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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Friends and Foodie Reunion

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

During a rather long weekend in between my travel to Kota Kinabalu (Oct. 20-25, 2010) and Taiwan (Nov. 2-7),I had a reunion with my Deparo Sunday School friends Tes,Margo,and Raffy or more fondly called as "the "Aba!ya Family". We haven't seen each other for four months because of work changes,with Raffy working in Saudi Arabia and Tes getting assigned in Anao,Tarlac.

The reunion was sweet! It was a reunion of our taste buds,devouring different cuisines, nothing too fancy,just down-home meals that could fill us up and confirm that the 'best way to a friends' heart is through their stomachs'.

Let me give you a sneak peek through pictures of our meet-ups over foodies.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Kota Kinabalu's Suspension Bridges and Poring Hot Spring

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

On our way to the Mount Kinabalu Park,we passed by the small town of Tamparuli and took pictures of its suspension bridge which is said to be the longest in Sabah at 50 meters in length.I am scared of bridges (and not knowing where to park the car if we walk along the bridge),we decided to just take pictures and imagine the edgy feelings of those crossing!

I also found another suspension bridge(but rather shorter one) over Mamut river, when we get to the Poring Hot Spring. Because the long-awaited hot spring is on the other side of the bridge,I took the courage to walk along and enjoy the ride!

Getting to the hot spring is another story though. It is somewhat a disappointment especially for pinoys like me who has enjoyed hot spring of Tiwi and those in Laguna!
There's just one swimming pool and tons of mini tiled pools and tubs with hot and cold faucet.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Filipino Market: Kota Kinabalu's Seafood Foodie Haven

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

When in Kota Kinabalu, my stomach feels right at home with a late lunch at the so-called "Filipino Market" as most of the hawker stalls are run by Filipino immigrants (mostly from Mindanao)!

The market is on Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens and part of the Filipino Market complex where a variety of Filipino and local handicrafts are sold in the hundreds of cramped stalls, along winding alleyways.

I am not a big fan of street food, but finding a place in a foreign country that serves food that is familiar to my taste buds and palate is exciting. Besides, my CS host Chel highly recommended the place as she finds the food there sanitary and safe to eat. That sends a sense of pride on patronizing my own!

My grilled squid,green mango salad and rice with my two cans of grass jelly filled me up great!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mount Kinabalu: Borneo's Tallest Peak

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

When my CS host Chel visited me in the Philippines,she gave me two shirts from Sabah,Borneo as a gift. The black and white shirts both have "I climbed Mount Kinabalu: Tallest Peak in South East Asia" design. So I told myself, I should visit Mount Kinabalu at the very least (if I can't climb it).

So we headed to Mount Kinabalu last Sunday,October 24. Mount Kinabalu is situated in the World Heritage Site, Kinabalu National Park which is about 80 km east of Kota Kinabalu or a 1-2 hour-drive going to Ranau, Sandakan or Tawau. There was a market with a view point where we stopped and take this picture.

Mount Kinabalu is the tallest peak in Borneo's Crocker Range with top of Low's Peak measuring 4,095.2m or 13,435.7ft above sea level. It is also known to be one of the most accessible mountains in the world as there is no specialized mountain climbing skills required to ascend it. In fact, locals begin climbing the mountain from the age of 3 and the oldest person to reach the peak was 80 years old!

When we got to the park, there was a marathon competition so non-participants were not allowed entry. Well, to climb it is one reason to go back to Kota Kinabalu!

For more information:

Non-Malaysians pay RM15 (adults)/RM10 (children) to enter the park. (Malaysians pay RM3 and RM1 respectively). There is another RM120 fee (plus RM7 for insurance) to climb the mountain in addition to park entry.

Although it is possible to climb to the top and back in less than four hours, most climbers take two days, with an overnight break at Laban Rata. Then at 2:30AM, they start the climb in order to catch the breath-taking views of sunrise at the top!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Island Adventure in Sapi Island,Kota Kinabalu

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

In Kota Kinabalu, people are spoiled because the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (which consists of the islands of Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Sulug and Pulau Mamutik) is just a few minutes away from the city!

Last October 23 (Saturday), we went to the sun-kissed beach of Pulau Sapi. Unlike other places I have been to (esp. Philippines), we didn't have to wake up real early to make it to the islands. We got to the Jesselton ferry terminal at 10am and paid at the counter for the sail boat rental, a snorkeling gear, life vests and for the para-sailing. Then we got our gadgets from the pinoy boys (mostly from Mindanao) and got on a 10-capacity sailboat. After only a short 20-minute breezy and (though somewhat bumpy) boat ride, we got to the beach.

Pulau Sapi is a small white sand beach with lots of tourist. To me, I can say that it is as small as one of Philippines' Caramoan islands but as busy as Philippines' Boracay beach! Well, the shallow water is incredibly clear while the sand is white!

When we got to the island, there was huge crowd enjoying beach BBQ picnic while others were enjoying staying at the shades, sunbathing, snorkeling,and swimming. We didn't wait to get to our swim suits and enjoy the water and posing for pic to capture this beautiful island!!

In terms of snorkeling, we were lucky to be accompanied by the pinoys who assisted us in the para-sailing. The snorkeling area is just nearby (so no need for the boat to take you). I saw various types of hard and stony corals and variety of fishes like rabbitfish, parrotfish, a few specie of damselfish, clown anemonefish, moon wrasse, Moorish idols,which was identified by my guide.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Parasailing: My High Flying Adventure in Kota Kinabalu's Island

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

Another reason Kota Kinabalu is special, is that it is home to my exhilarating experience - my first stint on parasailing!!

Parasailing is breathtaking and thoroughly enjoyable adventure. I felt like a human kite suspended in the air, circling around Sapi Island while enjoying the spectacular view of the city of Kota Kinabalu and the other islands of Manukan,Mamutik, Gaya and Siulog. It was unparalleled fun!!

Of course, it was natural to be scared at first. Me and Chel was way nervous.Good thing we were not the first to do it. In our company is a sweetheart couple from Singapore and a mother - daughter tandem from South Korea. It was the second time for the Singaporean girl and she keeps assuring us that it is simply fun and exciting!

A para-sail is a parachute that goes up while being towed behind a sail boat. For a starter, the passengers (usually a pair) are snap into the para-sail's comfortable harness, then take a few steps, and driver tows the boat and the parasail soars into the air! The colorful para-sail will bring you hundreds of feet into the sky where you can enjoy the peaceful and serene view of God' wonderful creations!

Parasailing is real easy and exciting esp.if you will follow simple Parasailing Procedures:

- Wear life vest when on board.
- Make sure that the harness is properly set-up.
- Observe proper sitting position (with knee bent like squatting).
- Do not control or pull the para-sail as you wish to, the captain will take care of you.
- Do not stretch your feet if you want to touch into the water.
- Sign to instruct the captain if you want to go down or touch the water.

For more information:

Rates: RM 120 (but we had it for RM 70 each person of Php 980)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rafflesia: World Largest Flower I Sighted at Kota Kinabalu

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

When I decided to spend my post birthday celebration in Kota Kinabalu, I have no idea what places to visit or what to do while over there. I told myself,I will leave it up to my CS host Chel to decide where to bring me. When I got to the airport and while waiting for Chel to show up,I picked up one of those brochures from tour company and read about Rafflesia, a giant flower that is associated with the forest of Kota Kinabalu!

I remembered about Rafflesia when it was featured on my favorite “Kapuso Mo,Jessica Soho" tv show in Channel 7 in 2008. As I recall, Rafflesia is claimed to be the largest flower on earth, and it can be found only in the rainforests of South East Asia like Malaysia,Borneo and the Philippines.

Rafflesia is an official state flower for the state of Sabah in Malaysia, so it is very much sought after by tourists. Rafflesia,however, is rarely seen, because it needs the right humidity and warmth for it to blossom. It takes seven (7) to nine (9) months for the Rafflesia to grow from bud to flower and Rafflesia will last only for four (4) to five (5) days. Because of its rarity, my CS host Chel and her sisters who lived in Kota Kinabalu all their lives have not yet seen the actual Rafflesia flower.

Today, our wishes come true! On our way to Mount Kinabalu, we were on the look out for the elusive Rafflesia flower sign on the road. We learned that owners of the surrounding lands will put up a "Rafflesia Blooming" sign, if there happens to have Rafflesia flower in full blossom. The land owners normally charge RM 10 each person per visit. Lucky me again, because the land owner didn't charge much for locals. We paid RM 10 for the four of us (me being considered local!).

Rafflesia is actually a parasite flower as it is rootless, shootless and leafless.The Rafflesia flower has a very distinctive bright red orange colour, and has small spikes in the middle disk. Although it was said that Rafflesia flower, has a strong smell like rotten meat, I didn't smell it at all. Well,could be because it was the last day for the life span of the Rafflesia flower we spotted!!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park: My Introduction to Kota Kinabalu's wild

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

Another gift from nature that abounds in Kota Kinabalu is the remarkable Proboscis Monkey. We didn't go far to find it as there are some of this bizarre monkeys at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, Sabah, Malaysia.

Lok Kawi Wildlife Park (or Lok Kawi Zoo) is located at old Penampang-Papar road, about 25 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu. It is about 10 minutes drive from the small town of Lok Kawi and about 40 minutes drive from Kota Kinabalu. As there is no direct public transportation to the park I am lucky that Chel has a car and willing to take me there! For other visitors,they can take a bus to Lok Kawi town and take a taxi from there. Alternatively, they can pay between RM80 and RM100 (Php 14 to an RM) to have a taxi straight and back to the park.

One good thing about the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, is that animals can be seen roaming wild within their enclosures minus the glass fence or thick wooden ones like I've seen in many zoos I visited.

Animals at the park are divided into three major habitat zones: forest canopy zone, forest floor zone and the water and water edge zone.

We were lucky to have arrived during the feeding time of most animals. It was a wonderful experience to watch the otters get feed.They are the noisiest when hungry haha. There were about 90 animals in the park other than proboscis monkey. There were orang utans, otters, Asian elephant, hornbill birds, tigers, mouse deer, barking deer, ostriches, various species of birds,leopard, and a Sumatran rhinoceros.

Here are some information.

Open daily : 9.30 am to 5.30 pm

Entrance fees:

Visitors 18 years old and above (Malaysian citizen RM 10.00) & (Non Malaysian citizen RM 20.00)
Visitors below 18 years old (Malaysian citizen RM 5.00) & (Non Malaysian citizen RM 10.00)
Free admission to Senior citizens (60 years old and above) and Handicapped Malaysian citizen only and school childrens (below 17 years old).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Kota Kinabalu's State and City Mosques: Architectural Masterpieces

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

I am always fascinated with mosques and so I always try to visit one if there are mosques in the country I am visiting.

Mosque is a place of worship for followers of Islam. It serves as a place where Muslims can come together for prayer as well as a center for information, education, and dispute settlement.

Since Kota Kinabalu is predominantly a Muslim population,I searched for mosques and found two to visit - the State Mosque and the City Mosque. But I have not read this warning before going there...hahaha "If you are not a Muslim, avoid visiting the mosque on Fridays, as this is the day of prayer for Muslims".

We visited the State Mosque today (Friday, October 22, 2010) and found ourselves in a huge traffic jam! That explains why I am not in this picture as I took it from the comfort of Chel's car!
The State Mosque is centrally located at Jalan Tunku Abdul Raman and truly is a masterpiece of architecture! Its walls are dove-grey and domes glitter with gold inlay. Up to 5000 worshippers can be inside at one time.

The second main mosque in the city is the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque at Likas Bay, which is around Chel's neighborhood. I visited it yesterday. It is another impressive example of a marvelous architecture with its blue domes and floating above the water because of the man-made lagoon around it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tun Mustapha Tower (Menara Tun Mustapha): Kota Kinabalu's Revolving Resto

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

I enjoyed my visit to the Kota Kinabalu's Tun Mustapha Tower (Menara Tun Mustapha), formerly known as Sabah Foundation Building (or Yayasan Sabah) at Likas Bay. It is around my CS host Chel's neighborhood so we always pass by this building on our way out of and into the city centre.

At 30-storeys and 122 meters high only, it may not be in the list of tallest buildings in the world but at least it is the tallest building in Borneo and one of only a few hanging structures in the world with a glass fa├žade.

I have seen and been to a lot of taller skyscrapers and towers, but what I am particularly impressed with Tun Mustapha Tower is its unique 72-sided polygon, column-free floors and the revolving restaurant's ambiance and cost!

Yes, the Tun Mustapha Tower is home to the '@mosphere' restaurant at the 18th floor, which slowly spins to provide a complete view of Likas Harbour. It makes one rotation per hour and open from 10am to 2am with rotation at 11am, 3:30pm, 6:30pm and 9:00pm and 12mn, while enjoying a great meal!

The sea view was fantastic while the food was tasty and sumptuous without ruining your budget (recommended for budget conscious like me!)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kota Kinabalu: Home To My Birthday Adventures!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

After a series of pre-trip misadventures (i.e. forgetting my ticket, leaving my ATM when I have no peso on my purse for travel tax P1,620 and terminal fee P750), not knowing the address of my host for immigration document and being on a wrong arrival terminal), I am finally here at the fantastic city of Kota Kinabalu or KK (for short) the capital of the Malaysian state Sabah for a five-day post Birthday adventures! (yea! I just turned 18 plus!!haha)

Since I arrived at 7:45pm and met my host Chel and her friend Juliana almost 9pm (they were at Terminal 1 while I arrived at Terminal 2), our first stop and my first introduction to KK was the Jesselton Point Waterfront (Jesselton happens to be Kota Kinabalu's former name).

Jesselton Point Waterfront is Kota Kinabalu's one-stop dining and entertainment centre which offers casual dining and leisure experiences with its array of alfresco outlets. It is an excellent place to wind down and bask in the cool Sabahan breeze while chilling out with friends. Located along Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, the Waterfront is a popular hangout for both locals and visitors alike. I was really spoiled for choice when it comes to dining (but no pork though because KK is till predominantly Muslim).
At night, the Waterfront is also home to dazzling lights, pulsating rhythms and a fantastic blend of energy with the various clubs and dance cafes! We entered in one and my heart felt like exploding hahaha..

In the morning, Jesselton Point is a great place for a stroll. At the main entrance, there is a nice archway that welcomes you to the city. On the walls are various photos taken in the early 1900s. There are also two English-inspired red telephone booths and a rail coach serving as a drinking outlet called JP Train Station.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Paris Wishlist...

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

My prince is in Paris right now as part of his first business trip. Wish I were there!

The mere mention of Paris instantaneously brought back memories of my enchanting few days with him in the most romantic city in the world in August 2007.

Paris is fabulous by day and unforgettably charming by night and I am so happy to have it as a backdrop for our first monthsary.

As an ever-charming city,Paris is a wonderful place to wander, hand-in-hand, getting high with my prince with the stunning views of the city.

I look back on those places that set apart in our memories of togetherness (and those few places we had our pictures taken) like the Louvre,River Sienne, Arc de Triomphe,Notre dame Cathedral, Champs - Elysees, Montmartre, streets of Paris and the Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower is that one place I wished my prince would put his arms around me and ask me for that sweet kiss. My wish granted. And I can say that I had the time of my life!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chile Mining Incident and My Would-Have -Been Balatoc Mine Tour

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

Saw on tv the miners in Chile who were trapped for 69 days in a dungeon that could have been their tomb. With the extra-ordinary, methodical and careful rescue plan using a rescue capsule missile-like chamber, the 16 men had already been pulled from the mine today. It is expected that the remaining 17 men will also be rescued before sunrise Thursday.

I thought to myself how difficult it must have been to be a miner!

I don't know much about mines but I have a brief orientation of what it looks like during my visit to the Balatoc Mines supposedly for the tour last September 2009 as part of Nabil's (my first Couchsurfer) itinerary.

I have frequented Baguio City for the last ten years or so, but never read nor heard about the Balatoc Mines Tour until Nabil mentioned it as one of the places he wanted to visit when in Baguio City as part of our Manila-Banawe-Sagada - Baguio - Manila tour segment.

Balatoc Mines Tour is Benguet Mining Corporation’s one-of-a-kind underground tour located at Balatoc,Itogon,Benguet where one would enjoy being a miner for a day, dressed up in miners’ outfits, riding an underground train, exploring the tunnel and learning more about the mining culture of the Cordillera region in the Philippines.

I called up my friend Judith (originally from Sagada but currently living in Baguio) if she knows about Balatoc Mines Tour and good that she has been there for the first time about three months ago. She said that the cut-off time for the tours is 2:00 we should take the first bus trip from Sagada.

We arrived in Baguio City around 12nn,checked our luggages at the Bus paid check-in counters,and looked for the jeepney headed in the direction of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). After getting lost in finding the right jeepney station, waiting in line for our turn, commuting for a good 30 minutes or so, we were finally at the site at 2:30 pm!

At the gate, the security guard informed us that the tour cut-off time is 2:30 p.m and so we were asked to come back the next day. We really didn't mind coming back to experience the mining tour, but we were scheduled to return to Manila that same day for our Bicol tour segment! Sensing our desire to take a peek of what's inside, we were allowed to get in and the friendly guide opened up the reception (entrance area) for us.

I put on my Wellingtons and a hard hat, and posed for pics at the mine train! We were also given a brochure. The Balatoc Mines Tour costs Php250.00 for adults (Php 150 for students) and lasts for about an hour -and -a half to two (2) hours. That is the reason we cannot be allowed entry to the mines so that everyone (esp. the ex-miners who are showing visitors how tunnels are dug and reinforced and doing the simulated explosion) are out of the tunnel by 4pm.

I will definitely come back and look forward to actually doing the Balatoc Mine Tour. This is part of my wish list for Baguio City!

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