1. Day 6, Oct 19: At 7+, it was nice and cool outside the hotel; understandably so, as we were 1300 m above sea level. After a bowl of hot Bee Hoon soup, we drove to Mt Kinabalu National Park for a morning walk, and maybe golf at the Mt Kinabalu Country Club.
2. The Park HQ was already buzzing with people when we got there, some registering themselves for the climb up Mt Kinabalu, others getting ready for their climbs. To climb Mt Kinabalu, one has to register ahead, before arrival. There was a group of teenage boys and girls from HK, all excited and getting ready for their climbs. Mt Kinabalu is 4095m high. Typically, the climbers will start at about 2000m+ and climb to Laban Rata at more 3000 m and stay the night there. Next morning, they will wake up early and climb the last stretch to the top to watch sun rise, before making their way down.
3. We walked the park for about an hour. On the way back, we decided to give golf a miss and decided to visit Kundasan War Memorial not far from our hotel instead.
Quite strangely, the GPS did not behave and led us to a wild goose chase and we ended up at the Mt Kinabalu Golf and Country Club. Here I was, on the last hole of the course, with Mt Kinabalu in the background.
4. Got back to the hotel at about 12. Quite quickly, we were checked out and on the way to Sandakan, some 180 km away, along Highway A4, a sealed road, one land either way; left side not so good with regular potholes. There were many trucks along the way, as the road passes through vast tracts of oil palm plantations and they were probably carrying palm oil or oil palm seeds.
6. We reached Sandakan at about 4 pm. With the help of our GPS, we checked into Swiss Inn Waterfront Hotel, after checking Sabah Hotel, which was full, and Hotel Sandakan, which we did not quite like the odour. At any rate, Yeow Pheng likes hotel with a sea view. He said qi is good. I have no arguments here. RM 150 a night, including breakfast for 2 and a good view of the sea. We decided to stay 2 nights here.
7. Along the sea wall were many youngsters, chit-chatting and enjoying themselves. Smoking incidence rate looked pretty high here, as every other youngster was a smoker. In the evening, we had a simple dinner at the waterfront, a couple of hundred meters away from our hotel.
8. Next morning, 19 Oct, we took a walk in the town. Our first stop was the Central Market. Architecturally pleasing, it is airy, has high ceiling and clean. After walking the streets to feel the pulse of the town, we stopped at the Sabah Tourist Visitor Centre, to gather more information on what to do. After explaining to the lady in charge that we were on the road trip from Singapore, she immediately went back into her office and within minutes brought out an old registration book, showing an entry by the Swiss couple (Emil & Liliana Schmid) who were on the road for 25 years in their Toyota Land Cruiser. They visited the Visitor Centre in 2006. I told her that I was familiar with the couple as I visited their website from time to time when researching for my trip.
9. After Sabah Visitor Centre, we went hunting for St Michael Church, as Yeow Pheng wanted some time to pray. We were surprised to find it within a school compound (in St Michael School). It was a busy time, as boys and girls were leaving the school. What I found interesting was that there were Muslim girls (wearing tudong) studying in a Christian school. This integration is, in my view, healthy.
10. In the afternoon, we visited the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, more than 20 km from the city. This is one of the 4 centres for orang utan in the world. Here, injured and orphaned orang utan are rehabilitated before they are returned to their natural habitat.
11. We had our lunch there and waited till 2 pm for the ticket counter to open. Meanwhile, we visited the information centre, which we found informative and fairly well done. After paying the ticket, visitors walked along a raised boardwalk before reaching an open platform with seats available for visitors to watch the feeding of the orang utans. Looking at the crowd, this attraction had obviously become a tourist attraction. While it was already interesting, I thought the tour could have included visits to areas where the rehabilitation efforts were actually carried out, since afterall, this is really the purpose of the centre.