going to Bako. From what i saw and what i heard from a gf who was there 2 days earlier, the rest of the accommodation wasn’t this bad. It was just our luck to be stuck with Chalet 2, one of the 3 earliest, oldest chalets in Bako. Hmphhh! (if all the accommodation were as such, perhaps i won’t be this whiny!)

We only managed to do 2 trails during our time spent in Bako. With the boys around, we had no choice but to pick the shortest trail. Short, yes but never shortchanged. Mosses, i’ve only seen them in magazines but to feel them for real at Bako? It was quite surreal. For some strange reason, i was more excited to see the moss than the proboscis monkey. Ha!

Even though beep didn’t whine or complain, the very fit grandfather insisted on piggyback the boy. I guess it’s just the way he expresses his love for his grandchildren. He’s not a man with many words, but a lot of times, his actions say quite a bit about him. :)

Our second trail was a little longer and apparently, a little more dangerous. Because of ‘danger’ part, we chose to leave beep behind, together with the helper.

This time round, it was a lot more educational for the boys. And hey, pitcher plants! My first up close encounter with them.

Alas, proboscis monkeys…

We spotted quite many of them actually, throughout our 2 day stay.

Hermit crab!

Again, another first. Tee hee hee. I know i know! I’m really quite ulu!

Hermit crabs are really quite adorable. We spotted abundance of them, in all shapes and sizes. Do you know that to get them out from their house, all you need to do is to whistle and they’ll come crawling out?

Fascinating creature!

All in all, Bako National Park is strictly for nature lovers. Not a place for honeymoon for sure. A good place to go if you want some exposure for the children. But if you intend to stay a night or 2, avoid Chalet 1, 2 & 3. By all means, request for newer lodgings!

And, if you must know, the food sucks. Big time. Both in taste and hygiene. So, bring along cup noodles and whatnots. The effort is worth it, trust me.

There are not that many hotels you can choose from in Kuching, Malaysia. After just a few clicks on the phone, i decided on Pullman Hotel on the spot — my easiest, quickest decision by far. Mainly because of its location and it’s new. I have this strange inclination towards new hotels and the number of stars it has notwithstanding.

Just 2 steps into the hotel and i was greeted by the scent, the everythingandanything new scent.

Lovely.

I loved how spacious the bathroom was and it came with a yoga mat no less.

Even though Kuching is nothing like how big cities are, it is still charming in its own way – friendly and very nice locals, peaceful and quiet and great hawker food! I tried filling up our time there with activities and it wasn’t that difficult actually. Before you know it, it’s time to head to the airport.

Hmph!

Things You Can Do In Kuching

1. Chinatown

For food mainly.

And to snap a few pictures here and there. This easy walk can be wrapped up under an hour, minus eating time.

2. River Promenade or Waterfront

Stroll along the Waterfront in the evening. There are some food stalls along the way, together with souvenir stalls too. But ermm, if you ask me, i rather swing across the road and check out the many quirky shops situated just 20 steps away if you are planning to get any souvenir.

Otherwise, a stroll here is rather lovely. :)

3. River Cruise

Trust me, you wouldn’t want to spend RM 60 per person for an hour cruise on the cruise ship in the picture.

Why?

Because it’s not worth it.

What we did was to hop onto some smaller boats available which cost just RM10 per person, taking the very same route sans the glamour and drinks. Anywaaayyy, there’s really nothing much to see along the river really. What you are able to see on the boat, you can see 90% of it from the river promenade should you have taken the stroll (refer to list number 2).

The other 10%?

See this!

However, make sure you don’t take the ultra tiny sampan / boats though.. Those are freaky!

4. Tua Pek Kong Temple

Situated prominently near the Waterfront, you cannot miss this oldest Chinese temple in Kuching.

What we did was to pop in for 5 minutes, look see look see, offered some incense as respect and popped right out after. ;)

5. Cat Museum

Located at the suburb, we dropped in at this museum because most of us are cat lovers and also, because of the boys. Kuching / kucing means cat in Malay language.

To get there, we took a cab from hotel and the taxi driver sorta struck a deal with me. In total, i paid RM 50 for 3 hours trip which included Cat Museum, Sarawak Museum and a trip to Kak Dayang’s Kek Lapis. The taxi driver would wait at an agreed spot for us for each location.

Don’t expect much from this museum seriously. Go there with an open heart and you will leave with a smile on your face. After all, the entrance is free. And oh, don’t forget to descend to the park near the museum. It’s really quite a nice spot to snap some pictures, sit down and just chill out. :)

6. Sarawak Museum

You will need at least 2 hours to explore this place. Sarawak Museum is actually part of a cluster of museums which included Art Gallery. If you are keen to go, i’d say go in the afternoon because by the time you finish, the weather will be just nice to walk around in the well-tended park next to it.

Because we didn’t wanna let the taxi driver wait too long, we sorta bullet train our time spent there and restricted ourselves to just Sarawak Museum.

If you ask me, i’d say, a must go .. especially if you are travelling with children. It’s rather educational and we enjoyed ourselves quite a bit.

7. Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

Many say that this orang utan wildlife rehabilitation centre is better than the one at Sabah.

How true that is.. i don’t know for i’ve not been to the one at Sabah. But if that is really the case, i don’t think i will ever bother going to the Sabah’s wildlife centre.

Personally, methinks there’s nothing much to see. I reckon it’s because i see orang utan all the time at Singapore Zoo. Hence, spotting 1 or 2 orang utan on the trees does nothing to me. Proboscis monkeys, macaques, orang utans etc … these primates don’t fascinate me that much because i see them almost on the weekly basis. But, gorilla… is another story altogether – Rwanda, i must visit you soon!

8. Visit Kak Dayang

Why?

Because you simply can’t leave Sarawak without trying their famous kek lapis!

Forget about those cakes you see in the souvenir shops, road stalls etc. This is the place where you must go to get the cakes, not anywhere else. Nope, i’m not getting paid for this alrighty? :)

The cakes are decent and quite enjoyable – too many flavours, too many types and waaayy too many to pick from. Simply brilliant. Free samples are available. In fact, you can practically have your lunch here, and they won’t care — their business is too good to be bothered by your presence. Don’t wanna buy after sampling? No problemo. No one will notice too. But i doubt anyone would do that.

Cake prices range from RM 10 – 20. Excellent as souvenir. ;)

9. Eat Kolo Mee

You cannot possibly leave Kuching without eating this noodle. Simply cannot!

Check out this post for my review!

10. Day trip to Bako National Park

A post will be dedicated to Bako National Park soon.

DO NOT DO LIST

1. Annah Rais Longhouse

The longhouse is so modernised that you feel like you are just walking into another house in a village. Period.

Even the tour guide called the ‘wronghouse‘, not longhouse. He thinks that the Sarawak Cultural Village has more to offer to tourists than this place.

The most exciting part for the whole of our 30 minutes tour?

The skeletons.

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