The Sabah-Labuan Mansau Ansau Programme organised by the Sabah Tourism Promotion Board recently was an eye-opener on many of the attractions around Kota Kinabalu, Kundasang, Sungai Kelias and Labuan.
Mansau Ansau in the Kadazan language means lets take a walk and 40 participants consisting of tour agents and media representatives took part in the programme.
Other than visiting places of interest during the eight-day programme, participants were introduced to the attractive holiday packages offered.
As for me, being my first visit to the Land Below the Wind known for its natural splendour, it was definitely a memorable experience.
The programme started with a walk around several locations within Kota Kinabalu city that offered new insights on the people of Sabah and their way of life.
Known as the KK Heritage Walk, it began at Padang Merdeka. The group was divided into eight with each led by a guide.
Though we covered 5km in two hours, I could hardly feel the distance because I was so engrossed by the historical elements fluently narrated by the guide along the way.
One may ask, whats so great walking in a city, but I feel its different in Kota Kinabalu. There is always something to see and appreciate along the way, may it be the rows of pre-war buildings or the smiling faces of the locals.
Along the way, we stopped at the Malaysia Memorial officiated on Sept 16, 1963, to commemorate Sabahs inclusion in the Malaysian Federation.
Then we proceeded to the North Borneo War Memorial, a stone epitaph officiated on May 8, 1923, in memory of soldiers who died during World War One.
I also learnt that the memorial was given a facelift and the names of soldiers who died in World War Two and Malaysian soldiers who died during the confrontation with Indonesia from 1963 to 1966 were added.
While on Gaya Street, we dropped in at Jeselton Hotel that opened for business in 1954 and has its original edifice remaining till today.
We then proceeded to Poring Hot Spring about 40 km from Kota Kinabalu and along the way were awestruck by the sight of the vast evergreen rainforest.
Visitors to this hot spring can take a dip after taking the canopy walk or continue their tour to the Butterfly Park, Orchid Park and Tropical Park, where the worlds biggest flower, the Rafflesia, and various bamboo species can be found.
There are five hot springs within an area of 1.75ha with the water temperature between 49°C and 60°C.
Visitors here have a choice of taking a dip in the open or closed ponds.
Our next destination was Sungai Kelias in Beaufort district but the weather was not in our favour. But this did not deter us from heading there.
We were given the opportunity to go tracking by boat in the wilderness along Sungai Kelias, and the antics of the proboscis monkeys swinging on the trees was a captivating sight.
These monkeys, that can only be found in Borneo, are the main attraction for visitors in Sungai Kelias. When the monkeys were sighted on the trees, the boat came to a halt to enable us to get a good look at these shy creatures.
Though the monkeys with their long nose looking like a snout appeared bizarre, the males enjoy a reputation for being randy with their opposite sex. The males normally mate with six to eight females in a day and this is why they are dubbed as Red Chilli or Playboy.
I was told, if the weather was fine, one could view other monkey species, fireflies and crocodiles in their natural surroundings.
We were also told of Sabahs offer to honeymooning couples or those who want to relax their minds.
A visit to Sabah is not complete without a stopover at Nabalu town, a haven for handicraft lovers and camera-totting tourists who want to capture the beauty of Mount Kinabalu as a backdrop.
Visitors are spoilt for choice in shopping for souvenirs, fresh vegetables and traditional cakes.
What is interesting is that accessories like necklaces, bracelets and anklets are available in various designs and materials.
Then we proceeded to Kundasang. It was a challenging ride on a winding road in the foothills of the mountain to our resort.
All of us got ready as early as 6am the following day to witness Mount Kinabalus peak at daybreak. While waiting, I noted that the locals had started their activities at vegetable farms on the mountain slopes. Then suddenly, Mount Kinabalu started to emerge from the fog and I felt elated as if I was on the peak of the mountain.
During the cold and foggy night, the resort facing Mount Kinabalu provided me some peace of mind.
The peak was clearly visible at around 7am.
After enjoying the beauty of Mount Kinabalu, we headed to Kundasang Memorial Park, our last stop before wrapping up the visit.
The park is a memorial to 2,428 Australian and British soldiers killed in Sandakan and Ranau during the WWII death march incident.
The memorial is divided into the Australian Garden, English Garden, Borneo Garden and Contemplation Garden.
The trip provided me a clear sense of satisfaction and I hope to return to see more of Sabah at some other time. Bernama