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A trip to Malaysia wouldn’t be complete without visiting the stunning mountain town of Kundasang. This quaint town with fascinating history and access to some of the best outdoor wonders that Borneo has to offer should definitely be on your itinerary. Here’s what every traveler needs to know about it:
What’s So Great about Kundasang?
It is a refreshingly cool destination in a notoriously sweltering part of the world. It is a small town situated at 2,000 meters above sea level. If you’ve been traveling through other parts of Borneo, this will be a welcome change.
The town itself used to be a village, but tourism has helped it grow into something more. Resorts now pepper the landscape, however the area still retains a very quiet, rural feel.
You’ll be delighted to find the surrounding areas covered in picturesque plantations and farms. The market in town offers famously fresh vegetables and fruits grown there.
However, the main reason that this town is so great is how close it is to Mount Kinabalu National Park. There is no closer town with easy access to the park, and the convenience offers a chance to visit the mountain in the early morning to enjoy fantastic views.
Mount Kinabalu National Park
Known locally as just Kinabalu Park, it is the oldest national park in Malaysia. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park is home to a staggering 4,500 different species of plants and animals.
The park covers an enormous swath of land, too: 754 square kilometers of forested land with the magnificent Mount Kinabalu in the center.
The mountain towers above the landscape at over 4,000 meters. You can’t miss it. The good news is that if you are thinking about climbing it, no specialized mountaineering or climbing skills are required. However booking one year in advance is often necessary.
That doesn’t mean that the climb is easy. While locals typically ascend the mountain at a very young age, and even keep climbing it until old age, to the first time climber some precautions should still be taken.
Make sure you’re physically fit and prepared for climbing in the thinner air of the mountain. Consider hiring a guide if you’re at all nervous about completing the climb.
What to Know About Climbing Mount Kinabalu
How long will it take to climb the mountain? Well, if you are hardcore you could probably complete the ascent and descent in as little as four hours.
However, if you want to actually enjoy the experience you’ll take two days. This is so that you can climb to Laban Rata the first day, which at 3272 meters above sea level puts you in prime position to summit the next morning. This way you can climb the summit when you’re fresh, and also with the goal of reaching the top before sunrise to be rewarded with an awesome view.
When Should You Climb?
Ideally, in April when the weather is nicest. Other months of the year will offer decent climbing weather, but try to avoid climbing in November and December. Rain could spoil your climb!
What Fees/Permits Do You Need?
For non-Malaysians the entrance fee to the park is 15 RM (Adults) and 10 RM (Persons under 18 years old). The climbing permit is separate from the park entrance fee, and is 200 RM for Adults (non-Malaysian) and 80 RM for Persons under 18 years of age (non-Malaysian).
Note: Expect to also pay 7 RM for “climbing insurance” at the park. This presumably goes towards rescuing you if/when you pass out near the summit!
So How Do You Travel to Kundasang?
From Kota Kinabalu, you can self-drive quite easily if you’ve rented a vehicle or have access to one. The town is about 100 kilometers away via a scenic, but windy and mountainous route. Expect it to take about two hours and drive safely.
You can also easily take a bus from Kota Kinabalu for a low fare, or schedule a private taxi to take you on the long drive.
Besides the Park, What Can You Do?
If climbing a mountain isn’t your thing there is still plenty to do, such as:
- Visit the War Memorial, a garden memorial to honor the loss of Allied Australian and British POWs during World War Two.
- Get your farm fix by seeing the Desa Cattle Farm, which has real dairy cows and beautiful scenery to enjoy.
- Take a tandem paraglider ride! Launch at 4,000 meters and see the area from the air.
Where Should You Stay?
There are several guesthouse options in town, so it really depends on your budget. We recommend booking in advance, especially during country holidays or weekends.
Remember, this is a popular destination for Malaysians, too!
The two resorts we recommend are:
Kinabalu Pine Resort, which offers rooms starting at 210 RM per night. The resort features great views of the mountain.
J Residence, which is just 300 meters from the park entrance and therefore has the benefit of having room rates up to three times lower than options within the park.
Does All This Info Make You Hungry?
Good, because in addition to the fresh fruits and vegetables available in town from the surrounding farms, you can enjoy several different open air eateries featuring signature Malaysian dishes.