Recently, I went on a trip to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, to get my first taste of mountain hiking. I started having a love and admiration for mountains back when I did my internship in Nepal in 2010. It was then and there that our wonderful boss, Kunda Dixit, chief editor of Nepali Times, brought us up to the top of a building on our first day at work and shared a panoramic view of the mountain ranges surrounding Kathmandu. It was a sight to behold, and a memory I held dear through all these years. What would it feel like to be standing at the peak of one of these amazing giants of nature? The thought nestled in my mind.
Fast forward many years later, my good friend and fellow photographer Foo Chee Chang, from Vamos Photography, first planted the ideas of hiking up Mount Kinabalu earlier this year. It was funny how things unfolded, when thoughts soon translated to actually getting the flight and accommodation tickets confirmed. I wasn't sure what to expect from the hike, but I knew it wasn't going to be a walk in the park. And sure enough, it was definitely one of the most physically straining experiences I've had to deal with. If it wasn't due to Chang's experience and help, and some luck, I'd dare say I might not have made it up at all.
Suffering from severe muscle cramps, all I can share as advice is to move at your own pace and be humbled by the mountain. It boils down to a battle between yourself and the mountain, requiring both physical and mental fortitude to last you in both directions. I was too eager to conquer it, and paid dearly for that mistake.
If I could do it again (and maybe I would), I wish I was better prepared so that I wouldn't have felt so physically drained. I missed out on admiring and capturing the many beautiful views Mount Kinabalu had to offer, but I'll never forget the view of the stars from the veranda of Laban Rata. It was immensely beautiful, with stars out in full force. It felt like I could see the whole universe, and made the effort to get this high totally worth it. I wondered, what would it be like to be among the stars one day?
While that remains to be another distant thought to be realized, I'm glad to have conquered and be humbled by Mount Kinabalu. Someday, I'll visit it again, just like an old friend, and with more photos to remember it by.