Monday, September 7, 2009

Revisiting the Land Below the Wind (Final)

"Sutera" means silk in the Malay language. Yes, the Sutera Harbour Resort was to be the last place of visit for me in Kota Kinabalu. The name itself brings with it some level of expectation, for me at least. I was wide-eyed all the way in the car imagining what the resort would be like.

Upon entering the big driveway leading towards the hotel lobby, I could almost immediately decide that the hotel indeed meets up to its expectations. Being new there, I did not realise that the resort is divided into The Pacific Sutera and The Magellan Sutera. The Pacific Sutera is tailored as a business accommodation while The Magellan Sutera with its ethnic charm is tailored more towards foreigners and local holiday makers who appreciate an ethcnic touch to their holiday. For more on the Sutera Harbour Resort, the official website provides a wealth of info- http://www.suteraharbour.com/v2/index.php

I spent time in the very well landscaped garden outside The Pacific Sutera and clicked photos as keepsakes. It was so calming and nice just to walk in the garden, but the walk towards the harbour was even more breathtaking, seeing rows of yacths and boats against the setting sun.




We made our way home when we got a phone call. It was from a friend who said that she was on her way to Marina Court with dinner. I felt so lucky as even as I was faraway fom home, I still got to eat home-cooked dinner. Leaving Sutera Harbour, I saw an aeroplane in the sky and it reminded me that I would be in one tomorrow. How time flies and it did sadden me a bit. As we drove out of Sutera Harbour, I made a silent resolve that I will be back here for another holiday as there is still much more that I've yet to explore....

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Revisiting the Land Below The Wind (V)

Dinner that night was in "Fish & Co.", a fast-food chain specialising in fish and chips, located in one of the shopping malls. We have that in Kuala Lumpur (KL) as well, but in KL the "Manhattan Fish Market" was more popular. There were 3 of us at dinner, all including me were ex-Inti and University of Otago students. I had seafood pasta though I felt I should be having fish & chips! I just craved for pasta that night. The highlight of the dinner was less of the food but more of filling up each other on the latest news in each others' life.

After dinner, we went to another shopping mall where souvenirs can be found. I bought some local hand-made jewellery that you can wear around your wrist. It took me quite a while to choose the colours that I like as there was a wide variety of it. Satisfied with my purchase, we left for home (my friend's home that is).

I woke up early again the next day for "Dim Sum". The place was already very packed when we reached, which speaks well for the Dim Sum. Dim Sum is a Chinese cuisine that consist of a variety of light dishes served in the mornings until noon. The dishes are normally served with Chinese tea and include meat, seafood, vegetables, even fruits & desserts served on a small plate or a small steamer basket. I did not take any photos of the Dim Sum served as I did not think it appropriate when meeting up with friends that I've not met for a long time. I'll post some photos of  it as soon as I have the chance to have Dim Sum again :-)

About 1 and a half hours later, and with a full and happy stomach we bade goodbye and left for 1Borneo, the largest shopping mall in Kota Kinabalu. Living in KL and being a season shopper, I took it as a chance to have a leisurely stroll and perhaps burning off the calories accumulated from having too much of Dim Sum. All the shops were commonly found in KL and having shopped regularly for the past 3 months due to the Malaysian Mega Sale, I did not feel the need to shop, though I did ended up buying some stuff for my parents. I guess old habits die hard!

The next day Sunday was a trip to Gaya Street, a place that I was very much looking forward to go. Gaya Street is a Sunday market, where you can find almost anything- antiques, batiks, all sorts of handicrafts, clothings, food stuff, pets, you name it, almost everything under the sun if you have the time to visit every stall that is. Below are some photos to give you a feel of how Gaya Street looks like, and what is sold there.




Lunch was at a Vietnamese Shop on Gaya Street. We had beef noodles, and I must say, it was one of the best beef noodles I ever tasted. I am salivating just thinking about it...

Also on Gaya Street is a boutique hotel, Jesselton Hotel which is reputed to be the oldest hotel in in Kota Kinabalu. It is a very cozy and beautiful colonial-styled hotel. We were given a tour of the rooms in the hotel and was rather impressed with them. I definitely felt a sense of genuine welcome as the brochure suggests. I give it a thumbs up for holiday stays.




Later in the afternoon, we went to the "First Beach" at Tanjung Aru. I must say that it has changed considerably since the last time I was there, and more beautiful than ever.

Sutera Harbour was our next destination...

To be continued....

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Revisiting the Land Below the Wind (IV)

When we reach the Kinabalu Park, rain came against our wish. Due to the rain, we only had the chance to tour the Botanical Gardens, which I felt was too short a tour. The tour guide made us all wear raincoats and/ or carry an umbrella; and with a positive and cheery mood got us all to a good start. The first thing that we were introduced to when we entered the Botanical Gardens was a plant shown below. This was claimed to be the smallest orchid there! 
As we walked, the tour guide would stop us once a while when he chanced upon a unique flora. An example is the "Santa Claus" orchid shown below. Can you see the face of Santa Claus? It gave me goosebumps when I realised that!
Can you see the drops of water on the leaf? These pictures were taken under the rain. I had no regrets  buying the Ricoh CX1 as all the pictures turned out well to my great satisfactio . Even under the rain, I continued to snap lots of photos as I was curious to see if the camera would give wonderful shots under the rain; and it passed my test. One of the tourist actually stopped to ask me about my camera. I think he could see the quality of the photo taken from my big camera screen. I'll try to devote a separate post solely on my new camera:-)
Below are more photos taken in the Botanical Gardens (under the rain!).

After about 45 mins, we went back to our van and headed back to Kota Kinabalu, reluctantly leaving the great nature behind us. The drive back to Kota Kinabalu was about 2 and a half hours, with most of us dosing off due to the rainy weather which was so conducive for sleeping. Finally about 5.15pm, I was dropped off at the condominium where I was staying. I took a long hot shower and a short nap before dinner...
To be continued...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Revisiting the Land Below the Wind (III)

It was very sunny throughout the time we were in Poring Hot Springs. I even stopped at one of the small stalls for a coconut drink. After paying RM2.50, I scanned the area for a shady area where I can sit and enjoy my drink. I found a big stone underneath a leafy tree which was just perfect for me. Around me I can see people soaking comfortably in the pools with water channeled from the hot springs.

This is how the hot springs look like from near...













Here's more pictures taken in Poring Hot Springs...

About 12.45pm we left Poring Hot Springs and headed towards Kinabalu Park, stopping midway in a small resthouse for lunch. The name of the resthouse just slipped my mind but I'll definitely update the blog once I remember it. Lunch was good, for me at least since it was local food which I was so used to. I was not too sure about the rest of the group though as they were all foreigners. I guessed the fact that they finished most of all that was served was a positive sign, and I did hear a few of them say that the food was indeed delicious.
As we were finishing lunch the sky outside dimmed a bit, a sign of rain to come. Just as we went back to the van, it started to drizzle and we were each silently hoping that it would not turn into a heavydownpour.
To be continued...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Revisiting the Land Below the Wind (II)

The Trip to Kinabalu Park & Poring Hot Springs (cont'd)...

On the way to Poring Hot Springs, we stopped at a place called "Pekan Nabalu", a pineapple town, evident by a big pineapple that greets us as we turned into the town. A very small town, it is a common stopover for most tour buses as I saw other tourists already there. There are a few shops serving local food and drinks, with most other shops selling souvenirs. There are of course toilet facilities for answering nature's call. After a 20 minute stop, we made our way to Poring Hot Springs. Poring Hot Springs, a rainforest park located about 40 km away from Kinabalu Park amongst the foot hills of Mt. Kinabalu near Ranau is famous for its sulphuric hot springs which are channelled into Japanese-styled 'onsen' baths where you can soak and relax yourself. But I was more interested in the canopy walk that I was about to take.

Here's how the canopy walk look like. Basically it is a walk on a bridge suspended by thick ropes and wire cables attached to trees. If you have a fear for heights, it may not be for you. It is purported to be 41-meters in height. The canopy walk gives you a view of the jungle surroundings from high-up, and if you're lucky, you can see wildlife such as birds, monkeys and squirrels. A maximum of 6 persons can take the walk at any one time. If you bring a camera, a fee of RM5 has to be paid in addition to the ticket charge. I did not have to pay for the ticket charge, only the camera fee. The ticket charge was already included in the tour cost of RM199.














After the canopy walk, I visited the Butterfly Farm, while some others went to the waterfalls or the hot springs for a bath. The cost to enter the Butterfly Farm was not included but it was a mere RM3 for Malaysians.














Along the way in this rainforest, you will see a variety of sceneries, as shown by pictures below.







































To be continued....

Friday, August 21, 2009

Revisiting the Land Below the Wind (1)







I've been so guilty of not writing in this blog for such a long time. I still remember my goal when I first set out to create this blog, i.e. to write at least once a month on any topic that touches my heart.

I'm now in Sabah, the Land Below the Wind, and I don't see a better reason for me to continue with my much neglected goal of regular writing, than now.

To be more precise, I'm currently in Kota Kinabalu (KK), the capital of Sabah. Coming here again after 10 years, is something that I've deferred for few years now.

My relationship with Sabah..
I first came to Sabah in the mid of 1990 with my family (dad, mom, sister and brother) as dad was posted here for work. I spent 2 and a half years here completing my primary school education in St Francis Convent, and then moving on to secondary school education for another 2 years before moving to Ipoh, Perak (where my dad was subsequently posted to). After 2 years in Ipoh, dad was posted back to KK, something we did not expect. Here I completed my secondary school education and moved on to college for 2 years before leaving for New Zealand for my bachelor's degree. All in all, I stayed in KK for a good 5 years, having lots of sweet memories as I was growing up and making good friends along the way. With Facebook, I managed to "see" them again after so many years. This is just a glimpse of how my relationship with Sabah started.

The trip after 10 years..
20th August was the day I finally decided to make a short breakaway trip to KK. This would be my first visit after 10 years. It was only when the pilot announced that we were going to land in KK airport that I started to feel a little excited. How is KK now? Is it still the same? How much has it changed?

The 2 and a half hours flight was extended by about half an hour due to bad weather conditions in KK. I finally came out of the airport at 5.15pm, and was immediately greeted by an old college friend. The plan has all been set for me that nite. I was to be whisked to meet his wife and kids, the wife who is also a good college friend of mine. I spent about an hour there before having dinner with 3 other friends of mine, one of whom is providing me accommodation until I leave on Monday 24th August.

The dinner at "Da Jia Lai" Seafood Restaurant..
Coming to KK will not be complete without a visit to a seafood restaurant. Seafood is in abundance in KK, hence cheaper and also fresher. Even though there was a heavy downpour and we were nearly shouting at the top of our voices to hear each other, it did not deter us from enjoying the food, and more importantly, each others'company.

The accommodation...
After dinner, I was taken to my accomodation, which has been so generously provided by my good friend. It was in Marina Court in the city area, so cozy and well kept. Having a room all to myself and my friend's care and company, ah! I felt very blissful indeed.

The trip to Kinabalu Park & Poring Hot Springs...
This would not be my first time to Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot Springs. I had to see if there has been any change ever since. The trip was a pre-booked day tour with Exotic Borneo Tours. The tour van picked me up from Marina Court at 7.45pm, and after picking the rest of the tourists (7 in all including me), we made our way up. Here's some links to information on Kinabalu Park --> (http://www.sabahtourism.com/en/destination/124-kinabalu-park/)
and (http://www.worldheritagesite.org/sites/kinabalu.html)

I think it's worthwile mentioning that I've conquered Mount Kinabalu while waiting for college. Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in SouthEast Asia. Standing at 4,095.2m (13,435 ft) tall (source: Sabah Tourism Board), it is really a sight to behold. I was told that in recent years, to climb the mountain one needs to book way in advance as the number of climbers have increased rapidly. I think it is partly due to the fact that the Kinabalu Park has been designated as a World Heritage Site by Unesco (in December 2000), and it is Malaysia's first World Heritage Site. Did you know that the annual Mt Kinabalu International Climbathon (this year it will be held on the 24th-25th October 2009) is deemed as "The World's Toughest Mountain Race"? I didn't until I read this website --> (http://climbathon.sabahtourism.com/2009/main.php?page=2)

To be continued...




Monday, February 2, 2009

Aww..It's Valentine!


Love fills the air in February. You won't need to remember that February 14th is Valentine's day as almost every conceivable media that exist on this planet will compete to remind you of this day! Wherever you go, there is a reminder of Love and Valentine's Day.

I saw a contest in the papers yesterday which asked one to write in 20 words or less what love means to you, and it starts with "My Valentine is...". If you win this, the prize would be Loreal hampers. Not that the prize was appealing to me in anyway, it was the question that got me thinking..

So, what does love means to you? I think love means different things to different people, especially when they go through different stages in their lives. I guess everyone will go through both the sweet and not so sweet side of love. You realise that when you truly love someone, you would not expect anything in return and would wish only for his or her happiness. Love is also about forgiving and letting go. As I go through life's ups and downs, I realise that parents are the only ones who would continue to give their unconditional love. It is through them, that I realise what REAL love is all about!

To me, Valentine's Day is a day to mark your love for all the people that you love in your life, be it your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, etc. And with technology, showing your love need not be expensive, just a bit of imagination will do!

Celebrate Love!!