THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)
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Sunday, 19 February 2017

Cuti-cuti Sabah 11-13 Feb 2017

I've been to Sabah before in 2012 to climb Mount Kinabalu. Didn't really have time to jalan-jalan back then as our time was spent more on Mount Kinabalu, and the day after the climb, we went water rafting in Padas. Recently, after looking at photos of family and friends at Desa Cattle Farm in Kundasang, I was tempted to go. A "jom gi Kundasang" invite to my eldest sis came back with a quick "JOM!", and after asking friends from my all female adventure-loving group, we finally ended up with 11 all-female tour group, although I initially set the limit to 10 pax (to make it easier for me to book for accommodation and transportation). Note that I personally arranged all the itinerary in this 3D/2N tour, without using any tour agents. Just use the internet to google for suitable accommodation, transportation and activities. And since it was to be a very tight schedule to cover as many places during the short visit, I made use of google maps to estimate the time to go from one place to another. The choice of activities and accommodation were made to minimise the time of travel from one place to another.

DAY 1: 11th February 2017
Since we booked the 7 am Malindo flight from KLIA, my sister and I decided to take the 1 am direct Ipoh-KLIA bus, expected to arrive KLIA at 4.30 am. We left home at midnight (meaning we had our "morning bath" before midnight), heading to the Aman Jaya bus terminal in Ipoh. The bus ride was smooth, and we actually reached KLIA before 4.10 am, giving us more than ample time to drop off our luggage, and then waited at the prayer room at the departure hall for our Subuh prayer.

Our flight was however delayed by about half an hour, and by the time we landed at Kota Kinabalu airport, the moment I switched on my phone, the guy from whom I booked the van from had already texted, asking if we had landed. Apparently the van was already waiting for us, but since we were late, they had to move away from the passenger pick-up area. Although I booked a 14 seater van (the extra seats to put 11 people's luggage), the van which fetched us was an 11 seater van. It was however a relief when the driver told us that there was another car there to pick our luggage, and that he would be getting a 14 seater van later.

As planned, from the airport we went straight to Jesselton Point, to get a boat to Pulau Sapi. The van guy even helped to book a boat for us. The boat ride to a single island cost RM23 per pax, but since there were 11 of us, we chartered a boat for RM250. In addition, we also had to pay for terminal fee (roughly about RM7 each inclusive of GST), and once we got to Pulau Sapi, there was also a conservation fee of RM3 each.

Why did we chose Pulau Sapi you may ask? Because our main target was to do the Coral Flyer Zipline from Pulau Gaya to Pulau Sapi. This activity is only available if you go to Pulau Sapi. But seriously, even without the zipline, and you have limited time and can only go to one island, I'd still suggest Pulau Sapi because of its crystal clear waters.

At Pulau Sapi jetty

It was around 11.30 am when we reached Pulau Sapi, and when I asked the girl at the zipline counter, she said that since we were quite a big group and the zipline guys usually take their lunch break at noon, she suggested we come back at 1 pm for the activity. So we decided to find a spot for lunch (which we had bought earlier at Jesselton jetty). It was during this time that I was looking high and low for my phone. My sister and friends did try calling my number, but while the phone was indeed ringing (based on the ringing tone they heard on their phones), we couldn't hear any phones ringing around us. Wherever the phone was, it was definitely nowhere near us. Tried calling the boat guy to ask if he found any phone in the boat, but by the time we called him, he had already made another trip with other passengers, and so it was difficult for him to say if I did drop my phone in the boat. By then I was resigned to the fact that the chances of getting back my phone was slim, and that I was going to get a few days of no calls and no whatsapp holiday (always think of the brighter side of things). The only problem was, since I was the one doing all the bookings, all contact details (for van, accommodation and other activities) were on my phone. However, since I got all the info online, I resorted to using my sister's phone to google for the contact numbers again. Thank goodness I managed to get them all, except for the van guy's number. But we did tell the van driver to pick us up around 3 pm at Jesselton Point, so we figured it shouldn't be much of a problem.

Anyway, lost handphone aside, the show must go on. While waiting for the zipline at 1 pm, a few of us did go snorkeling.
How much clearer can the water be?

By 1pm, we were already back at the zipline counter, eager to go "flying" across Pulau Gaya to Pulau Sapi. We were taken by boat to Pulau Gaya, together with another group of 5 girls. After getting us into all the safety gear (harnesses, helmets etc), we had to hike up to the starting point. The group in front of us had already started, one pair at a time. From my group, I decided to go first so I could take photos of other members in my group doing the zipline. No point sharing all of them here, they all look just about the same, especially from far.

Group photo at the landing point.

We then trekked back to our earlier "picnic" point, and on the way we bumped into a few monitor lizards roaming freely on the island.

Done with our main activity for the day, we packed up to leave the island and head back to Jesselton Point to meet up with our van driver and head to our accommodation in KK to check in. Only problem was, the driver by then was waiting in a 14 seater van, totally different than the van he drove earlier when he fetched us at the airport. Unable to call (since I lost the guy's number when I lost my phone), I was hanging around there, feeling rather helpless. After some time, the driver saw me, and only then did he start winding down the van windows. Apparently he had been waiting for quite a while, but I couldn't see him with the van windows up. I think we wasted about half an hour waiting (despite both parties getting there on time). Never mind, we just went straight to our apartment at Tower A, One Borneo to check in and to perform our zohor/asar prayer. I made sure the girls didn't waste too much time at the apartment after checking in, since we had a sunset cruise to catch, and what's the point of a sunset cruise if we missed the sunset, right?

Getting to Gayang Village Explorer for the cruise was another story. Based on the map given, the driver managed to get to a nearby school, but couldn't find the location for the cruise. When he asked a passer-by, he was told to go to another end. And so, despite almost reaching the correct place the first time, we ended up going further away before finally reaching the place after a few more calls to the operator of the cruise. Thank goodness we still made it on time to watch the sunset. 

We watched the sun set from Pantai Dalit, and I have to say it was the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen in my entire 54 years of life.

We then left Pantai Dalit and headed to see the fireflies.

Sorry, but while we did see the fireflies, I didn't manage to catch them on camera. Did attempt to take a few photos, but all I saw on the photos were total darkness. I guess I shall just store the beautiful sceneres in my own memory bank rather than in photographs.

Done with the cruise, we headed to Gayang Seafood Restaurant for dinner. Apparently it was quite a popular place. We did have to wait quite a while for our food to arrive, but the food was totally worth the wait.

After dinner, we headed back to our apartment in KK. (I so needed a bath by then!) And that ended our tour for day 1.

DAY 2: 12th February 2017
Planning to check out early before 7 am, we got up early to ensure there was enough time for all 11 of us to use the 2 available bathrooms.
 View from our 24th floor (level 23A) apartment on the morning of day 2.

This morning we had a new driver fetching (using the same van since they're from the same company). We had just started the journey when someone reminded me that there were some hungry girls at the back (I sat at the front passenger seat). I told them to endure another hour or so because I had actually already planned to stop at Pekan Nabalu for a 4-in-1 purpose... i) photo shoot with Mount Kinabalu in background  ii) breakfast  iii) toilet break   iv) shopping for souvenir items.

Unlike my previous trip to Sabah when the mountain was covered by clouds during our stop at Pekan Nabalu, this time we were lucky because the peak of Mount Kinabalu was clearly visible. After slightly more than an hour at Pekan Nabalu, we continued our journey to Poring Hot Springs in Ranau and managed to get there at about 10.30 am. The sound of the waterfall as we entered the park was oh so soothing and soooo inviting (I felt like jumping into the river despite not knowing how to swim!). 

Our main target however was to go for the canopy walk, and so with the exception of 2 group members who decided to opt out of the hike to the starting point of the canopy, the rest went straight ahead to the canopy walk counter. The walk uphill to the start of the canopy walk can be tiring especially if you're not fit, but to me it was worth the sweat. Actually it rained during our canopy walk, but since we were after all under the canopy, we didn't really get that wet.

 After completing the canopy walk, we headed for lunch at the restaurant within the park, followed by solat qasar zohor/asar at the park's surau, before moving on to our next destination.

Our next destination? Tagal Sg Morali Fish Spa. It was a Sunday and so there were quite a number of visitors and so each group was given a limited time to get in the river and have the fish surround our feet. Fish food were sold at the counter for us to feed the fish and while a number of people just threw the fish food into the river near their feet, I decided to feed them by hand. Seriously, they don't bite. No worries there. However, if you were there listening to a few of my group members screaming away, you would have thought they were bitten by piranhas!

After the short stint at Tagal Sg Morali, we moved on to the nearby Sabah Tea Garden, enjoying not only the beautiful view, but also also delicious tea and scones.

After tea, we headed back to Kundasang, and got there just in time to visit the Kundasang War Memorial which closes at 6 pm.

After the visit, we went to the nearby shops to buy some necessities, including to tapau some dinner before checking in to our accommodation for the night, and also to buy bread and eggs for our breakfast the next morning. It was already very foggy by the time we made a move from Kundasang town heading over to our homestay in Kg Mesilou nearby. While the driver had no problem getting us to the kampong, it was a good thing I managed to recognise the homestay from the photos I had seen earlier online. The most prominent landmark was their gazebo.

We were lucky I managed to get a homestay with 3 bathrooms (one in each bedroom) plus another additional toilet in the kitchen area. Most of the homestays there usually only have 1 bathroom, which would have been a problem for a big group like ours. The kampong, located at the foot of Mount Kinabalu, had "natural" aircond, there was no need for any of the houses there to install aircond. In fact, if not for the heaters installed in the bathrooms, we would have to bathe using icy cold water.

DAY 3: 13th February 2017
Not wanting to miss a clear view of Mount Kinabalu from our homestay, I went out for a short walk (together with my sister and another member of our group) as early as 6.30 am around the kampong. It was already bright by then. We passed by quite a number of homestays during the short walk. Anyway, the view of the mountain was magnificient!

 View of Mount Kinabalu from Cinta Villa Homestay, our accommodation in Mesilau.

The effects of the earthquake a few years ago can be obviously seen from far below.

We checked out around 8.15 am, but of course not without a group photo at the gazebo in front of our homestay.

Our first destination for the day was one of the main itinerary for the whole trip (other than the zipline at Pulau Sapi on day 1), the Desa Cattle Farm. Since we were there early morning as soon as it opened, it was really foggy and cold. The atmostphere makes you feel like you're overseas, although in our case, we only travelled over South China Sea. Certainly a recommended go-to spot if you're in Sabah, especially Kundasang.

From Desa Cattle Farm, we headed on to the foot of Kinabalu Park, just for a short photo stop. 

Since we wanted to make sure we had enough time to stop for a last minute shopping spree at Filipino Market in KK before going home, we decided to not get into the park as it would be time consuming. We needed to be at the airport before 4 pm, and so it would be safer to be in KK by 1 pm. We had ample time to shop at Filipino Market, followed by lunch before the driver sent us off to the airport. It was good that we reached the airport early to enable us to repack our things, especially the stuff bought at Filipino Market.

All in all, I had a good time, and I hope the others in my group did too, despite some minor setbacks especially on day 1. Since I arranged everything myself, the ground expenses (van rental + driver for 3 days, 1 night accommodation in KK, 1 night accommodation in Kundasang, activities and entrance fees to various attractions, but NOT inclusive of food and flight) came up to just RM370 each. If you don't intend to do zipline and sunset cruise, you can deduct another RM139 from that total. For accommodation in KK, if your group is smaller, say 8 pax, you can get slightly cheaper apartments, because most of the apartments I saw online, catered for a maximum of 8 pax. But I would suggest you spend at least one night in Kundasang, particularly in Kg Mesilou. Totally worth it.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Visiting the children

I was on clinic duty in Taiping today. As always, I make it a point to visit Dahlia and her children whenever I'm in Taiping. Today more so because Dahlia's 16 year old son, Zain, will register at one of the MRSMs next week after scoring good results for his PT3 last year.

There was only one case referred to me at the hospital, and so I stayed at the hospital for just about an hour or so, before moving on to visit Dahlia and her children. I got to Dahlia's house right on time. They had just came back from Zain's old school to settle some matters including getting his school leaving cert.

Just as I got in, I saw Dahlia's youngest son. Remember the shock I got some time last year, when I was told Dahlia gave birth to a baby boy, when I (and the docs and nurses at the ID clinic) didn't even know she was pregnant? That story here. My, how the boy has grown. He's so cute and chubby! Looking at him, nobody would have thought he's HIV+. While in most cases, mother to child transmission can be avoided if necessary precautions are taken, in Dahlia's case, she decided NOT to tell the doc & nurses at the ID clinic about her pregnancy for fear of getting scolded. And because she didn't want to get scolded, she put her baby at risk of getting infected. And based on the last 2 blood tests done, the boy is now confirmed HIV+.Which means the boy will have to take his medication all his life... unless one fine day in the future, a cure is found.

Anyway, I was there to see Zain. He did look eager to go to MRSM, although like his mother, he's also worried about all the payments. The fees... the uniforms and whatever else that he needs to buy from the college. While the list of things to be bought was given, how much each item costs was not indicated. So they have no idea how much is needed. Well, the boy is under our sponsorship programme, but then again, the funds are also limited. Hopefully there will be enough in the accounts to cover his needs. At the same time, I also told Dahlia to ask if she can apply for any financial help for her son when they go to register him next week.

As for Adila, Dahlia's eldest daughter (the one who was raped some time back and gave birth to a baby girl who is now 2 years old), she has completed her course at the culinary college, now waiting for results. And since she also sat for her SPM last year as a private candidate, she is also waiting for her SPM results. With her culinary training and her interest in business, she hopes to take a business course after SPM results are announced, and maybe one day, set up her own business in the culinary world. I really salute this girl. Despite all that she had gone through, she never gave up. In fact, she has a vision for her future. I really hope she will succeed in making her dreams come true.

While Dahlia had made various mistakes in life (tell me, who hasn't made any?), one thing I do like about her is that she stresses on the importance of education for her children. Hopefully, none of them will end up like her.