Category Archives: Mountains

Ruhiang Hill (Bukit Perahu) and Ship Rocks

Hikers relax and enjoy the morning view on Bukit Perahu

Does Noah’s ark really exist? I don’t know, but I was told that near Tamparuli town, there are rocks that resemble a vessel stranded on a hill named Bukit Perahu (also known as Ruhiang Hill). I guess that’s how Bukit Perahu got its name, as Perahu means Boat and Bukit means Hill in Malay language.

Bukit Perahu (or Ruhiang Hill) next to Tamparuli town

Bukit Perahu (or Ruhiang Hill) is next to Tamparuli town (left)

Many also say the top of Bukit Perahu has one of the most spectacular views of Mt. Kinabalu (highest mountain of Malaysia).

Majestic Mount Kinabalu and Bukit Perahu

Majestic Mount Kinabalu and Bukit Perahu (lower left)

One day I finally managed to get up early in the morning, headed to Tamparuli, which was 30 KM away from Kota Kinabalu City, then climbed up there.

Sea of cloud on Bukit Perahu (Ruhiang Hill)

The beautiful sea of cloud will disperse after the sun comes up, so you better reach the peak as early as possible.

Hikers relax and enjoy the morning view on Bukit Perahu

Hikers relax and enjoy the morning view on Bukit Perahu

What they said was true. The scenery is so exceptional that I climbed it again the following week with my drone to photograph some aerial shots.

Awesome family shot on Bukit Perahu (Ruhiang Hill)

Their friends want to climb Bukit Perahu after they see this awesome family shot

During good weather in early morning, you would see Mt. Kinabalu like floating on sea of cloud. Someone come very early to catch the sunrise around 6am for the best view. If you go late, say after 8:30am, the sea of cloud would disperse and envelope Mt. Kinabalu.

Family climbing Bukit Perahu

This family photo tells you that the climb is not overly challenging.

Bukit Perahu is only 300 Metres high. The hiking distance to the top is about 800 Metres and normally takes about 35 minutes, depend on your fitness. Some section of the trail is a little steep, and you need to watch out for the slippery soil trail especially after rain. Anyway, the climb isn’t very challenging.

trail to the peak of Ruhiang Hill

The total distance to the peak is about 800 Meters

The Climb

The starting point of the climb is near to the roadside in Tamparuli (later I tell you how to get there). It’s a public area and you aren’t required to pay any entrance fee. The trail is well-marked and there are many hikers around in the morning, so you won’t lose your way.

Bukit Perahu is also a popular paragliding spot

Bukit Perahu is also one of the best paragliding sites.

Looking from far away, Bukit Perahu is a cone shaped hill with gentle slope, but the route is a bit steeper than we think.

trail to the peak of Bukit Perahu

Left: start of the trail. Right: Most part of the trail looks like this, with boulders scattered on soil path

The first 200 Metres is gravel path that leads to the uphill path. There were many boulders in or next to the uphill trail, and I had to move between rocks sometimes. Do expect some human traffic during weekends, as everyone uses the same trail for ascend and descend.

cross with description about crucifixion walk of Jesus

Roman Catholic uses the route to the peak as the Way of the Cross (or Stations of the Cross). You will see 14 crosses along the way, with photo and description about the suffering of Jesus Christ carrying a cross to his crucifixion.

The local Catholics make this trail the Station of the Cross (or Way of Sorrows). Along the trail you will see a total of 14 cross signage with picture and text depicting Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion.

Climbing Bukit Perahu

Most of the time you walk under the shade.

Most of the time the dense trees shaded me from sunlight, and the cool morning breeze stopped me from overheat, so it’s quite a pleasant walk.

Green surrounding around the peak

Very green surrounding around the peak

You can use the ropes connected to wooden posts next to the trail for support. However, don’t totally trust it, as the rope would detach from the flimsy metal ring on the posts.

rope support along the trail

The trail has rope support to move up.

After moving higher up, I could see Tamparuli town and surrounding hills with lush forest, the more I ascended, the nicer the view.

Gazebo in the midway

Gazebo in the midway

I took a short break in a gazebo next to cross No. 10. I was halfway there.

Last 200 Meters to the peak

Last 200 Meters to the peak

You are only about 200 Metres away from the peak, when you see cross No.14 and the big cross next to it.

14th cross and the big cross

When you see the 14th cross and the big cross, you are only 200 Meters away from the peak

After the last cross, I reached an open area with soil trail pounded solid by thousands of footsteps of hikers.

Almost reaching the hilltop

Almost reaching the hilltop

The view on top of Bukit Perahu

The view on top of Bukit Perahu

On the hilltop were some relaxing hikers enjoyed the panoramic view of Tamparuli town, rolling green hills and Mt. Kinabalu.

Hikers enjoying the scenic view

Hikers enjoying the scenic view

Hawkers on the peak

The hawkers sell stuffs from early morning to 9 or 10am on the peak

Hungry? Thirsty? A few hawkers were selling drink, snacks and fruit (the prices are higher, consider the labour work to carry these things up to the hill, e.g. a tin of 100Plus sold for RM3.00).

Drink, snack, chips and fruit for sale on the hill

You can buy some drink, snack, chips and fruit on the hill

Bird eye view of Tamparuli from the top of the hill

You can have a bird eye view of Tamparuli from the top of the hill

Mount Kinabalu far away

The only shade you can find on hilltop.

The Boat Rocks

I tried to locate the two boat rocks that earn Bukit Perahu the name.

Looking for the boat rock

Looking for the boat rock

The smaller one is nearer and the entrance is at the left hand side (when you face Mt. Kinabalu).

One the way to the smaller boat rock

On the way to the smaller boat rock

It’s quite an easy walk on a small trail and I saw the boat rock within 10 minutes. It really looks like the front of ship (bow).

rock that looks like a sinking ship

This rock looks like a sinking ship

The bigger one is another story. The entrance is at the right. When I asked the locals for direction, they looked concern, as if it’s a bad idea. They warned me that the trail is not in good condition.

Azlan clearing the bush that blocks the trail

Azlan clearing the bush that blocks the trail

I just proceeded anyway and walked into the wood, just after 15 Metres a dense bush was in my way, I was stuck. Luckily, Azlan, a local from Tamparuli, came to “rescue” by using his machete to clear the trail.

On the way to the biggest boat rock

On the way to the biggest boat rock

I followed Azlan to pass through the dense wood and narrow steep trail. Azlan climbs this hill regularly so he knows the place really well. In fact, he is the one who opens the trail to the big boat rock. He said he had cleared the trail in Jan but the undergrowth flourished again.

Azlan, the one who opens the trail to the huge boat rock

Azlan is the one who opens the trail to the huge boat rock.

After 23 minutes of painfully slow move on steep and slippery trail, Azlan stopped at a big rock and said “It’s here.” I didn’t see any boat rock. He added, “You are on top of the boat rock. You need to descend to the side to have a better look.”

Big boat rock

Big boat rock

He is right. At one side, the boat rock looks like the hull of a cargo ship. I don’t really recommend you visit this rock due to safety. If you must go, bring insect repellant.

huge boat rock

This boat rock is really huge. Did you see the “snake head rock”?

Then we descend to another side. From this angle, the rock really looks like a ship that has 3 layers of decks. Two ladies, Zoom and Farah were following us, I included them in the photos so you can see the scale.

Closer look of the boat rock

Closer look of the boat rock

Azlan is a civil servant working in Tuaran. Though he is 52 years old, he remains very fit and climb Bukit Perahu up and down 5 times to train for climbathon (mountain race).

How to get there

When you reach Tamparuli town, which is about 30 minutes by car from Kota Kinabalu City, turn to Jalan Tamparuli Togop Road (see Street View map) beside the police station,

The starting point of the hike next to the road

The starting point of the hike is next to the road. Note the signage that reads Puncak St. Veronica

Just follow the road for about 300 Metres, the starting point will be at at your left (see Street View map, GPS Coordinate: 6.131424, 116.273830). If you come in the morning during weekends, you would see many cars parked at the roadside.

Toilet at starting point

Toilet is available at starting point (RM0.20 per entry)

At the starting point, there is a sign that reads “Laluan Jalan Salip ke Puncak St. Veronica” (translated as: Way of the Cross to St. Veronica Peak). There is a house there so be quiet. You can use their toilet for RM0.20 (put the coin into the tin can).

Photos taken in Tamparuli, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Climbing Mount Kinabalu via Kota Belud Trail

Climbing Mount Kinabalu

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake on 5 June 2015 destroyed part of the old summit trails on Mt. Kinabalu. On 1 Dec 2015, a new summit trail named Ranau Trail is open and becomes the Standard trail to climb Mt. Kinabalu until now, and I had covered this trail in detail in my article “How to Climb Mount Kinabalu and How Much it Cost?”.

Map of Ranau and Kota Belud Trails

Ranau and Kota Belud Trails (Click to Zoom In). Both start from Laban Rata and meet at Sayat-Sayat (checkpoint 1.6 Kilometres before the summit)

New! Kota Belud Trail

The second new trail called Kota Belud Trail is open on 9 Dec 2016. I had climbed it three months ago (with special permit by Sabah Parks, as it wasn’t open to public that time), and this post will give you an overall of this new trail.

1. Kota Belud Trail is 170 Metres longer than Ranau (Standard) Trail

The one-way distance (from Timpohon Gate starting point to the Summit) of Kota Belud Trail is 8.97 KM, while Ranau Trail is 8.8 KM. The starting point of Kota Belud Trail is next to Gunting Lagadan Hut and Panar Laban Hut, while Ranau Trail is started behind the Pendant Hut.

Ranau trail and peak

Ranau Trail is less challenging than the old trail

Kota Belud trail doesn’t start at Kota Belud town, and Ranau Trail doesn’t start from Ranau town too. You can see these districts from the trails on mountain hence their names. Both trails start at Laban Rata and end at Sayat-Sayat checkpoint.

Descending via Ranau Trail

Descending via Ranau Trail

Kota Belud Trail

Though Kota Belud Trail is more challenging, the experience is more thrilling.

2. Kota Belud Trail is more Challenging than Ranau Trail

Ranau Trail is more tourist-friendly and safer because there are a lot of staircase and climbing aid. Kota Belud Trail is quite “raw” with limited support, so it is meant for adventurers who want to do real climbing. You need to be quite fit, and more upper body strength is required for climbing at the steep section.

Staircase on Ranau Trail

Staircase on Ranau Trail

The most difficult part of Ranau Trail

The most difficult part of Ranau Trail is still quite easy to climb

Rock climbing section on Kota Belud Trail

Rock climbing section on Kota Belud Trail

3. Kota Belud Trail is more Rocky

Most of the time you will walk on rock face and rocky ground, while Ranau Trail is flanked by dense vegetation most of the time.

Granite rock trail of Kota Belud Trail

Granite rock trail of Kota Belud Trail

Nice open view at Kota Belud Trail

Nice open view at Kota Belud Trail. You can see Aki Point platform far behind

Nature path of Ranau Trail

Nature path of Ranau Trail

4. Both trails start at Panalaban (then Laban Rata) and meet at Sayat-Sayat

Sayat-Sayat is a checkpoint 1.6 KM before the summit. The following routes are unchanged (before and after the earthquake):

  • Timpohon Gate (Starting Point) → Panalaban (Laban Rata, the location of midway accommodation): 6 KM
  • Sayat-Sayat Checkpoint → Summit: 1.6 KM
Kota Belud Trail ends at Sayat-Sayat

Kota Belud Trail ends at Sayat-Sayat (see green building in photo), where it meets Ranau Trail too.

5. Both trails have very different scenery

Climbing via Ranau Trail is like walking in a garden because climbers will see many flora along the way. On Kota Belud Trail, you climb on bare rock face most of the time, but the panoramic view of the landscape is magnificent!

Panoramic view from Kota Belud Trail

Panoramic view from Kota Belud Trail. You can see Laban Rata Resthouse from there.

Ranau Trail is flanked by dense vegetation

Ranau Trail is flanked by dense vegetation

Aki Point on Ranau Trail

Aki Point on Ranau Trail

Ranau trail

Ranau Trail: See the man in red?

Below is a table to summarize the differences between these two summit trails:

Ranau Trail (Standard) Kota Belud Trail
Distance (one way) 8.8 KM 8.97 KM
Difficulty Easy. Many staircases. Relatively less steep Steep and challenging. Limited climbing aid.
Features Dense and rich variety of summit vegetation along the trail Route on rock face and rocky ground. Beautiful panoramic view.

You know what. You can get better idea by watching the following video of Kota Belud trail. It shows our climb from the starting point to the summit. You can jump to 3:27 to see Kota Belud Trail:

The following is a photo walk-through of Kota Belud trail in chronological order:

Starting point of Kota Belud Trail

Starting point of Kota Belud Trail

20161202_11

Kota Belud Trail is more challenging than Ranau Trail

Kota Belud Trail is more challenging than Ranau Trail

The waterfall section not far from the starting point

The “waterfall section” not far from the starting point

Nice view at Kota Belud Trail

Nice view at Kota Belud Trail

Beginning section of the Kota Belud Trail

Beginning section of the Kota Belud Trail

Climbing along the slope of Kota Belud Trail

Climbing along the slope of Kota Belud Trail

Resting on the rockface

Resting on the rockface

Wide and long rockface section of Kota Belud Trail

Wide and long rockface section of Kota Belud Trail

Staircase on Kota Belud Trail

Staircase on Kota Belud Trail

Starting point of the steepest rock climbing section

Starting point of the steepest rock climbing section

The most challenging part of Kota Belud Trail

This is the most challenging part of Kota Belud Trail.

steep slope of Kota Belud Trail

Steep slope of Kota Belud Trail. It’s no joke if you fall from there.

Climbing via Kota Belud Trail

The most difficult part is almost over

Reaching the Sayat-Sayat Checkpoint (green building at the left). At the right are climbers on Ranau Trail.

Reaching the Sayat-Sayat Checkpoint (green building at the left). At the right are climbers on Ranau Trail.

Both Kota Belud and Ranau trails end and meet at Sayat-Sayat Checkpoint.

girls rest on slope

Relax after overcoming the hardest part

Walking on the rockface

Walking on the rockface (about 1.5 KM before the summit)

Group photo in front of Wishing Pond at the foot of Low's Peak

Group photo in front of Wishing Pond at the foot of Low’s Peak

On the way to the summit of Mt. Kinabalu

On the way to the summit of Mt. Kinabalu

Happy lady climbers on the summit

Happy lady climbers on the summit

Group photo on top of Mount Kinabalu

Group photo on top of Mount Kinabalu

At the moment, I’m not sure if we will need special permit or requirement to climb Mt. Kinabalu via Kota Belud Trail. If this trail is open to public, you can get the most fun by ascending via Kota Belud Trail and descending via Ranau Trail. I’ll update this post when I get the latest information.

Photos taken on Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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