Bad Experience in Mount Kinabalu Trip

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Bad weather in Mount Kinabalu Due to the heavy rain, my trip to Mount Kinabalu was painful. Fortunately I brought my raincoat. But my hair and jean were wet and the temperature was freezing cold. Actually I had already expected the bad weather so I had booked two nights of accommodation at Laban Rata. The first night I was staying in the Gunting Lagadan Hut (3,323m), which has no heater and is quite far away from Laban Rata Resthouse. To get there from Laban Rata, you need to walk 100 Meters of ladder up there. After I finished the climb to summit in the next day, instead of going home directly, I moved to Waras Hut (very near to Laban Rata), where I spent another night. This gave me extra time for contingency. Otherwise the bad day would spoil my photography session in Mount Kinabalu. I found that the rain usually came in the afternoon, so I climbed down at 7:30 AM on third day.

My comment about this trip is “The Mount Kinabalu and Kinabalu National Park are unchanged, like 10 years ago.” Well, if I say the nature is unchanged, it is a compliment coz it means the site is well preserved. If I say this to the park management, it is an insult. Yes, the park is not improved for over 10 years. I am a bit surprised that the BEST Sabah tourism spot is managed by the WORST organisation, Sutera Sanctuary Lodges (If you want to burn their office, it is located at ground floor of Wisma Sabah. And thank you).

There are so many positive reviews about the Mount Kinabalu trip. But I would like to criticise their management. Let me list a few of my frustrations:

1) Low Quality Mountain Guides
Personally I call them “Shepherd”. Basically they do not provide any service or guide you. They just walk around you. Half of the time you don’t see them. In year 2001, there was a young British girl wandered off the group, got lost, and died in Mount Kinabalu. Such a poor girl… Her father did not want to blame anyone. But… I believe this case is more or less the responsibility of their Mountain Guide. Still seeing the sloppy attitude of these guides, I’m afraid the same tragedy will happen again one day. If you bring your kids along, do always keep an eye on them, especially during the thick mist session (Aug – Nov).

If you move slower, they will push you. If you sit in the shelter for too long, you will hear them mumble “Go… Go… Go… Jalan… Jalan… Jalan…” beside you, like a cassette that repeats the same word over and over again. Someone told me that the good mountain guides are reserved for the foreigner tourists, and the locals will get the lousy one. Not sure if this is true. I did see a few mountain guides who were keen to show the foreigner tourists here and there, introduced what were along the trail.

2) Terrible and Expensive Food
Laban Rata Restaurant is the WORST Make sure you bring enough cash. A 500ml water costs RM4.60. You better boil your own water in the hut. Remember to bring heat-resistant (not plastic) bottle / container so you can store the boiled water. Tea and coffee costs about RM8. There is only one restaurant in Laban Rata. If you don’t eat there, tree roots will be your only choice (and they know this).

One of the popular dish here is the Fried Rice. This was the first time I paid money to torture myself. Their fried rice is the hardest and the most expensive (cost RM12) in Sabah. It is so difficult to push it down the throat, so I kindly asked them if they could give me a small bowl of soup. They said, “No free soup. You must order it separately.” The soup will cost another RM8. Even the RM3.00 meal in the city comes with free soup. I wish I can throw their boss down the 4,095M mountain.

3) Lack of Heating
If a person takes shower with very hot water during summer, you will say that he is nut. Some huts do not come with heater and hot water. I wonder if their management expects the tourists to take cold water shower under the freezing temperature. I will not advise you to take cold shower even if you are strong. In case you got sick, the climb to the summit will become risky. I think the heater should be a basic facility coz everyone needs it.

The night is freezing cold. Bring extra socks and spare clothing to keep you warm at night. Do not count on their blanket. It is so thin and old. The blanket that I got looked like the same one I used more than 10 years ago, during a school trip to Mount Kinabalu (we also stayed in the same hut).

Because of the heavy rain, my jean, socks and shoes were wet, but I did not have the spare clothing (OH O!). The cloth will take days to dry due to the cold and humid air. I wanted to use the stove in the kitchen to dry my clothing. Then I saw a scolding notice “If you use the stove for purpose other than cooking, you will be fined RM200” (very smart). OK, what to do? Luckily I got a candle, so I used it to dry up my cloth. It worked! I could see the water vaporized from jean like white smoke.

4) Inconsiderate to Tourists’ Well Being
One of the worst experience was caused by their inconsiderate. After I returned from the summit to Laban Rata, I felt really sick. This was because my body absorbed too much cold in the heavy rain, the hut was too cold and I did not sleep well (no heater and warm blanket), and I exhausted all my energy reaching the top.

According to their policy, we should check out before 10:30 AM. I checked out at 10 AM and got ready to move to Waras Hut that I had booked earlier. Then their staff said that the check-in time was at 1 PM. I felt really ill and I needed a bed to rest ASAP, so I asked the staff if I could check-in earlier coz I was sick. She looked at my pale face, just haha and said NO. I had to wait for 3 hours then. I sat in the restaurant coz I was so weak. I wanted to vomit whenever I moved.

After one hour, I asked again, with begging tune, “Please… I was sick and I needed a rest badly. Normally hotel check-out time is 12 and can check-in at 1 or 2 PM. The small hut has nothing much to clean up. Would you please let me in earlier?” She just said, “We only got one housekeeper and your hut is the last one to be cleaned. That’s why it was slow.” I replied, “Then would you please request her to clean my room first, so I could move in soon?” She was speechless and looked at me with a “I am not keen. You must check-in at 1 PM” expression.

Nothing much I could do, so I sat quietly at a corner. During the waiting time, I noticed that whenever foreigner tourists approached her, she smiled like sunshine. She never forgot to ask, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” with seducive eye expression, as if she will not hesitate to lick their shoes if they ask. I believe these tourists would get different answer if they asked the same thing like mine. Finally I got my room at 1 PM. Laying on the bed, I thought I would be sent to the hospital. It was quite scary coz I traveled alone, and their inconsiderate made me felt very insecure. Fortunately I survived.

5) Take Nothing but Photographs. Leave Nothing but your MONEY.
At the park, besides paying RM70 for a Dumb Shepherd, RM30 for Climb Permit, and RM3.50 for Insurance, you also need to pay RM12.50 per way (RM25 for return trip) for the transport from National Park to Timpohon Gate, where you start the climb. I think the transport fee is too high. The distance between National Park and Timpohon Gate is only 5 KM. After paying so many fees, they should at least provide a free shuttle service. Instead, they charge overly high fee to rip off the tourists. FYI, RM25 can buy a bus ticket to go to Sandakan, which is more than 200KM away. What a joke I need to pay RM25 for a 10 KM trip. And they send you there with bus or van, not a big limo. With that money, I expected a plane though.

I believe some of you may have some bad experience too. Please feel free to share it here…

19 thoughts on “Bad Experience in Mount Kinabalu Trip

  1. yikes!!! really makes me feel like thinking twice before even trying to organise a trip to mount K from the mesilau side… usually the organiser gets scolded right?
    yes… i guess they are basically ripping every sabahan off, i means… dont get a right to climb it. maybe if u act like a jap tourist u get more service huh?
    i think its been more then 10 years since sabah parks has gone privatised, and the only thing they really did improve is the PRICES!!!
    imagine the shock when i realised the windows in laban rata toilets are just holes in the wall.
    for the sake of my own safety.. i decided not to bath and jumped right into the hot spring…

  2. For me, it is the craziest journey I had ever taken. It rained most of my journey, resulting in sprain on both my knee. Yet, I was determine to conquer Low’s Peak which I did.

    My group was supposed to stay at the Waras Hut but we upgrade to the Laban Rata Resthouse because of the extremely cold weather due to the rain. The toilet there really was one of the worst I ever encountered. It took me less than 3 minutes before I come out. Reason: many of those who used it earlier finished the hot water before me.

    As for the food. Basically, it was tasteless. and you are right, it is very expensive.

    But I need to give those locals who bring stuffs up to Laban Rata everyday. I really feel that they are the best climber in south east asia. They go up the mountain with such ease that I was thinking they have some lightness kungfu or something similar. It took them a few short hours to go up and down whereas we, the normal people would take up to 8 hours to go up to Laban Rata.

    Anyway, many thanks to Smoke Head for bringing back so many memories of Sabah to me.I was a student in UMS for three years since 2000 until 2003 before coming back to Selangor. Yet, in my heart, I feel that I am part of Sabah already. Thinking about moving to Sabah but it is a long shot.

  3. well, u can only blame, “you are not a girl and you are not a foreigner.”

    I didn’t have bad experience with my mountain guides, all were helpful.(maybe i am pretty? –> but i am not pretty as you think) Warm water? yes, i had warm water for shower, u can only blame yourself of not being the first few persons to reach laban rata. Didn’t your teachers taught you, early birds get the worms? hehe…

    yes, another point. Do u know that foreigners pay higher rate, of course, they have to treat them better. ; )

  4. i think the locals they do carry the stuff up and even the guides are ripped off by the middle party.. ie the company that manage sabah parks.
    i did try to arrange a trip to go up in march next year.. a WHOLE 6 months in advanced.. and guess what… the whole laban rata is FULLY booked already…
    this tour companies are making a killing by blocking the whole accomodation and later releaseing once they are not sold.

  5. spaceloss, probably next time I should make myself looks like “foreigner” + “female” tourist, so I can get double A treatment. 🙂 Most of their staffs are lady though, will it work?

    tradewind, you may try to book other huts. You can call them to check. Sometimes they got cancelled booking. I will climb Mount Kinabalu again. But this time I want to stay overnight nearby the Oyayubi Peak.. There is a hut there.

    eztoyou, looking forward to seeing you become a Sabahan one day. 🙂

  6. dear smokehead, i will take up the offer on going from the mesilau side, but i dont think i will do the oyayubi peak anytime soon ^_^

  7. Bla, just curiuos.. usually how much tips will make them happy? I mean the minimum.

    Tradewind, of course will count you in for Mesilau Trail. 🙂 I never tried that route. Anyone knows what is the main difference? Someone told me the view is better even though the path is longer than the summit trail.

    The park is very smart you know. They got separate certificate (cost RM10) for conquering Mt. Kinabalu via Mesilau Trail. Next time they would come up more cert like cert of crawling to Mt. Kinabalu, frog-jumping to Mt. Kinabalu…

  8. i do agree of one thing. the parks managment is not good enough.i just climb mountain kinabalu on 11 sept this year.just a few weeks ago.There is a
    chinese student couple with us.the girlfriends is very tired and keep complaining to the boyfrends.
    so both of them stop-walk-stop-walk.. and you guess what to guide say go.. goo.. jalan ..jalan,
    macam mangkuk!
    he should respect the girl.she is not the one who
    always do a tough activies like this.

    about you trip.. i think the people think you are tourist.actually the fee is only RM2.50 transport to timpohon or mesilau one way.. haha

  9. Cannot be lah, ambaya… I paid the Malaysian-rate climb permit and transport fee at the same counter, so it was impossible that they did not know I was a Malaysian. They just wanted to rip off everyone…

  10. in the newspaper today, they are happy to report that they had rhino’s up on mt kinabalu up too 40 years ago. just becos some adventurer wrote it on his journal. i was expecting like they found bones or something. oh well…

  11. Well, no doubt that the Malaysia’s service are very bad.. If u’re a foreigners, they’ll treat u nicely, and if u’re local, they dun give a d@mn.. I never climb Mount KK, coz I dun think I can make it to the top.. :p

    But I’ll share wut I’ve encountered in Sepilok, the well known orang-utan centre in sdk.. I went thr wif a fren of mine, this is maybe the 5th time, so, I dun have problem walking alone.. Know tat place very well.. Suddenly, (if u’ve been thr, the orang utan are free) 1 of the orang utan come to me.. I was clueless, they said, orang utan will “rob” ur handbag, if u’ve any.. I look around myself, hm.. nothing.. so, should be no problem. Then the orang utan grab my leg and bite me.. Sxxt.. it was so painful. The rangers/guide see it, but when I was thinking that he’ll come to help, he left immediately.. leaving me thr to “fight” wif the orang utan. Wut’s in his mind actually? I wonder.. then, another orang utan running towards me.. OMG.. The “end of my life” came accross my mind.. I took a dry leaf, and give to the orang utan who bite me, and lucky, it accept the dry leaf and let go my leg.. Thanz god, the 2nd orang utan doesnt wan my leg, it wan the dry leaf, so both of the orang utan fight among themselves, and i take this time to run of coz… A few weeks later, another “local” was bite by orang utan, and that person complaint, “The rangers ignore u when they know that u’re local”
    U’ll get special treatment if u’re foreigners.. I really think this kinda person, who is not fair, should be gone from this world forever.. I wonder why the orang utan dun bite them.. I really wanna see, and if 1 day it happen, i’ll definitely stand thr and laugh at him.. WONT HELP HIM DEFINITELY….

  12. Ricc, I am so sorry to hear about your case. I thought orangutan only bite people for defense. I don’t know they can be so nasty. The worst thing is that the ranger ignored the safety of the tourist..

  13. i heard that the longer you rest, the more the probability of your legs getting cramped. especially in cold environment. Well, i am not a doctor, i just heard it. maybe some of you would know better and can correct me. i look forward to any correction 🙂
    well, about the orang utan biting you. i would also run. imagine the orang utan strength. a large one could split a crocodile in two just by pulling on the crocodile mouth/beak?? haha
    however, i am really sorry for you ricc. but remember, you got bitten, many got bitten, but once, the foreigners were put in a worse situation a few years back. maybe you heard about it. or maybe it is just a rumour.

  14. Smokehead: I suggest you make this known to the operator, Sabah Tourism Board, the print media [DE’s letter to the editor looks good, but if can push to front page, even better], the State Tourism Minister, the CM, the Federal Tourism Minister and for good measure, the PM.

    We badly need constructive comments / independent reviews like these, not glossy and fawning-over marketing material – that’s the ONLY way one can improve.

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