Endau Rompin NP, Pekan, Kenyir lake, Fraser hill, Crocker range NP,
Maliau basin, Imbak canyon
11.8 - 12.8: Munich ->
Muscat -> KL
13.8: KL -> Endau Rompin
14.8: Endau Rompin national park
15.8: Pekan -> Kenyir lake
-> Kuala Berang
16.8: Kuala Berang ->
lake -> Kuala Lipis
17.8: Kuala Lipis ->
Hill -> Kuala Lumpur
18.8: KL -> Danang
22.8: Danang -> Kota
23.8: Kota Kinabalu -> Crocker
range national park
24.8: Crocker range national park
25.8: Keningau -> Maliau
26.8: Maliau Basin studies centre
-> Ginseng camp
27.8: Ginseng camp ->
Basin studies centre
28.8: Maliau Basin ->
29.8: Imbak canyon
30.8: Imbak canyon -> Kota
31.8: Kota Kinabalu
1.9: Kota Kinabalu ->
2.9: Kuala Lumpur
3.9: Kuala Lumpur -> Munich
Planning and overall impression
Because I travel to Malaysia almost every year, I've been almost everywhere in Malaysia. Thie idea this year was to
see some of the places where I haven't been yet. These are either off
the beaten track places or places which are hard to get to, either
because you need an expensive tour or because it's difficult to make
I've had these places on my list for a while already, but a reason
or another I never managed to visit them. This year I managed to get to several of these places.
I went again to Sabah, because despite being a relatively small
Malaysian state, it has an incredible wealth of locations (mostly
natural) to visit. Then I covered some locations in West Malaysia by
renting a car.
If you have to rely on public transportation or tour
operators it's very difficult to visit exactly what you want to see in
the planned time frame or ir can be expensive.
in Malaysia has slowed down quite a bit over the past 10 years.
Unlikely that they'll manage to realise their Malaysia 2020 vision
(Malaysia being a developed country by
Generally speaking the cost of travelling and living has gone up
quite a lot in recent years. That's especially the case in KL and Sabah,
where costs have increased significantly since 2007-08. Outside of
these areas travelling costs are still moderate - higher than in
Thailand and Indonesia, but far lower than in a western country.
Since I was rushing from a place to the other and was spending a lot of
time in remote jungle areas, my food on this trip was quite unimpressive.
Fried chicken and rice in KFC restaurants. Instant noodles and cookies in
the jungle areas, just to make some examples. Only a few times I could
eat in a good restaurant.
But generally speaking, in Malaysia in the bigger cities
there are plenty of restaurants offering a wide variety of dishes.
There are countless hotels, guesthouses and homestays in Malaysia. Even
in the national parks in the jungle you can find more or less good
accomodation. I was surprised to find modern and clean accomodation,
spotlessly clean rooms with A/C in the middle of the remotest jungle in
Money / Exchange rate
Euro = 5 RM
1 Euro ~ USD 1.18
phones and prepaid cards
This time I used a SIM card of Celcom with a multi-GB mobile data
package. With this I had good coverage in the places I visited and the
data package was sufficient for my purposes (web surfing, emails etc.)
Most hotels offer free WLAN access in the room, with variable quality.
I also relied on the mobile phone (using it as a mobile hotspot).
Tropical weather with a mix over sun and rain. August is still the dry
season in all of Malaysia, although it rains almost every day a bit.
Health / Vaccinations
For Malaysia the usual set of tropical immunisations are needed. The
malaria risk seems to be moderate even in the jungle areas (was told
staff who had spent one year in the area didn't catch malaria), so I
didn't take anti-malaria pills.
VISA / Entry requirements
VISA on arrival for EU nationals and nationals of several other
No problems in Malaysia. It's a safe and stable country.
- The Kenyir lake is a not well known area, but is surrounded by beautiful rainforest.
- The Maliau basin is an interesting wildlife area in the heart of Sabah.
- The Imbak canyon in Sabah has some beautiful primary rainforest and is very much off the beaten track.
- The Crocker range national park was another pleasant surprise. Beautiful rainforest, waterfalls and rafflesia flowers.
Things to avoid
- Pekan is ok, but for a royal capital I would have expected a bit more.
Both in west Malaysia and in Sabah I rented a car to get around.
Without it, it would have been impossible to visit all places I saw.
For instance, there is no public transportation to the Maliau basin and
the Imbak canyon. Without a car you would need a car+driver to visit
these places or some tour.
- 12.8: Munich
Hotel Sentral, KL. Decentr room for
145 RM with A/C, TV, phone, fridge, electronic safe, hairdryer, some
furniture. Toilet with shower. The hotel is about 200m from the KL
Sentral train station. WLAN in the room, usable. Good shower with
plenty of water.
Weather: cold amd rainy in Munich
(14°C), tropical in KL
I leave home quite late at 7:30pm and drive towards the Trudering train
station, then arrive at the airport without problems (half-empty train)
at 8:35pm. There I proceed to the check-in counter. Some queue, but not
much. I'm probably the last passenger to check in on the Oman Air
flight. Then I go through passport check, security and finally wait in
the gate area. Shortly before 10pm I'm in the plane, an oldish Airbus
A330 with eight seats per row (2-4-2). The plane is almost full.
The flight takes off at 10:25pm, with just 10 minutes of delay. In the
seats of the economy class there are USB charging sockets, but no A/C
power sockets. The dinner is ok, but unimpressive and a bit less
plentiful than the one on Emirates flights.
a movie, then try
to catch some sleep, but can't really because my seat is a bit narrow
and can't be leaned so much backwards.
We land in Muscat shortly after 6:30am local time, a few minutes ahead
of schedule. Things then proceed quite smoothly. We board the bus which
brings us to the terminal. Then they check and stamp your boarding
pass, you pass a security screening and are already in the gates area.
It's a relatively small airport. Shortly after 7am I'm at the gate.
Free WLAN in the airport (you have to request an activation code by
We take off with some delay at 9am, but land in KLIA at 8pm. Then it
takes forever to go through passport control (very slow). After that I
retrieve the luggage, walk out, get cash from an ATM and walk to the
KLIA Express train station. I manage to catch the 9:20pm train to KL
and reach KL Sentral shortly before 9:50pm. There I meet Shirley, the
kids and her sister Sara. Some chit-chat, then I head to the hotel.
Rompin national park (western side from Bekok)
Chalet in the jungle camp of the Endau
Rompin national park (western part of the national park, access from
Bekok). 180 RM for a large wooden chalet with attached bathroom. Only
fan, no A/C. Relatively basic accomodation, but at least there is
electricity the whole day. The bed consists of one mattress and one
Weather: overcast in the morning in
KL. Also overcast with every now end then some sun in the area between
KL and Johor. Heavy rain in the Endau Rompin national park after after
5:20pm for about one hour.
the jet lag I wake up at 6am and can't sleep anymore. I rest a
bit in the bed, then get up, take a shower and pack my stuff. At 9:40am
I check out, then walk to the KL Sentral train station. There
some food at a KFC restaurant, then travel to KLIA2 by KL Express (RM
55). Shortly before 11am I reach the car rental area in KLIA2. After
some waiting the clerk arrives and we do the paperwork. I get a Nissan
Almera with 95000 km, full of small and large scratches and damages
here and there. Despite this, the car seems to be ok (although the
engine is a bit weak).
At 11:30am I start driving towards Bekok. Initially it takes some time
to familiarise with the new car. I face the first problem when I reach
the first toll station. I drive in, but nobody is there. Seems to be a
fully automated system, for which you need a chip or card to pass
through. Takes some time to figure out that the only counter with a
human being is the one on the right. There I'm told to buy a plastic
card (10.60 RM) which I need to top up with 50 RM.
Then I continue driving.
From now on it's a
180 km drive on the
north-south motorway. The motorway is not very good. The surface is not
perfectly smooth and the lanes are a bit narrow. Then there are speed
limits sometimes when it makes no sense. Variable traffic
levels on the motorway. I refill the petrol tank (RM 60, 1 litre is
I reach the office of the Endau Rompin national park in Bekok at
2:50pm. I park the car and then register in the office. Some discussion
on the prices. Why do they charge RM 360 for one day of trekking with
the (compulsory) guide. For comparison, in the Maliau basin the guide
costs RM 240 for three days. Some discussion and they lower the price
to RM 280.
I buy some food in a store (self-catering; a meal package would have
cost an additional RM 255), then at 3:20pm we start driving towards the
Endau Rompin national park in a Toyota Pajero 4WD car. Initially the
road is paved and good.
But the closer we
get to the national park, the
worse the road gets and the last section is a bad dirt track.
good section of the road we drive across oil palm plantations. In the
end we reach the rainforest, but it's not a nice rainforest with huge,
majestic trees. Rather it seems to be pretty much secondary rainforest,
at least in this part of the national park.
We reach the rainforest camp around 4:30pm. 400m from the chalet area
there is a camping area. I unload my stuff and have a look at the
place. After some exploring I manage to find the starting point of the
trails to the waterfalls. When I'm about to start walking on those
trails, at 5:20m, it starts to rain heavily. I wait for some time under
a shelter, then walk back to my chalet. In the evening I don't do much.
national park -> Pekan
Ancasa Royale hotel, Pekan. RM 221 for
a giant, high standard room. Two queen size beds, nice stylish
furniture, TV, fridge, table with chair, couch, even an ironing board
with an iron. About 3km out of Pekan. Freezing A/C in the
room, which can't be switched off or adjusted.
Weather: overcast in Endau Rompin
until about 2pm (eve some rain), then the sun comes out. Not too hot in
the evening in Pekan.
I wake up at 5am, then can't sleep anymore. I was expecting a
and difficulties to get up in the morning, so booked the guide for
At 9am I leave the
chalet and look for the guide. Nobody is
there, so I call the park office. They say that the guide will come
after 9:30am. So I walk around a bit to the river. There, at
meet my guide for the day. It's actually a park ranger, who
occasionally jumps in to help as a guide. He'll be ready at 9:30am.
So we start walking along the river initially.
We'll spend the
five hours walking and climbing in the rainforest. I must say that the
Endau Rompin national park has some of the worst trails I've ever seen.
Poorly maintained, extremely steep in some sections, very slippery
during and after the rains. The rainforest is not that terribly scenic:
in this area there are not that many huge, majestic old trees.
We'll reach first the Takah Tinggi waterfall at 10:50am, then
Tempaang waterfall at 12pm, followed by the Takah Selow waterfall at
1pm and finally the majestic Takah Pandan waterfall at 1:50pm.
the first hour I start walking very slowly, have no more stamina. Must
be the lack of acclimatisation, the jet lag and the lack of training.
The trails are also very, very slippery. In some sections, the
so steep that in reality you are climbing a steep mud wall, pulling
yourself up with ropes (and later abseiling with the same
slip countless times, but luckily don't get hurt, except for some
But my clothes and shoes get full of mud. Lots of leeches by the way,
but I don't get bitten because I'm wearing long trousers and leech
socks. However I have to remove many times leeches who are climbing up
the trousers or are hiding on the shoe.
We can't do all four waterfalls today because we would need to take
shortcuts through streams and I can't walk with my shoes in a stream. I
would have to take the shoes off and wear them again later, and that
takes too much time. My guide has rubber shoes and can walk through the
water. We could take a different path which doesn't involve crossing
rivers, but that would add two hours to the trek.
I'm back in the chalet at 2:40pm.
call the park office and ask
for a driver in half an hour. In practice the driver will be here at
3:40pm. Driving back to the park office takes longer than yesterday.
We'll arrive at 4:50pm.
Then I get back the RM 50 key deposit and buy some food in the nearby
grocery store. At 5:15pm I start driving towards Pekan. It's supposed
to be a three hours drive, but with stops along the way and a traffic
jam caused by a convoy of slow trucks very hard to overtake, I reach
the hotel in Pekan 8:50pm.
There are several problems when driving in Malaysia: rental cars are
not so good, roads are bad and not well signed, some drivers have poor
driving discipline. Once in the hotel I wash the clothes which got
muddy today in the bathroom.
Pekan -> Kenyir lake -> Kuala Berang
The Serai Cottage Boutique Hotel,
Kuala Berang. RM 108 for a nice single room, with TV, adjustable A/C,
clean, attached bathroom with shower, very basic but functional
furniture. Fastest WLAN since I've been in Malaysia this year. It's
finally possible to watch movies on Youtube. The hotel is somewhere in
Weather: mostly overcast with every
now and then (especially between 10am and 2pm) sun. After 5pm rain,
heavy rain on the road to lake Kenyir. Mostly rainy in the evening
around lake Kenyir.
I sleep until 9am, then get up.
11:20am I leave the hotel and drive
into town to the Istana Abu Bakar palace. The problem is that this
palace is not open to the public, so I only see the gate and some of
the garden. Next I try to get to the Abu Bakar mosque which is shown in
the Lonely Planet guide as an attraction. The problem is that this
mosque doesn't seem to exist, so instead I drive to the Sultan Ahmad
mosque. This is a picturesque mosque with a beautiful inner hall,
located about 1 km northwest of the centre of Pekan. The mosque is open
for visitors and empty when I visit it.
12:10pm I leave for the next place, which is the area of the two
mosques indicated in the map in the LP guidebook. I manage to find a
mosque and some other white building, but it's not clear whether this
mosque is the one indicated in the LP guide. Seems that this map is
inaccurate. Then I park the car next to the historic core (a block of
shophouses) of Pekan. Not much of a historic core, not for a
(supposedly) former royal capital. In fact, Pekan is less interesting
than I was expecting.
beautiful small city in a picturesque
setting along a river, with many colourful houses and lots of life, but
it lacks significant sights.
I have some lunch in a KFC restaurant, then continue walking around in
Pekan. After 2pm the streets fill up with schoolchildren. I manage to
find the Chinese temple and the Indian temple. The latter is closed and
in disuse. Then I walk back to the car and along the way buy some food
in a supermarket.
Shortly after 3pm I start driving to the Kenyir lake. The idea would be
to have a look at the area around the jetty which shows a lot of
development according to Google Maps. The drive proceeds mostly
smoothly. Initially I drive on land roads, and after some time reach
the motorway to Kuala Terengganu. This is almost empty today. The last
45km of the road are again a land road, a not very good one. I reach
the jetty of the Kenyir lake at 6:20pm.
It's now raining, and the rain will become stronger over the next 20
minutes. At the jetty there are several large houseboats, each of which
able to accomodate 10-20 people. But they seem all abandoned, or in
disuse. Can't be the wrong season, because the bad season is the winter
monsoon from November to February. It looks like a lack of business.
And the main resort, the Lake Kenyir resort & spa, is closed.
I'll have to come back tomorrow and check again, but right now lake
Kenyir looks like a failed tourist place.
In fact, I was hoping to stay in one of the many hotels around Lake
Kenyir. But there are none - I spend some time looking for a hotel, and
the closest open one I'm able to find is in Kuala Berang, about 30km
from lake Kenyir. I'm at lake kenyir until 7:25pm, then drive to Kuala
Berang arriving there at 8:10pm.
Kuala Berang -> Kenyir lake -> Kuala Lipis
Lipis Centrepoint hotel, Kuala Lipis.
RM 60 for a basic room with A/C, TV, attached bathroom with shower,
some furniture. For the price I can't complain (breakfast included).
It's RM 60 via booking.com, but in the hotel lobby they advertise RM
48. However when I call on the phone to ask if they have a room, they
say no. But later, when I book over booking.com, suddenly there is one
available room. Maybe the RM 12 difference is the commission which
Weather: in the morning a bit
overcast, then the sky opens up. Later in the afternoon it's overcast
again. After 5pm it rains until about 6:30pm, then later after 7:30pm a
I check out late after 11am. Chit chat with the hotel staff
say that there are a lot of attractions at the lake,
with more being built. It's just that yesterday evening when
everything was closed. These are all around or accessible from the
Pengkalan Gawi jetty. So I get into the car and drive again to the
At 12:10pm I'm at the Kenyir information centre near the jetty.
There I collect some information about the lake and the whole of
Terengganu. Short discussion with the staff about the things to do and
see today. Prices for boat trips are in the RM 100 - RM 300+ range for
the whole boat, depending on what you do.
Then I drive down to the jetty and enquire about boat trips with some
Malay guys who are sitting at a table.
initially tell me there is
a boat which is leaving, which would be good because I could share
cost. But later it turns out that actually we are just waiting for the
boatsman to come (they called him). So the guy finally arrives.
Discussion about price and itinerary. In the end we settle for RM 170
for a three hours trip, to three places: the herbal farm, the butterfly
farm and the orchid farm.
I drive to the jetty (it's another one next to the houseboat jetty),
and at 1:10pm we start the trip. Now the sun is shining, the sky is
blueish and the lake looks very nice. Totally different from yesterday
evening in the rain. Beautiful scenery with islands and islets covered
1:30pm we reach the herbal farm (free entry). This is a small
botanical garden with various species of plants and herbs. Quite small
it would be possible to visit it completely in 15 minutes. I'm
offered some herbal infusion, very bitter.
After half an hour here we leave for the next place, the butterfly
farm. It doesn't take long to get there and we arrive at 2:17pm. The
butterly farm has again free entrance. It's kind of interesting, but
much smaller than similar insect farms I've seen in the Cameron
highlands and KL. I spend half a hour there, then at 2:45pm we leave
for the next place, the orchid farm. Here there is a moderate RM 6
entrance fee, but there are very few flowering orchids. Many plants,
but few flowers, disappointing.
this place at 3:25pm and head back to the jetty. Since it is
still not that late, I decide to drive until Kuala Lipis, to shorten
the driving time tomorrow.
decide to skip Taman Negara Kuala Koh, for
which there is no time anyway. Might do that another time.
It's about 4pm when I leave the jetty. The road initially is very, very
scenic. I basically drive on a road across beautiful rainforest, every
now and then seeing lake bays. It's a good road - wide, mostly smooth
surface, few holes. Very few cars on this part of the road. Some
roadworks ongoing in a few spots along the way.
The scenery changes completely after some time. The good road ends, I
continue on a small and narrow road and now it's all palm oil
plantations and some civilisation.
After Gua Musang there is a 40-50km piece of road which is like a
motorway: two lanes per side, very smooth surface, mostly straight road
with no narrow curves. 90km/h speed limit, but in practice it's like a
At 7:20pm I reach Kuala Lipis and call the hotel.
tell me that no
room is available, so I try making a booking over booking.com and it
works. Very strange. Then I have some fast food in a KFC restaurant,
and after that drive to the hotel. After parking the car, in the
darkness I manage to fall into an open trench, which runs parallel to
the street. These open trenches are typical for Malaysia and are meant
to carry away the rainwater. Initially I had been walking over a grid
on the trench when I got out of the car, but when the grid finished, I
fall into the trench. The problem with Malaysia is that when you walk
somewhere you have to watch carefully where you put your feet.
I manage to hurt my right hand. One of the fingers starts bleeding
heavily. I cover that with a paper tissue, to stop the bleeding, and
wipe away the blood. With that hand covered in a bloody tissue I walk
into the hotel lobby. Shocked face of the receptionist who asks what
happened to me. I check in and sort of take care of the hand. Maybe
tomorrow I'll see a doctor.
Kuala Lipis -> Fraser's Hill -> Kuala Lumpur
Cityview hotel Kota Warisan, Sepang
(near KLIA). RM 79 for a small room, maybe 3m x 4m, nicely set up with
a bed, desk+tble, hair dyer, tea making set, attached bathroom with
shower. A/C is adjustable. WLAN available, but very slow.
Weather: mostly overcast, with every
now and then blue sky and sunshine. No rain the whole day.
I check out at 11am and go to the clinic below the hotel to ask them to
have a look at my right hand. The wrist is now swollen and stiff. After
some waiting it's my turn.
Chinese doctor and it seems my wrist
isn't broken. He gives me an antitetanus shot and some antibiotics and
some pills against the inflammation. I'm done at 11:40am.
Then I get to the car. I notice a parking fine which is strange because
yesterday the hotel gave me a parking ticket which I put into the car.
Back in the hotel lobby I'm told that this parking ticket only
me to park for one hour from 8am to 9am. She was thinking I would leave
by 9am, or perhaps she wanted to save some money. RM 0.40 for an hour
of parking, the fine is RM 10. Still nothing if translated into Euro
(RM 10 is less than 2 Euro), but now I have to pay this fine and this
will make me lose time.
they show me in Google Maps the place where I can pay the fine
and I drive there. Then I quickly find the right counter and because
there are no queues, the fine is paid by 12:10pm. Time to drive to
It's actually less than 100km, but the navigation system calculates a
bit over two hours, probably because the last part of the road is a
indeed the last 40km are a very bad mountain road,
with very narrow lanes, countless narrow curves and a not so smooth
surface. The last 8km are a one-way road. This must be the old
road, which probably hasn't been touched after independence.
I reach the Fraser hill at 2:26pm. The weather is so-so, mostly
overcast. I guess with some sunshine and a blue sky this place would be
much more appealing. There are several colonial era, British style
houses here and there. Lots of rainforest, but also a golf course and
some small meadows. The altitude is a bit above 1200m and the air is
I spend eome time having a look at the place. There are a
trails in the forest, some leading to a waterfall. But otherwise this
place is not that terribly interesting.
if you live in KL and
would like to do some trekking, you could come here and do it.
Shortly after 3pm I go to the Tea House restaurant & cafe where
I have some lunch. Then I continue having a look at the Fraser's hill.
There is a recreation centre with an archery range near the golf court.
A big, probably upper end resort (for those who are planning to do a
At 4:30pm I start driving back to KL. With a couple of stops along the
way, I reach the Midvalley mall at 6:50pm. Then, after 7pm I have a
dinner with the family of Shirley. Chinese restaurant again, just for a
change... After 9pm I drive to the hotel in Sepang, arriving at 10:20pm.
Hotel Merry Land, Danang. 1.085
million VND for a nice room with attached bathroom. Adjustable A/C,
flat screen TV, fast WLAN, fridge, nice furniture, tea making equipment
and instant noodles (not free), electronic safe. The hotel is in a
skyscraper in the strip of land between the river and the ocean. The
room is on the 12th floor. Breakfast included.
Weather: overcast in the morning in
KL. A mix of sunny, then overcast and rainy in Danang. Very strong sun
I get up at 7:30am, then leave the hotel at 8:30am. Some traffic jam,
so the expected arrival time at the airport is shortly before 9am. In
fact it's just one short section of the road and one roundabout which
I reach the airport and immediately find the rental car parking. Then I
lose quite some time looking for a parking slot, because all Mayflower
parking slots are full. In the end I park the car in the Asia Car
parking slot because I have no more time. Then it takes some time to
figure out how to get to the Mayflower car rental counter, because that
is not so obvious.
When I'm finally at the counter, there is no staff. I call the hotline,
some discussion, in the end I drop the car key in the key drop. Then I
rush to the check-in counter. At the Air Asia check-in there is a queue
and it's already 9:20am. I ask an Air Asia staff and am directed to a
There the friendly
guy checks me in without discussion.
Boarding at 9:55am I'm told. I reach the gate at 9:40am - extremely
long walk to the gate. The layout of KLIA2 needs to be improved -
check-in area too far away from the gates.
At the gate I meet Shirley, her mom and the kids. Boarding starts late
at 10:05am (late arrival of the previous flight). The plane, an Airbus
A320, starts rolling at 10:45am and takes off at 11am (25 minutes of
delay). The plane is quite full (perhaps 80% full).
We land at 12:13pm local time, reach the passport control 10 minutes
later, and then wait for a while. Once outside, I buy SIM cards. Mine
is from Viettel, has 3.5GB of data and 10 minutes of calls, and costs 5
USD. For a few USD more you can even get one with unlimited data. Very
Hotel Five 2, Kota Kinabalu. RM 105
for a small (10-12m²) room with A/C, a table, TV, phone attached
bathroom with shower and nothing else. The hotel is conveniently
located in the centre of KL. The only problem is that there is no
elevator (have to carry my 24Kg suitcase and other bags to the 3rd
floor). Fast WLAN in the room. Bed hard like a stone, shower has only
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some
very thin clouds layer in Danang. Quite hot. In the evening it's
raining in Kota Kinabalu.
We get up at 8am, have breakfast and pack our stuff. In my emails
find the confirmation that my car booking is ok. I have now a car for
one week (23.8-30.8) in Kota Kinabalu. Yesterday evening I
the hotels in Kota Kinabalu and in the Crocker range national park.
Dinisiah from the Maliau Basin studies centre is expecting me in her
office tomorrow, so I'm all set up for my trip across western Sabah.
Shortly after 10am we check out and take a taxi (110000 VND) to the
airport, arriving at 10:20am. Then we check in. Airasia doesn't allow
batteries in the check-in luggage, so I have to remove the powerbank.
Fast, free WLAN and smooth procedures at the airport. Before 11am I'm
at the gate. There are A/C power sockets using the UK/Malaysia plug.
The Airasia flight to KL is delayed. The plane starts rolling
12:43pm and takes off at 1:06pm,
with half an hour
of delay. This is
tricky, because in KL I have 2:20 hours to chenge flights and I have to
go through passport control and check in again.
We land in KLIA at 4:35pm (20 minutes of delay). Then I'm one of the
first to leave the plane, because the Airasia staff reseated me in
quickly get to the passport control. There is only a short
queue of 5-6 people. Then I manage to quickly retrieve the
(mine is one of the first to come out, sheer luck I guess) and at
4:57pm I'm at the check-in counter of Airasia. Since it's not so late
and the queue doesn't look so long, I just queue up.
When it's my turn I'm told that for domestic flights I should have
checked in first at the machine and got a boarding pass. Never mind. By
5:11pm I have the boarding pass and can walk to the gate. Pretty smooth
operation - 36 minutes to go through passport control, retrieve the
luggage and check-in again.
The 6:35pm Airasia flight is delayed. It takes off at 7:15pm with 40
minutes of delay, but luckily lands in Kota Kinabalu at 9:35pm, with
just 20 minutes of delay. I get out, retrieve my luggage and take a
taxi to the hotel, arriving there at 10:18pm.
Kinabalu -> Crocker
range national park
Manis Manis Rooftop of Borneo resort,
Crocker range national park. RM 320 for a room, big, rather basic but
functional. No TV, no A/C (not necessary, a heating would rather be
needed), some furniture (table, desk, chair). Attached bathroom, big,
but also rather basic and when people from the neighbouring rooms use
the common bathroom, there is not enough water in the bathroom. Shower
water heater not powerful enough (you have to set it to very little
water output, if you want to have warm water). Overall not a place
where you want to spend more than one night.
Weather: very heavy rain in the
morning in Kota Kinabalu, strong winds, like a typhoon. On the Crocker
range in the afternoon there is beautiful weather: sunny, but with a
clouds layer (milky-blue sky). Fresh at altitude in the Crocker range
I get up at 9am and check out at 10:30am, leaving the bags in the
hotel. When I ask for a taxi, the hotel staff suggests to use Uber.
I install the app, and quickly am able to order a car with driver. This
arrives quite speedily. I reach the Tun Mustapha Tower shortly after
11am, then get up to the 12th floor, where the office of the
Conservation & Environmental Management Division is. These are
the people who administer the Maliau basin, the Imbak canyon and the
Danum valley research centres.
There I have a long chat with Dinisiah, the lady with whom I have been
in touch so far. We make up a small plan which consists of a trek in
the Maliau basin (one night in the basin, two in the studies centre),
followed by a trip to the Imbak canyon (two nights spent there). Above
all, the transfers to the Imbak canyon are expensive (Telupid - Imbak
Canyon RM 500 each way).
Shortly before 12pm I'm done and I walk out. Then it starts raining
heavily, the Uber driver doesn't manage to find me, so I order a new
one. I'll be back at the hotel only at 1pm. I try to tell the Uber
driver to wait for me because I just need to take my luggage and then I
go to the airport. Somehow he doesn't understand me, because when I'm
out again with the luggage, he's already gone.
The Uber app still shows me on the way to the hotel, so I can't use it
to book a new driver. Finally I go to the hotel and ask them for a
taxi. They then book a car for me.
The curious thing is that the price they get is RM 5.24. But the
distance to the airport is bigger than the distance to the Tun Mustapha
Tower and for that transfer I paid RM 8.60. Perhaps Uber makes lower
prices for local Malaysians.
By the way, since 12:20pm, every 10-20 minutes the guy from the
Mayflower car rental is asking when I come to pick up the car. That's
because I had declared a pickup time of 12pm.
I'm at the airport shortly before 2pm. There I have some quick lunch at
a KFC restaurant, then I proceed to the Mayflower car rental counter.
Finally at 2:45pm I leave with the car, another Nissan Almera.
Since it's already late, I take the shorter coastal road (was initially
planning to drive via Tambunan). Initially the road proceeds mostly
through more or less urban areas.
It's only after a
while that the road
turns inland, to less urbanised areas. Pretty cool scenery, mountains
and rainforests. I find a "Dimie Pedalaman resort", in a very
spot. At 4:52pm I'm at the gate to the Crocker range NP (entrance fee:
RM 10). Shortly after that I check in at the resort.
I take a walk and have a look around the area. Around 1300m of
altitude, the air is fresh, very nice scenery. There is one 2km long
trail which I don't do because it's already 5:30pm. Later I will hear
that this is the only trail in this place (but there are more trails in
other parts of the national park). There is some kind of fern and
insect exhibition at the headquarter below.
In the evening I have a dinner in the restaurant of the resort.
range national park -> Keningau
Hotel Juta, Keningau. RM 135 for a
nice, business level room with a lot of furniture, basically 4 star
style. The only thing is that it's an old hotel. Carpeted floor, flat
screen TV, but no fridge and no electronic safe. The WLAN in the room
is not functional. However the A/C can be switched on and off and the
temperature can be precisely set, and the bed is soft. Found this place
with Google Maps (it's not in the booking portals). Next to the hotel
there is a KFC restaurant, a Maybank branch and a supermarket.
Weather: a mix of overcast and sunny
in the morning, then after 2pm it starts raining. It rains more or less
heavily with some interruptions until the evening. Quite fresh at
In the morning I check out at 11am, then drive to the beginning of the
Denai Crocker trail. It's a 2km trail and the hotel staff told me it's
I'm planning to
spend the next 1-2 hours on it. It's a nice,
wide, well maintained trail, which is mostly covered by the rainforest
It becomes quickly clear that this is not a circular trail, because at
one point the trail starts getting down the mountain. It's also quite
steep in some sections. I run into a group of (probably) Japanese bird
photographers, judging from the cameras with the very long lenses.
The trail ends at the headquarter of the Crocker range national park
(the real HQ).
It's a building
along the street and I'm there at 12pm.
Opposite the street there is a cafe/restaurant. I check it out and
order some fried rice (RM 6, quite cheap). After lunch, at 12:40pm, I
start walking back along the trail to the place where I started my
trek. I'm back on top shortly before 1:30pm. I can already see the bad
weather approaching from the west.
I get back into the car and drive to the administration building of
this substation. There I check a bit the area and the exhibits in the
I notice that there
is a second trail, the
pine trail, which I might do.
When I ask where the trail begins, I'm forwarded to various people
until a knowledgeable lady shows up. This pine trail is not in use,
because at one end there are many snakes (including cobras I'm told).
More discussion, what the attractions in the Crocker range national
park are. The Mahua waterfall should be interesting. About a 1:30 hours
drive from here.
Then suddenly this lady mentions that this is the first day of a
blooming rafflesia here in the park. Must say that all these years I've
never managed to catch sight of a rafflesia in full bloom (always some
stage before or after the full bloom). So, I walk down the staircase
and join a group of people who are also going to have a look at the
rafflesia. The rafflesia is quite cool, but is not yet fully open.
Apparently I have to come back tomorrow.
After some photos I walk back up to
building. By now
it's already 2:15pm and it has already started raining. Since
no point to spend the rest of the day here, I get into the car and key
in the Mahua waterfall into the navigation system. Expected arrival
So I drive first down to Keningau, then along the road
Tambunan. Not terribly impressive landscape. Some rice fields
and then. After Tambunan, the road splits into roads going to KK and to
I continue along
the road towards Ranau, then at one point turn
left and drive up the mountain. Quite steep road in some sections, I
could use a more powerful car. I reach the Mahua waterfall parking at
Here there is another substation, with administrative buildings.
Another RM 10 ticket to get to the waterfall (local Malaysians pay RM
After I buy the
ticket, the guy tells me there ia a rafflesia in
full bloom. Wow, today is rafflesia day. Whenever you don't ask for it,
things happen. But if you go to a rafflesia area looking for a
rafflesia, you don't find one.
To get to the waterfall, it's 500m walk across beautiful rainforest,
along the Mahua river. The forest alone is already worth the trip to
this place. The waterfall itself is also very nice, although not that
big (perhaps a 20-30m drop). By the way, in the meantime it has started
When I'm back at the gate, the guy is about to leave. Some discussion
regarding the rafflesia. Finally he finds somebody who will show me the
way. Steep climb for about 10 minutes, along slippery and muddy trails.
Finally we reach the rafflesia site. There is actually two of them,
about 3 metres from each other. These ones are completely open (fourth
day of blooming I'm told).
At 5:10pm I start driving to Keningau, arriving there around 6:30pm.
Before going to the hotel I stop in a Giant supermarket and buy a lot
of food and stuff I'll probably need over the next days in the Maliau
basin. Then I drive to the hotel, check in and have a dinner in the
nearby KFC restaurant.
Maliau basin studies centre. RM 95 for
a bed in the hostel. The place has A/C power from 7am to 11pm, a common
bathroom, common kitchen. Nice wooden complex in the rainforest. Only
fan, no aircon.
Weather: good weather, sunny, blue
sky until about 2pm, then it rains intermittenlty until 5:30pm.
I get up at 8am and check out at 9:15am. I get some cash from an ATM
(manage to withdraw RM 2300 in one shot). Then I buy some groceries in
the Keningau mall and by 10:20am I'm on the way to the Crocker range
national park. I want to photograph the rafflesia which yesterday was
only partially open and today should be fully open.
From Keningau it's a short 20 minutes drive to the Crocker range NP. In
20 minutes the road climbs from the 320m altitude of Keningau to the
over 1100m of the Crocker range. I stop at one point to take a panorama
shot, then shortly before 11am I'm at the rafflesia. Right now it's
fully open. Beautiful flower.
I spend 20 minutes at the rafflesia, then walk back to the car. On the
way I run into a group of Malaysians who have come to see the
rafflesia. One of the ladies is wearing a tight skirt and high heels. I
guess she will have some problems walking down the muddy ground to the
drive to the cafe/restaurant of yesterday and have some early
lunch there. Around 12pm I start driving towards the Maliau basin. The
road initially is ok, but after a while it becomes very bad. In several
sections the asphalt cover is gone and the road is just a dirt track.
Where the road is paved, it's full of holes. And this road has just
been completed one year ago, in 2016. Obviously the road hasn't been
built to the required standard. I speculate whether corruption has
played a role.
With a couple of stops along the way, I reach the Shell Maliau basin
reception & information building at 3:08pm. I leave my name and
data and park the car in the parking. Then a guy shows up who drives me
with his 4WD vehicle to the Maliau basin studies centre. On the way we
stop a few times for some photos, once at an observation tower for
about 10-15 minutes. We reach the studies centre at 4:20pm.
By the way, the road is currently being completely paved. Once that is
the case (should be by the end of 2017 according to the driver), it
will be possible to drive to the Maliau basin studies centre with a
normal 2WD car.
This looks like a sort of majestic building.
wooden, many other buildings in the complex. It's by now raining
heavily. I walk up the stairs, register and pay the RM 1300 of this
4D3N trip. Then I unload my stuff into the hostel and stay there until
it stops raining.
After 5:30pm, when the rain has stopped, I walk around the area. It's a
large complex with several buildings around a pond, all nicely set up
with wooden plankways crossing the pond, illuminated at night.
Everything is surrounded by rainforest.
When I have a
closer look at my invoice, I notice that I'm being
charged RM 254 for cooking utensils and the gas stove. Which is a bit
pricey because I'm actually only boiling some water for the instant
noodles I brought with me. It's RM 254 because they calculate four full
days of use of cooking utensils and the gas stove. But actually on the
last day I will be leaving early in the morning. So I send a message to
Dinisiah asking her to revise the invoice and issue a refund.
The problem with the Maliau basin is that there are fees for
everything. You leave out the food, thinking that you save RM 700, but
then are charged RM 254 for cooking utensils and gas.
Later in the evening I have dinner and at 8pm there is an informative
video about the Maliau basin. Tomorrow the plan is to trek to the
Basin studies centre -> Ginseng
Ginseng camp. Sleeping bag in an open
air rainforest shelter, covered by a roof against the rain. Toilet
facilities, but apparently no showers. RM 95 for the sleeping place +
another RM 73 for the use of the kitchen facilities (rather basic, but
there is a gas stove, with which to boil water or cook). A bit
overpriced considering how spartan the conditions are, but then this is
the Maliau Basin.
Near the camp is the Ginseng
waterfall, but the access is not easy. You need to walk on a muddy
trail, then cross a stream, then climb again on a steep slope, all the
time being ambushed by hungry leeches.
Weather: overcast in the morning,
then the sun comes out. Rain between 2 and 3pm, then sunny again. Not
too hot in the forest trail.
I get up at 7am, then am at the reception for the trek at 8:15am. I
leave my stuff in the reception, then wait. We'll only leave after 9am,
because some Polish tourists have to finish their breakfast.
At 9:08am finally we start. Today it's the Polish couple, myself and a
group of Asian travellers (maybe they are Malaysian).
We drive on a to a large extent paved road, reaching the Agathis camp
at 9:25am. This is a no longer in use jungle camp, because it was
damaged by the elephants.
bag is weighted. Seven kg, five less than the 12 kg limit.
Suddenly I hear somebody mention that his sleeping bag is so heavy.
Dang - I totally forgot to ask for a sleeping bag in the reception. I
tell the guide, the guide rushes back to the car parking, but the car
is already gone. So he uses his radio to tell the reception to send a
We wait for a while, then, since it is already late, the guide suggests
that the porter will wait for the sleeping bag and we should start the
trek now. It's 9:45am.
So we start walking along the trail. From the Agathis camp at 500m of
altitude we'll climb up the rim of the Maliau Basin, crossing it at
almost 900m of altitude, then walk down again to the Ginseng camp at
Initially the trail has a very gentle slope and is easy to walk. It
goes through 'standard' tropical rainforest, nothing too spectacular.
It goes up and down a bit for a while, until becoming a bit steeper
towards the end.
At 12:30pm, when we are on top of the rim, the guide suggests to make a
lunch break. We're not far from the Ginseng camp (just 3km) and I would
have done this lunch break at the camp, but the guide seems eager to
It would actually have been better not to stop here, because in the
middle of the rainforest, if you make a break somewhere, immediately
mosquitoes and leeches come.
At 12:40pm we continue walking. Now we are descending from the rim
towards the Ginseng camp. The trail gets increasingly difficult. Very
steep, on a very steep, almost vertical slope. Then it's slippery. The
trail is secured with ropes. This last part of the trail is the most
challenging one and the one requiring the most concentration and energy.
Finally at 1:47pm we reach the Ginseng camp. This consists of a
dormitory area (building with open walls but with a roof), a kitchen
/administration building, a toilet complex, no showers (you have to
empty buckets of water on yourself if you want to wash yourself).
It's not even 2pm and in principle there is still time, so I ask if we
could walk to the Maliau falls and back.
The guide is not
to do so. He mentions that the trail is not as easy as the one
done so far and that there is not enough time. So we stay here.
The guide lets the water tank run a bit, probably to cleanse the pipes,
then fills two pots and boils the water to obtain drinking water.
Later, when I have a closer look at the water, I notice that it is not
clear. It has some slight mud colour, probably because it wasn't
The germs have
likely been killed since the water was boiled, but the
water has a weird taste and a weird colour. Not exactly something you
want to drink. But there is no other option, because it's the only
drinkable water here. I guess next time I do a jungle trip, I'll bring
along a water filter, if such a thing exists.
Guide and porter spend the rest of the day at the camp.
I try to walk
to the nearby Ginseng waterfall, but the trek is too tough. Steep and
slippery, then you have to take off the shoes to cross a river. But on
the other side there is no dry and clean place where to put on again
the shoes. Walking barefoot is not an option (you hurt your feet and
there are leeches) and using slippers is also not an option in such a
trail. So I walk back to the camp. I'll spend the rest of the day there.
Late at night, after 9pm, I hear a noise in the kitchen. I turn around
and see something which looks like a big cat, light brown, quickly
disappearing below the kitchen floor. Later, at night, at 4am I wake up
and notice a small furry animal in my bed. Either a rat or a squirrel
and it quickly runs away. Perhaps this animal came looking for
food. With such an open shelter, animals can come in anytime
camp -> Maliau
Basin studies centre
Bed in the hostel of the Maliau Basin
studies centre. Today I'm the only guest and have the entire hostel for
Weather: mostly sunny with clouds in
the morning an until about 2pm. After 2pm some rain, on and off (it
rains for 30-60 minutes, then stops, then starts again later).
I get up at 8am and take a cold shower. Then I get ready,
breakfast and pack my stuff. The guide asks me if I still need the
porter, because if yes, it's another RM 100 for his services. My bag is
now less heavy than yesterday and we will go more downhill than uphill.
But I have no space for the sleeping bag in my small backpack and my
camera bag alone weighs more than 6kg, so the combination of the two
bags is a bit heavy. I let the porter carry again my bag. He seems to
be happy about that (and today he is bringing the rubbish down to the
studies centre - his total load ends up being 22kg).
We set off at 9:45am and walk the same trail of yesterday in reverse
direction. For some reason today I'm not as fit as yesterday. I walk
with very few breaks, but in the end arrive at the Ginseng camp only at
When we reach the Agathis camp, the porter and other people are waiting
for us. One of the guys is somebody who walked to the Ginseng camp to
leave the food for a group of trekkers who tomorrow will be there for
the night. Basically if you book the food package, you end up eating
food which has been cooked two days ago.
Shortly after 2pm the car leaves and drives us back to the studies
centre. We arrive there about 20 minutes later, and shortly afterwards
it starts raining. I get my things from the reception and bring them to
the hostel. First thing I do, I drink two bottles of isotonic drink.
Not sure why I am so thirsty. Maybe I should have drunk more water when
walking down the trail.
Then I spend the afternoon resting, sorting through my things and the
pictures and eating something. Tomorrow I'm driving to the Imbak canyon.
Basin -> Imbak canyon
Accomodation in the Imbak canyon
studies centre. Originally I pay RM 95 for a place in the hostel. Upon
arrival I'm upgraded to a private room. This is HUGE, has A/C, building
built with concrete walls, brand new (finished in November 2016). The
interior is clean, but relatively simple. There is a bed (a bit hard),
table + chair, some kind of small cupboard (not for clothes). The
toilet has hot water (electric water heater). There is A/C power from
7am to 11pm. When I arrive at 10:40pm I'm given a "grace" period to
settle in and there is power until 11:20pm. The entire complex is huge,
extends over an area of 300m x 200m, with countless buildings (research
facilities, staff quarters, VIP lounges etc.).
Weather: mostly sunny, blue sky with
some clouds the whole day. In the afternoon after 3pm some limited
rain. Surprisingly dry in the Imbak canyon area. I'm being told it
hasn't rained for three weeks.
get up at 8am and check out at 9:15am.
9:20am I'm in the 4WD car
towards the gate of the Maliau basin, where I parked my car.
On the way
we stop at the viewpoint for some photos. At 9:53am I'm in my rental
car and start driving to the Imbak canyon. According to the Google Maps
navigation system it's a 5:44 hours drive, so I should arrive in
Kampung Imbak before 4pm.
However things do not go as they should and the culprit is Google Maps,
which has chosen a road which
road (unless you are driving a 4WD
car which can cross rivers). Essentially Google Maps directs me to a
road south of the Gunung Trus Madi mountain, which at one point ends in
a dirt track. Fine, I drive this dirt track for a while, hoping that it
becomes a paved road again (which sometimes happens here in Sabah). But
at 1pm this road ends in a river, i.e. you have to cross this river to
continue driving. No problem for a big 4WD car, but impossible for a
2WD saloon car.
So I have to backtrack, and drive to Keningau first, then on to Ranau
and Telupid. In the meantime the fuel indicator of the car is low, and
the next petrol station according to Google Maps is only in Keningau.
Luckily Google Maps is wrong again and I find a petrol station in Sook,
40km before Keningau.
I send a message to Dinisiah that I have a problem and that I'll be in
Kampung Imbak around 8pm (not 4pm as originally expected). Dinisiah
must have reacted quickly, because Darren, the host in the Imbak canyon
studies centre calls me and enquires about my current location and
expected arrival time.
In Keningau I stop briefly at a KFC restaurant, to have some chicken
meat (haven't eaten meat for the last few days). It's 3pm when I
continue driving. The road section between Tambunan and Ranau is
horrible. Narrow mountain road full of curves, but the big problem is
the poor status of the road. It's full of holes, on some parts the
tarmac is missing, elsewhere sections of the road are missing. The
scenery by the way is absolutely beautiful. It's a pity I have to rush
Around 5:15pm I reach Ranau and get stuck in a huge traffic jam where I
lose about 15 minutes. A bit later the navigation system indicates
160km left, 2:47 hours still to drive, expected arrival time in Kampung
Imbak at 8:15pm. This Google Maps forecast assumes that you drive
non-stop at the maximum allowed speed.
Due to slow driving trucks which are had to overtake on some road
sections (Ranau to Telupid is full of curves) I lose another 25 minutes
before I reach Kampung Imbak. By the way, from Telupid to Kampung Imbak
initially it's a very good road (straight, few curves, little traffic).
The last 15km are a dirt track however.
I arrive in Kampung Imbak at 8:40pm. Now the question is, where do I
meet the people of the Imbak canyon studies centre. I drive a bit
around, then get back to the market. There I ask the locals if they
know anything about an Imbak canyon studies centre.
Of course they do not, what was I expecting. The problem is also that
my phone seems to have no line in this place. It takes several tries
until I manage to call Darren.
Darren gets involved in a long
discussion with the locals. Finally two locals get into my car and
bring me to the information centre of the Imbak canyon studies centre.
It's a facility with an exhibition and an office. I register there and
wait for the car to the Imbak canyon studies centre to be ready. At
9:16pm we start driving to the Imbak canyon studies centre. These are
the last remaining 38km of this day.
The road is a dirt track, not a good one. It's a dirt track for which
you need a heavy 4WD car. We drive in the darkness, up and down the
hills. We see a small animal crossing the street, and later the driver
spots a leopard. The road passes by palm oil plantations. There seem to
be everywhere in Sabah, even in the remotest corners. Finally at
10:40pm we reach the Imbak canyon studies centre.
This place is unbelievable. Huge and modern, it's amazing that in the
deepest of jungle suddenly you find such a modern complex. Darren, a
Dusun tribesman who works here, is still there. He has been waiting for
me all the time. Some more discussion and a bit after 11pm I get into
Room in the Imbak canyon studies centre
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some
clouds, hot. No rain the whole day.
I get up at 8am. At
9am Darren calls and asks when I'm ready for the
activities of the day. At 10:15am I get out of the room and slowly walk
towards the office building. Then I meet Darren who is telling me that
he is preparing a presentation for me. At 10:45am this presentation
starts in the office building.
The Imbak canyon studies centre has been completed in November 2016 and
is located inside the Imbak canyon. It can house 600 visitors.
Currently there are about 50 employees working here and the centre
receives about 80 visitors per month, although this number is expected
to rise substantially.
A scientific expedition (all Malaysian except for three non-Malaysians)
has just spent a few days at the centre and then left.
The Imbak canyon studies centre is going to be officially launched in
September 2017, then there should be more visitors coming.
At the moment there is still a lack of activities for tourists. There
are just two trails, the canopy walkway is not completed yet and other
attractions have yet to be added. In addition, because of all the noise
which the construction of the centre generated, I'm told the animals
are traumatised and avoid the area. It will probably take some time
until animals dare to get back to the area.
Another problem is the access to the centre, because the road is very
bad (a dirt track used also by logging trucks). Getting here is not
All in all, it appears that the Imbak canyon studies centre still needs
a year or so to achieve it's full tourist potential. The Imbak canyon
itself is a 25km long valley, bordered on three sides by sandstone
ridges. Strictly speaking not a narrow canyon or gorge, as the name
would imply. The rainforest here has never been logged. In fact the
area is full of beautiful rainforest with tall, majestic trees.
The Imbak canyon is within the forest area managed by Yayasan Sabah
(the Sabah foundation, a company owned by the Malaysian government,
which also manages the Maliau basin and the Danum valley, i.e. all the
coolest wildlife areas in Sabah except for the Kinabatangan river and
Tabin). Within the Imbak canyon (or around it) there are 45
which are only accessible by boat, where people apparently still lead a
A number of species of animals and plants are endemic to the Imbak
canyon. The Nepentes hirsuta, a pitcher plant species, has
found here and in the Maliau basin.
After the presentation, at 11:30am I walk to the viewpoint from where
there is an overview of the Imbak canyon and the studies centre.
After lunch, at 12:40pm, the afternoon trek starts.
Every visitor who
wants to trek in the forest has to be accompanied by a park ranger
(fee: RM 50/hour). In addition, Darren is also walking with us. We
initially cross the Kapur suspension bridge, then start walking in the
rainforest. Then we take the riverine trail, which leads to
Belian tree, the Belian camp and the Imbak waterfall.
The trail is not bad and quite plain. We reach the big Belian tree at
1:27pm. This is a very tall tree made out of very hard wood.
we reach the Belian camp, which was set up for researchers who spent
some time living in the forest. Now it seems to be in disuse.
Regarding leeches, here there are fewer leeches than in the Maliau
Over the course of
the trek I only have to remove 4-5 leeches
from the leech socks. Perhaps it's because the area here is
than the Maliau basin.
A few minutes later we reach the Imbak falls. To get to the frontal
view you need to cross a suspension bridge, then walk down. The
waterfall is not very tall (just 6m), but quite wide (30m). The water
is brownish due to the tannins of the leaves which fall into it. Very
After the waterfall, at 2:10pm, we start walking up to the
hill (365m). An a bit steep climb, because in Malaysia
the trails all
go directly upwards (unlike in the European alps, where the trails do
serpentines to avoid too steep gradients). It's a tiring walk. Along
the way we spot some Nepentes hirsuta pitcher plants. We reach the top
of Bukit Imbak at 2:40pm. There we take a long rest.
Finally we take a shortcut back to the studies centre, because the
guide thinks it might rain soon. We're back at 3:40pm.
In the remaining part of the day I don't do much. I take a shower,
drink a lot (have lots a lot of liquids on that trek) and sort through
canyon -> Kota
Mandarin hotel, Kota Kinabalu. RM 191
for a small (maybe 15m², but nice and modern room. This seems to be an
old hotel which has recently been completely renovated. The room is
very nice and functional. Has LCD TV, desk, chair, cupboard, phone,
electronic safe, comfortable bed (not too hard), many A/C sockets,
aircon unit with remote control. Ths highlght is the bathroom with
shower: very elegant, looks brand new. The hotel is centrally located
in KK next to the Millimewa supermarket.
Weather: in the
morning a bit more
cloudy than yesterday, later in the morning it rains a bit. Over the
course of the day, sunny with clouds, then some rain after 3pm.
In the morning at 9:30am I walk to the reception, because I need to
call the car rental. I'm supposed to return the car by 12pm noon today
and want to ask if I can have it for two more days. The answer is no,
they need the car by tomorrow 2pm, because somebody else is renting it.
So I have to change my plans and be in Kota Kinabalu this evening.
At 10:20am we start the trek of today. It's the second trail of this
studies centre. This starts with the other suspension bridge and leads
into the forest on the other side of the studies centre. I'm walking
with a female forest ranger, Darren and two locals of Kampung Imbak who
came here because they were curious. Immediately we are in front of a
huge tree. Very large trunk, very tall tree. Over the course of the
trek we'll see many of these large trees.
At 11am we reach the actual highlight: a place in the forest where a
large number of Nepentes plants grow. I've never seen so many
place. Then we turn back and slowly walk back to the studies centre,
arriving there at 12pm.
Since I'm full of sweat I head back to the room and have a shower. Then
I have lunch and pack my things. At 1:15pm I call the reception and ask
for a car. The car will arrive about 20 minutes later. After paying the
bill (they are not charging me the ranger fees), at 1:50pm we start
driving back to Kampung Imbak. Together with the driver we have three
more people in the car: a staff girl and the two people from Kampung
Imbak who did the trek.
15 minutes later we have to get back to the studies centre because the
car has a broken wheel. At 2:30pm we leave again the studies centre in
a new car. This time the driver needs only 1:05 hours to reach Kampung
Imbak (vs. 1:20 hours when we came here). I leave Kampung Imbak in the
rental car around 3:45pm.
The drive to Kota Kinabalu proceeds without problems. For a large part
(Telupid to Ranau and Ranau to Kota Kinabalu), the road is a mountain
road with many narrow curves. Difficult to overtake slow trucks.
Shortly before 7pm I refuel the car in Ranau and have some fast dinner
in a KFC restaurant. Then I start the night drive across the Mt
Kinabalu massif to Kota Kinabalu, reaching the hotel at 9:52pm.
Mandarin hotel, Kota Kinabalu.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some
clouds, hot, until about 6pm. After it rains lighrly for about two
morning shortly after 10am I return the car to Mayflower.
1400km in eight days, the car is in the same state as I received it
(i.e. no damages caused by me). The bill is RM 868 for the eight days I
used it (+ the 40 Euro commission I paid to Holiday Autos). Then I have
some food in a Chinese restaurant near the hotel (simple chicken rice,
the full menu is only available in the evening).
Today is Merdeka day (Malaysia national day) and you can see it in KK.
Everywhere there are flags of Malaysia and Sabah.
11:50am I'm in an Uber car to the jetty, arriving there at 12pm. I
check the boats to the islands. I'd like to do 3-4 islands, but for
that you need to charter a boat which is a bit too expensive (RM 500).
The only affordable option (RM 40) is to visit two islands (Manukan and
Mamutik), leaving immediately. Hop from Manukan to Mamutik at 2pm, back
from Mamutik to KK at 5pm. So I buy the ticker and get into a boat full
of Asian tourists.
Besides Malaysians, there are many (young) Korean tourists everywhere
and probably also some mainland Chinese. KK is connected by direct
flights with Seoul,
not so far away from South Korea (3700 km)
which would explain the large number of Koreans.
Leaving at 12:08pm we reach Manukan at 12:30pm (very rough ride on the
sea). Today it's full of people, probably due to the public holiday.
There is long beach and another, smaller one which probably belongs to
a resort. The seawater is not clear and very shallow. To reach deep
water you'd have to walk over coral, i.e. swimming is not feasible.
Snorkelling also not really, although there is a lot of fish there,
even aggressive one (small fish which bite your legs).
Lots of facilities
on the island: plenty of restaurants and shops, mass
tourism place. A mix of female visitors, some covered from top till
toe, others wearing a bikini, some a mix of that. People in waist-deep
water with safety vests.
At 2pm I take the boat to Mamutik island.
much smaller, with
fewer facilities. But also here there are public showers, good to
remove the salt after swimming in the sea. I swim in the sea also here,
but three hours (2-5pm) in a small island like this are a bit too much.
So at 4:20pm I take a boat back to KK, then an Uber taxi to the hotel
(driver complaining about the short distance; only RM 3 fee).
In the hotel I take a shower, get rid of the sun tan lotion and then
get out again shortly before 6pm. Somehow difficult to find a 7/11
convenience store or something similar. In the evening I have a grilled
fish dinner along the waterfront (market area, where 100g of fish go
for RM 5).
Kinabalu -> Kuala Lumpur
Hotel Cititel, Kuala Lumpur. RM 232
for a small room with lots of furniture, TV, fridge, centralised
adjustable aircon, electronic safe. The thing with this hotel is that
it is really old, otherwise it's ok. Most of all the location is very
good, in the Midvalley mall.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some
thin clouds in Kota Kinabalu. Good weather initially in KL, then rain
I get up at 8am and check out at 9:30am.
take an Uber car (RM
9.54) to the airport, arriving at 9:50am. I check in and proceed to the
gate. The 11:30m Airasia flight to KL takes off at 11:45am, with some
small delay. Due to some favourable tailwind the plane lands in KL at
1:55pm. Things then proceed smoothly and I quickly retrieve my luggage.
Then I try taking an Uber car to the Cititel hotel. The fee is RM 78,
only a few RM cheaper than a normal taxi.
When I arrive at the hotel, in front of me there is the car with
Shirley and the kids - what a coincidence. We check in the hotel and
later around 4pm have some late lunch together. After 5pm I take
another Uber car to KLCC. Something must have gone wrong, because Uber
initially shows a price of RM 9, but later charges me RM 17.60, almost
double the price. Very weird and I complain to Uber (a few hours later,
Uber will refund RM 7.6).
A lot of new buildings have been added around the Petronas towers. Now
it's really a forest of skyscrapers and more are being added. Also
around the Midvalley mall many new skyscrapers are being added, for
office and residential use. It looks as if all development in Malaysia
was concentrated in KL. But no money seems available to fix the very
bad roads in Sabah.
Around the Petronas towers it's full of people. And actually the
interior of the towers, the Suria mall, is starting to look a bit aged.
A bit after 6:30pm I walk out of the Petronas towers and proceed
towards Bukit Bintang road. Not much has changed since last year, until
I'm in Bukit Bintang road, which in the evening looks quite modern and
On the site of the former Sungei Wang mall they are building a
skyscraper, perhaps for office use. There is also a new MRT station
right below the intersection with Sultan Ismail street. New MRT line
which didn't exist in the past. I have some food in the Pavilion mall,
then get back to the hotel.
Hotel Cititel, Kuala Lumpur.
Weather: sunny in the morning and
until about 3:30pm, very hot. Not a clear blue sky, kind of white-light
blue due to a thin clouds layer. Rain after 4pm for about one hour,
Day spent not doing much, basically chilling out a bit. Around noon we
meet Suchen and her husband for some lunch in a restaurant in the
Garden's mall. Then Suchen and her husband drive me around KL a bit and
finally at 2:20pm drop me off at the old Istana (the royal palace)
which today is open for visitors.
RM 10 entry ticket (RM 5 for Malaysians) and inside the building
photography is not allowed.
outside the building is quite
nice, but inside it's basically a replica of European royal palaces.
I'm done with the old Istana after 20 minutes, then I try out the
Grabcar app and call a car to Petaling street. Grabcar is a Malaysian
competitor to Uber. The functionality is similar, the only difference
is that with Grabcar the 20% Grabcar share stays in Malaysia, while the
25% Uber share goes to the USA, so basically by using Grabcar instead
of Uber you are supporting the local economy. However it seems that at
the moment Uber has more drivers, i.e. sometimes you have to wait a
minute or two more. Pricewise there is not much difference - sometimes
Uber is cheaper, sometimes Grabcar.
3pm I'm in Petaling street. It's still the same old place,
selling cheap imitation goods. As usual lots of sellers and many
tourists. I walk the street until the end, then, when I walk back, the
sellers start packing their stuff and bringing it away.
After some brief meal in a KFC restaurant, I slowly walk towards Bukit
Bintang street, passing by Jalan Pudu. I pass by some new hotels which
have recently opened. The Swiss Inn is still there, and must be getting
aged. This place has been around for at least 20 years.
When I want to turn into Bukit Bintang street, this is impossible. Due
to some roadworks the access is now blocked for pedestrians. So I turn
left into Jalan Alor. This is a road parallel to Bukit Bintng
street, full of restaurants. And while I'm there it starts
raining. I wait a
bit until the rain is less strong, then continue walking.
View hotel which I used a lot the first time I came to Malaysia in
1999-2000 is now closed and actually something new is being built there.
Finally I walk into Jalan Sultan Ismail and from there I call a car
back to the hotel via Grabcar. RM 14 fee, quite reasonable. In the
past, before Grabcar and Uber were available, you had to pay two or
three times the metered fee if you wanted to take a taxi in this area
(taxi drivers would refuse to use the meter). Now, with these car call
apps there is a lot of transparency. The drivers have a history, get
rated, can't cheat.
Once back in the hotel, I take a rest there. At 8pm I have some dinner
in the mall.
Home, sweet home
Weather: rainy at 7am in KL, sunny
after that. Hot and dry in Muscat. Quite cold in the evening in Munich
up very early at 6am, then at 6:45am leave by taxi (RM 90) to the
airport. We reach the airport shortly after 7:30am and check-in. Then
we take the 9:30 Oman Air flight to Muscat.
This lands in Muscat at 12pm local time. Only USB charging sockets in
the plane. no A/C power sockets. The airport in Muscat is relatively
small and old (but a new one is scheduled for completion in November
buses bring us to the terminal, then we proceed to the transfer
area (boarding pass is chopped at a checkpoint). Then you have to get
through a security check and you can proceed to the gates. Exchange
rate for the Omani Ryal is 2.4 to the Euro I'm told. There is not that
much time in the airport, because there is just 1:50 hours between
flights. Very, very few usable A/C power sockets at the terminal.
The Oman Air flight to Munich (scheduled for 2:05pm) is a bit delayed.
The plane starts rolling at 2:20pm and takes off at 2:30pm with 25
minutes of delay. We touch down in Munich at 6:40pm, 20 minutes ahead
of schedule, and are home by 9pm.