Note: This post shares my personal thoughts and experience as a tourist in Sabah tour package. This trip is commissioned by YouWangSabah.com. Click here for Chinese version. (link will updated later)
Preparation for Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot Spring Day Trip
Trip duration: 7am to 4pm (10 hours)
Early in the morning, my friend, Jonathan, and I, met at 6am to have breakfast together. We were told that our trip starts at 7am so we had breakfast prior that. Breakfast is not included in this tour.
We meet with our tour guide of the day, Oliver, who happened to bring us to same guide to Klias River yesterday. A fun tour guide to hang out with. I’ve met Oliver for only a day yet I felt like I know him for very long.
This is the 12-seaters van we are using for our daytrip. It’s Nissan Urvan 3.0 and boy this van is really, really powerful.
The trip officially started after picking up more 2 more groups of tourists from Hyatt Hotel and Horizon hotel respectively. 3 of them are from Penang and 2 are from Guangzhou, China.
We greeted each other when we meet – we Sabahan are friendly ;)
This is one of the reason why I personally like joining small group tours, this allows us to know tourists from other places. I dislike buses with 40 people, as everyone is doing their own thing. That’s just my personal thought, though.
Our tour guide, gave us a short briefing about today’s schedule and what are we going to do, and what to expect, etc. It’s a 2 hours bus ride to our first destination, and we are stopping at Nabalu town for a short break, then to Poring Hot Spring.
My tour partner fell asleep during working hours, tsk tsk.
After 90 minutes of car ride, we’ve reached Nabalu town. Tour guides showed the way to buy fruits and souvenirs, then have a quick rest with the driver to have short coffee break. Visitors went to buy some local fruits and groceries, and have a quick toilet break too.
The road to Kinabalu Park is hilly and curvy, and the road is shared among many heavy trucks and cars. It is usually better to have a more powerful car to do over-take. Nissan Urvan has no problem over taking other vehicles. We are glad to get arranged for such a powerful van. And driver’s driving skill is excellent – we felt our life is in safe hands.
This is roughly how our route to destination looks like.
Stop over – Nabalu Town
After almost 90 minutes of car ride, we arrived at Nabalu town.
Oliver said today is our lucky day, as there is a ‘tamu’ held here every Thursday, and we are coincidentally here on Thursday so Oliver decided to bring us there for a walk. A tamu is a weekly market where local farmers came out from their village respectively, to exchange goods and sell goods.
This is also our first toilet break after 90 minutes bus ride.
Here’s what you can do:
- toilet break
- buy local goods, like black pepper, fruits and souvenirs
- fresh and cheap organic vegetables
- visit the tamu, see what they are selling.
- take photos of the villagers. remember to get permission first.
- enjoy the breeze
Plenty of hand-made souvenirs to sell. You can find some exotic music instruments here too.
Fresh organic goods from the farmers.
This is tuhau, only available in Sabah.
We stopped here for 20 minutes before departing to our next stop, Poring Hot Spring. The trip to next destination is around 20 minutes of bus ride, heading to direction of Ranau town.
It has been raining since morning. The road is hazy and visibility on the road is low. If it’s sunny day, you can easily see Mount Kinabalu, which is the highest mountain in South East Asia. 10th in Asia.
You have almost 50% chance of getting a good view of Mount Kinabalu, based on my personal experience.
Stop 1: Poring Hot Spring – A World Heritage Site
Poring hot spring is located near Ranau, 30 minutes drive away from Kundasang. Poring also means “bamboo” in local language.
Besides the famous natural hot spring, you can also experience the other fun activities like canopy walk (bridges build between tall trees and you walk through it), it’s definitely not for the faint hearted.
Also, you can witness some waterfall with small fishes pecking on your feet dead skins.
However we did not experience nor witness the waterfall, We are free to wonder around but we chose to follow tour guide’s route for the rest of the day, and the scheduled plan is canopy walk. The water fall route is explored yourself at your own free time.
Oliver explaining to us the activities.
Here are 3 main things you can experience here at Ranau Hot Spring:
- natural hot spring
- canopy walk on top of tree
- waterfall with natural fish spa
This hot spring had been renovated lately with new infrastructures, it was totally different from my last visit (10+ years ago) and I’m glad they’ve made the upgrade. The revamped hot spring has added more convenience and facilities to cater the high volume of tourists.
A small walk to destination, and we have to pass by this river stream. I wonder if they allow us to play water in this river or not, I keep imagining myself submerging in ice cold mountain river water. Thinking about it alone already made me feel refreshed.
I don’t remember having this pool when I was young. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. Hmmm. Can anyone tell me if this pool is already here in first place?
And this is the newly revamped hot spring, the biggest different from what I recall. Individual pools were built and this allows tourists to have their own personal ‘pool’. The hot springs are sourced directly underground so it’s really natural.
You can read about the benefits of hot spring here.
This is the section I remembered the most! My dad used to brought raw eggs here and cooked it with the hot spring water.
When I was young, I am afraid of approaching this pool because I thought, “Waaa… so hot! If I fall down, I sure die.”.
Until today, I am still afraid to approach this pool.
Ha, I am so innocent.
But based on the the notice, they’ve prohibited customers to boil egg any more. I wonder why.
Kinabalu Park Canopy Walk
We are required to pay RM5 per camera for the canopy walk. I am not sure what are these charges for but I think it adds to the fund of reserving the park. I think!
Our tour guide Oliver, showing his professionalism and knowledge by giving us briefings about the canopy walk.
I remember him giving these advice:
- Take nothing but photo, leave nothing but foot prints
- No smoking allowed
- Fitness problem? Don’t come.
- Do not spoil the nature in any way, not even picking flowers
- Respect the nature
- Stay quiet and don’t shout
- Pretend Mountain Gods exists, and respect them, because strange things happens here.
You can see a huge signboard outside the canopy walk, before entrance.
One of the magnificent trees on the way up to the canopy walk. This tree is 200 years old and it’s called iron wood if not mistaken. One of the toughest and straightest tree found in Borneo.
The ascending to the top of the canopy took us around 15-20 minutes. There are 3 elderly among us (70+ years old) who keeps up with the speed of tour guide, where the rest of us (20+ years old) were left behind, trying to catch our breath.
One of them is… Jonathan.
Jonathan has the lousiest stamina because he smokes, lol. No smoking allowed so his stamina is REALLY low.
Even the elderly has to say “young man, take a rest and catch your breath ok? We move on first.”
When you reached canopy area, they are selling RM2.00 per bottle of water.
This is the famous canopy walk at Poring hot Spring. The tallest canopy is 175ft from ground, and 42 meters in length, which is stretched across 5 bridges.
Not too sure when was this canopy bridge build. It can support up maximum of 6 people at a time so make sure you take turn to walk pass the bridge.
While doing the canopy walk, I hold on rope 95% (ok, it’s 100% holding on rope) most of the time. Not too sure why I paid for the camera. lol.
The bridged were secured and harnessed to the toughest (and tallest trees) so every part is ensured of maximum safely. Not too sure about the frequency of inspection, though. I don’t remember signing any documents of liability so they are pretty confident with their canopy structure.
Some canopy walk are firm, and 1-2 of them are a bit shaky.
The view down is more “breath-taking” than the view across. My legs were shaking before, during, and after the walk. I wasn’t expecting the canopy walk to be so exciting. When I first arrived, I thought I’ve done this many times and this is like a walk in the park.
Here are the FOUR Phases of leg-shakes:
- Phase 1(before canopy) – tired from climbing hill
- Phase 2(during canopy) – not too sure if it’s my legs shaking or the tree is swaying
- Phase 3(after canopy) – adrenaline rush, and excited
- Phase 4 (after descending from hill) – tired until shake.
There is a great way to cure the leg-shake – loosen your tense-muscles in hot spring!
I did not bring extra cloths so I am not able to full submerge my entire body inside hot spring. So, what I do is, I only submerge my feet because I bought extra pair of socks and towel.
It felt so good.
When everything is done, we gathered at a point where Oliver told us to meet up during 12:30noon. By this time, we were already hungry from all the activities in the morning, can’t wait to have a great lunch!
Lunch and break at Kinabalu Park
We were brought to a restaurant at Kundasang, Kinabalu Park.
The whole group were seated on same table to have lunch. We started conversation and shared the experience we had earlier in the morning. We started to chat with each other and introduced ourselves properly.
Before the lunch begins, Oliver makes sure every one is comfortable and making sure the food is OK. “If the food is not enough, let me know” he said. He didn’t join us for lunch at the same table, Oliver and the bus driver sat at a separate table, had only fried rice for lunch.
During a smoking break, Oliver says some of the tour guides don’t even have food whole day because they are working. Professional at work!
Here’s a kind reminder: prevent yourself from eating too much or else you will have a bloated stomach. It’s uncomfortable during the remaining bus ride. This happens to my friend, Jonathan, who ate too much during lunch. Haha.
I was excited to see these coin game machines, and they are still working perfectly!
My dad used to let me to play these machine games after I get good grades at school. He inserts RM0.20 for each game. The local here usually call these machines “ding dong”. I have good memories associated with these machines. Being able to play these coin machines meant an achievement for me.
Stop 2: Kinabalu Park
The road to Kinabalu Park from the restaurant only takes few minutes. We are feeling energized again after having the scrumptious meal.
While on the road, Oliver shared with us some facts and stories about Kinabalu Park.
- There are 1,000+ species orchid flowers in the world, and Kinabalu Park has 800-900 types of it.
- Kinabalu Park is one of UNESCO sites. One of the protected world heritage site.
- You can over night here and enjoy the breeze, and see amazing Mount Kinabalu when weather is good.
We were led to an exhibition room with all the facts and history of Kinabalu Park and surrounding “ protected parks” around Sabah.
Inside the exhibition room, they showed different species of animals only found in Borneo, the geography, and what actions are the local government are actively doing in order to protect the heritage site.
I personally think these information has to be updated again. I noticed that all materials are more than 10 years old and it has been been updated since. They should upgrade it with the use of currently technology and media, and most of the information can be easily found online.
Inside the exhibition centre, many people just hang around and enjoy the natural beauties surrounding the building. There is a small cafe where you can sit down, relax and enjoy.
And nothing else to do. Hehe.
The road returning to city will take bus ride approximately 90 minutes. I usually buy some snacks before departure. It’s a pleasure to enjoy the nature beauty while snacking away like there’s no tomorrow, a guilty pleasure. But that’s what life is about right? ;)
Notice the snacks are mostly “bloated” due to the height of this location, the air pressure is different.
Returning to Kota Kinabalu City
Around 2:30pm, we started our descending trip back to Kota Kinabalu city again. Our trip started around 7am and we are expected to reach city around 4pm.
I’ve been to Kinabalu Park and Poring hot spring many times. This is the first time I can truly enjoy and relax, without having to concern about anything. All I need to do is just follow instructions and Oliver always arranged everything before hand, a true professional at work. That is why having a tour guide is is always nice.
So does the price justify for everything? Well, in my honest opinion, it depends. If I am a tourist, I’ll definitely pay the premium prices for the conveniences. You will be having lots of troubles coming to this place because lack of road signs and certain skill required to drive on this road path.
As a local, it’s worth spending the weekend here with your family. If we weren’t following schedule from tour guide, we would have reach home by dark. Imagine how dangerous to drive on hilly roads with no street lights at all.
Here’s a brief reminder what to bring and prepare for this trip:
- Extra set of cloths and towel
- Plastic bags for your wet cloths
- A bottle of water
- Snacks to much during the trip *optional
- Seasick pills *optional