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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

Please note 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.

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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Giant Fig Fruit with Big Uses

Wong couple selling fig fruit in Tamu market of Donggongon

Medicines are bad, herbs are good. This is how most Sabahans view drugs. It’s always a bitter feeling to bring home a lot of colorful candies (pills) from the clinic. Sabahans describe western medicines as a powerful but “toxic” remedy, and you can often hear us say, “It’s too ‘chemical’ and has side effects!”

small fig fruits on tree

Fig fruit is normally very small

That’s why we prefer herbs as it’s more natural and gentle (true in most cases, but not absolutely). In old days, local people have been using plant to heal various type of diseases. Some scientists even say our rainforest is the biggest pharmacy in the world.

monkey picking fig fruit

Fig fruit is a very important food source for wildlife of Borneo

Two months ago, I was intrigued by a photo taken by my friend in tamu (local weekly alfresco market) of Donggongon town. It is a huge fig fruit as big as a cannon ball!

Known as Buah Maja locally, fig tree is everywhere in Sabah. It is so common that Quentin Phillipps, the author of the book Phillipps’ Guide to the Mammals of Borneo and Their Ecology, says in Borneo, you are rarely more than 100 Meters away from a fig. Fig is the fruit of life in rainforest, and it’s an important food source for Borneo wildlife.

Fig fruit for sale

Fig fruit for sale

Though I’ve seen dozens of fig fruit species, most of them are small, I never saw one that is so big. Therefore, I went to the tamu of Donggongon town, which is open in the mornings of every Thursday and Friday. It didn’t take long for me to locate the stall that sold this fig fruit. The seller, Mr. Wong is very friendly and eager to introduce this amazing fruit to me.

I was surprised to learn that this fig fruit is consumed as herb rather than fruit. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Though Sabah doesn’t have apple, this giant-green-apple-looking fig fruit probably can offer the same health benefits.

fig fruit almost as big as a soccer ball

This fig fruit species is almost as big as a soccer ball

According to Mrs Wong, the wife of seller, she discovered this fruit in Lido and paid RM20 for it. At first her husband scold her for paying too much. Due to high Cholesterol level, she used to wake up with a dizzy head in the morning. After she drank the juice of this fruit, miracle happened. This discomfort vanished.

Therefore, her husband also becomes an advocate of this fig fruit. He plants and sells the fruits and juice. Based on what I found online, figs are high in fiber and a good source of magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper and potassium (which helps lower blood pressure), as well as vitamins, especially K and B6.

Other alleged benefits include detoxification and the ability to cure asthma, hemorrhoid, thyroiditis, minor kidney problem, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, constipation, fever, cough, etc. (I would strongly recommend you to see a doctor if you are sick). Anyway, the nutrition composition may vary among different fig species. Not all figs are edible.

Fig tree with big fruits

Fig tree with low hanging big fruits

The good thing is – herb is relatively safe to experiment for people who are looking for alternative treatment for ailments and hard-to-cure diseases. This fig juice can be taken as a traditional tonic too.

Mr. Wong sells the fig fruit for RM5-10 each. You can boil its pulp with water for 3 hours until the juice turns dark. If you are too busy to do this, you can buy the juice from him for only RM3 per bottle (which is boiled with other herbs too). You can drink the juice like water. However, it’s not an instant fix that can heal everything overnight, so you need to try it for some time.

Mr. Wong sells fig fruit juice for RM3 per bottle (500ml)

Mr. Wong sells fig fruit juice for RM3 per bottle (500ml)

If you want to plant this fig, the seedling is sold for RM20. It takes 3 years to mature, and it fruits throughout the year, so you will have so many fruits that you can even sell or share with others.

Seedling of fig tree

Seedling of fig tree

Everyone wants to be healthy. Selling multivitamin supplement makes nutraceutical firms laugh all the way to the bank. The fact is – these synthetic and unnatural forms of vitamin can’t be used by the body in the same way as natural versions, and it could do more harm than good, according to the Organic Consumers Association.

Fig fruit herb juice for sale

Fig fruit herb juice for sale

Most man-made vitamins are simply a waste of money. I used to take heavy daily dose of Vitamin C for months, but it did nothing more than turning my urine into yellow. After I get real Vitamin C by eating fruits, I see positive changes in less than a week. Some might argue that I should pay higher price to get Vitamin pills of better quality. Well, why not spending that money to buy real and natural food?

The expensive solution is not always the best solution. Pharmaceutical companies and some doctors love clients to buy medicines, so they can make profit. Therefore, they like to label folk prescription with the magic phrase “not scientifically proven”, rather than saying “I don’t know because our institution is too poor to fund a research. But I can’t say that it might work because I won’t make any money. Besides, I’m so afraid that you would sue me if anything doesn’t go well.”

Fig fruit (Buah Maja)

Fig fruit is known as Buah Maja in Malay language

For example, Tongkat Ali could be a great alternative to the expensive blue “V” pill and needs no doctor recommendation. Soursop is an excellent agent to fight cancer better than radiotherapy, which is infamous for its nasty side effects.

Ok, back to the fig fruit. I’m a very curious person, so I can’t stop without looking what is inside this big fruit. I bought one home to dissect it in the kitchen.

This fruit has very hard and smooth skin, so be careful with your knife. For my mom, it’s an easy task to cut it into half. The skin is thin and hard, like an eggshell.

white flesh of fig fruit

The flesh of this fig fruit is sweet and sour, with weird taste like medicine.

I can smell a very fresh and fruity aroma when it is open. The flesh is marshy and soft, with scattered brown seeds. I tasted its pulp. It’s sweet with a bit of sour that smells like herb. Frankly it isn’t yummy, which is logic, because things with medical properties never taste great.

marshy flesh of fig fruit

The flesh of fig fruit is marshy

This fig is just one of the treasures in Borneo. We should read the story below:
The U.S. National Cancer Institute funded a 1987 plant collection expedition on the island of Borneo in the Malaysian State of Sarawak. Among the samples obtained were those from the tree Calophyllum lanigerum var austrocoriaceum, an incredibly rare species. When extracts of this plant were discovered to show good antiviral activity toward the AIDS-causing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), researchers returned to the site of the original collection to find that the tree was gone, cut down for firewood or building purposes. (Source: Rainforest Trust News)

fig fruit cut into half

The flesh of fig fruit has very pleasing fresh aroma

You see. A precious plant that might hold the key to cure AIDS was used as firewood or building materials! We really need to carry out more studies to uncover more secret formula in our plant to battle illness.

Photos taken in Donggongon, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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