Kota Kinabalu Itinerary, Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu
 5 days Itinerary

Goal: Climb Mt. Kota Kinabalu
Budget: SGD 200 / MYR 400

First Day April 23
Arrival 8:05 pm
SGD 15 /MYR 35 for 1 pax (dormitory) 

Dinner at Night Market
MYR 85 ( good for 3 pax)

Second Day April 24
(April 24th-26th Mt. Kota Kinabalu Climb) Booked with Amazing Borneo. 
Free breakfast in Borneo Backpackers Hostel
Visited the Observatory Tower

Drop by Suria Sabah Mall for Lunch 
Pick up from Hostel
travel time: 2 hours
Arrival in Kota Kinabalu Park HQ
Dinner Buffet at Kota Kinabalu Park HQ

Third-Day April 25
Breakfast Buffet at Kota Kinabalu Park HQ
Packed lunch was provided (sandwich, one small apple, and bottled water)

Rented a trekking stick/hiking pole for MYR 10
Porter Fees: MYR 100 - MYR 200 (Round Trip) 
The minimum weight required is 10kg, if less than 10kg, the fee is still the same.
Prices are subject to changes. Payable to Porter
Timpohon Trail: MYR 10 per kg (Min. of 10kg) 
Mesilau Trail: MYR 12 - MYR 17 per kg (Min. of 10kg)

0900 - 1530 Ascend to Laban Rata 
1st climb: 6 hrs and 30 mins
Dinner Buffet at Laban Rata

Fourth Day April 26
0130 Wake up call for the early breakfast buffet (light meal is advised)
0230 Ascend to Summit
2nd climb 7 hrs 30 mins
1000 Brunch at Laban Rata 
1130 Descend back to Timpohon Gate
1530 Successful Climbers wheeled back to Kota Kinabalu Park HQ 
3rd climb 4 hrs 

Check-in: Sky Hotel 
2 days 1-night SGD 105 /MYR 80
Taxi to Suria Sabah Mall: MYR 20
Full Body Massage with ginger oil: MYR 70

Fifth Day April 27
Free Buffet Breakfast at Sky Hotel
Mud pack before heading to the airport
Lunch at airport foodcourt 
Food ranges from MYR 10 - MYR 20
1400 Flight back to Singapore

Here's detailed information for the Climb:

Our Mount Kota Kinabalu Package was booked with Amazing BorneoThe trip itinerary in the package are as follows:

Meals as Stated, 02 Nights Accommodation, Entrance Fee, Return Airport/Hotel Transfer (Seat-In-Coach), Return Transfer (Park HQ - Timpohon Gate - Park HQ), Mountain Guide, Climbing Insurance, Climbing Permit and Certificate, English Speaking Support Team



Pickup from your hotel lobby and depart on a 2 hours journey to Kinabalu Park Headquarter. En route passing by villages and a panoramic vista of the valleys of the Crocker Range. Along the way, take a brief stop at Nabalu. Nabalu is a place where the local natives gather to sell local produce, fruits, homegrown vegetables, and handicraft souvenirs. Check into Kinabalu Park Hostel or similar. Rest of the day you are free at leisure. Dinner will be served at Balsam restaurant and overnight.

Breakfast at the Park Restaurant. Thereafter, collect your packed lunch. Proceed to the Park HQ to register for the climb. Our guide will arrange for all necessary registrations, assign you a mountain guide, and apply for your ID TAG. Remember to wear your ID TAG at all times. You'll then be transferred to the starting point – Timpohon Gate – where your journey and quest to the summit of Borneo’s highest mountain begins! The climb will take approximately 4-5 hours. The trek will pass by different vegetation zones from Oak and Chestnut to mossy and eventually to alpine type of vegetation. Arrive and check in the late afternoon. Buffet Dinner at Laban Rata restaurant and overnight. 

Wake up for early supper and depart for the continuation of the journey towards the summit of Mount Kinabalu. The journey up to the Low's peak @ 4,095m will test your fitness and determination. Depending on the speed of trekking, you might be able to experience the glorious sunrise over the majestic Mt. Kinabalu if weather permits. (07:00hrs) Descend back to Laban Rata for late breakfast and check out. Trek down to Timpohon Gate for transfer back to the Kinabalu Park Headquarter (est. arrival 13:00hrs to 15:00hrs). Congratulations, you can now collect your Certificate of Achievement! Buffet Lunch will be served at the Balsam restaurant in Kinabalu Park. Transfer back to Kota Kinabalu City. The journey takes approx. 2 hrs. Note on Meals Arrangement: 1) Lunch will be converted to packed lunch today (Mt Kinabalu Descent) for climbers who arrived late and missed the lunch timing. Balsam Restaurant Lunch Time: 12:00 - 16:00 hour.

What to do in Kota Kinabalu

First Day April 23

Welcome to Kota Kinabalu! Now what?!

Where to stay in Kota Kinabalu
Check-in: Borneo Backpackers Hostel

SGD 15 /MYR 35 for 1 pax (dormitory) 

We arrived in Kota Kinabalu on 23rd April 2015. Our sole purpose for this trip is to climb one of the highest mountains in Southeast Asia. Arrival 8:05 pm at the airport, we took the cab from the taxi counter. Taxi fare to the hostel: MYR 20. The Borneo Backpackers is a perfect place to stay just for the night. The hostel is just 30 minutes away from the airport and access to other food and shopping outlets. We were 10-15 minutes away from the night market where we had our seafood delight dinner. 

Sweet and Sour Fish: MYR 18
Crispy fried Prawns: MYR 18
Calamari: MYR 12
Mixed Vegetable
Watermelon Juice (ordered twice)
Lime Juice 
Coconut Juice
Plain Rice
Total: MYR 85 (3 pax)

We passed by a 7'11 outlet which is  10 minutes away from the hostel where we brought our water supply for MYR 10 each bottle. I didn't manage to bring any water bottle with me because it was taking up much space in my backpack. The Evian 1 litre water bottle was the perfect carry-on luggage for our mountain climb, it's not the usual long, thin plastic bottle. This bottle was medium in size, wider and what's really important is that it fits inside my small backpack for the climb. 

Second Day April 24
Check out Observatory Tower, Drive to Basecamp of Mt. Kota Kinabalu

The next day we woke up early for a light breakfast provided by the staff. They offered coffee and bread for everyone. Afterward, we went for a short hike in the Jungle trail located across the street away from the highway to see the Observatory Tower. A great warm-up exercise for our dormant muscles. 

One of us was looking for a camera shop so we dropped by Suria Sabah Mall along the way, and decided to have lunch there too. The gadget is more expensive there maybe because its the only mall around the city area, or we just don't know where to look. We went back to the hostel to get our things ready, carelessly forgetting the check out time of the room. Good thing the staff was cool about it. 

12:30 Pick up from Hostel

From City to Kota Kinabalu HQ
Travel time: 2 hours (depends on the traffic)

It was raining with lightning and a mild thunderstorm when we drove to Kinabalu Park. All three of us were looking at each other, knowingly praying for the rain to stop. We stopped by a small fruit stall to buy some bananas. It cost just around MYR 2 only and it might be even cheaper than that. The seller accidentally said MYR 1 at first then asked someone to translate for her that the fruit is more than the amount she said. It was still cheap compared to the grocery store so we still bought the banana.

The rain was calmer as we reached Kota Kinabalu Park HQ. We stayed positive that tomorrow the sun will shine brightly for our first climb. The great about that day is when the staff offered to upgrade our bed bunks to a small lodge for free! They actually offered two rooms for us but we declined the other room. The room was spacious, clean, with a bathroom and even has a heater fan. They didn't mind providing us extra blankets and a pillow. The genuine service they've provided made our stay comfortable even just for a short time. The view from the room was beautiful too, we can see the peak of the mountain peak from our window. 

The wifi zone was only located in one place around Kota Kinabalu HQ so say goodbye to gadgets and enjoy nature. The great thing about this hotspot place is that they have comfortable seats and a nice fireplace interior. They also sell souvenirs, gloves, head torch, socks, foods, and a few necessary things for the climb.

Third-Day April 25
First Climb: Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata

Our first climb to Mount Kota Kinabalu begins! The climb started from Timpohon Gate to Laban Rata, where we stayed for the night and continued the ascent to the summit the following day. Light breakfast in Balsam Buffet Restaurant. Don't forget to collect your packed lunch there before heading to Timpohon Gate. 

Secure Bags
Wake up early to double-check your things for the first climb. If you're planning to hire a porter packed all your things in a waterproof bag and packed in ziplock. The porter can carry all your things for the second and third climb ( HQ To Laban Rata and vice versa). All three of us combined our things in two bags and one bag was left in the Kota Kinabalu HQ for safekeeping.

Baggage can be stored at Kinabalu Park HQ at a nominal fee of MYR 10 per piece prior to the climb. Travel Light. Packed for Small hiking Bag: (unfit climbers make sure to keep your bag light)

Porter Fee: MYR 100/SGD 50
(The weather is unpredictable so All your things must be packed in plastic bags /ziplock)
Trekking Pole/ Walking Sticks is available for rent at Kota Kinabalu HQ for MYR 10-MYR 12. Ask your assigned agent and mountain guide about it. 

Start at a slow pace and try to enjoy your surroundings. Take it easier especially when you reached the 3.5 km mark, as you get to the top the chance of having altitude sickness is higher. 

It's not a marathon, save your breath and energy. This is quite important so I'll repeat this again. The stairs ahead will get more steeper and you will need enough supply of energy and proper breathing to make it to Laban Rata and to make sure you're significantly still in good condition. If you already felt sick when you get to Laban Rata, that's already a bad sign and a factor of lowering your chance of getting to the peak the next day. 

Hydrate and Fuel up. Take sips of water. We managed to empty our 1 litre of bottled water. Energy foods like oatmeal biscuits, chocolates, and bananas are great options. 

Try to walk in Zigzags. Alternate from left to right. Do not put more strain on one leg. If you feel the need to rest both legs it should be in one platform, do not leave the other leg behind putting all the weight on the other leg in front of you. Don't forget to flex your toes, refrain from wearing tight shoes, and buy trekking socks. 

Breathe. Sometimes we forget to do this when we exert too much effort on being fast, this will leave you breathless and you might get altitude sickness. I tried to avoid breathing in the mouth as much as possible, to make sure all the muscles in my body are oxygenated. You will take in more oxygen if your breathing came from your nose. Do not rest for more than 3-5 minutes. Mr. Roland, our mountain guide told us is sitting down was fine but we should avoid doing this especially on the second climb. I tried to refrain from taking a seat as much as possible except for the 3.5 marks and when we had our lunch break at Layang Layang Hut. 

Our first climb lasted for 6 hrs and 30 minutes from 0900-1530 not bad for amateur and unfit climbers. We took our time chit-chatting with our mountain guide, taken lots of snapshot pictures, and enjoying the scenery especially when we've reached the 4 km mark. The mist started to be visible and the cold air creeps in the nearby bushes. 

Second Climb: Laban Rata to Low's Peak 

The Second Climb resumed at 2:30 early in the morning the following day. A non-heated dormitory will host everyone for a night. This is crucial for the body's temperature to adjust and to recharge your energy. Prepare yourself because the real challenge begins on the second day. The view from Laban Rata was out of this world, the clouds were mesmerizing, it felt like I was almost in Heaven.

Get some sleep as the second climb starts at 2:30 AM. Have dinner early in the afternoon. Be in bed before 7 in the evening or earlier than that. Keep in mind it's a non-heated dormitory. Wear your warm clothing, the temperature drops at night, having cold feet will not get you a goodnight's sleep. This is the time to bring out your earplugs and an eye mask to ensure or at least help you get some sleep. Prepare all your things ahead of time. 

We had a light breakfast in Laban Rata. Don't forget to have some bananas it's rich in potassium that will surely fuel up your climb. 

Start at a low paceThe air is thinner up in the mountains. Be reminded you're already 3,000 metres above sea level. It doesn't mean by making it in the first stop you're chances of having altitude sickness are gone. The only sure cure for altitude sickness is to go down the mountain. My friend had it when we reached Laban Rata, she was vomiting and no appetite for food. However, her strength to will to reach the summit was immeasurable. In case you're wondering my friend made it to the summit. 

Find your motivation. The mountain will test your endurance, even your mental and spiritual state. I was motivated to reach another mountain to add to my adventure checklist. I wanted to prove to myself that I can do and I know I can do it. I told myself even before the climb that I will reach the summit no matter what. Even if I had to use drastic measures like crawling or using my teeth to move myself up the slope. I was that motivated! Ahahaa Hold the Ropes and Watch your Step. This is why you have to secure a head torch, waterproof climbing gloves, and your trekking shoes. Listen to your mountain guide and hold on to the ropes. Get ready to be amazed when the sun rises and lights up the trail you've climbed at dawn. 

We passed by this small pond where they offer animals for the mountain. As what our mountain guide has stated. It reminded me of my Mount Batur climb, an active volcano in Bali where they do offertory each year to the volcano. Praying for safety and security for their hometown.

Try to walk in Zigzag's. Alternate from left to right. Do not put more strain on one leg. If you feel the need to rest both legs it should be in one platform, do not leave the other leg behind putting all the weight on the other leg in front of you. This technique will lower the chance of having strains or sprains. You don't think of just reaching the summit you also need to take good care of your lower limbs to make it down the mountain. Keep in mind to use the same technique when going down the mountain. 

I can't stop looking at this gorilla shaped like feature while heading to the peak of Mount Kota Kinabalu. It looked like the mountain's guardian looking at everyone making sure no one's leaving any mess and taking anything away from the mountain. Roland said there was one guy who took a stone from this very mountain, when we went back home to his country he wasn't able to sleep for months. He decided to bring back the stone to this mountain and eventually his sleep cycle went back to normal. It could be true or a hoax. We should keep in mind that we only leave footprints and take memories from a mountain, respect nature as it is.

I didn't even dare to lean on a rock. Resting for too long during the second will increase the chance of getting altitude sickness and muscle cramps. Reminders: Try to reach the checkpoint before 5 in the morning or else you will be politely asked to go back to your way to Laban Rata. The patrol officer will check all climbers by showing each of the name tags to make sure the climb is documented. 

Roland, our exceptional mountain guide was one of the reasons why we made it on top. He always reminded us not to sit down, rest for too long and he never fails to say two hunting words in the climb, "keep moving." It really did keep us moving. If your mountain guide is not that motivating then you just have to deal with it. This is the reason why we choose our climbing buddies. My climbing buddies were positive and energetic. You should surround yourself with positive energy and in that way, you will be motivated spiritually and emotionally during the climb. 

When you're up there stop, pause, and breath in the wonders of nature. Take it all in! Say a prayer, give thanks, or make a wish. They said if it's your first time to be on a mountain you can make a wish, it won't hurt if you try. The queue to Low's Peak signboard will take some time, so for the mean snap some pictures while in line. 

The second climb was really challenging, all the month's training and hiking trails done all amount to this climb. From Laban Rata to Low's Peak it took us 8 hrs 30 minutes, which started from 0230-1000 in the morning. We had plenty of stops, my friend's altitude sickness got really bad as we ascend up the mountain. A swipe of white flower and some sour candies helped her through to the summit. It's up to you to go ahead but it's advisable to stay with the group. However, there are things that we just to break the rules and get it over with. The most important thing is to get to your destination and everything is worthwhile. 

Heading back to Laban Rata. You will still follow the path you've taken back to the starting point when descending the mountain. Hold the Rope, turn your backside to the front side (just like you're rappelling down). Slowly walk yourself down the slope. A safety measure and an easy way down the mountain. 

Be back in Laban Rata before lunchtime. Checking out should be done before 1130 in the morning or you have to pay for the extended time, another great motivation! Try to reach Kota Kinabalu Park before 1530 to have lunch, later than that will be converted to packed lunch. 

You made it on top so you can make it down too. As what they say "What goes up must come down", a good thought motivator. 

Last Climb: Descending down Mount Kota Kinabalu

The summit climb was an exhausting good thing we had an hour break back at Laban Rata for our brunch. The climb down resumed around 11:30 before noon. Descending down was a piece of cake! Ahahaa. We were able to let go of our stress and struggles during the summit climb so I guess that explains our fast-paced and carefree spirit trek down the mountain. 

Be back in Kota Kinabalu HQ before 3:30 in the afternoon. For two main reasons: 
a. A porter fee will be added if you don't reach the designated time. This is quite reasonable the guys deserve a break and keep in mind that they're bringing your heavy bags.
b. The next reason kept me motivated. Late lunch at Balsam Restaurant in Kota Kinabalu HQ. If you don't reach on time your meal will be converted to a packed lunch. 

Enjoy the misty mountain. Once you reached the 4 km marked, it will eventually fade away. Take a peek at the last steepest rock stairway, the mist around the bushes, and the untold heroes of Mount Kota Kinabalu. The untold heroes are the porters who bring food and supplies to mountain guides and climbers up in the mountain. 

Less pictorial session. By this time I bet you've already taken hundreds of pictures during the first day and summit climb. Instead of focusing on taking a self-portrait or capturing your foot try to enjoy your surroundings. See the beauty of the trail, the stairs, boulders, and the different kinds of flora around the mountain. We made it back to Timpohon Gate about 4 hrs and 15 mins from 11:30-1545, just enough time to have our late lunch in Kota Kinabalu HQ. Unfortunately, we were picked up late from the Timpohon gate to the headquarters. In the end, we had to eat our packed lunch inside the transport van back to the city. Drop off transfer was provided in the package. Travel time from Kota Kinabalu HQ to city proper: 1-2 hours, depends on the traffic. 

Fifth Day April 27

Last day in Kota Kinabalu

Check-in: Sky Hotel  
$120 / MYR 320

The room was spacious, has its own kitchen, living room, and a nice view of the city. We don't really need this kind of accommodation yet after living in bunk beds, shared toilets, and no privacy for a few days, it was a good haven. My friend booked this hotel for the rooftop swimming pool, unfortunately, we were not informed that it was under renovation-too bad. A message was needed after an exhausting 2 days climb, all the muscles in our body needed some intensive touch to put it back in place. The taxi seemed to have its own fixed price in the city for MYR 30. Even if the nearest massage outlet was just 10 minutes away. 

Full Body Massage (with Ginger Oil): MYR 65/ SGD 32

The message was painfully sweet especially the head massage I was blissfully lost with every stroke of her hand, that doesn't sound right, ahahaa. I'm so glad she knows where to press gently and harder. I always get a massage with every country I go to, it's part of my vacation checklist aside from my adventure and bucket list checklist. 

Please consider the fact that I am not a professional climber, all tips are based on my experience. 

Check out: Hiking Tips for Mount Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Guest Bloggers (Climbing Buddies Post):

Have fun and be safe ^__^

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