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

1 comment:

  1. 👍👍👍 Good job and may you find the courage to summit someday...


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