Floating Mosque at sunset, KK
During this first month of my travels I have had one major thing on my mind that was to come to a head in Borneo
. I had signed up to climb Mt Kinabalu. I had trained for months to get fit for the climb, only to knacker my right ankle in the car crash just before leaving England. I have been trying to rest it as much as possible but really, when there is a world to explore it is impossible to sit still for too long. I really had done my best though, Chinese herbal patches in Penang
, massage in Thailand, galavanting around less than I would normally. The thing is, as I arrived into Borneo’s capital Kota Kinabalu (KK) on the plane from Penang, and as I explained to the Malaysian couple on the plane (who nearly adopted me!), my ankle was still randomly swelling up, I kept knocking it, was still blinkin painful.
People say that the climb down from the 4,095 metre peak of Kinabalu is actually worse than going up as it is tough on the knees and ankles. OK, time to admit defeat I guess, would be way too painful, this was not going to happen for me this time :(
Feeling pretty deflated, I checked into the hostel in KK and emailed the climb organisers to cancel. They offered to take me on a 1:1 tour of Kinabalu national park instead so I could at least see the mountain and get a sense of the scale of the challenge that i was oh so close to giving a bash. I spent the first couple of days exploring the city and surrounding areas. First impressions were that KK was just a complete concrete jungle (it was bombed heavily in WW2 and rebuilt) a bit tacky, bit of a problem with traffic, full of shopping malls and fast food restaurants.
I guess I was just in a negative mood overall, but this place seemed to lack a soul. I caught a boat taxi out to some nearby islands for beach and snorkelling, and what a day this was. Just offshore from the city, about 20 minutes by boat, is the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park with a number of beautiful tropical islands. Really easy to get to from KK, you just turn up at Jesselton Point Pier and decide which islands, and how many, you want to hop to and jump on a boat. I visited two of the islands, Mamutik and Sapi. Both were beautiful with white sandy beaches, clear sea, many colourful fish but sadly again dead dead dead coral. Nothing alive here whatsoever. Still, I saw some interesting fish then chilled out on a real quiet bit of beach Blisssssssssss..... I was just nodding off in the sun when I heard a noise that made me jump, literally boy did I jump as running towards me from the woods near the beach were TWO DRAGONS!!!! Seriously look at my pics, they were fu@king dragons, tongues lashing out.
..Well OK they were large monitor lizards actually but LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THESE SCARY MOTHERS.... Yikes I was in Jurassic park!! They actually seemed to be fighting each other but saw me and one of them charged at me and man, forget the ankle, I RAN... Ran into the sea and tripped up, all the time screaming ‘OH MY GOD’. The dragon almost seemed to laugh at me, made some kind of heavy breathing noise then ran back into the woods to chase the other dragon!! YIKES or what!! I was shaking for about half an hour after.. Think I was more scared here than during the car accident! Thankfully, the rest of the day was more relaxing...
I was really missing Georgetown I think and the people i met there. KK didn’t really do it for me and neither did the hostel that actually had some very positive reviews everywhere I saw it mentioned.
The majestic Mount Kinabalu poking its tongue out at me :(
I just thought it was tacky, no atmosphere in the common areas just a group of kids sat around watching the TV. The included ‘breakfast’ was just pants, one bit of toast and no fruit atall, my room was so noisy too and I wasn’t sleeping very well. Very proud of myself as I managed to negotiate, for just a few quid extra, a hotel room with seaview, 32 inch LCD TV and huge comfy bed yeeehaaahhh!!! It was a new hotel trying to drum up business and I was happy to oblige. This made a huge difference to my stay in KK I cheered up a bit. I celebrated by giving into the zillions of touts near the hotel and getting a massage and enjoying the catch of the day for dinner on the seafront. Ahhhh slept much better after that, sorted..
The Kinabalu Park tour was all a bit peculiar.
Poring Hot Springs, the cold rock pool
I was picked up 8am by a little guy in a little car, he hardly spoke any English so the 3 hour drive to the mountains was a bit dull, although the scenery amazing. Mount Kinabalu itself was hidden under a blanket of cloud but thankfully the clouds eventually shifted just for me to see the peak. The mountain poked its tongue out at me! I actually came across a bit funny, emotional, wasn’t expecting this atall. Memories of the accident just a few weeks before, the feelings I had then, how lucky I am to be able to still follow my dreams, how disappointing to not climb the mountain, the people i have left behind. I suddenly felt very alone and had to wipe away a tear. The mountain looked so bloody beautiful, majestic, the challenge was there ripe for the picking, welcoming me, drawing me in, and I so wanted it.
Canopy walk in Kinabalu Park
.. My guide left it up to me to decide where I wanted him to take me in the park. So we went to the hot springs, where i bathed in ridiculously hot mineral-rich water then swam in a cold cold natural rock pool. That sorted the circulation out! Then we did a canopy walk across a jungle, very scary high up on the wobbly bridge. Then we went and saw the biggest flower in the world, the Rafflesia. It didn’t really look real, looked plastic but was pretty impressive and i was happy to see it in bloom.
So I had a few days spare as I wasn’t doing the mountain climb. While i was searching online for alternative places to go, toying with the idea of going to the neighbouring country of Brunei, i saw a picture of a beautiful mosque, surrounded by water, near to KK.
Rafflesia, the biggest flower in the world!
On a whim, i jumped into a taxi and asked to be taken there. We drive for about 10 minutes and I could see a mosque but no water. I asked the driver, ‘i thought mosque was in water’ and he replied ‘ahhh the floating mosque this is a different one’. I persuaded him to turn back but then we got stuck in rush hour traffic and the driver started huffing! It was pretty bad, must have taken us about 40 minutes to get to the other side of town. However, this meant i got to see the sunset over the floating mosque, and what a beautiful experience this was, absolutely glorious. I was the only visitor, it was so peaceful. There were obviously people in the mosque though as the prayer calls echoed around and added to the serene atmosphere. As the sun set, the reflections in the still water and the colours changed dramatically, and I was absolutely in my element taking photos.
Floating Mosque at sunset, KK
I had agreed with the taxi driver that he would wait 15 mins for me and take me back to my hotel but he seemed to enjoy the scene too and we were there over half an hour! Exquisite end to my emotional stay in KK....