2009 - Backpacking to North Borneo

Backpacking Adventure
16 days to Sabah and Sarawak
22 Apr <> 07 May 2009

(L-R) Ching Neng Bin, Irene Yip, Winnie Leong, Mike Khaw, PhilipTinkler, KC Loke
at Pekan Nabalu viewing point of Mt.Kinabalu
Day 1 (22.04.09) K.Lumpur > Kota Kinabalu

Six of us (Mike Khaw and I from Sitiawan, Winnie Leong and Irene Yip from KL, KC & Philip Tinkler from Australia) touch-down at Kota Kinabalu Airport by AirAsia AK5108 (RM115.50 per pax) at 4.30pm after two and a half hour flight. Took taxi (RM20) to the city and stopped at Karamunsing Shopping Complex. As we found out that this is not an ideal place to stay, we decided to walk all the way along Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman to Gaya Street, a backpackers place and checked in at Summer Lodge. It was an air-con dorm with 6 beds, each paid RM28 a night with breakfast.

Evening was walking to the water-front area and noticed that there were lots of Indonesian and Philippine immigrants around. We later met Winnie's son, Kevin who is working in KK. We were not able to sleep well in Summer Lodge due to a live band on the street.

Kota Kinabalu the capital of Sabah is formerly known as Jesselton, most major parts of Kota Kinabalu were destroyed during World War II and have since been reconstructed. The Kota Kinabalu town is separated into two, with the north eastern area being referred to as “Old KK”. This is due to the fact that this area of the town has managed to survive World War II whereas the rest of the city was ruined.
Day 2 (23.04.09) Exploring KK and Sutera Harbour

Had simple breakfast (coffee, tea and toasted bread) at the living room where we met 3 Ipoh lady backpackers. As we were not able to sleep the night before, we moved to Blue Ocean Lodge along Gaya Street. The air-con double-bed rooms at RM50 with breakfast. The rooms were big with clean toilet.

We explored the city by walking north along Jalan Gaya to Sabah Tourism to get more information. We visited Wisma Merdeka, KK Plaza and walking along Jalan Pantai to Handicraft Centre, wet & dry Central Market, Filipino Market before heading back to Jalan Gaya for lunch and to the lodge to rest. We continued our walking tour by walking south along Jalan Coastal to Sutera Harbour which is about 3km away, passing through the notorious Water Village. We waited until sunset at the harbour before walking back.
Sabah Tourism Building at 51 Jalan Gaya, has all the information about tourist spots and plan your trip around with all the information provided. www.sabahtourism.com
Best eating shop along Gaya Street - beef noodle and others
Along Lebuh Raya Pantai towards Sutera Harbour
People say that this is a white-elephant project
Infamous water-village making way for development
Philip and I checking the route

Irene, KC, Philip and Ching

Mike Khaw (center) said that he used to catch that size of fish
Beautiful sunset at the harbour
Met Dr.Kiew (center). He is with Rafflesia Medical Centre KK.
Our guesthouse - Blue Ocean Lodge, Gaya Street
Blue Ocean friendly staff - Nicole & husband 012-8285731
Day 3 (24.04.09) Kinabalu Park & Poring Spring

We hired a big van (RM150 per pax) for a full day tour. We started at 7.30am and our first stopped was at Pekan Nabalu for a good view of Mount Kinabalu. We then proceed to Kundasan Market to buy some local fruits. Depart to Mesilau Nature Resort to have a closer look at the Kinabalu peak. We walked around the natures park and view some chalets and a small golf course. We also visited the Mount Kinabalu Heritage Resort & Spa nearby. We drove to Ranau then to Poring town for lunch and then visited the Poring Hot Spring. We had the Tree-top Canopy walk to experience the tropical rain forest and the 41 meters high, 157 meter long suspension bridge built among the trees. Our last stopped was at Kinabalu Park HQ before driving back and reaching KK at 7.30pm.

Nabalu Market - Mingled around with local people, try out our bargaining skill to get cheap local handicrafts to take home.
I bought this giant fruit at Nabalu Market
At Nabalu viewing station
Magnificent view of Mt. Kinabalu Highest mountain in Southeast Asia, 4,095.2m (13,435ft)
Established in 1962, this was one of the first memorials to commemorate the brave Australian and British Prisoners of War who died in Sandakan and during the infamous death marches to Ranau during World War II. The memorial also remembers the people of North Borneo who risked their lives to help the POWs.
The road to Mesilau Nature Resort through Kundasang Valley

Mesilau Nature Resort
I inquired about Mt. Kinabalu climb in 2010

The 2 trails to Mt. Kinabalu peak

Welcome to Ugly Sister and Donkey Ear

The waterfalls beside Ugly Sister chalet

A good place to stay
Nice view from Mt.Kinabalu Heritage Resort & Spa
Suspension bridge at Mt.Kinabalu Heritage Resort & Spa
The valleys below the pine forest

Poring Hot Spring
Relaxing at the mineral rich hot spring
The source of hot springs water
Kinabalu Park HQ

Magnificent view of Mt. Kinabalu
Day 4 (25.04.09) Traveling to Keningau and Tenom

The bus drive (RM13) to Keningau which is 131km away takes about two and a half hours. The hair pin bends on the Crocker Mountain range is fantastic when the road cuts through the mountains ridge. People describe it as "steps to heaven". Continued by bus (RM7) to Tenom (42km) for the famous Tenom coffee. Returned bus (RM17) from Tenon to KK at 4pm.

Another good eating shop along Gaya Street
Bus station
Rest area at Ulu Kimanis
The large terrapin at the rest area
Keningau got its name from that of a Javanese cinnamon tree which grows abundantly in this area. It was once one of the most important administration centers of the British in the early 1900s. This timber and agricultural town district is the largest and oldest district in Sabah’s interior part situated in a valley surrounded by the Crocker Range to the west and the Trus Madi Range to the east and south sides.

Toilet anybody!
Tenom formerly known as Fort Birch during the colonial period, the Interior Division town of Tenom is home to the Murut ethnic people. This is primarily an agriculture zone with coffee, soy beans, maize, vegetables and cocoa being the major crops. Tenom is one of the most scenic interior locations in Sabah, with the Crocker Range towering magnificently as the town’s backdrop. Also known as the “gateway to Murut country”, the town comes together each year to celebrate Pesta Kalimaran—a festival celebrated by the Murut community in Tenom.
Tenom town

Day 5 (26.04.09) Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

Visited the Sunday's Gaya Street Fair after breakfast at the guesthouse. Originally known as Bond Street, this is the main street of KK. Fully rebuilt in 1950s and 1960s, the shop houses were used in the traditional way, with shops on the ground floor and residential units on the upper floors. It also has many eateries open during the day and night.

We walked to Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal to get the ferry to Pulau Mamutik. The boat fair is RM13 + RM6 tariff fee + RM3 conservation fee. We enjoyed the swim and snorkeling. Came back at 3pm and visited the observatory point at 5pm. Kevin gave us a dinner treat at New Man Tai restaurant and later adjourned for coffee at Australia Place.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park - The Park is made up of 5 small islands off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. The 5 islands are Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug. The Park was gazetted as a National Park in the year 1979 to preserve the natural treasures and sea jewels such as the coral reefs, marine life and its flora and fauna.

You'll find all sorts of things in this street market: souvenirs, art and handicraft, food, herbs, pets, fresh produce - just about anything. A very colourful place indeed.

KK City Hall
Free variety show at City Hall

Waterfront to Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal
Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal

Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal

Jetty at Mamutik Island
Beautiful beach and clear water

Thousand of fishes at the jetty

Kevin & Penny
Charming Penny

Atkinson Clock Tower was erected to commemorate the late Francis George Atkinson, the first district officer of Jesselton, who died at the young age of 28. This memorial is one of the most prominent landmarks of KK and is also one of the three surviving buildings from WW2.

Signal Hill Observatory at Bukit Bendera
Panoramic view of KK city

My Catherine is in Sitiawan, but this Cat is at Lucy's Homestay KK
Dinner hosted by Kevin at New Man Tai Restaurant, Gaya St. - Thanks Kevin.
Australia Place is where the Australian soldiers camped when they landed in Jesselton in 1945. This is now a quiet street of shops, downtown Police Station, two backpackers hostel - Lucy's Homestay and Travelers' Light Backpackers Lodge and the Dewan Merdeka.

had nice coffee at Australia Place
Day 6 (27.04.09) Tuaran, Kota Belud, Kudat

We rented a van with driver for RM250 to take us to the tip of British North Borneo and back the next morning. Started at 10am heading for Tuaran we passed through the beautiful Likas Bay. At Sepangar Bay, visited the Borneo Marine Research Institute and the Water-village. Further north visited Karambunai Resort Golf Club before reaching Tuaran. Proceed to Kota Belud town and then continued our journey to Bavanggazo Rungus Longhouse before reaching Kudat town. Stayed at lousy Govt. Rest-house for RM60 room. Very good seafood dinner at the esplanade restaurant on stilt. The next morning visited the tip of Borneo before traveling back to KK.
Borneo Marine Research Institute at Sepangar Bay
Water village at Sepangar Bay
Karambunai Resort Golf Club located at the sandy fringes of the Karambunai peninsula, 30km Northeast of KK city and 40kms away from Airport. The 3,335 acres of natural and landscaped surroundings create a perfect background for all 485 guestrooms, suites and villas, 8 restaurants and bars and recreational activities. It has award-winning 18-hole championship golf course and an exclusive Borneo Spa. My brother Neng Shyan would like to be here playing golf.
Kota Belud is 70 km northeast of Kota Kinabalu is known as the "Land of the Cowboys of the East", it is one of Sabah's most scenic and culturally rich districts. A melting pot of cultures and customs with a blend of the largely Muslim Bajau community and the many tribes of the Kadazandusun and the Irranun of northern Borneo.
Kota Belud Public Bank branch
The Rungus people used to live in longhouses built on stilts. In Kg. Bavanggazo near Tinangol, you can still experience this fascinating communal lifestyle in a purpose-built longhouse constructed entirely of traditional materials but with added modern comforts like toilets and showers. Situated in a valley about 41 km south of Kudat town and 98 km or two and a half hours drive from KK City, you can get a taste of their food, daily rituals and music on a day trip or overnight stay. Contact Angkung Milaad (013-5527191) for details.

She is Angkung Milaad (013-5527191)

Kudat fishing jetty

Fishes inside the Jelly fish
Kudat boat repair yard
Philip may want to buy this Harrier, but the wife objected
This resort faces Marudu Bay, features large water hazards and numerous bunkers.

Best seafood dinner at the esplanade restaurant on stilt
Day 7 (28.04.09) Tip of British North Borneo
7am drive to the tip of Borneo and later visited a fantasy island at Barambongan before returning to KK at 1pm. Afternoon, visited Mr Tung of Tokio Marine and Mr Chieng Yew Hoon the Regional Manager of Public Bank. Evening walked to waterfront, Filipino fish market and had supper with Aaron Young of Public Bank.
Path to the tip of Borneo

I am here at the tip of Borneo

We are at the tip of British North Borneo
Climbing up the cliff

Fantasy Island at Barambongan. On the right is the Sulu Sea and left is South China Sea. We walked to the island only at low tide.

KK Waterfront esplanade
All waiting for the sunset at the esplanade with.......

Filipino fish market at the waterfront

Aaron Young (Public Bank Marketing Manager) drove us to Damai for famous coffee and roti kaya
Day 8 (29.04.09) Exploring Labuan Island

7am walk to Jesselton ferry terminal and took the 3hours ferry journey to Labuan. The fair is RM31 + RM3 tariff fee. In Labuan we walked around the town, bought duty free beer and had lunch. Returning to KK was by another ferry (RM5) to Penumbok at 1.30pm and bus (RM12) back to KK. We had dinner at Filipino fish market.
We took this ferry to Labuan

Labuan ferry terminal
This ferry (RM5) to Penumbok

Getting to the bridge to meet the Captain

Sabah State Museum & Heritage Village is located atop a lush green natural hill known as Bukit Istana Lama

the Pirates of Borneo Club

Sunset at waterfront

Dinner at Filipino fish market

Day 9 (30.04.09) KK to Miri, Sarawak

A 6.55 am flight to Miri by AirAsia AK5811 for RM60.50. Airport bus No.28 (RM2) to city. Stayed at Fairland Inn (RM35) Kingsway Street. Explored the town and had good dinner at a restaurant beside AIA building.

Miri Airport
Audery - friendly staff at the Information Centre
Chinese garden at Miri City Fan

Miri City Fan

I took a nap in the garden
Miri river-front along Jalan Pala
Tug-boat pulling a ship up river
Tua Pek Kong Temple off Jln.Bendahara
Day 10 (01.05.09) Niah National Park and Bintulu

It was a 6.30am Bus33 (RM1.60) from city to long distant bus terminal. A 7am express bus (RM10) to Ngu Junction (107km), 2hours journey. Had lunch at Ngu junction and got Mr. Tuyang (Tel:019-8256292) for RM40 to drive us to the Park, 17km away. The park fee is RM10 each and for senior citizen is RM5. As we were not able to get accommodation at the Park due to heavy booking, we walked to the cave first. We took one and a half hour to reach the cave painting and almost two hours to get back to the Park under heavy rain. We then called Tuyang to drive us back to Ngu Junction and took the next express bus (RM10) to Bintulu which is 115km away. We stayed at Midming Inn RM75) in Bintulu.
At Ngu Junction for early lunch

Mr. Tuyang a Penan tribe (Tel:019-8256292)
Niah National Park is located on the Sungai (River) Niah, about 3 km from the small town of Batu Niah, 110 km south-west of Miri. The park was first gazetted as a National Historic Monument in 1958, and in 1974 some 3,100 hectares of surrounding rain forest and limestone hills were included, to form Niah National Park.
Briefing by park officer before trekking to the cave
Boat crossing the Niah River (RM1)

This is where the birds nest and guano traders conducted their business in days gone by, hence the name.

In 1958, a discovery was made which confirmed Niah as a site of major archaeological significance. Harrisson and his team unearthed a skull which was estimated to be 40,000 years old. The find was at first ridiculed by the scientific community, for it was the skull of a modern human, and it was widely believed that Borneo was settled much later. However, as dating techniques improved, and as more evidence of the settlement of Southeast Asia and Australasia came to light, Harrisson was proved right.

The Great Cave is about 3.5 km from the park headquarters, and is easily reached via the plank walk, which is enclosed on both sides by dense primary rain forest.

West Mouth of the Great Cave at over 60m high and 250m wide, it is one of the world’s most spectacular cave entrances, leading to an even larger chamber within.

Notice the bamboo poles on my right are for the birds nest collectors. The half million swifts that live in the cave make their nests purely from their own salivary secretions.
The passage at the back of the Great Cave leads to a large chamber known as the Padang, where shafts of sunlight stream down from large holes in the cave roof to illuminate the bizarre rock formations in the Burnt Cave (Lubang Hangus). After the Padang, you enter a totally dark passage known as Gan Kira (Moon Cave). This is where the torch is essential to find your way out.

After the Gan Kira (Moon Cave), the plank-walk emerges into daylight and a short pathway through the forest leads to the Painted Cave. This is the site of the famous Niah cave paintings and the place where the ‘death-ships’ were found. The paintings are rendered in red hematite and cover a long narrow strip (approximately 30m) at the back of the cave wall. They portray human figures, probably representing warriors and hunters, some of the animals of the surrounding forest, and - most importantly - longboats carrying the souls of the deceased on the dangerous journey to the land of the dead.
I took a rest at the Painted Cave after one and half hour walk
Day 11 (02.05.09) Bintulu to Sibu (216km)

The bus (RM15) journey from Bintulu to Sibu took 3 hours and was interesting to see so many long-houses. In Sibu we stayed two days at River Park Hotel (RM50) along the Rejang River. First day in Sibu was exploring the Rejang Esplanade, wharf and the dry and wet central market.
Walking to the Bintulu bus station


Coffee and pee break

Jalan Maju, Sibu
River Park Hotel, Jln Maju, Sibu
Best 'Kolo Mee' sold here. In Sibu, one of the staple dishes that can practically be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even supper is none other than the beloved kolo mee.
The Swan at Rejang Esplanade

Sibu wharf

Cruise ship in Sibu "RV. Orient Pandaw"
Central Market

"Out of the box" mentalit
Chicken fashion
Best ABC at Sibu market

Sunset view
Day 12 (03.05.09) 2nd day in Sibu

2nd day in Sibu was the walking tour to Chinese Pagoda and along Jalan Pulau to Lau King Howe Memorial Museum. We witness a motor race along Jalan Pulau organised by the Council. We walked to the river behind the museum before coming back to Sibu Town Square and Wisma Sanyan. Proceed to Mist Garden then to Sibu Gateway. Finally visiting a church and a temple to pray for our save journey. Evening was at the night-market for imported beer at 4cans for RM10.
Another good eating shop beside our hotel

This are floating "Sundry Shops"

Asking me to take a shot at him - "a free man".
The History of the Sibu Eng Ann Teng Tua Peh Kong Temple can be dated back to earlier 1870. In the 1871 Sarawak Gazette, it was recorded that there was a small wooden Chinese temple in Sibu and that was the Tua Peh Kong Temple. In 1897, the temple was rebuilt into a typical Chinese temple designed with tiled roof, stone block floor and all the decorative purlin & fixtures which were imported from China. The State of Tua Peh Kong deity was specially sculptured and imported from Xiamen, China. On 8 March, 1928 Sibu town was destroyed by a big fire, but the temple was unscathed. This was a miracle.

Sibu Town Square

Lau King Howe Memorial Museum

This is a 100 years old tree

at Mist Garden - Sibu
Sibu Gateway

a Catholic Church

Newly completed Chinese Temple behind the church

House going to collapse
we are very happy to get 2 cans of cold Stella Artois beer for only RM5
Day 13 (04.05.09) Traveling from Sibu to Sarikei

We traveled by bus (RM7) to Sarikei about 72km away. We stayed at Leh Hua Hotel near to bus station at RM40 a room. The town is located on the Rajang River near where the river empties into the sea. The population is culturally mixed, with mostly Iban, Melanau, Malay and Chinese. Sarikei is famous for its pineapples and pepper.
The distinctive feature of the waterfront is a 3.6 m high pineapple statue

Sarikei Land Office
Day 14 (05.05.09) Sarikei to Kuching

It was a 5 hours Borneo Express Bus (RM30) journey to Kuching the capital of Sarawak.

Another Ko Lo Mee?

Sago worm
Brown rice
Bamboo shoots
Paku vegetable
Pepper trees
Kuching Grand Mosque
Little Lebanon

India Street Pedestrian Mall by night
Day 15 (06.05.09) Kuching
Our guesthouse at Carpenter Street
Carpenter street temple
a public car-park
The Cats at Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman

The lonely Cat at end of Jalan Padungan

Sarawak River

at Chinese Museum

Fort Margherita

State Legislative Council

Main bazaar street

India Street pedestrian mall

Textile Museum
Art Museum
Warrior Monument
Warrior cemetery at Jalan Reservoir
Sarawak Museum at Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg
Brooke Dockyard at Jalan Gambier

Jetty at Jalan Gambier

Trees on house at the old market Jalan Gambier

Dinner hosted by Teresa Ting at "bla bla bla restaurant". "Thank You for the lovely dinner from all of us"

KC Loke, Teresa Ting, Chloe Tan, Angeline, Julian Tan, Ching, Philip
After two days, we found the Bishop-Gate in Kuching.

Day 16 (07.05.09) Kuching back to KL
James Brooke Bistro & Cafe. A lovely spot to watch the world go by, while having a beer and some food. The staff are friendly, and the owner, Rahana is superb. Her background is in interior design, and it shows in the fixtures and fittings in the Bistro.

Suite 504, 5th Floor, Wisma Bukit Mata Kuching, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Kuching, Sarawak 93100. The post is headed by an Honorary Consul, Datuk (Dr.) Philip Ting who is also from Sitiawan. I visited his office, but unfortunately he was not in. I took a few photos of Kuching skyline from his office.


  1. I enjoyed your travel blog!

  2. Hello Neng Bin,
    Just been through your backpacking adventure in Sabah and Sarawak. It was very nice. Thanks very much. How did you plan for the trip? Did you plan before you left home that you would see all those places you went to, and arrangements for transport etc? Please give my regards to Mr. Khaw.

  3. Bernard Lee22 October, 2009


    Wow!! What a trip. You guys really enjoyed your North Borneo trip. Now you have to climb Mt.Kinabalu to complete your spiritual journey. How was the road trip up to the base of Mt.Kinabalu and onwards to Ranau? Imagine me cycling on that road to Sandakan in 2006.

    Anyway Congrats to u and your team on your successful trip.

  4. Excellent Blog! You took just about everything in! Well written and great photo dairy.

  5. Dear writer,

    I am totally solute with your energy to travel in Sabah and Sarawak.

    Thanks for the blog. I am planning to be there too. But might focus in Sabah only. Partially Mount Kinabalu and Music Fest.

    All the best and I really like your detailed blog.


  6. Anonymous15 May, 2010

    Wonderful blog with plenty of useful information. I was searching for Bintulu, and found your blog.