Friday, October 30, 2009

Nexus Karambunai - Post Hiking Pampering

After our Mount Kinabalu hike, we checked in Nexus Karambunai Resort to rejuvenate and relax. One of Alfred's friend mentioned that this IS the place to stay. When we arrived there, I was absolutely amazed by the size of the resort - it is a mini-heaven so to speak. Even though this place is situated away from the Kota Kinabalu town, it has all the facilities - golf course, botanical garden, jacuzzi, restaurants, mini market, etc. The size of the place is simply mind-boggling.

When we were honeymooning in Mauritius, we concluded that Beau Rivage is the best ever place to stay. But after coming to Nexus Karambunai, we changed our mind and agreed that this place is simply breathtaking and clean! Whenever we go to some beaches in Peninsula Malaysia, most often than not we are dissapointed at the littering that goes on. In Nexus, the beach is combed every now and then for rubbish - and it's so clean. I absolutely love the ambience of the whole place - they even have a giant chess set overlooking the beach for the visitors to play. At night, it is absolutely romantic to stroll along the beautifully-lit sidewalks shadowed by palm trees. It is surely a place for a romantic getaway. And they have fantastic beach - with its shoreline stretching endlessly. It's a private beach with only the resort guests allowed there - so there's absolute privacy. The beach chairs are so comfortable to laze on - and it's all well spread out. You need a bicycle to get around the whole place - that's how huge the place is. We would definitely recommend this place to honeymooners and families. And the food served at the restaurants are delicious. Everything seems to be perfect here - yes, it's too good but it's true :)

At the breakfast area @ King Fisher restaurant

The balcony of the room we stayed in - gorgeous view

The beautiful private beach


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mount Kinabalu (Gunung Kinabalu) DAY 1: - Hiking Adventure #6

Mount Kinabalu is situated in the East Malaysia state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. It is the place where you could see breathtaking sunrise from above the clouds, 13,435 feet (4095 meters) above sea level.

We've finally achieved our dream - hiked up Mount Kinabalu and got back home safely despite some mishaps. We had to go through a number of challenges just before the hike - Alfred hurt his back while lifting a heavy bag just hours before the hike - but we decided to continue as he could still walk; in the middle of the hike, the sole of one of his shoes came off and we had to secure it with a string; had to continue our hike despite the weather condition - it was raining heavily; and me falling down somersaulting during the descent haha! We didn't allow all these to dampen our spirits and we kept going.

It's amazing what the human body can endure when you have an end in mind. Despite the obstacles, we persevered and took one step at a time and learned to listen to our instincts. We both respect nature and believe that no one should under-estimate the mountain - there's something sacred and spiritual about the mountain and we gave our utmost respect to it.

Our itinerary on Saturday (the day before the hike):
  • Arrived at Kota Kinabalu at 9.20 a.m. on 24th October 2009 (Saturday).
  • Checked into Cititel Express - it's simplicity is aluring despite the size of the room (the room is very small and compact - but the modern interior design makes up for its size).
  • Packed our bags - separated the items which we will be carrying and the items for the porter to carry.
  • The next day, after breakfast at the hotel, we were picked up at about 7.30 a.m.
  • We made a pit-stop along the way to Kinabalu Park - we had to wait till 12 p.m. before the ascent for the Climbathon participants to finish the race.
The views during the pit-stop before Kinabalu Park
At Kinabalu ParkAt Kinabalu Park with our guide (in the middle)

Day 1: First Phase of the climb - Day climb from Timpohon Gate up to Laban Rata following the summit trail (Length of hike: 6 km hike; 1407 m):
The entrance at Timpohon Gate to the rest point at Laban Rata resthouse (3,272m above sea level) should take 5-6 hours to reach for average fit person, after which you will check-in to dormitory style accommodation. The little markers at the side of the pathway that indicated how many kms left to Laban Rata was really helpful in keeping us motivated and moving.

  • Since it was Climbathon day (from 24-25th October 2009), we had to wait till 12 noon to start our hike - so that the path is clear for all the participants to descent.
  • We started our hike from the Timpohon check point at 12 p.m.
  • From here the trail rises steadily as a series of rough, uneven steps, right up to the overnight huts at Laban Rata (3,272 meters/10,735 feet). Along the way there will be 7 shelters (pondok), where each shelter have toilets and untreated mountain water source. The shelters afford the weary some well earned rest at intervals and the water tanks will make it easy for you as you do not have to carry heavy water bottles with you.
  • Initially, the weather was fair. At about 12.30 p.m., it started to drizzle - and we were went like "Oh, oh! Let's keep on walking". The guide mentioned that it rains almost everyday - since it was approaching the monsoon season. After a couple of minutes, it started to pour heavily - we kept on walking, knowing that waiting does no good - we have to reach the accomodation facility at Laban Rata before it gets dark.
  • After a gruelling 5 hours hike, finally we reached Laban Rata at about 5.00 p.m. - all drenched and cold. It felt so good to walk through those doors into a warm dining area.
  • Took a quick shower - to our horror, the water heater was not working! The water was icy cold - and I had to bite my lips and take a quick icy-bath. It took me hours to warm myself up as the hostel room was not heated as well. Shared the room with two friendly Australian girls - despite getting drenched from the rain, we managed to giggle about the whole episode.
  • Had a early hearty dinner (we were starving!) at about 6.00 p.m. and we settled into our bunk beds . The whole night, I could hear our roommates moaning from fatigue and the cold. I couldn't sleep that night as I was excited about the next day's hike up to the summit (despite knowing hat I had to wear my completely-wet-shoes - that part which I was so not looking forward!).
Before dinner, we went to the balcony of the guesthouse to admire the sunset - it was breathtaking - foams of clouds lining the rays of the setting sun. It was just darn cold standing outside - especially with the icy-cold-shower-effect.The dining area:

Note: Packed lunch is provided before the start of the hike, and early dinner at the Laban Rata guesthouse. 

Things to Bring (Timpohon gate to Laban Rata):
  • Since it is a day climb, it is usually warm and sunny (unless of course if it rains). So lightweight clothing like T-shirt is sufficient.
  • Good hiking shoes (a high-cut shoes is preferred to prevent ankle injury).
  • Hiking sticks (I absolutely need it!)
  • Cap
  • Water (Dilute the oral rehydration salts in the water)
  • Raincoat (You can buy disposable raincoats at Kinabalu Park)
  • Face towels
  • Tissue papers
  • Insect repellent
  • Chocolate, nuts, energy bars, cookies (I enjoyed my NIPS along the ascent to Laban Rata - it kept me going! - it's funny how chocolate tastes much better while hiking Mount Kinabalu).
  • Your backpack. Better to have a waterproof one. We packed everything in double plastic bag in case it rains - and rain it did!).
  • Camera
  • Towels, toothbrush and toothpaste.
We asked the porter to carry most of the things needed for the night stay at Laban Rata - it came up to 10 kg - most of the weight is from the water bottles. The porter charges RM 8 per kilo of weight to be carried up and down. The stuffs we carried are water bottles for the first day hike, cameras and food.

Mount Kinabalu (Gunung Kinabalu) DAY 2: - Hiking Adventure #6

Day 2: Second Phase of the climb - Night climb from Laban Rata to the summit: the final and toughest part of the climb:

Above Laban Rata, the trail continues as a series of wooden ladders, fashioned out tree roots and branches, and smooth granite slopes. The final stretch crossed a jumble of boulders where a misstep could mean a twisted ankle or a fall. When the weather is clear, climbing the bare granite above the tree line is fairly straightforward. But mist and rain can blow in at startling speed. With visibility close to zero, climbers can easily stray into areas above cliffs where a false step can mean certain death - that was what our guide told us - so scary!

As there will be only one stop at Sayat-Sayat Hut for another registration, given a whistle for safety precaution and refilling your water, it is advisable for you to bring your own small water bottle.

The chain of events as follows:
  • Woke up at 1.45 a.m. and had breakfast at 2.00 a.m.
  • Started the ascent to the summit at about 2.45 a.m. (we were late because of last minute packing for the early morning climb). The guide told us not to bring the hiking sticks because we'd be using the rope to climb halfway through. I feel somewhat 'handicapped' without the sticks - so the next time I will definitely bring the foldable hiking sticks. And we wasted some time buying the ski mask at the hostel (it was below 5 degrees Celcius outside - and it's colder than the average day because of the previous day's heavy downpour). And since our shoes and most of our clothes were wet, we were freezing! But once we started the hike, we kinda got used to the cold - and plus the climbing helped to keep our blood circulating. We plodded on and on - since it was pitch dark, the walk seemed never-ending.
The starting part of the hike from Laban Rata to the peak
  • The rope part was the most challenging one for us - luckily it was dark, so we didn't really freak out at that time. It was the descending part from the steep edges that was so nerve-wrekking. The best position is to descent backwards holding the rope and occasionally look on your left to ascertain the steps.
  • Finally, we reached the peak! (Didn't look at the time as my watch was already spoilt from getting wet from yesterday's rain - but it was getting bright on the horizon). It felt so good to take a break to catch our breath at the peak - and the sense of accomplishment of having finally reached the peak! Unfortunately though, the sky was covered with thick mist by the time we reached the peak- and we could not see the sunrise :( As it started to drizzle, we quickly started to descent from Low's peak (the last thing we want is to get wet again!) and the guide told us to quickly descend as it becomes harder if it starts to rain heavily as we need to hold on to the rope at the steep edges when descending. Our biggest dissapointment - not taking any pictures at the peak. It was like "we arrived and we couldn't see the sunrise and it's already time to leave".
Source: (didn't manage to take any pictures as it started to drizzle)

  • Reached Laban Rata at 9.00 a.m. Took a quick breakfast and started our descent at 9.30 a.m. Reached the Timpohon Gate at 1.15 p.m.
  • Contrary to common belief, descending is worse than the climb. Hobbling down the trail with all that weight thumping on your knees and ankles can be excruciating (this is where wearing ankle and knee guards help a little to cushion the impact on your knees and ankles). That is when I fell down somersaulting like a chimp - just lost the grip since the path was slippery. Got hurt a little - but thank God I could still walk. I continued descending as to forget the throbbing pain on the back of my neck due to the fall.
Some of the shots on our way down (we took our time descending since we were still exhausted from the hike to the peak)

Carson Falls (about 500 m from Timpohon gate)

The cold and thin air is something one should take seriously- breathing oxygen-deprived air can cause altitude sickness (crushing headaches and nausea). Thank God we didn't experience that - must be because we took it slow and steady - to acclimatize our body to the altitude. During our Mount Nuang hike, albeit being challenging, we didn't have to deal with high altitude (which generally makes it more difficult to breathe).

The sense of achievement of having successfully scaled Mount Kinabalu can't be described in words! Finally! Our dream fulfilled - we hiked up Mount Kinabalu - the majestic mountain standing tall and mighty in Kota Kinabalu. It has been a long journey - all the training prior to the hike has finally paid off. Throughout the hike, we persevered and kept going. I would say that the hike has definitely taught us some invaluable lessons. 

Lessons Learnt:

  • Survival makes you stronger - I never realized I could pull myself up using the rope - when the fear of falling grapes you, you hold on tight to the rope.
  • The most beautiful moments in life are often where we least expect them. In between of taking a break to catch our breath when ascending to the peak, we turned off our head lights to conserve the battery - and to our amazement the darkness revealed the beauty of the mountain. The stillness of the dark night is simply beautiful. And when I looked up, hundreds of stars were glimmering nudging us to continue our journey despite the fatigue. That was the most priceless moments during the entire hike - the darkness of the night on the mountains and the brilliantly shining stars. That's why it pays to always keep looking up and looking forward! Hiking teaches us just that.
  • Hiking mountains teaches you to maintain focus and persevere - it also reminds you the triviality of some things that we allow to get to ourselves - all those small matters is certainly not worth our time - don't sweat the small stuff!
  • We had to grapple with the fact that Mount Kinabalu is anything but a walk in the park. We spend hours miserably dragging our feet through the beating rain the day before. Patience is a virtue here!
We are definitely going to hike this majestic mountain again – this time, we will go on a non-monsoon season and make sure we take lots of nice pictures; and we will use a different trail – the Mesilau Trail – which is supposedly more scenic. I think Mount Kinabalu certainly deserves a second hike! 

Things to bring from Laban Rata to Low's peak:

  • It is a night climb, usually cold and windy. So, bring plenty of warm clothes - wind breaker or jackets, long sleeves shirts, thick trousers or cargo pants and thick socks.
  • Headlight (is better than torchlight as most of the time after a certain point, you have to hold on to the rope in the dark).
  • Ski mask
  • Gloves
  • Water bottle
  • Raincoat
  • Some snacks
  • Camera 
Note: Supper before the ascent to the peak and breakfast after descending from the peak is provided at the Laban Rata guesthouse. Lunch is provided at the Kinabalu Park restaurant.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Carrot Thosai

On my previous post for carrot thosai recipe, I added the carrot mixture to the batter the next morning before fying it on the pan. This time, I added the blended carrot mixture to the batter and leave it to ferment over night. Also, this time round I used 4 big carrots to be added to the batter. The thosai turned out fluffy, sweetie-carroty taste, and wholesome.