Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bat watching at Mulu NP

In mulu now. Fine weather so far, knock on wood! Went to deer and lang caves yesterday and just before dusk saw millions of bats streaming out of the gigantic cave to feed on insetcs. The bats would fly around and make a fast spinning spiral at the cave mouth then a long black stream (sometimes two!) of bats would leave the cave a few thousand at a time. The spiral would be 'refille' by more bats and the whole thing repeats until just before the sun sets. Amazing sight! Will post photos went I get back.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

From Kudat to Kundasang (March 2011)

There are a few parts in this KK-Kudat-Kundasang series, links to the other entries can be found at the end of this post. 

After visiting the Rungus Longhouse, I made my way to Kundasang, bypassing Kota Belud and taking the KB-Ranau mountain road. Quiet road, very few cars that morning, counted less than 10.


The road seems newly sealed, very smooth. Some very beautiful scenery along the way but weather was rather gloomy. Didn't make a stop in Kota Belud, drove right through. I’d like to visit the famous Kota Belud Pasar Tamu (flea market) one day…

KK-Ranau road was much busier. Lots of cars, many were rentals. Though it was off-peak season I saw lots of other holiday seekers esp. locals and West Malaysians. Made me wonder, did they let their kids ponteng sekolah (play truant, skip school) just to come holiday in Sabah? hmm...


It was raining when I got to Kundasang. A lot of road works going on, my rental was just covered in dirt by the end of my short trip. I remember when I was in Kundasang in 2008, there were already some road construction works going on, really surprised to see that work isn’t done yet. Hopefully the main road is at least sealed by now.

Anyway, main thing I had to do first was look for a place to stay so I drove around keeping an eye out for banners advertising off-peak rates. First one, J-residence RM80; next, Strawberry Garden RM70; then one particular banner caught my eye, Merlin Resort, RM30!

Just had to check that out. The road leading down to the resort grounds is rather steep and uneven so take care! Rather old. Surprised it was still opened for business actually. There are several wooden cabins nested on a hill slope with vegetable gardens down below. There didn’t seem to be anyone else around, very quiet which is just how I like it, so I paid RM30 for a cabin (they also had cabins with water heaters for RM50 but I decided to rough it out so took one without). Was handed two pieces of clean towels, bars of soap and the cabin key. Moved my things in right away. No fuss, no deposit, nothing, terrific!

Watch out for this sign on your right if you’re driving from KK. Merlin Resort is situated on a hill slope overlooking valleys and vegetable gardens.

The interior of my cabin was very basic. A queen-sized bed, clean sheets, rattan chair and table and an attached bath. Floor was a bit damp, no surprise since it’s always so misty up in the mountains.

It started to rain heavily not long after I checked in so I spent the afternoon resting, enjoying the cool mountain air.

Thankfully, the heavy rain lasted only an hour. There was still a light drizzle but I wasn’t going to waste anymore time holed up in my cabin so I drove up to Kinabalu Park and had lunch at the restaurant just opposite the park entrance. I had "Nasi Goreng Special" yang tidak begitu special (“Special Fried Rice” which wasn’t really that special!). Blech. By then, I had not eaten a decent meal for two days... but had to finish it cos I needed the energy before trying some trails in the park.

BTW, don’t know about you guys, but I always find it hard to find good street food when I’m in Sabah. The only thing I really enjoy from the street stalls are the sayap bakar or grilled wings. At about RM1.20-RM1.30 per piece, Sabah’s grilled wings are a lot cheaper than in Sarawak (RM2 per piece).

So, after that rather bland meal which I paid RM7 or RM8 for (I realized I could have been overcharged by RM1 when I got to my car but hey, not worth my time to argue about it), I headed up to Kinabalu Park…

Photos taken along the way to Kundasang (from Kudat via Kota Belud):

This stretch of road from Kudat to Kota Belud was really bad! It was ridden with pot holes and so uneven I thought my wheels were going to fly off! Many landslips too, especially where there’s a river or stream running right under and across the road. I believe it’s Jalan Langkon? After that bone shaking experience (not just a short stretch of bumpy road mind you, but a few kilometres!), I actually made up my mind not to ever travel by road Kudat again. Not unless I’m in a 4x4! LOL Okay maybe I’m exaggerating a little but it was pretty bad. Look at the photos yourself!

Ahh, a good road at last!!

Beautiful scenery along KB-Ranau road. Just ignore those ugly power lines. :P

Weather not ideal for taking photos but just look at that scenery!

Made a quick stop here to take some photos. Such a quiet road. Really enjoyed the drive up. So scenic! Only thing jarring in the photos are trash left behind by other road users. Boo!

Arrived in Kundasang around noon, greeted by the rain!

Wooden cabin at Merlin Resort.

The wooden cabins at Merlin Resort, situated on a hill slope just off the main road. I wouldn’t call this place a resort though. A resort gives the impression that it has a beautifully landscaped garden, full client services and other resort facilities. This place has none of that. What it does have however, are cheap, individual wooden cabins at only RM30-RM50 per unit per night.

The left photo shows a plant called kinchiam. The buds are harvested and eaten like a vegetable before they blossom into big yellow flowers.

Merlin overlooks vegetable farms and beautiful valleys. On a clear day, distant hills and mountains can clearly be seen.

I saw some farm workers carry these big boxes of packed vegetables up from the gardens so I went down to take a look. They’re chinese cabbage or bok-choy. I suppose they’re all packed up and ready to be transported to the market.

Oh look at those lettuce heads. They seem to be the “rejected” ones. Maybe they’re too old, deemed unsuitable for the market? Yum, wish I could have bought one or two, fresh from the garden!

After visiting Kinabalu Park, I ordered some take away and headed back to my cabin. Was eating outside while enjoying the view when this small friendly dog showed up looking for scraps. It had very nice fur so I petted it and it rolled over, inviting me to rub its tummy. Then I saw them, FLEAS! Yikes… I bolted right up and went inside, didn’t fancy fleas in my cabin! LOL

Will post photos taken in Kinabalu Park and the mountain garden in the next entry in this series…

Previous entries in this series:
- Kudat:
- Simpang Mengayau:
- Kota Kinabalu to Kudat:
- Rungus Longhouse, Kudat:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Upgrading to Firefox 4 was a mistake!

I use three different browsers, Opera, Chrome and Firefox. The one I use the most is of course the stable FF with all its wonderful add ons/extensions. While surfing the web using FF recently, a pop up asked me if I wanted to upgrade to the latest and greatest, FF 4 so I thought why not… clicked yes, downloaded the new version that Mozilla claims to be “6x faster than FF 3.”

At first, I didn’t like how everything in the menu bar was now placed under one single menu button (think windows start button) but the new version quickly grew on me… until it started crashing. It crashed so many times, seemingly at random times but it crashed the most when I had too many tabs opened. I thought I had downloaded a beta version but no, I had the stable release! The frequency of crashes became so ridiculous I had to uninstall it and go back to the old, stable release.

A quick google of the phrase “Firefox 4 sucks” or “firefox 4 crashes” turns up an astonishing amount of FF 4 hate! Thankfully, one can still download the old releases here:

So why do I use 3 browsers? I like Opera’s TURBO feature cos sometimes (actually many times!) my internet slows to a crawl and O’s turbo feature greatly speeds up page loads. I also like its download manager. I use Chrome when browsing certain websites that seem to appear better in it (mostly Google related websites like gmail etc. or when I’m playing certain online flash games and need to be logged into two different games at the same time, otherwise, I just use FF.

I used to use Flock a lot mainly because it had Social media features integrated into the browser  but the best thing about Flock was that FF extensions worked and it had a very useful Flickr and Facebook uploader. Then Flock switched to Chrome and it stopped support for Flock FF version. Last nail in its coffin came when they were bought by Zynga, the online game maker. Now Flock is no more.

Anyway, I’m back to using FF 3.6 so yay, no more crashes! xD

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Super 8 (movie)

Caught one of the first showings in town. Not doing a review but just wondering, since the film is set in the 70s, is that….



---SPOILER alert---



alien-monster (highlight the text in this paragraph to read it) from Cloverfield this same alien all grown up come back to earth to exact revenge on humans? After all, the super 8 alien arrived as a non-hostile alien, then captured, tortured and experimented on. Maybe it’s still a baby in Super 8 (the two creatures look similar), then decades later, it comes back as an adult giant for revenge. haha :P

Seriously though, quite enjoyed the movie. I’m glad I caught the matinee, not many other patrons in the theatre so no annoying chatter or cell phones ringing. Loved the train crash effects but it got a bit loud. I hate it when the speaking parts are really soft you sometimes have to strain to make out what the characters are saying then when there are explosions, it gets deafeningly loud!

Fine with the ending. Read some found it disappointing. But I liked it. Sometimes, a simple happy ending is all a film needs before the credits roll. No spinning tops, no abrupt cliff hanger endings, just a simple fade to black as we leave the characters happy and smiling.

Some good leave-your-brain-at-the-door kind of movies coming this summer. Next one I want to watch is the new Transformers. Green Lantern too.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rungus Longhouse, Kudat (March 2011)

There are 6 parts in this series. This is the fourth part. Links to the other entries in my KK-Kudat-Kundasang series can be found at the end of this post.

On my way from Kudat to Kundasang, I made a quick stop at the famous Rungus Longhouse located about half an hour from Kudat. Nothing much to see here, just a showhouse/longhouse for tourists to take photos. It’s nicely built and clean and features traditional construction materials such as tree bark for the walls and split bamboo stems for the floors. Also on display were souvenirs made by the local Rungus folk like bead necklaces, bracelets and hand woven baskets.

I left Kudat about 7 in the morning so I got to the longhouse really early. Didn’t see any other visitors while I was there. If you’re driving from Kota Belud/Kota Kinabalu, look out for signs directing you to the longhouse when you drive through a village called Kampung Bavanggazo. The turning will be on your left.

There are other attractions in the area such as gong-making demonstrations but I wasn’t interested in that.

Some photos I took during my visit:

The longhouse isn’t occupied by anyone. It is actually only a “show house” for tourists to visit.

The community area (in an Iban longhouse in Sarawak, this area would be known as the “ruai”).

The floor is made with split bamboo stems. I think there’s another kind of woody stem used as well, looked like Nibong palm (Oncosperma tigillarium) stems to me but I’m not too sure. No one around for me to ask.

The interior of one of the many rooms in the longhouse. Each “room” would be occupied by an actual family in a real long house. Right photo shows the cooking area, left one shows the sleeping area with a simple mattress. Bamboo flooring.

Tree bark is used to make the inner walls of the longhouse.

Brass gongs.

Local handicraft. Mostly beadwork.

Left: Just opposite is a small cafe/kopitiam serving simple meals and drinks. Right: Ticket booth. Entrance fee is RM3 per adult and RM2 for students. Non-Malaysians pay RM5.

There’s even a homestay operator here, contact number listed if interested.

Previous entries in this series:
- Kudat:
- Simpang Mengayau:
- Kota Kinabalu to Kudat:

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