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Stargazing in Sabah

stargazing couple under the starry sky

“Hey, do you know where to see meteor? I want to make wishes.” At first I was dumbfounded at her question, then I realized that there is no more starry sky in our city. “Lasau Podi,” I replied, “the sky over there is full of stars and it got so many meteors that you can make wishes all night long. Probably next day you would become the prettiest, richest and healthiest person in the world, if these are what you will wish.”

stargazing couple under the starry sky

This photo generates a lot of interest in stargazing.

Sky filled with twinkling stars was used to be a everyday thing at my home decades ago. Sadly, due to increasing light and air pollution, one-third of world population can’t see the Milky Way. The night of modern cities such as Singapore and South Korea is vibrant with colorful neon lights, but they have no more scattered diamond dust in the sky. Now children would sing “Twinkle, twinkle, little star… I wonder where you are..”

camping tent under the Milky Way

The Milky Way contains between 100 and 400 billion stars

Stargazing at Lasau Podi

Lasau Podi is discovered by Sabah Stargazers as an excellent location for stargazing. It’s a countryside about 20 KM away from Kota Belud town, and the approximate location where I shot the stars is 6.359675, 116.559431 (see Location Map). 95% of the road from Kota Kinabalu City (KK) to Lasau Podi is paved so it’s very accessible.

Mt. Kinabalu under the stars

Mt. Kinabalu under the stars

Last month I was drooling when my friend showed me the stunning photos of Milky Way that he took in Lasau Podi, so a BIG Yes to him when he asked if I wanted to join him in second trip. We departed at 8pm from KK. After we passed by Kota Belud town and headed to Lasau Podi, we entered the countryside without street light along the road. Our car bumped into herds of cows sleeping on the road. Drive carefully if you go there.

Herd of cows blocking the road

Herd of cows blocking our road

We reached the destination around 11pm, I was mesmerized by the breathtaking view of starry sky, with silhouette of Mount Kinabalu as the backdrop. The number of stars that you can see on a clear night in a total darkness is about 2,000, and I think I saw them all there.

starry sky behind 4 wheel drive

When we got out of our car and saw the starry sky, we went gaga.

After we setup the camping tent, we shot until 4am in the morning. I slept under a blanket of thousands of stars, lovely, but I was also attacked by thousand of mosquitoes.

Thousand-Star Camping

5-Star Hotel and Thousand-Star Camp, which one you prefer?

Did you know when we look up to the winking stars, we are looking at a scene of the past? Light from a distant star can travel millions of years to reach us, it may be long gone by the time we see it.

Mount Kinabalu in the morning

Mount Kinabalu in the morning

capturing the sunrise view of Mt. Kinabalu

Second photography session to capture the sunrise view of Mt. Kinabalu

When we waked up in the morning, we could see our surrounding better. We were on a high ground overlooking a plain with Mt. Kinabalu far away. It’s a scenic dawn.

Sunrise lit up part of the hill

Sunrise lit up part of the hill

Despite sleeping for only 2 hours, we took out our tripod and camera again for second round of crazy clicking. We bagged more beautiful photos, tired but happy.

The misty plain of Lasau Podi in the morning

The misty plain of Lasau Podi in the morning

Anyway, Lasau Podi isn’t a romantic location for dating. There is no toilet and comfortable accommodation. Instead, you can try Tegudon Tourism Village (TTV), which is only 30 minutes away from Lasau Podi and have toilet, camping ground and amenities for visitors.

Behind the Scene

Behind the Scene (in Lasau Podi): it’s quite a mess lol

Guys slept in open space

Guys slept in open space. It’s me at lower left. I covered my head because of mosquitoes lol

camping at Lasau Podi

Without any accommodation nearby, camping is the only option at Lasau Podi

Best Locations for Stargazing

If you search online for best stargazing sites, you will find some ranking of top star-hunting locations in Sabah. Some says Kudat is the best, and other would say No, Kundasang is better… Well you can forget these reviews. In Sabah, as long as you are in a countryside far from city light and air pollution, you will see starry sky. Your best bet is at the beaches and fields which has nothing to obstruct the star views at the horizon.

Photographer at work

Photographer at work

Below is some photos I took in other places of Sabah:

Kudat longhouse under the starry sky

Kudat longhouse under the starry sky

Beautiful night sky in Kiulu

Beautiful night sky in Kiulu

Milky way in Pitas

Milky way in Pitas

I also saw a lot of stars in Kuala Penyu, Beaufort, Keningau, etc.

What’s Milky Way?

Guess you enjoy the movie “Guardian of the Galaxy”? But what does a galaxy look like? You would notice the “star river” in my star photos. It is Milky Way, the galaxy that contains our Solar System (where we live). Below is the disk-shaped structure of Milky Way.

Side view of our galaxy (Milky Way)

Side view of our galaxy (Milky Way)

The following is the top view of Milky Way, it contains between 100 and 400 billion stars and probably at least 100 billion planets!

Illustration of our galaxy

Illustration of our galaxy. Note the location of our sun and planets.

If you are really interested in stargazing, you can join the activities of Sabah Stargazers group:
Website: sabahstargazers.wordpress.com
Facebook: SabahStargazers

camping at Lasau Podi

The number of stars that we can see with naked eyes is about 2,000

Tips for Stargazing

  1. Go in moonless night for best view, more stars are visible in total dark sky.
  2. Avoid cloudy and rainy days. Common sense.
  3. Stay far away from any light. Countryside is good place to start.
  4. Watch out for your safety in remote area. Go in group if possible.
  5. Bring torchlight and insect repellent

Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Indoor Climbing in Sabah

Indoor rock climbing

Why is bungee jump thrilling? Because our bodies alarm us that our life is in danger (but you know you are safe). This fight-or-flight response triggers the flood of adrenaline, endorphin, and dopamine, which excite us and awaken the warrior inside us.

climbing in SICC

Climbing can take you to places no others can reach

I want to look like one of those awesome rock climbing dudes who always appear in motivational posters, so I tried my first indoor climbing at Sabah Indoor Climbing Centre (SICC), the best indoor climbing gym in Sabah since 1 Sep 2010.

Sabah Indoor Climbing Centre (SICC)

Sabah Indoor Climbing Centre (SICC). This place becomes busy every late afternoon.

indoor climbing gym

Climbing is a sport for everyone

At first I hesitated, the tall and vertical climbing walls look like unconquerable cliffs. Nearly overpowered by fear, I started to imagine that I was failing and falling.

climber team

The gang who tries climbing the first time

No, I don’t want to give up without trying. It’s perfectly safe anyway. Because of fear, I had given up so many things in life. I don’t want to be a loser who hides in comfort zone, at least for today.

descending from rock wall

Descending from wall climbing

“Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.”

The staffs at SICC are very friendly. They assure me that rock climbing is a fun and safe activity. Well, I think my skill in climbing mango trees during childhood would help lol.

Briefing before the climb

Briefing before the climb

The preparation is fast and simple, I don’t really need to do much. They helped me strapped to harness and rope, something to prevent me from falling to the ground, in case I lose my balance or grip. After a short briefing and my belayer in place, I’m good to go.

No turning back

“Brave people also fear, but they go ahead anyway.”

My heart pumped rapidly. I walked to the giant wall and looked up. I knew once I made my first move, the only way was up and there was no turning back.

Guidance by SICC Instructor

Guidance by SICC Instructor

Anyway, my first wall is the easiest one, and I have little difficulty to complete the climb. They advised me to use more of my legs than my hands, and don’t try not to be a cliff hanger.

17 walls in SICC

SICC has 17 walls that offer different challenges (fun) and design

Climbers on belay

Climbers on belay are safe from falling

“The brain is the most important muscle in climbing.” – Wolfgang Güllich

Strength alone doesn’t determine your success. Besides right techniques, climbers need to plan their route. The rock holds are in different shapes and sizes. My favorite ones are those big ones that are easy to grip. Inevitably I have to use the small ones when they are the only option.

climbers on belay

Climbers need to plan the route to move up

When climbing the second wall, I used too much upper body strength and my hands began to shake. At some points I was kind of stuck and didn’t know where to go. Luckily the belayer guided me where to land my next step.

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I feel adrenaline flows through my body while trying to keep up with the increasing challenge. Hesitation is bad, so I have to keep climbing up.

man trying wall climbing

Climbing is a great physical exercise

I fought my way up with the gravity. When I was tired, I could request the belayer to hold me in hanging position for a short break. FYI, the rope is to prevent you from falling. You are not supposed to use it as a climbing aid.

Do not touch the rope

No… you are not supposed to touch the rope

The moment I tapped the top label, it was like a small victory to me. The second wall is harder due to its irregular wall surface.

girl reaching the top of rock wall

“Look! Mom. I reach the top!”

Then I got down for a rest before attempting the third wall. Though I was tired, I felt so relax. Rock climbing increases levels of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter in the body that reduces stress.

girl hanging around

Feel free to hang around

According to an article published by British Journal of Sports Medicine, the cardio and energy consumed in climbing is similar to running at a pace between 5 and 7 minutes per Kilometre (That’s fast!).

girl in climbing

Climbing can be a sport or hobby

Climbing wall for children

Climbing wall for children

When I sat and looked around, I noticed many pretty climbers. I wonder if it’s climbing that makes them look beautiful. To me, Lara Croft with fit physique definitely looks far more attractive than weak Snow White with fair skin.

girl almost reaches the top

Almost there…

busy climbers in SICC

“From a mental standpoint, climbing is an amazing teacher, instilling focus, balance, determination and a whole … host of valuable life skills.” – Cedar Wright

A one-hour climbing session can burn over 700 calories, and it uses lots of muscle groups in the upper and lower body. If you climb often enough, you will build very nice muscle tone. Doubt?
Just look at the instructors of SICC.

Belayer

Thank you Beverly for being my belayer. Nice ass by the way

Ok, the third wall is even more challenging with mild level of overhang. Now I realize two things: 1) it’s no easy task to be a Spiderman lol, and 2) our fingers can do more amazing things than swiping the screen of smartphone. Climbing really tests our strength, endurance, agility, and balance.

hanging on rock wall

“Climbing isn’t about hanging on, it’s about letting go”

It is not a race, so I just kept calm and moved up inch by inch. Sometimes it’s nerve wracking when I had to reach far to make a bold move that could cause me losing balance. I knew I was in good hands, but I still disliked the idea of falling.

girl hanging at rock wall

Don’t look down!

My hands were shivering more and more. The staff tried to encourage me to push the envelope. Whenever I thought I was exhausted, I still managed to squeeze a bit of power from my energy reserve.

climbing with friends

It’s more fun to climb with friends

Finally, I couldn’t hang on anymore. My hands slipped and I fell. The rope stopped my fall. I tried to get back to where I fell and carried on, but my hands were like jello. White flag raised.

me trying wall climbing

It’s me trying wall climbing

Descending after the climb

Descending after the climb

Depend on how you take it, rock climbing can be a skill, sport or passion (or all three) for you. You can enjoy the exhilarating moment without doing extreme sports, speeding, drugs or other dangerous things that can break your bones. Warning: it can be addictive.

fearless female climber

If a person is fearless, he/she is unstoppable.

Next day my arms and legs were so sore that I could barely lift my toothbrush. I welcome this though. Rock Climbing is one of the best whole body workouts available. If I climb regularly, I can become as strong as a ninja.

Practice climbing techniques at small wall

Practice climbing techniques at small wall

I saw some parents went climbing with their kids too. I’m sure this sport can help the kids to learn to be independent thereby building up their confidence and self-esteem. Growth requires a bit of struggle sometimes right. FYI, SICC has “Little Monkeys Class” for kids aged 6 to 13.

kid tries indoor climbing

Children of 6 years and above can try indoor climbing

girl climbing the wall

Climbing helps children to face their fears in a safe environment.

The fee of One-day pass fee for SICC is RM22 For adults and RM20 for 17 years & below. (Climbing Shoes for Rent: RM6, or bring your own). They offer special rate to students, group and senior citizens. If you become an avid climber, you can consider all-you-can-climb buffet package that costs RM150 per month (full climbing gear included, except climbing shoes).

kid climbing in SICC

Indoor climbing is safe for kids too

SICC is located next to jogging track of Likas Sport complex, Kota Kinabalu City (Sabah, Malaysia). Its GPS Coordinates is 5.979028, 116.091671 (see Map).

Harness and climbing shoes

Harness and climbing shoes for rent

Below is more information of SICC if you want to know more:
Website: www.sicc.com.my
Facebook: climbsabah
Instagram: @sabahindoorclimbingcentre
Tel: +60 19-8837341
E-mail: info@ropeskills.com.my
Opening Hours: Tue-Fri: 4pm-9pm, Sat-Sun, Public Holidays: 12pm-9pm, Mon (closed)
(You can walk in during opening hours, no advance booking is required)

girl climber

Climbing empowers and builds self-esteem in kids of all ages

Photos taken in Kota Kinabalu City, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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