Between hectic schedules,events and the hustle and bustle of the capital city on the Peninsular of Malaysia – it was time for a hop over the pond to step onto the “Land Below The Wind” or Sabah on the East Coast of Malaysia. A place which I last visited over 10 years ago, and from the vivid images of lush tropical rainforests, friendly people and scenic beaches locked in my memory – I was more than excited to be finally returning! Although this trip was for the primary purpose of me joining the Borneo International Marathon 2012 (10km Women’s Open)– thanks to AirAsia the journey there and back involved a little less running! 😉
Equipped with my check-in baggage and hand carry bags, I was off to LCCT, Friday 4th May around noon to catch my 2:05pm flight to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. With the online self check-in and the option of an “Express 1 Bag Check-In” lane provided by AirAsia, the usual long queues and hour-long wait are avoided ; before I even ended my send-off phone call with my parents the ground staff had already written down my Gate Number and had settled my baggage.
After boarding the flight and settling down, one thing which I love about this process aboard AirAsia is that they play music/radio so that the waiting period is more entertaining. Plus reading the in-flight magazine 3Sixty always passes time whilst they are going through the safety features/checking everyones seat belts! The journey to the “Land Below The Wind”– lived up to it’s name as it was a bit bumpy here and there – (a lot of wind :P) and I don’t do well with turbulence! But that worry was calmed as the pilots keep you updated with the weather conditions and the safety of all passengers on board is the cabin crews top priority. To further ease my mind I browsed through the tempting menu and was spoilt for choice at the selection of Souvenirs which can be bought on-board! Especially as Mother’s Day is coming up I thought this was perfect! Plus, having fellow passengers such as Hitz.Fm Radio DJ’s JJ & Ean as company surely makes for an entertaining ride! After landing I managed to take a quick snap with the pilots which was a privilege as I’ve never been in the cockpit before and the pilot was also a Penangite like myself!
Upon arrival and being shuttled over to The Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa I was so touched by the huge welcoming party organized by the staff, who had been waiting for us and made us feel right at home straight away!
That evening, a small reception at the Sunset Bar at the Resort painted a new memory of this beautiful place in my mind- that of an unobstructed view of the sunset as the day ends. It was such a breathtaking view that you need to go there in order to understand how amazing it was. My words wouldn’t do it justice 😛
That night, I attended the Sabah Fest 2012 which featured cultural exhibits of local delicacies, handicraft as well as a performance by local performers who performed a musical theater/cultural dance showcase. It was a great event and I would recommend it to anyone as you get to learn and see Sabahan Culture in its most creative ways- through food, music and dance.
The following day we were treated to a ride along the North Borneo Railway to visit Papar. The train itself is classic and rustic with an old English charm which dates back to the times where the British were in town, and runs on a steam engine! (Choo-choo!) You just sit back and enjoy the journey as an English Breakfast is served as well as a Tiffin Lunch Set on your return trip!
The journey itself passes through several towns in Kota Kinabalu, and the staff on-board will come around and stamp your passport so that you know where you have passed through! The Sutera Harbour Resort runs this train and although it only opens twice a week- it’s an interesting way to see the towns in Sabah, with your little pinky up and a cup of tea too. The day followed by a meet and greet session at the Race Pack Collection Point for the Borneo International Marathon, where I was able to meet some of me fellow runners!
Back to the resort and I was treated to dinner in a cabana, beach-side and a healthy feast of grilled seafood – a special mix by the chef especially for me which was absolutely delicious! Before the fact that I had to be up at 4am dawned on me, I was getting my running muscles energized by an hour long massage at the Resorts Chi Spa before having a good nights sleep!
Race Day on the 6th of May: The gun goes off at 6:15am and 65 minutes later, mission completed as I had crossed the finish line for the 10km Women’s Open of the Borneo International Marathon! Back to the resort for a solid breakfast to treat myself after the run and a 2 hour break before heading back to the airport and ‘balk kampung’. It was then during the return flight, which was smooth sailing where I was able to reflect back on the wonderful time I had.
For 2 nights and 3 days I had a quick weekend getaway and was treated to a relaxing home away from home thanks to the Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa and was able to get my tourist shutterbug time by enjoying a trip through Kota Kinabalu’s towns along the North Borneo Railway in old-school style! Not only that but I got to run alongside inspiring runners of every age, who not only cheered me on but didn’t stop running or having fun as we all were apart of this big family who achieved our goal of crossing the finish line. I saw the sun rise and set in the “Land Below the Wind” but it will not be long before I will return for Chapter 2.