Sep 30, 2012

Kota Kinabalu Travelogue : Padas Water Rafting (Day 4-20 May 2012)

Before the faint ray of sunshine broke through the barricade of veil and curtain, I was awaken by the "distant" fumbling contributed by no other than my tanner half in the cozy hotel room, filled with soothing aroma and chilly air, yet I was lying on the comfy white linen which my skin refused to lose contact with. "What time is it?", I mumbled and my tanner half gave me a brief peck on my lips before he murmured 5.10am.

20 minutes was all I had to pack every single thing into my luggage and check out from the room. I looked around me dreamily and in my head I thought to myself, "Seriously I need more sleep". It was now my time to fumble around, trying my best to gather all my belongings in my dreamy state. Lucky I was as I did my major packing the night before and we checked out at 5.25am.

I believed the check out counter shared my sleepiness as it took us another 10 minutes to get done with whatever needed to be done while the guy from Borneo WaveHunters had arrived with his van, never been more ready to pick us up for the adventure of the day. The heaviness of my eye lids lingered even when I greeted the rest of our group mates waited at City Park Lodge. One thing for sure, sleepiness haunted all of us and everybody grabbed their precious nap on our way to Beaufort train station, which is a stop of the Sabah State Railway (Jabatan Keretapi Negeri Sabah) line from Tanjung Aru to Tenom.

The old naggy train getting ready to set off 

Located approximately 90km south of Kota Kinabalu, the journey to Beaufort came about an hour and a half. The warmth rested on my cheek was no doubt the sign of the rising sun. I peeped through my loosely shut eyes and told myself, "Wake up, it is time to have some fun!". We waited for what seemed like an hour to me before we were finally allowed to board the train, provided we had our indemnity forms filled up and each of us paid RM155 for our white water rafting for the day. It was a really cheap deal, if you asked me!

Nine (9) of us! (including the cameraman)

It was a relieve from the long wait when we were finally told to board the train. Charged with excitement and anticipation, we stepped onto the platform. What welcomed us was the battered red coaches, led by the blazing green train head. So bright the green that it almost blinded my eyes, especially under the morning sun which shone with endless enthusiasm.

Of the battered red and blazing green

After 20minutes of rest, the old battered train started to plow its way into what-it-seemed-to-me a jungle. Surrounded by the endless landscape of green, the playing scene outside the window had incorporated the presence of unwanted piles of ruins and rubbish. An eye sore, if you asked me. The train seemed to agree with me as it expressed its grunt of disapproval and disgust throughout the journey.

From Beaufort station, the train passed by Saliwangan station and finally, we reached the interchange station, Halogilat station. If my memory serves me well, the number of "stations" was definitely more than that. Occasionally, the train stopped at these battered "stations" made of wood to pick up the locals. Houses were scantily located and the locals seemed to enjoy this out-of-the-city lifestyle.

Clueless like a blind bird, I jumped out at Saliwangan station with my sleepy boyfriend and our river guide a.k.a driver of the day, Ash, quickly ushered us back to the train. I almost got stranded if it weren't because of Ash! At Halogilat station, we happily hopped off the train and were told to deposit ALL our belongings (including expensive gadgets and cameras) into two big baskets that were capable of containing me. As we were waiting for the next train to pull up, we slapped on extra layers of sunscreen before it would be out of reach.

After 5 minutes or so, a rusty and almost war-battered train pulled up onto the platform. I almost dropped my jaw looking at the condition of the train. The second coach was a cargo coach and all four exit were doorless. The benches were barely clinging to the base, hence everybody was sitting / standing precariously as the train shoved its way with whatever energy it had left. Similar to the train we last took from Beaufort, it was hot and humid. Yeap, it was air cond-less and uneducated locals were happily puffing in the train though it is not allowed. I felt like kicking them out of the train!

Yours sincerely at Rayoh Station

The train passed by Rayoh station and finally we arrived at Pangi station. Woohoo, the smell and sight of river was exhilarating! Despite the lack of comfort, it was a priceless experience to be in this 2-hour ride. Light refreshments, i.e. watermelon and water, was served before we were briefed on the how-to and safety precautions. Armed with colorful helmets and life jackets, we marched to the starting point in the blazing morning sun.

Padas river rafting map

Being my virgin experience in white water rafting, I must say opting for Grade III-IV Padas white water rafting was an adventurous attempt. Half of me was afraid but another half of me was urging me to get on the raft quick! Since there were 9 of us, we got the biggest raft, which also means less fun as it is theoretically more stable and less chance of capsizing.

Just like how we usually behave in front of stranger, Padas river was no exception. The starting point was pretty easy, so as to speak. For a newbie like me, I decided to stay in the middle of the raft while my teammates were paddling their way through the river. Nearing the Capsize Drill, we were filled with anticipation as all of us would want to be capsized. However it did not turn out to be so.

Paddle hard!!

For a big raft like ours, we had 3 rafters covering each side. There were always 3 idling rafters in the middle of each row. Paddling through Padas river was no easy task as the current was pretty strong at certain rafting points. The resistance was no less throughout the rafting journey. Shoulder and back pain? Surely you would! In order for everyone to get a piece of the hard work paddling in the river, we took turns to cover the 6 rafting positions while Ash and another river guide took the rear seats and gave us the necessary instructions.

Being mischievous and all, our river guides attempted to throw us into the river by tugging our life jackets and dragging us out of the raft or pushing us out of the raft. Ash did succeed in one or two attempts. When you were the unlucky one, fear not, being a river guide, he or she is strong enough to swim against the current and pull you up as if they were in swimming pool. Me? I just go with the flow LOL! Can you imagine how strong they are?

Relentless attack of Padas river

If my memory serves me well, Cobra Point is the one of the two most exciting rafting points. It wasn't a matter of paddling hard but rather a combination of paddling hard and balancing our raft against the relentless current. We were drenched in the process of greeting our friendly host (Padas river). Wearing sunglasses did help a lot as the water wouldn't get into your eyes easily. Plus the sun was too bright and harsh, hence sunglasses is a MUST!

Another rafting point which is not marked on the rafting points is Washing Machine. Did the name frighten you? When Ash mentioned about it, I was like "OMG, this was gonna be crazy tumble!" and it did live up to my imagination. Our raft was balancing precariously on an invisible supporting point and yet we had to paddle HARD! We were so close to capsizing yet we survived!

Tumbling madness

I guess all of us were bored by the less exciting journey due to the lack of capsizing, hence when Ash asked us to jump at Body Rafting Area, almost all of us did. The water worked like a sliding board and I went down faster than I had anticipated. Fun! Plus the water was super chilling despite the blazing sun. The only thing we had to remember was to listen to instructions as you might accidentally injured by the unknown objects in the water. Worse, dead. No matter how hard to try to lean to the right river side, the rebellious current would push me to the opposite but I had to keep trying.

The entire 10km rafting journey seemed to be passing real quick. I was half disappointed that the fun had to be ended while it was not as much as I would like it to be. Nevertheless it was a great experience. Lunch was ready by the time we reached Rayoh. Not a feast, but rather a humble home cook food, which served in limited portion and lack of meat.

A long wait for our train

It was another 30 minutes wait before the train pulled up and sent us back to Halogilat and Beaufort stations. On the way back, the local photographer showed us the photos he took for all the rafters for the day but it wasn't impressive, being blur and not in focus. Hence we decided to spare the RM100+.

Totally exhausted, I fell asleep in the train and van. My shoulder was terribly burned by the blazing sun and I could barely sleep on it. On and off, my tanner half leaned on my shoulder and I had to shove him off.  I should have put sunblock on my shoulders :(

After 2-hour train and van ride, the sight of City Park Lodge came into sight. All I needed was a hot shower and clean clothes before we headed out to hunt for dinner. Sad to say, there is virtually nothing to eat except seafood and seafood. We ended up in this Kedai Kopi Kinabalu, ordering these mediocre noodles which earned more criticism than praise.

Wine Noodles 

First of all, the chicken was nothing close to tender. Tough and dry, this is not how chicken breast should be. It showed lack of effort and sense of contentment. Comparatively, mee sua and wine soup were good; the texture of mee sua was smooth and silky, though less flavorful, which went along better with dominating flavor like those in wine soup.

Yee Mee

In contrary, this yee mee had almost nothing to praise about. The use of cabbage was thoughtless, the yee mee was not fresh, the soup was mediocre to the core, and the meat was pitiful. Trust me, even a yee mee lover would never want this bowl of noodle.

Our day ended with a less than satisfactory dinner and more packing as we would be transferring from Kota Kinabalu to Mesilau Nature Resort, which marks the beginning of Mesilau trail to Mount Kinabalu. More adventure awaits but the next coming post will be luxury, my dear readers. Keep your eyes wide open yea :) 


  1. I remember paying RM130/pax or something like that for them to pick us up from home in KK all the way to Beaufort and back. It was about 6 or 7 of us that time. My all time favorite was the merry go round. Confirm capsize one! Anyway, I never trusted those pictures they took for us hence I rather get a cheap waterproof camera... nehhh.... those with film one leh. Haha... it was a great experience in padas river after all... One question, did u get any certificate from them?

    1. Whoa, that was super cheap. Is it Borneo WaveHunters too? We tipped them also apart from RM155. No point getting cameras there because they wouldn't want to take for you, lest the photographer would not get business. Did you get certificate? We didn't.

    2. I'm not sure what is the name but I'm guessing the price would be ard RM150 now. I got certificate during my 1st trip but I paid RM160 for it and took a bus from Sutera Harbour... the 2nd trip no cert cause I think the guy is just like a freelance tour guide and not through any local travel agency :)

    3. The price is much much higher! It was RM200++ if you google various water rafting agencies.

      I contacted the river guide personally, hence it would be cheaper as it did not go through agent. However it was not as cheap as yours.

      No certificate for me :( Anyway, I am not aiming to be a river guide so it shouldn't matter *giggles*

  2. Nice Article! Thanks for sharing with us.

    Camps in Rishikesh


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