05 October 2018

Kota Kinabalu (East Malaysia) - Milking the Mooments of a Highland Holiday at Desa Dairy Farm

Date of Exploration: 11 August 2018

Mooving along our day trip itinerary which took us to Pekan Nabalu for a panoramic appreciation of Mount Kinabalu's grandeur followed by meeting some of the native botanical giants at Kinabalu Park, we arrived next at an attraction that has been...

... in Kota Kinabalu's tourism scene.
Resembling a page out of a New Zealand travel brochure - waves of mountains, verdant fields and idyllic countryside charms, it is no wonder that visitors are herding to Desa Dairy Farm for some scenic grazing.

Plus, of course, the lower highland temperature of around 20°C makes it a cool escape from Sabah's sauna climate.

The village of Mesilau, where Desa Dairy Farm calls home, is nestled on a high plain with the stately Mount Kinabalu for a backdrop.
Getting here by public transport is a mystery as it seems non-existent; so the best way is to join a packaged day tour, hire a private transport with driver, or self drive. It takes about 2.5 hours to get here from Kota Kinabalu City and under 30 minutes drive from Kinabalu Park.

Entrance driveway to Desa Dairy Farm. An entry fee applies (Adult - RM5, Child - RM4) and our minivan queued for about 20 minutes before it was our turn to pay and enter.

I wouldn't have thought this is Malaysia!

Another setting to shoot Mount Kinabalu.

Clouds caressing the mountain peak ever so gently.

Purple fireworks. Quite some interesting flowering plants can be spotted around Desa Dairy Farm.

Desa Dairy Farm is nicknamed Kota Kinabalu's Little New Zealand.

Desa is actually a local household brand name with generations of Sabahans growing up with milk from this farm. The farm serves only the domestic market and does not produce enough to export.

Step on in to enjoy fresh milk, ice-cream, yogurt, cheese, cakes and also watch the milking process.

Viewing gallery to watch the milking process which happens from 2:30 - 4:30pm daily.

The farm produces about 900,000 litres of milk every year.

Cows at the farm are of the Holstein-Friesian breed, which produces one of the highest milk outputs and also interesting to look at because of the black-and-white patterns.

Milk straight from the farm... can't get any fresher than this. Too bad I'm lactose intolerant so I refrained from tasting anything at the farm in case I leave a brown all the way back to Kota Kinabalu City.

After viewing the milking process and tasting the dairy products (have to pay hor, not free), walk around to the back of the milking facility to a small shed to feed some calves and baby goats. They are perpetually hungry!

Feeding milk to get milk... a bottle costs RM1 to feed the animals. Same price goes for a bundle of grass feed. Have to put up with some smell from the livestock.

This fella is rather friendly and endearing. Makes me feel bad for liking beef.

First you feed. Then you bleat. Hope not bleed.

The visit to Desa Dairy Farm was quite an eye opener to discover such a picturesque highland farm setting in Malaysia. But because of my lactose intolerance and restraint in sampling the fresh produce, and the large visiting crowd, the place became a yawn for me after about 15 minutes.

If you can control passing mootion after dairying up, you'll have a more fulfilling here.

Related Posts:

Pekan Nabalu and the Mountain of Love

Supersized Nature at Kinabalu Park

02 October 2018

Kota Kinabalu (East Malaysia) - Pekan Nabalu and the Mountain of Love

Date of Exploration: 11 August 2018

If there is only one thing that have to be done for any first-timer to Kota Kinabalu, it is to experience the grandeur of Mount Kinabalu.

Being the highest peak in the Malay archipelago (which includes countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines and East Timor), the mountain is as much renowned for being one of the most Epic Hikes of the World as it is revered by local indigenous tribes as the sacred forever place of ancestral spirits.

A climbmatic experience of the formidable mountain would be to go on a daring 2D1N trek to its summit. But for those of us with legs of still (instead of steel), the good news is that there are several scenic spots to get a climax from Mount Kinabalu nonetheless.

These prime viewing spots of the mountain present themselves along the way to Kinabalu Park; some of them designated, some of them requiring a quick eye to spot a photo opportunity by the side of the road. Of the designated spots, Pekan Nabalu is the most popular for..

Entrance to Pekan Nabalu, a popular pit stop for taking postcard shots of Mount Kinabalu.
Located about 12km from the entrance to Kinabalu Park, the small market town is a popular toilet stop and also for guides to give climbers a preview of the mountain. In older days, Pekan Nabalu was also a gathering place where surrounding local tribes mix and barter trade.

A 15m tall watch tower (which was closed during my visit) and a giant pineapple mark Pekan Nabalu prominently. Looks like Spongebob would feel right at home here. LOL

For a tourist, I can't think of any better way to get here than following a packaged day tour or booking a private transport to go and get back. Pekan Nabalu should be a pit stop on a full-day itinerary that typically covers Kinabalu Park, Desa Dairy Farm and Poring Hot Spring.

Pekan (which means "town") Nabalu is about 2 hours by car from Kota Kinabalu's downtown tourist hub where Jesselton Quay is located.

Peakture Perfect

At the edge of Pekan Nabalu is an unobstructed viewing platform to get awed by Mount Kinabalu. As the top of the mountain is usually shrouded by lenticular cloud, it takes good luck to get a glimpse of its peak and a picture with it.

Although the best chance of seeing the mountain top clearly is purportedly before 10am, we arrived around 11am and still managed to meet the peak. Glad that the rabbit's foot was on us that day :)

A fading signboard identifies the 4 visible peaks on the mountain top, namely (from left to right) - Alexandra Peak, Low's Peak, St John's Peak and South Peak.

A small pavilion provides shelter from the sun while taking in the view of Mount Kinabalu.

Nature framing nature... The mountain is an inspiration behind several local legends and folklore ranging from the resting place for the souls of ancestors to the loyalty and undying love of a Bornean woman married to a Chinese prince. So the mountain is kind of a monument of love in the local culture.

Standing at 4,095.2m, the sole way to earn a right to brag is to trek to the mountain top. Strong legs are not the only requirement for the climb though, as a dangerous 300m stretch along a section of the face of the mountain with just a tight walking space and a sheer plunge off the cliff should one miss a step, calls for a fearless heart as well.

A friend of mine who made it to the summit swore she will never do it again because of the life-ending 300m "Death Stretch". It was dark when she ascended the mountain and did not realise she was flirting with danger. On the way down, when the sun had risen, she discovered to her horror how frightening that stretch was. Without another way to descend Mount Kinabalu, she mustered the courage to make the crossing while chanting to herself "I must make it back alive" the entire time.

People have died falling off the cliff because of negligence or paralysis from fear so consider carefully if deciding to climb. A permit is needed to climb Mount Kinabalu and currently, only about 130 permits are issued daily with a waiting list that lasts a couple of months.

So, if it is not in your mind to make a climb, Pekan Nabalu offers that perfect spot to commemorate having met this geological giant.

Apart from a jaw-dropping view of Mount Kinabalu, rows of stores selling traditional handicrafts, souvenirs, tidbits and fruits can also be found at Pekan Nabalu.

Interior of the shopping hut in the shape of the Dusun tribe's longhouse.

Lizards are considered a good luck charm and symbol of regeneration in local beliefs.

A row of fruit stalls offering a taste of local farming produce. I read that the fruits at Pekan Nabalu are grown organically without pesticides. Not sure how true.

Local snacks and flavourings vie for the tourist dollars at Pekan Nabalu.

Looks like the pineapple is Pekan Nabalu's mascot fruit. It's everywhere.

Behind the rows of stalls, there are other opportunities to frame a shot of Mount Kinabalu so do wander around.
Beyond Pekan Nabalu

Outside of Pekan Nabalu, there are other pocket opportunities to shoot Mount Kinabalu where vegetation along the road has cleared. We took a private van so it was easy for us to request a short stop, safely of course, by the side of the road for a few snaps of the mountain from slightly different angles and foreground foliage.

Shot of Mount Kinabalu from a roadside stop.

Channeling Julie Andrews (from "The Sound of Music") in this roadside shot with the majestic mountain.

Another prime viewing spot of Mount Kinabalu can be found not far from the entrance to Kinabalu Park.

The clouds have all lifted and we had a clear view from the jagged crown of Mount Kinabalu.

Me and my legs of still making more memories with the mountain I might one day find the balls to climb.
After hearing so much about Mount Kinabalu, it was uplifting to finally step into its radius of magnificence. I remembered that when I first got a proper view of the mountain at Pekan Nabalu, a breath escaped me with "Wow, it's impressive."

The thought of ascending it flashed across my mind. Physically, with some training, I could steel up my stamina and pair of walkers to cover the trek, but thinking about the peril of the 300m Death Stretch, my insides liquefy.

Perhaps one day I will conquer the mountain within and make it to that top. For now, I'm happy to just smile and strike a pose. From a distance.

Related Post:

Supersized Nature at Kinabalu Park

17 September 2018

Kota Kinabalu (East Malaysia) - Supersized Nature at Kinabalu Park

Date of Exploration: 11 August 2018

The island of Borneo is home to some of the most bewildering giants of the botanical world and a visit to Kinabalu Park in Kota Kinabalu (Sabah, East Malaysia) is a best bet to meet with these rare, endangered and supersized creations of nature.

I visited Kinabalu Park as part of a guided day tour and my inner tree-hugger went all eager beaver at the possibility of sighting the endemic floral giants that are found nowhere else on earth!

Palm leaves under sunshine in Kinabalu Park
Kinabalu Park is reputably THE place to see the world's largest lady slipper orchid, pitcher plant, terrestrial flower and giant insects. With some luck of course.
Sprawling over 740 square kilometers, Kinabalu Park is bigger than the size of Singapore (which measures 710 square kilometers at present)! Its vast geology spans the lowlands to the highlands, creating various distinctive habitats including swamp forest, tropical rainforest, hill forest, montane forest, sub-alpine forest and alpine meadow.

At an elevation of 1,500m above sea level, Kinabalu Park contains the prime conditions for a tropical montane forest to thrive with lush undergrowth and coniferous canopy. The cool middle forestry zone with a tropical climate is very attractive for the proliferation of plant life, which is why the estimation of the number of plants species found at Kinabalu Park counts at a mind-blowing 6,000!

Kinabalu Park entrance
A trip to Kota Kinabalu would not be complete without a visit to Kinabalu Park to enjoy its green gifts.

The park is located about a 2-hour drive from downtown Kota Kinabalu (KK) where most hotels are. Getting here via public transport can be quite a challenge to navigate for visitors, so it is better to visit the park in the following ways:

1. Join a Packaged Land Tour - there are numerous land tour operators that you can book from in downtown Kota Kinabalu or your hotel. The tour usually lasts 8 hours and takes you to various attractions with Kinabalu Park being one of them.

2. Get a Private Tour - you can also book a car or van with a driver and guide to take you around privately so that you can explore at your own pace. A comprehensive 8-hour day trip itinerary could cover Tamparuli Suspension Bridge, Pekan Nabalu, Kinabalu Park, Desa Dairy Farm and Poring Hot Spring. Grab is available in KK so you can also book a Grab and negotiate a price for a day trip. But the thing with Grab drivers is that they may not be effective tour guides or know their way.

Kinabalu Park is veined with several roads and hiking trails. Most packaged tours would just take you to the Botanical Garden in the park, let you have a short stroll and leave for the next attraction. If budget and time allow, opt for a private guided tour instead so that you get to spend more time at the park and trek the Silau-Silau Trail.
Kinabalu Park's Botanical Garden

The Instagram way to appreciate Kinabalu Park is its Botanical Garden, where a curation of the locale's unique flora species provides an opportunity to meet the botanical residents without leaving a sighting to chance. However, depending on the season, you may or may not see them in their full glory.

Kinabalu Park, Botanical Garden
From a carpark where we were dropped off, it's a short walk to the entrance of Kinabalu Park Botanical Garden. An entry fee of RM5.00 is charged for foreigners.

Landscaping at the Botanical Garden is pretty light. Except for a few open air nurseries, paved walkways and bridges, everything else is left untouched and rustic. When you come to a spider-webbed 'tent' like this, pay close attention to the plants in it as it serves as a living gallery of the forest's gems.

Medinilla Magnifica, Rose Grape, Malaysian Orchid, Pink Lantern, Kinabalu Park, Kota Kinabalu
A plant that greeted my visit with plenty was the Medinilla Magnifica, also known as Pink Lantern, Malaysian Orchid, Chandelier Plant, and Rose Grape. The little fruits, when ripe, turn purplish and can be eaten. I didn't try but I was told it tastes sour. So I guess this is what sour grapes look like. LOL.

Medinilla Magnifica, Rose Grape, Malaysian orchid, Pink Lantern, Kinabalu Park, Kota Kinabalu
A flower of the Medinilla Magnifica in bloom.

An unfurling fern and orchid spray in blossom. Different flowering plants come into bloom at varying conditions of the year.

This spray is like a march of little orchids. It is estimated that over 1,000 species of orchids reside at the park.

The minuscule thing on the top left hand corner is actually a tiny orchid! So lucky to see the last one before it withers.

Open stomach... Asia is home to around 240 species of carnivorous pitcher plants and 10% can be found at Kinabalu Park.

Lightning Blue Damselfly
Spotted a lightning blue damselfly. As it flies, it looks like a hovering needle.

No idea what fly this is but it's HUGE! I shot this with a compact camera, didn't even need a DSLR with macro lens to see the nightmarish details!

My mission at Kinabalu Park was to hunt down the 3 native floral giants - the largest lady slipper orchid - Rothschild's Orchid; the largest pitcher plant - Nepenthes Rajah; and the largest flower - Rafflesia arnoldii. I was hoping to see them in the wild so I was surprised to meet 2 of these giants, unceremoniously, behind a fence. That's not me but one of the nicest and wittiest persons I've travelled with.

There's good reason why these plants are behind fences. They are extremely rare in the wild and a sighting is almost always not guaranteed.

Rothschild's Orchid, Lady Slipper Orchid
Cultivating these rare slipper orchids allows visitors to see them. I am lucky to come at a time that they are in full bloom.

Rothschild's Orchid, Lady Slipper Orchid, Kinabalu Park, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Not only is the Rothschild's Orchid the biggest in the genus of lady slipper orchids (the flower stalk can grow up to 1m in height), it is also the most expensive. A plant can cost up to RM30,000 in the black market! Why is it so expensive? First of all, it is rare as it needs very specific conditions to grow. Secondly, it could take up to 15 years for a flower to bloom. Because of its price, it is also called the "Gold of Kinabalu".

Nepenthes Rajah, Pitcher Plant, Kinabalu Park, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia
The other giant is this... the largest carnivorous pitcher plant species in the world. Its pod can grow up to a whopping 40cm in height and 21cm in diameter!

Nepenthes Rajah, Pitcher Plant, Kinabalu Park, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia
Called Nepenthes Rajah, its biggest cup is capable of holding 4 litres of digestive fluid. It has been found to drown and 'eat' a rat and small mammals. A savage plant devouring animals... Yikes!
The third flora giant is the Rafflesia flower but we weren't in luck to meet one. Growing up to 1m in diameter, the endangered parasitic floral species is the largest flower on earth and again, striking 4D is easier than seeing one.

The bloom lasts only 2 to 5 days before it starts to decompose and the flower cannot be transplanted or artificially cultivated so sightings depends a lot on the cosmos being on your side. Hopefully I'll get to see and smell its famed rotting corpse stench one day.

Go beyond Kinabalu Park's Botanical Garden and into the tropical wilderness to experience the tranquility of nature.
After a rather underwhelming experience of meeting the floral giants from afar, we went on the Silau-Silau Trail for some light trekking. Because of the park's cooler temperatures in the mid-twenties range, it is very comfortable for walking.

"Silau" apparently means "glare" or "spotlight". So I guess the trail is placing the best experience of Kota Kinabalu's natural gifts on a pedestal with this trek/hike.

Silau-Silau Trail is a relatively easy trek with a built path.

Then it gets a little tough with quite some steps climbing while passing through gushing creeks...

... and navigating some parts where the path has been reclaimed by nature. But overall, the trail can be completed by anyone with no major mobility issues.

Our guide Yamin (who insists I call him "Young Man") gave us a crash course on the significance and traditional usage of some of the plants by the local tribes during our trek.

This is the bamboo species used to make blow pipes for hunting by the local forest tribes. I'm surprised by how smooth it is with almost no leaf

Thorns and spikes we came across during the trek. Mother Nature knows S&M.

Look up and look down during the trek to be in awe of the majesty of aged woods as well as the silent struggle for life happening below.

The botanical version of a zombie... it is dead yet alive. Some people are like that too.

Nature imitating nature... spotted an obscure plant with leaves that look like a green butterfly! Amazing.

I survived the Silau-Silau Trail! Which took about 30 minutes to complete starting from the Botanical Garden. It is an easy trail and at the end of it, there's a restaurant nearby to fuel and freshen up. And yes, cover up for a trek to avoid insect bites and cuts from plants. It's cool at the park anyway so playing dress up won't hurt.

It was a brief centering with nature at Kinabalu Park for me. But it was an encounter to remember as I got face-time with the giants of several flora families as well as other interesting plants. Plus I got to step foot on the ancient rainforest terrains and work out my glutes.

I came out rejuvenated.

This post has been made possible by Malindo Air, which flies daily from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu, and Sabah Tourism.
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