This trip made me checked geography. I found out that the places we’ll go are on an island that is Borneo. It was a 9-day vacation to Sabah and Labuan in Malaysia and Brunei – two countries alongside Indonesia, the political divisions of the island. But the main purpose for me is Mt. Kinabalu which happens to be the highest point in the island. It’s mission accomplished and this particular trip had me very satisfied and happy. And of course, for my travel buddies too – Tito Romy, Tita Medy, Ate Carina, Ate Fe and Tito Loy!
“The Land Below The Wind”
We stayed at Hotel Traveller in Kota Kinabalu which is situated in the busy streets within nearby shops and restaurants and considerably near to the Waterfront, night market and Oceanus Waterfront Mall. The room rates are reasonably priced with good amenities. Except for unavailable wifi access on almost during our stay, this hotel is recommendable. As for our tours and transportation in Sabah, we were accommodated by Faizal of Faizal Tour, the husband of Fe’s bestfriend. Because of him, our exploration of Kota Kinabalu to Ranau, to Beaufort and other tourist attractions was easy and hassle-free. Notably, he charged us farely and way cheaper that the rates given by hotels and other tourist agencies.
Our itinerary’s first part consisted of tours (including a simple commemoration of my birthday) – a full 3-day experience filled with fun-filled memories and adventure:
1st day – Kota Kinabalu City Tour which included visits and sightseeing of Sabah State Mosque and Kota Kinabalu City Mosque, Signal Hill Observatory Platform, Sabah State Administrative Centre, Sabah Museum and Waterfront
2nd Day – Kinabalu Park: Pekan Nabalu Market, Moroli Fish Spa, Poring Hot Springs and Canopy Walkway and Viewing Deck
3rd Day – Mari Mari Cultural Village and Weston Wetland Park River Cruise
It was a physically challenging exploration but nevertheless I considered it one for the books. I had also tried different tastes – Malay, Indian, Chinese and noted some which became my faves. Sabah is that one place that is beyond my expectations. It has given me more than what I came for, the reason why I’d want to come back, given a chance. Even more so because I realized after our first 3 days of stay, I knew by heart this trip was meant to be and I’m forever grateful for the blessing. Before this I thought it’s not gonna happen but God has other plans. He made it to be a birthday surprise to remember.
Our 4th day was our last day in KK. We had a chance to attend the Sunday mass first in Sacred Heart Cathedral before our trip going to Labuan. We were supposed to ride a ferry from the Jesselton Point Terminal but there was none available due to an unfortunate mechanical trouble so we opted for a van ride instead of a bus one because of the no. of luggages we have. It was a convenient arrangement as we were picked up from our hotel. On our way to Menumbok, I was torn between a feeling of sadness and excitement. If there’s a separation anxiety with a place then I had one with Sabah. But then, the trill of going to another island was something I looked forward to, thinking that there are more to see and explore. The travel was a sort of reminiscing (yes, it’s the way to be), napping with chats in between. It was nice to also see palm trees plantations and beautiful landscapes.
The one thing I have had a funny memory of was the speedboat ride as opposed to our expectations and all. We thought of a nice, cool boat but what we saw almost made our jaw dropped and had a guffaw. It was a 12-seater small old rustic boat that one faint hearted would not dare ride on. I had to stop myself from laughing out loud or I’d be misinterpreted. It may be a laughing matter to us but to the other passengers, it’s not and such act would be regarded as offensive. Besides, it was such a bumpy trip that it needed be taken a bit seriously. But somehow, it was already to me an adventurous ride that I won’t mind experiencing again, that approximately 25 mins of thrill by the sea.
FEDERAL TERRITORY OF LABUAN
“The Pearl of Borneo”
Tito Loy left ahead of us to Labuan so he was able to pick us up again (as he did when we arrived in KK International Airport with Faizal). Labuan Ferry Terminal is just a few minutes away from Ate Fe’s place at a walking distance. It’s surprising and convenient that this island is as progressive as any city nearby. So many places to explore and discover!
We’re on the road the next day after to see the tourist spots, some I have already searched and listed and others, on a whim:
- Surrender Point
- Botanical Garden
- Marine Park
- War Cemetery
- Chimney Museum
- Palm Beach Resort & Spa
- Billion Waterfront
- Bird Park
We had a laid-back kind of trip, convenient especially because Tito Loy drove us around as we took our time and managed to just relax. After all, we’re on an island where everything is a stone-throw away.
“The Abode of Peace”
A day trip to Brunei was originally part of the plan. It’s only the itinerary we weren’t able to finalize until a day before and only to not consider it after. he he he Our only concern was the time frame because we knew the very limited ferry trips to and from Serasa Ferry Terminal in Muara, and bus trips from there to Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB), the capital and largest city. And to tell you honestly, we only had about 2 hours to spend in order for us to see:
- Istana Nurul Iman (The King’s Palace) – at least it’s gate.. ha ha ha we were told that it’s open to the public during the King’s birthday in July or the Hari Raya season
- Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque (from afar)
- James ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
- Makang Raja Ayang
Along our way to the bus terminal, in happenstance, we were able to pass along the start off point of a heritage trail. Anyhow, however much we could want to experience it, we knew we couldn’t. Our purpose was to only see briefly Brunei is at least through its capital city and we were contented doing so. And this one day of opportunity brought us to realize and discover things about Brunei especially of a fellow Filipino. We’re fortunate enough to met her briefly and experience her hospitality, a common trait of us. We had a stop-over somewhere (I forgot the name of the market) before heading to the ferry terminal. While waiting for the next bus, we stayed at her shop – she sews and repair clothes for a living. And we’ve known that her shop was very welcoming to Filipinas who got stranded in the area and blessed enough to be welcomed and allowed stay for the night.
Until now, everything seemed like this trip just happened so recently for me, everything is so fresh in my memory. I have those times when I somehow wish I can just experience again seeing the fireflies or braving the cold, foggy Kinabalu Park temperature just to see Mt. Kinabalu and blend in the feeling of the greenery and enchanting vibe of the place or basking at the glorious sunsets. Oh, I could freeze in those moments!
I’m grateful for the company I had, Ate Fe’s hospitality and accommodation and everyone else who were part of this wondrous trip. Budget-wise, it was a win for me and most importantly so, this getaway gave me fond and wonderful memories I wouldn’t want to forget in my lifetime.