Huhn, maybe a few more of these scintillating Rambutans will help me to think this thing through a bit more clearly?
It works like this: You pay Jungle Jack your goddam fucking 1,200 Malaysian Ringgits; he takes your passport and goddam fucks around with it for a while before returning it back to you; then next morning you eat some cold Durian for your pre-climb meal even though you’d have preferred something juicier — alas, the Rambutans are all gone and the Terap is not masak — and you’re now ready to commence hiking!
You, along with your three Jungle Jack’s compatriots — two Dutch, one Irish — are taken to meet Sylvester, your guide. You flash your ID badge at the gate and pass a cute little waterfall right at the outset, and things are looking up. But soon it begins to rain, and when you ask the three British Jungle Jack-ians coming down the hill how far up the rainy conditions extend, they offer an evasive response, causing you to fear the worst. Your fears are in the end confirmed; but despite the wet you complete the climb from 1,800 metres of elevation to 3,300 in five hours give or take (including time spent watching your companions eat their smashed-up peanut butter jelly sandwiches at the halfway point), and you thank your lucky stars that you’d opted to spring for that high-quality poncho — it’s even got a knapsack pouch, for fuck’s sake — back in KK town.
At the lodge, they feed your dimpled ass some vittles and you go to bed early, but you can’t sleep even three or four winks at all because last you saw of Sylvester, your guide, he’d said that he was worried the Park Rangers might decide to close the summit if it continued raining all night.
But it’s dry as a pickle at 2:00 in the AM, so they get your dimpled ass out of bed and feed it some more vittles until 3:00 in the AM — at which point Sylvester, your guide, bursts into the dining hall and tells you to get your goddam fucking dimpled ass out on the trail and ascend the final 800 metres’ elevation to the Kinabalu summit before the goddam fucking sun comes up.
You strap on your goddam fucking headlamp and do as he says, though it’s the most difficult goddam fucking thing you’ve ever done. But when the sun arrives and does its illumination routine, you come to realise that it was goddam fucking worth it: It was not only the most difficult activity of your goddam fucking life, but also one of the most exciting.
Sylvester, your guide.
On the way back down, you spend so much time dawdling trying to prolong the experience that your friends have got way out in front of you, and when you finally re-join them in the dining hall, they’re — what else? — stuffing their dimpled asses with vittles, so you explain to them that when you last saw Sylvester, your guide, he was sitting on some rocks at one of the resting areas with his goddam fucking shirt off.
But, sure enough, thirty minutes later, Sylvester, your guide, again bursts through the dining hall door, this time carrying a young lady in his arms. He’d rescued her dimpled ass from…somewhere, and brought her here so she could get enough vittles in her to walk away under her own steam.
You take that as a sign that it’s time to descend back down the mountain before they turn the lights out on you. In the doing, you come to realise that Sylvester, your guide, is acquainted (first-name basis) with every single person in this forest. And you also come to notice that said forest, in its rainless guise, is really quite nifty. Nifty, as in: Bitchin’ enough for twenty.
Later, back at Jungle Jack’s, you think you’re going to get the best night of sleep evar, but soon enough his goddam fuckin’ dogs begin barking forever; and when that finally stops, some nearby goddam fucking electronic instrument begins instructing, forever and ever, in a very loud/shrill voice, “Please change battery” — and everyone (including yourself) is too goddam fucking lazy to get up and destroy it with a hammer.
And that, ladies ‘n’ gennlemen, is the true story of how you climbed Mt. Kinabalu to-day.
And just what awaits the traveler to tiny Kundasang, Sabah? Well, pull up a stool and I’ll tell you…
1. Rollinia — world’s greatest iced cream cone.
2. Jungle Jack’s — possibly maybe world’s second-greatest hostel (De-Talak Hostel will always be numbero uno).
3. Kinabalu — one of world’s more beguiling peaks.
4. Massive cabbage statue — many a town square in SE Asia rocks a big Durian statue, but this is the first cabbage I seen.
5. A view worth suffering for. Oh, wait, what suffering? Cool temps, no mosquitos, clean air, quality fruit. It’s the cat’s meow, I daresay! Come pay a visit and tell me I’m wrong.
What is and what should ever be, ain’t it?
Dateline Sandakan. Woke up, gashed my skull on the underside of the too-low top bunk, and decided to venture outside the centre of town of a Tuesday morning. First stop: The dreamily named Sim Sim Wet Market.
When I passed two boys out flying their kites when they should’ve been in school, I knew I must be getting close. Then a gaggle of old biddies sitting on their dimpled asses doing nothing inside a little roadside shack asked me where I was going to.
“Isn’t there a pasar somewhere around here?”
“Pasar! Tamu! Market!”
“Oh — the market is over there.”
“Is there a lot of fruit?”
“No fruit; only…”
“Bummer. What about there?” I wondered pointing to the boardwalk leading to yon neighbourhood of stilt houses just offshore (“water village”, or “kampung air”, as the locals call such agglomerations — “air” being the Bahasa word for water).
“There is no fruit there.”
“No, I mean, is it a nice view?”
“Yes! Go there!”
So I went there. There’s a very beautiful water village in KK, but this one was pretty meh. Almost at the end, however, the shirtless mofo seen herein bade me snap his photo — then made me wait around while he went inside to retrieve his sourpussed grandson (or whomever the youngster was). Showing him the pic, I asked, “Bagus?”
“Bagus!” he thundered, smiling widely.
When I returned to shore, only two of the old biddies remained, and one of them had to be roused from her supine woolgathering to bid me farewell. But bid me farewell she happily did.
Moral of the goddam story: Sandakanian locals will never understand your pitiful attempts to speak their language unless you take their picture first.
Some more shots from atop, around, and about Kinabalu Mountain (got a little lazy WRT the editing/collating).
This place is just stupid expensive — much worse even than Singapore or Taipei. Crazy good hiking and perfect weather, though.
a.) Bird secretions for the win!
b.) According to the regulation, noted activities violate the regulation — isn’t that a tautology?
c.) Hasn’t satire been repealed yet?
“But why should I bother with painting them brown / When they’ll all be pulled down in the end?”
A night and half-day in (chilly) Seoul courtesy of Asiana Airlines; whom, about a week ago, inexplicably moved my onward flight up by half an hour, thereby setting off a frustrating chain of events resulting in the previously unscheduled stays both here and in Hong Kong. All’s well that ends well (I could never in a million years afford on my own dime to lodge in the place they put me up), but, gotta say, the customer service wings of both the airline and the booking agency were severely wanting — unreturned e-mails, interminable waitings on hold, limited options, lack of contrition, and so forth. Still, in the end, it was worth the headache — if for no other reason than I’m now more than a little obsessed with Hong Kong…
p.s. Seoul is a bit more expensive even than Hong Kong, judging by my usual method of finding the nearest Indian joint and notating the price of a veggie Biryani — in Hong Kong it’s about nine U.S. dollars (!), and in Seoul about eleven (!!).