a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sharing the Love : Travel Information on Borneo and Brunei

Hi!

Just want to share some information on traveling in Kota Kinabalu (KK), Sandakan and Brunei since a lot of people are asking me about it. Information are based from what I've researched from the web and the actual expenses we incurred.

AIRLINES TO KK FROM THE PHILIPPINES:
You can fly from Manila to KK via Cebu Pacific
Or Clark to KK via Air Asia or Cebu Pacific.
If you fly via Air Asia, rates are normally at 5,000 pesos round trip. Do watch out for seat sales which Air Asia regularly does.

Airline Websites:
www.airasia.com
www.cebupacificair.com

ACCOMMODATIONS (where we stayed)
Near KK City Center
Lavender Lodge
Address: No.6 Jalan Laiman Diki, Kg. Air, sabah. Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu
Website : http://www.lavenderlodge.com.my/
Booked Via Hostel World, see rates here:
http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Lavender-Lodge-Kota-Kinabalu/Kota-Kinabalu/29655

In Kundasang Area (Not so near the Kinabalu Park)
Summer’s Mountain Lodge
Address: Kampung Tinompok, Kundasang, Kota Kinabalu
Website : http://www.summerlodge.com.my/ListProduct.asp?Subject=Mountain%20Lodge (be sure to select Mountain Lodge, because they also have another lodge called Summer’s Lodge located in KK City center)

In Tanjung Aru Area, walking distance from Terminal 2 (where Air Asia terminal is) of KK airport
Borneo Beachouse
Address : Jalan Mat Salleh House No.122., Tanjung Aru, Sabah, 88100 Ko, Kota Kinabalu
Website : http://www.borneobeachouse.com/
Booked Via Hostel World, see rates here:
http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Borneo-BeacHouse-Backpackers-/Kota-Kinabalu/24280/reviews/

Tips When Booking:
1. Search in HostelWorld or the internet for backpacker’s lodges. I love HostelWorld because you get a brief summary of lodges in most destinations and you can view the rates in local currency. They charge very minimal booking fee like 2USD per night. Do keep in mind that you’re booking for convenience. They have information about the place, its address, some maps, features, etc.
2. When you’ve already chosen a place , check out reviews from Hostel World, Trip Advisor and other blogs

When Booking for Accommodation:
Check for its proximity nearby establishments like banks, ATM’s, 24 hours convenience store, Tourist Center, shops
Check its safety. Go to the web and search for reviews in blogs and other websites.

Tips When Traveling to KK if you’re from the Philippines:
Bring a travel adaptor since the sockets are different (picture of the adaptor here: http://ericklbautista.multiply.com/journal/item/19) This journal has very good travel information too if you plan on scaling the summit of mt. Kinabalu. Travel adaptors can be bought in Handyman stores at 199.75 pesos.

There’s a money changer inside the airport and an ATM, just bring VISA or Mastercard ATM. If they’re both unavailable when you arrive, ask the taxi driver to drive you to the nearest ATM.

Don’t forget to grab a free copy of the city map before you exit the airport. It’s in a stall after the baggage retrieval area.

Places to Shop in KK :
1. Centrepoint Mall, Kota Kinabalu - http://www.centrepointsabah.com/Directory/directory_ground.html
2. Gaya Street Sunday Morning Market – open only on Sundays (obviously), from 6am to 12pm (I’m not sure about 12pm though, may be until 1pm).
3. Filipino Market
Kota Kinabalu has other shopping malls to cater to whatever floats your boat – be it posh finds or bargain stuffs.

Food Trips:
Night Market near Waterfront – for fresh, grilled sea foods and other local delicacies. You can also eat with your bare hands.
Grace Point –open air food court in Sembulan. Just a warning, not a lot of taxi drivers know where this is though. Here’s a funny blog about Grace Point - http://ssquah.blogspot.com/2008/04/grace-point-kota-kinabalu.html

Apparently, Grace Point has this amusing urinals where men can see other men do their business. Too bad, I’m not allowed inside a male restroom. ‘
Upperstar – this is where our Couch Surfer host Kuni treated us for a beer. We tried the Tsing Tsao – a Chinese beer. It tastes a lot like San Miguel beer but with less after taste. I drank it with chocolate cake and finished it in no time. Yummy! They sell cheap, great food (like pastas, fish balls) and cheap great beer. Love it! The Tsing Tsao beer is sold at 4 for 14MYR. No dress code here either.
Location : Jalan Datuk Salleh Sulong (opposite Hyatt Hotel)

Kota Kinabalu Food review blog:
http://kkfood.blog.com/

Lost or haven’t decided where to go?
Just go to the Sabah Tourist Information center. This is where you can get a colored map of Kota Kinabalu, information brochures, hostels, bus schedules. The people here are very helpful and accommodating.
Address: 51 Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Website : http://www.sabahtourism.com/sabah-malaysian-borneo/en/
There are lots of Filipinos in Kota Kinabalu and most people speak English though not all speak fluently so just drop the articles and go straight to the point. Going around shouldn’t be a problem, lots of friendly people to ask for directions.

Other Sources of Kinabalu Travel Information:
1. http://en.arrivalguides.com/guide.php?dest=kotakinabalu&lang=en&part=barsandnightlife
2. http://wikitravel.org/en/Kota_Kinabalu

Travel Information from KK City Center to Kinabalu Heritage Park:
Kota Kinabalu National Park is two hours away by bus or mini van from the KK city center. The van terminal is at Padang Merdeka near Gaya street. The bus terminal is in Inanam. The van fare was at 15MYR per person – one way. For buses, I think it’s at 20 Malaysian Ringgit.
Kinabalu Park Entrance Fees:
Entrance fee is at 15MYR for non-Malaysians over 18 years old.
To Book the Laban Rata Lodge – the lodge four hours from the summit :
Go to this site : http://www.suterasanctuarylodges.com.my/v2/index.html
*By the way, there are other smaller lodges near the vicinity of Laban Rata but you need to check for availability. They also have an office at the national park and this is where you register if you want to climb Mt. Kinabalu.

View rates here:
http://www.suterasanctuarylodges.com.my/v2/mt_kinabalu.html
*They also offer helicopter rides to the summit – no landing at 2,672 MYR.

If you navigate the site , you will find a lot of information if you want to climb Mt. Kinabalu.
Sandakan, Malaysia:
Location : Sandakan, Malaysia, 6 hours by bus from Kota Kinabalu (30MYR); less than one hour via plane from KK ( via Air Asia airlines).

You can ride a cab from Kota Kinabalu downtown for 20MYR to get to the bus terminal in Inanam.

We stayed for a night at the Sepilok Forest Edge Resort.
www.sepilokforestedge.com. It's a bed and breakfast resort in the middle of a rainforest.
When we checked in, we had one Long house to ourselves. One long house has about 9 other rooms and is the ideal accomodation for backpackers. It costs 65 MYR a night (net)- with two single beds with private t&b and free bfast. They also have internet facilities with fees- about 5MYR for 30minutes. I love their staff..I love this place!

The resort is 10 minutes away from the Orangutan Rehabilitation center. 45 minutes away from the Sandakan town proper. From. The bus terminal is in Inanam. You can also ride a plane from Kota Kinabalu via Air Asia which will only take you about 45 minutes.

Kota Kinabalu to Brunei : By Boat
This is one of the more comfortable ways of making the journey as you do not need to spend so many hours on the "road." The sea is also relatively smoother than traveling on the back roads of Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei.

Though there are several ferries taking the route between Kota Kinabalu and Labuan and Labuan to Brunei, if you take the wrong ones you may end up being stuck and forced to stay overnight in Labuan.

To get from KK to Brunei in the same day, the following is a good strategy:
Get to the Point Jesselton Ferry Terminal in Kota Kinabalu at around 7:00am; earlier if a weekend. The terminal is a 20-minute walk from the center of town. At the terminal you can buy a "package" of two ferry trips (KK-Labuan and Labuan-Brunei) for RM56 (including the RM3 departure tax). You can also buy this package in advance, which is advisable for weekends and holidays, but you need to have your passport with you when you do so.

The ferry to Labuan leaves KK at 8:00am and arrives in Labuan at 11:15am. Once in Labuan, you have the option to take the 12Noon trip or the 1:30 pm trip in which you'll have some time for lunch (and cheap beer!), shopping and perhaps a quick visit to the Labuan Museum, or maybe a cab ride to and from the Labuan War Cemetery.

The ferry to Brunei leaves at 12:00 Noon and 1:30pm;. You need to pay a departure tax of RM10 at the ticket office. The ferry journey takes between one and one-and-a-half hours.
Once in Brunei, you'll go through immigration and customs at the Serasa Ferry Terminal. You can change money at the terminal. Then you board a shuttle to Bandar Seri Begawan. The shuttle costs B$2 and takes about 40 minutes to arrive at the bus terminal in BSB, in the southeast corner of the city. You will arrive in BSB sometime around 2:30pm if you take the 12:00 noon trip or 4:00pm if you take the 1:30 trip.

From Bandar Seri Begawan to Kota Kinabalu, the following is the best game plan:
Take the earliest express bus to the Serasa Ferry Terminal: it leaves at 6:40am from the last bay in the bus terminal in Bandar Seri Begawan, which is next to the bay for Bus #39. It costs B$2, and the trip takes about 40 minutes, getting you to the ferry terminal in time to buy a ticket for the 8:30am ferry departure to Labuan. Some schedules still show a 9:00am ferry as well but that does not go anymore; however, the 8:30am ferry usually waits until 9:00 to get as many passengers as possible.

The ferry to Labuan costs B$15. Unlike the KK-Brunei direction, there is no two-ferry "package," nor can you book tickets in advance. You can change your remaining Brunei dollars to Malaysian Ringgit, but remember to save B$1 to pay the departure tax. The ferry ride takes between one and one-and-a-half hours.

When you arrive in Labuan, you will go through immigration and customs; immediately afterward, go to the ticketing office and buy a ticket for the 1:00pm ferry, which seems to be the last ferry of the day to Kota Kinabalu. This costs RM34 for lower deck, RM39 for upper deck. Now you have a few hours to explore Labuan and have lunch. (Note: There's no left-luggage facilities nor tourist information desk in the ferry terminal.)

Warning: The ferry schedule is very much fluctuating and departures are cancelled quite often. For example on Sun 30 Aug 2009 there was no boat leaving Labuan before 3:30pm and the only way to get to KK to catch an AirAsia flight in time was to take a speedboat to Menumbok (RM15, less than half an hour) and a minivan-taxi all the way to KK (RM30 per person, leaves when there are 7 passengers in the car and the trip takes two hours).

The 1:00pm ferry arrives at the Point Jesselton Ferry Terminal in Kota Kinabalu at around 4:15pm. The terminal is an easy 20-minute walk from the center of town.
Source: http://wikitravel.org/en/Kota_Kinabalu_to_Brunei_in_a_day


Notes : From Gay’s Blog:

From Pulau Labuan, an express boat to Brunei's Muara port (35 MYR) is only an hour long. This port is situated about 29km off Bandar Seri Begawan
A dorm room costs B$10 per person. And since it's a youth hostel in a Muslim country, the male dorm is separate from the women's. We were tired but thought it was too early to call it a day, so we hired a water taxi (B$40 for a tour) and sailed to Brunei's jungle by the river to watch proboscis monkeys feed at sundown

A dorm room csts B$10 per person. And since it's a youth hostel in a Muslim country, the male dorm is separate from the women's. We were tired but thought it was too early to call it a day, so we hired a water taxi (B$40 for a tour) and sailed to Brunei's jungle by the river to watch proboscis monkeys feed at sundown
On the way back, the boatman passed by near the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque so we can see its grandiose lighting at dusk. He did not take us to our initial pick-up point because it was 'low tide'. I have a feeling he just said so after he saw new passengers waiting at a shed nearby. It was alright though for he brought us to a place where we found cheap dinner (B$4 for noodles, chicken satay and a drink). After eating, we walked to the mall hoping we could still change money

Notes:
It was only midday, and we decided to drop by Sabah Museum. From the city center, cab's 15 MYR. Entrance to the main gallery is 15 MYR, Heritage Village for free. Cab from the museum grounds back to Kuni's is 10 MYR.

Island Hopping

*We found out two days later that tours/boats to the national park depart from Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal, and costs as low as 17 MYR per person, one island. Will post this information in another blog, Kota Kinabalu-Pulau Labuan*

First stop, Pulau Sapi ('pulau' meaning island). After docking, you'll pass by a booth where you'll be asked to pay 10 MYR admission fee (which covers all the islands within the national park so save your receipt if you're visiting more than one). Sapi is not only popular with tourists for snorkeling and scuba diving, it also has a beautiful stretch of white beach for people who just want to soak up the sun. You may not just share it with fellow tourists though, but also with monitor lizards!

WHERE TO STAY IN BRUNEI

Pusat Belia (on Jalan Sungai Kianggeh) is Brunei's only youth hostel, designed more for school groups than for backpackers. Dorm beds are B$10/night, making it the cheapest sleep in town. There's also a swimming pool. Male and female sleeping quarters are separated, so this can be an inconvenience for couples. The location, however, is quite convenient as it is close to downtown BSB. It is best to arrange a bed in advance. Tel: 222-2900; 876-5515.

VISA INFORMATION TO BRUNEI: http://www.mfa.gov.bn/visainformation/visaarrangements.htm
VISA INFORMATION TO KK.
http://ph.embassyinformation.com/list.php
Embassy / High Comission / Consulate for Malaysia
Office : Embassy
Street Address : Address1, Changkat Kia Peng
Postal Address :
ZIP Code : 50450
City : Kuala Lumpur
State : Kuala Lumpur
Country : Malaysia
Telephone : 603-2148 4233, 2148 4654, 2148 4682, 2148 9989
Faximile : 603-2148 3576
Email : webmaster@philembassykl.org.my, consular@philembassykl.org.my
Website : www.philembassykl.org.my

You can also check-out the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center in Sandakan:
Entrance : 30MYR for Non-Malaysians
*30 minutes of viewing the feeding of the orangutans. Recommended if you want to see the monkeys. The path to the orangutans is nice if you're into nature. You get to walk in wooden planks situated in the middle of a forest

Expenses : For Seven Days and Six nights, I spent 12,171.62 (October 22-28, 2009)
Inclusions:
Airfare via Air Asia : 1,289 (booked March 09 during their seat sale)
Pocket Money : 7,512.62 (inclusions: Registration Fee for Climbathon – 135 Malaysian Ringgit, Accommodation for 6 nights, food, transportation and Island hopping, basically all my expenses within KK)
Philippine Travel Tax : 1,620 pesos (paid at the airport)
Airport Terminal Fee : 600 pesos (paid at the airport)

Bus Ride from Philtranco Pasay to Clark Airport– 350 pesos (You can buy bus tickets weeks in advance. Philtranco is calibrated with the Air Asia flights and they will drop you straight to the airport doors). Going home won’t be a problem as well as Philtranco and Partas gets passengers from the airport and back to Cubao or Pasay.

Bus Ride from Clark Airport to Cubao – 300 pesos
Groceries from Pinas : 500 pesos (included medications, snacks, Ion drink, hehe)

Bus from Pasay and SM Mega Mall Building A Straight to Clark Airport (Diosdado Macapagal Airport) :
Philtranco: http://www.philtranco.com.ph/ (Avoid online booking as the site is under renovation)
From Manila, they have two terminals – one is at the back of Mega Mall Building A (exit through BPI) and one is in Pasay. From Mega Mall, one-way bus fare is at 300 pesos. From Pasay, it’s 350 pesos.
Contact Numbers :+63 (02) 851-8077, 851-8078, 851-8079


INFORMATION SOURCES:
http://iguide.travel/Kota_Kinabalu/Getting_There/By_bus
http://www.sabahtourism.com
http://www.tourismbrunei.com/info/entry.html
http://hobohippie.blogspot.com
http://wikitravel.org/en/Kota_Kinabalu_to_Brunei_in_a_day
http://www.asiatravel.com/brunei/traveltips.html
http://www.pinoymountaineer.com/2008/08/altitude-sickness-in-philippine.html

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