If you have your sights on climbing Mt. Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, chances are you have come across Kundasang in your research. Situated right at the foot of Mt. Kinabalu at an elevation of 2000 meters above sea, this small village (part of Ranau district), with its cool clime, is a popular mountain resort destination.
jagged peaks of Kinabalu
I wanted to climb Mt. Kinabalu. There are two major trails going up: one is via Timpohon Gate (located 5.5 km from Kinabalu Park Headquarters) and the other via Mesilau Nature Resort. Both trails converges just before Laban Rata, the only accommodation midway just before you assault the peak. With the number of climbers and the limited rooms in Laban Rata, it would not be a surprise if Laban Rata is fully booked months in advance. Six months in advance. OK maybe more.
So I changed our itinerary to the next best thing: a couple of days in Kundasang with a daily view of Mt. Kinabalu while enjoying whatever Kundasang has to offer. This made the missus quite happy, no arduous trek yet we are in very close proximity to the famous mountain. No peak, but it’ll do for now.
Mt. Kinabalu as seen from Kundasang
Kundasang is about 100 km from Kota Kinabalu. There are several transportation options: bus from City Bus Terminal (north), non-aircon vans heading to Ranau (Wawasan terminal), or taxi (cab-sharing is possible). We took the bus (most comfortable and less expensive than taxi) and enjoyed the 2-hour ride.
Kundasang is said to be the fruit and vegetable basket of Sabah. You’ll know they are not kidding about this when the bus finally stops in front of Kundasang’s fruit and vegetable market and you get to see the village’s fresh harvest. Somehow this has become the unofficially stop for buses heading to Ranau or further to Tawau.
Here’s a quick look at other places of interest in Kundasang:
Kundasang War Memorial
Kundasang is associated with the Sandakan-Ranau death march during WWII. A war memorial was opened in 1962 to honor Allied POWS (over 2500) who died in Sandakan and during the 3 forced death march to Ranau. There are four gardens inside the memorial: the Australian Garden, the English Garden, the Borneo Garden and the Contemplation Garden and Pool. The memorial is a short walk from the center of the village.
This is about 6km from Kundasang (before you reach Kundasang if you are coming from Kota Kinabalu) and the jump off point to the trail via Timpohon Gate. For non-climbers, there are short trails and botanical gardens thats perfect for a day trip. There are various types of accommodations as well within the park.
entrance to the park
Getting there from Kundasang: Hop in a Ranau-Kundsang-KK van, no taxis in Kundasang (unless you hired one from KK). Getting back to Kundasang can take some time as you’ll have to wait for vans coming from KK. Its best if you hire a car for a day.
Desa Dairy Farm
This is about 5-6 kilometers on the direction to Mesilau, and no public transportation going there and the best option is to hire a car. If you want to see the milking process, be there by 2:30PM
Lots of this along the road heading to the Dairy Farm. You can take this as a side trip on your way to or from the Dairy Farm.
Laze around with a good view of Mt. Kinabalu
Not too many vantage points for sunset, but mountain sunset can be fiery. Sunrise can lit up Mt. Kinabalu if its not cloud covered. I hiked up one cold morning to the top a hill at the back of where we are staying to get an over looking view of the still sleeping village.
There are many types accommodations around Kundasang (including homestay) but one of the places with a great overlooking view of the village and Mt. Kinabalu is the Kinabalu Pine Resort (located just a short walk from the fruit/vegetable market).
Kinabalu Pine Resort
fiery treetops at sunset