After KK we set off east on a 2 hour trip in a hot, cramped minivan to Mount Kinabalu National Park. The bus dumped us at the entrance to the park. First job – find somewhere to stay. Places inside the park and directly outside are much more expensive and were a bit out of our price range (this is to be expected), but a short walk down the road was extremely successful.
Within the comfortable distance of only about 300-400 metres from the park entrance we found Mountain Resthouse, which was offering a double room for only 50 Ringgit (under £9) – result! Being set right on the mountainside, on the very edge of the national park, we had many visitors to the balcony in the evening, including a variety of moths the size of your face!
As well as being a cheap, quiet and comfortable guesthouse, Mountain Resthouse was also a great place to meet other backpackers who were also keen to avoid the inflated prices of the pre-booked tour options that Borneo is rife with. The main draw for people to come to the national park is to tackle the 2 day climb to the summit of the impressive Mount Kinabalu. Soph and I had already decided that this was a little out of our price range, and had accepted that it was not going to be an option this time round, but not to worry we found other great ways to explore the park and the mountain!
Many of the people staying at our guesthouse were interested in the climb, but due to lack of availability for the cheaper accommodation options up the mountain (as you have to stay for one very expensive night in one of the hostels half way up) many were unable to take on the climb this time round either. We stayed our first night in our comfortable box-room, complete with an external shared bathroom, which appeared to be on a very precarious slant! We awoke the next morning to a little bit of a hoo-har, as the English couple we met the day before had left without paying their two night bill of 100 Ringgit – fucking assholes – so little to us, but so much to the local people – the owner was such a nice lady as well!
After a bit of discussion about this rather inappropriate behaviour – giving us English a bad name! Fuckers! – we (myself, Soph, a girl called Sara from Belgium, and a guy called Valentine from Germany) set off for the day to explore some of the jungle trails around the national park at the base of the mountain. The jungle was hot and humid, making for a pretty fucking sweaty experience, but really fun and interesting. We followed a range of signposted routes, and even decided to take on a trail that was ‘closed for maintenance’ – ha, whatever – turns out it was pretty damn treacherous, with some extremely loose, slippery and sometimes non-existent footing! As designated jungle trek leader at this point, I declared that we should not turn back and just keep on chugging along, and finally, after a couple of hairy moments, and the odd shout from Soph saying: “Ed, I really don’t think this is a path!”, we reached the top of the valley, where we found a viewpoint for our lunch stop, and an actual path to take us back to civilization.
After a full day of walking and exploring the jungle around Mount Kinabalu, we returned home for an evening of beer, cards, wonky buildings and oversized insects! (Mountain Resthouse offers the cheapest beer in Malaysia – that I have found anyway – for only 4 Ringitt a can. Even in supermarkets it’s like 7 Ringitt – crazy!). The following morning, our group of 4, plus another English girl called Fran, boarded the bus heading to the far east of Borneo, the port town of Sandakan, to begin our search for the great ginger jungle dwellers.
Photos from Mount Kinabalu National Park: