a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Review : Asus ZenFone 2 Laser

Check out my experience using an Asus ZenFone 2! :)

Hiking 6 peaks over the weekend

Click to read about one of my all-time favorite hiking adventures. :)

Osprey Pack : Nova

My new reliable backpacking buddy

Hiking in Bukidnon

A day hike to Mt. Kitanglad and Dulang-Dulang

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rustic Paco Park

Stepping inside Paco Park is similar to falling into a rabbit hole like what happened to Alice in Wonderland. I can’t believe it’s only a couple of blocks away from the UN Ave. LRT station along Taft Avenue which is always filled with vehicles and people.

The park grounds are filled with different species of flowers and trees. Here, the sound of the city is muffled by its stone walls which would make it a great place for romantic talks or meditation. It was an old cemetery which was converted into a park and has a chapel that can be used for weddings - which is also the main reason why me and my friends were there Saturday afternoon.


Me and Glee arrived 45 minutes before the wedding started which gave us plenty of time to explore. It’s one of those places that make you go “oh” and “ah” while walking. Paco Park is just peacefully beautiful, if that makes any sense.


Again, thanks to Gaye, the bride and our friend for introducing us to another wonderful destination. What’s great about it is that it’s just within Manila.


Congrats Gaye and Sherv!


*Paco Park can also serve as a wedding reception.


Website : http://www.nationalparks.ph/







Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Dream Destination Fulfilled : Enchanted River

Me and my good friend Jules left the lodge around 6:00 am on a drizzling Saturday. We hopped on an ordinary bus marked Mangagoy from the Butuan bus terminal and traveled  four hours towards the municipality of Hinatuan. The ride with amazing mountain views for entertainment costs 163 pesos/head.

Upon arrival at the terminal near the public market in Mangagoy, we headed straight towards the first eatery we saw. It was only a few steps from where the bus stopped. For 30 pesos, I was able to order a big serving of octopus which was more than I can consume but since it was so cheap I couldn’t afford any of it to go to waste and so I committed myself into finishing everything. We were traveling on a tight schedule. Who knows when we can eat again properly?

During lunch, Jules asked the lady at the eatery where we can hire a habal-habal to take us to Enchanted River. Since she’s the only one who can speak Bisaya fluently and an expert on bargaining, I let her do most of the talking. She can probably sell me to strangers and I wouldn’t know about it. :P

The lady called a habal-habal driver from the terminal and Jules managed to negotiate with him before I finished the last piece of my octopus. For a 40-minute rough ride from the market to Enchanted River and back, we only had to pay 200 pesos for 2 persons. (Another faster alternative which I read from a blog is for you to alight at the crossing in Dugmanon - no need to go to the town proper. Hire a habal-habal from there but you might not be able to get one if you arrive at 6:00am).

It started to rain a little but we were not deterred. Enchanted River is a place that I’ve been wanting to see for myself ever since I saw pictures from Jojie Alcantara’s blog. Just visit her site and I guarantee that you will drool at the pictures. She even mentioned in her blog what a local told her about the river - that nobody swims past 6pm because the place is guarded by spirits and that even though there are fishes, no one has ever caught one by any method – net or even a dynamite.

I never knew how intimate a habal-habal ride could be until this experience. For approximately 40 minutes, I was thigh to thigh with the driver and my lucky friend behind me. I cringed every time we hit a bump on the unpaved road as I got thrown closer to his body. I now have a very clear understanding of the cliché - too close for comfort. I’m just so grateful I wore a jacket and the guy was wearing a rain gear so that our skins aren’t in full contact. We just met. The intimacy, was just too sudden for me. :P (Wah, the sacrifices I would endure just to see something amazing!)

While "bumping and grinding" with the habal-habal driver on our way to Enchanted river, I almost forgot why I wanted to see it. My butt was feeling numb, I felt cold from the rain, I’m not exactly fond of motorbikes and my legs were aching from the compromising position they were in. The different trees and rock formation we saw served as my source of comfort.

When we finally reached the entrance of the river, I immediately got down from the bike. I was in pain and walked like a duck for a couple of seconds but all pain was replaced with awe when I fianlly saw the Enchanted River which was only a few steps away. I was reminded once again why I was willing to go through all this trouble. From where the motorbike was parked, we can already see the clear blue waters Enchanted river is famous for. What’s even more astonishing was that we were the only ones there though it was a weekend.

My eyes excitedly looked around the vicinity of the river. There was obviously some construction being done to spruce the place which meant that it won’t be long until tourism picks up. I just hope the local government would be extra vigilant in ensuring that its beauty is preserved. There were restrooms but those were locked. We stayed for about 30 minutes after we took pictures and waded in the water which was surprisingly warm. We wanted to swim but we didn’t have enough time. We still had to go back and whiz off to another town to see the majestic Tinuy-an falls in Bislig.

Amazing is a simple but fitting word to describe it and I’m just so thankful that we were able to squeeze this in to our 2009 adventures. I was planning this for 2010 actually. God has been so generous!




Travel Information:
Location : Barangay Cambatong, Municipality of Hinatuan, Province of Surigao Del Sur

How to Get to Enchanted River From Manila:
STEP 1: Manila to Butuan
From the NAIA terminal 3 in Pasay, we rode a Cebu Pacific plane to Butuan – www.cebupacificair.com ; Air fares can go as low as zero, plus taxes! We got our roundtrip air fare for 718 pesos each, inclusive of all taxes and 15Kg baggage allowance. Just check out their website regularly, join their mailing list or their group in Facebook (I think the group’s name is Cebu Pacific Air promos).

STEP 2: Butuan to Mangagoy
From Butuan town proper, take a tricycle towards the Butuan bus terminal. Shouldn’t cost you more than 20 pesos (two persons) to get you to the terminal. Travel time from city to bus terminal is about 15 minutes or less.

From the Butuan bus terminal,  take a bus marked “Mangagoy” (pronounced as mgagoy). Fare is at 163 pesos/head, ordinary bus. It was supposed to depart at 7:30AM but the driver informed us that another bus broke down so we had to leave earlier than planned – 6:45am. I read from somewhere that the first trip going to Mangagoy is at 2:30am. Anyway, just ask around when you get to Butuan and if you need to head back to Butuan the same day, make sure to ask what time the last trip is.

STEP 3: Mangagoy to Enchanted River
Option 1 – From the integrated jeepney terminal, hire a habal-habal.
Option 2 – Alight at the crossing in Dugmanon which is less than 30 minutes from the town proper. Hire a habal-habal from there. There might not be one if you arrive as early as 6:00am.
Habal-Habal Rate : 200-250 pesos (we got ours for 200 pesos – round trip for two persons, coming from the Hinatuan jeepney terminal). I guess that is a fare rate considering the road condition. From the terminal to the entrance of Enchanted river, ride takes less than an hour. Expect butt aches because the road is pretty rough.

Notes on Enchanted River :
No vendors or stores here as of our last visit so make sure you bring enough food, water and insect repellant.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Can't Travel Without Them

While I am currently in the quest in becoming a fashionable adventurer (effect of watching too many America's Next Top Model episodes on cable!),  I always bring the following essentials when packing for a long trip, well, aside from cash and my mobile phone.  Happy Traveling!


1. First Aid Kit - It's for you and for others who might need your help. Prior to an incident on the road ,I don't bring first aid kits because I didn't think I'd need it.  One time, on my way home from Baler, we chanced on a collision between a van and a truck. The public van I rode was several vehicles behind and no one could pass through because the truck had blocked the entire road. We were also in an area that had no cellphone signal. Several people were shaken and injured. I remember one lady who was a bit in shock and had a deep punctured wound in her leg. Luckily, I had a first aid kit at that time and I was able to give her Betadine and bandage.

I also had a rock climbing accident where the skin from my left leg was ripped and it had to be covered. I didn't have a first-aid kit then but my friends brought theirs so they were able to cover it before we had to go down the mountain and travel to the hospital about 2 hours away.

2. Headlamp and back-up flashlight - because I'm afraid of the dark and sometimes, the places I go to have no electricity. Don't forget to bring extra batteries. My favorite brand of batteries are Thunder batteries which can be bought at Handyman stores (very cheap, lasts long and cost less than 40 pesos for 6 pieces of AAA or AA). Petzl headlamps can be bought at outdoor shops like Conquer in Robinson's Pioneer or at the locally based outdoor online shop of T3ck Outdoor. Energizer also has a headlamp sold at about 800 pesos each. Some friends are using it and they told me it's durable.

3. Pocket Knife – for whatever reasons you might need it. Be it opening a canned good, cutting off a hang nail (?!), loose threads, etc. It does come in handy especially when you go camping.

4. Travel Adaptor – don’t forget to consider that sockets overseas can be different from ours. Not all hostels have an adaptor you can lend so it can be a hassle. You can buy one in Handyman at 199.75 pesos.

5. Notebook and Pen – for your notes and to write email addresses of newly found friends or contacts. It’s a great tool to keep your expenses on track. It’s also helpful to keep all your notes, travel itinerary and tickets in one pouch for easy access.

6. Maps – my favorite type are the locally produced EZ Maps which are sold in National Bookstore at 99 pesos each. It contains details on the location of business establishments like banks, gas station, hotels, restaurants and tourist destinations. It’s easier to adjust and less scary when you get your bearing first when you’re traveling.

7. Waterproof pouch – be prepared for any adventure you might engage in. Be it white-water rafting, trekking in the woods or simply walking under the rain. Make sure your money and gadgets are protected by keeping them in a water-proof pouch. These pouches can be expensive, so you may opt for the cheap ones sold at the Japan Home Center. I bought mine from there at less than 100 pesos. It kept my cellphone and money dry when I went water tubing on the raging Sibulan river in Davao Del Sur. I just wore it around my neck and kept it inside my shirt to keep it from bouncing everywhere and it worked perfectly fine.

The New Philtranco Website


It's new, it's hip. The new Philtranco website seems to be targeting the young and not-so young Pinoy backpackers. The website even comes with a Slide application that plays "This Kiss". It also contains travel information on several destinations around the Philippines that are plied by the Philtranco buses.


I love it!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Romantic Get-away Suggestion

My younger brother enjoys out of town trips with his girlfriend and though he is fully aware that I’ve never had any romance in my life and that I prefer remote destinations with not a lot of amenities, he never fails to bug me for suggestions where they can go.

He even asked me to browse a certain resort once. It’s called Acuatico and is located in San Juan, Batangas. I’ve been here before. It’s the jump-off to Mt. Daguldol, a popular hiking destination here in the Philippines. The base of the mountain is near several resorts. The water is clean and very blue way back in 2006. I haven’t returned here since so I can’t vouch on its quality now.

I found the website of Acuatico and was amazed by the pictures I saw of its infinity pool. It looks really romantic and I wouldn’t mind spending days here – if it’s free. The price range of the accommodations here is around 5,000 to 21,000 pesos depending on the number of heads and the type of room. That’s enough to cause a heart attack for a backpacker like me.

Here’s some information, in case you want to check it out.

WEBSITE: http://www.acuaticoresort.com.ph/

RATES: http://www.acuaticoresort.com.ph/accommodation.html_

REVIEWS HERE: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g298446-d1087789-r36875449-Acuatico_Beach_Resort_Hotel-Batangas_Luzon.html#CHECK_RATES_CONT
Pictures are from the resort's website.





Monday, November 9, 2009

Odd Venture : My Experience as a Race Marshall

Saturday evening, I got an ambiguous text message from a friend of mine asking me for a callback regarding a marathon.

Curious, I decided to give him a call but the line was unclear. He called back a few minutes later. He said something about a run, seconds into the conversation later, I landed a new part-time job as race marshall for the Philippine International Marathon. It’s a benefit run for the Pasig river. I will be handing out the race markers – red strings for the 2.5KM mark for the 5KM run.

The run was held yesterday in Manila and what a fun experience it was! I encountered lots of types of runners. Most are polite – those who said thank you after I gave them the string while some are just too tired to care, some are overeager – people who hoard over the race marshalls for the string. Some are newbies, those who have no idea what a race marker is or where to put it. Some are just there to make pa-cute. Being a football player was an advantage. I'm used to defending my turf and did not feel intimidated by the crowd that charged at me. There were other marshalls too (my newly met friends) but the thing is – some people just go were the crowd is. Crazy!

With this experience, I learned some things when joining a run:
1. Markers are given to ensure that you have completed the whole course because some people just cheat! How embarrassing, why join a sport that measures how far yourself can go when you cheat on yourself? That’s just stupid.
2. If a string will be handed out as a race marker, extend your hand, as long as you can. It makes it easier for the race marshall to spot who to give first.
3. Make eye contact with the race marshall so they can see you coming.
4. Don’t forget to say thank you to the race marshall – they work hard too you know and they deserve the appreciation J

Thanks to my friend Manny for the pictures. :)








Friday, November 6, 2009

My Video and Picture Gallery

Just click on the photos and videos if you want to see more of my adventures :

PHOTOS: http://soccerprincess.multiply.com/photos

VIDEOS: http://soccerprincess.multiply.com/video


My Multiply blog contains a lot of random babbling so if you think you have the patient to read all about me and all the other troubles I get myself into, feel free to browse through it. You have been warned.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

7 Days in Borneo : Best Vacation So Far

This is my second time in the Malaysian part of Borneo. I first came here last March ‘09 with another friend and we had a blast wandering around Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan which is nearer to Mindanao.

The cheap food and accommodation, warm and hospitable people and the nature are the main reason why I love this place very much.

I will try not to be too talkative. Here are the highlights of our trip.

October 22, 2009 Day 1 : Arrival in KK
With very minimal budget, we initially planned on taking the public bus with a terminal that is a few minutes away from the airport (after exiting the airport doors, walk straight ahead, cross the street and walk towards your right side. Bus stop is a couple of blocks away). After waiting for about 15 minutes and no signs of the bus, we decided to walk all the way to the city center. We figured it was good training for the upcoming climbathon. We didn’t know exactly how to get there because the directions I have were for taking the public bus. It was a good thing we were able to grab free street maps from the airport.

The walk was a total of 7KM, 6 bus stops from our left and 5 from our right side. We arrived at Lavender Lodge all sweaty but still with full smiles. The lady at the reception didn’t act surprise when she saw us. She turned out to be Filipina and she told us our friend (Cons, who had gone one day ahead of us) was already waiting in our room.

We grabbed dinner after freshening up. We decided to play it safe and ate at KFC, less than 5 minutes on foot from our lodge. By the way, Lavender Lodge is a great place. It’s squeaky clean, provides towels, has an amazing location – banks nearby, rows of seafoods fronting the area, 24-hrs convenience store located 2 or 3 blocks away.


October 23, 2009 Day 2 : Travel to Kundasang and Briefing for the Climbathon
We arrived at Summer’s Mountain Lodge a little before lunch time by taking a shared taxi with 5 other passengers from all over KK. It cost us 20 Malaysian Ringgit each and supposedly the quickest way to get to Kundasang because they pick you up from your lodge. You can book it from the reception of your lodge (not sure if all lodges offer it, but apparently, a lot of people take it).
Getting to our lodge was an adventure in itself because we had to go up four hills and hike .8 KM from the main highway where the taxi dropped us off. I say hike because the terrain consisted of cement and a little gravel. We were surrounded by views of the mountain on both sides. The weather up there reminded me so much of Sagada and Batad.

A guy followed us on our way there and he turned out to be a staff from lodge. We didn’t know he worked there because he just smiled at us as we began hiking and didn’t even talk to us so we just assumed he was from the area.

We had a little difficulty talking to him because he doesn’t speak any English. Good thing we printed our reservation from Hostelworld and we pointed the remaining balance to him which we had to pay when we checked in (policy with most hostels in KK).

Our room was situated in the second floor in the middle of all the other rooms which seemed unoccupied. During our length of stay there, we didn’t see any other soul, not even the staff (he lives in a hut below the lodge) and had the entire place to ourselves. We had a lot of realizations in that lodge (my friend Jules joked that the only thing we found there were ourselves because we were so secluded from the rest of civilization – no tv, radio). The only noise we heard up there was the noises we made and the rain which poured on the second night. For three days and two nights, no one else was in the lodge but us.

We had a brief lunch after we settled in (yeah, you better bring food up there and other provisions because the nearest restaurant is at the Halleluyah Retreat Center, about 10-15 minutes away on foot, traversing up and down the hills). The lodge sells drinks but the staff isn’t always there. We love the man though. He has a kind aura. There’s also no hot water in the shared bathroom so better bring body warming oil.

The registration for the race was at the Liwagu Restaurant which is approximately another 2KM walk from our lodge. We felt a little shy to register because we don’t look entirely “climbathon” ready. There’s a certain body type that fit runners possess and when you look at a person, you can immediately know if they’ve been training a lot. With flabs here and there, I looked like I was just joining a fun run. We were able to register quickly and even met two members of the friendly Philippine contingent – Sid and Nina. Nina was wearing an Iron Man finisher shirt. We gulped when we saw the shirt because we were just there to try it out and have fun while a lot were serious, competitive runners. We took a mental note of letting the serious runners pass us by during the race.

After that, we decided to test the trail from the starting line up to Timpohon gate which was at 1,866.4 MASL. There we met a participant for the Men’s Veteran along with his allies who took a picture with us (ah, a taste of fame).

We got down, cold and hungry about an hour before the briefing. There we met the entire Philippine contingent for the Climbathon. Sir Lito Cinco, a member of the Philippine media, incidentally sat next to us during the presentation and overheard us talking in our native tongue.
October 24, 2009 Day 3 : Climbathon Day – Women’s Open and Men’s Veteran
We set our alarms at 3:00am – taking a bath was entirely dismissed. I woke up in disbelief as I was shivering like a cold puppy. To think I already wore two jackets, socks and had the blanket over my body the whole night. Thank God for J&J’s Body Warming oil which you can buy at the local groceries. It saved us.

We left the lodge three hours before the race since our lodge was in a faraway land.

The climbathon started at 7:00am. (Climbathon is basically running up and down a mountain within a specific time frame; For Women category: Starting line to the summit within 3 hours 30 minutes and Summit to finish line within 3 hours).

Since Mt. Kinabalu is 4,095.2 MASL, higher than Mt. Apo, air was really thin and made breathing a little bit challenging. In about four hours of mainly hiking, I reached Laban rata which 3,272.7 MASL. Race was already closed and we had to go down after taking pictures.

More story about my climbathon experience here :
http://thejovialwanderer.blogspot.com/2009/10/surviving-23rd-mt-kinabalu-climbathon.html


October 25, 2009 Day 4 : Watching Climbathon – Men’s Open; Travel back to KK
We decided to wake up late – a feat which is difficult for me since we slept at around 8:00pm due to fatigue from the race and from my little fall. I didn’t fall during the race, I fell while walking back to our faraway lodge. It rained a bit so the cement was pretty slippery. We walked in the midst of the fog and everything was dark. Thank God that Jules brought the high-powered flashlight I gave her last Christmas.

I woke up at 5:00am. I tried to sleep again, but I just couldn’t. My good friend Jules agreed to for me to turn on the lights and chat. Hehehe! I’m like a granny. I sleep early and wake up very early. Like last night, I slept at 9:00pm and woke up at 3:00am.

After taking a bath, I felt sleepy again, and this time, Jules was wide awake. I didn’t feel like leaving the bed but when she mentioned about checking out the hot guys at the Men’s Open, I bolted straight from the bed. Oh yes, it was the day for the men’s open. Men of all ages, shapes and sizes. What a great reason to wake up.

We headed straight to the finish line where we again saw our new found friends from the Philippine team. They were really nice and down to earth. Quite easy to get along with. Sid had already finished. He’s the popular one armed runner who I often see training in Ultra.

A free buffet lunch was served after the race. It was held in a huge hall near the Climbathon secretariat office. The awards were given and I am proud to inform you that the very beautiful Pinay from Cebu – Liezel Limindas placed 6th in the women’s open. She received 700 US Dollars as prize money. Way to go!

We took the free shuttle back to KK. Yay so we saved some more moolah, then had dinner again at KFC. What can I say, I love, love, love chicken. The KFC in KK is much juicier than the one in Sandakan. The gravy is also good and here, they have bigger servings! A satisfying KFC meal will cost you around 6++ Malaysian ringgit and it includes a Pepsi (considered as Large size in the Philippines).

We checked in at Borneo Beachouse located in Tanjung Aru, walking distance from the terminal 2 of KKIA (where Air Asia is).

It’s also very clean and has a very young, energetic staff. It does look more like a beachouse than a lodge and has a homey feel to it. We met David (half Malaysian-half Irish) and Mark (half Malaysian-half Pinoy who happens to be multi-lingual). David gave us a brief tour of the house and was rudely interrupted by, no other than yours truly. I couldn’t help it. We were walking along the garden and it was a bit dark and I tripped on a patch of grass. Dave was in the middle of his “briefing” and he turned around and said, “What was that?” (Ha! Di man lang, who? What talaga!..hehehe). He resumed with his litany of the beachouse after I said “Sorry about that. I’m okay!” . Ha! I should have just pretended it wasn’t me.

October 26, 2009 Day 5 : Beach Day!
We went island hopping in Pulau Sapi and Manukan. We paid 27-30 Malaysian Ringgit each which included a round trip fare back to Jesselton Ferry Terminal. I’m not a beach person, honestly, though I’ve been to a lot of great beaches and enjoy swimming in the ocean. I prefer seeing the green stuff like mountains, hills and valleys. It was a relaxed day. I had a lot of laugh in Pulau Sapi because there were these fishes that attack people. Not in a “Jaws” way, just the playful kind of attack. They charge at you and nibble on your skin. There was this funny fish that tried attacking me on the leg. At first, I thought it was just a pebble hitting me, but then it banged at me again. He couldn’t do the munch thing because my legs are a bit firm and quite big (hehe). Ah, the poor fish. I had to move away fearful for its safety. It felt like he was banging his head on an aquarium glass. If he charged at me one more time, there might be blood in the water already and that would freak most of the kids snorkeling in the area.

Lunch was at the beach front. We found a stall in Pulau Manukan (our last stop) and ate with cold drinks while staring at the beach. We even ran into a member of Yati's family who we met at Borneo Beachouse. They're a very warm, friendly Malaysian family from KL (not sure about KL though).

We got back to the city at 2:00pm and went around the malls after that.


October 27, 2009 Day 6 : Wandering Around Tanjung Aru
Did nothing much, searched for the postal office in the morning for Jules’ mail errands, which was a few blocks from the beachouse and a bit challenging to find.

In the afternoon, we chatted with the staff of Borneobeachouse and got acquainted with almost everyone. They truly felt like family. They were warm and talkative. After that, me and the guys did a little football in the driveway, just passing the ball to each other in a quicker pace.


I incurred two bruises from that because Hans’ ball (his soccer ball that is) didn’t have adequate air in it and I just had socks on.

After that, we had our final dinner. During our entire stay in Tanjung Aru, we ate at the complex near the beach. A few minutes walk from where we stayed. We had our walang kamatayang, Nasi Goreng Seafood which is like Yang Chow but with fresher and bigger portions and it tastes so much better too. It costs about 4-5 Malaysian Ringgit and is good for two people who doesn’t eat a lot of rice. This time, we ate with Jules’ new found friend who hails from New Zealand, Jo.

October 28, 2009 Day 7 : Early Pack-Up and Chillax
I was eager to go home but it was hard to say goodbye to Borneo Beachouse because of the people who made our stay there extra special. It was the first time I felt emotionally attached to a place and I would love to go back there again. What can I say, it’s my home in Borneo.

By the way, I’ve compiled all the list of information I have on KK, Brunei and Sandakan. Please check it out here:

http://thejovialwanderer.blogspot.com/2009/11/hi-just-want-to-share-some-information.html












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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