Return to Sabah — Kundasang, Part 5: Mesilau

During one of our days at Kundasang, we visited the village of Mesilau, which is about 5 to 10km northeast of Kundasang, depending on which part you go to. The heart of Mesilau is a delightful assortment of homestays.

Travellers often stay in a homestay at Mesilau for a few days or a week. They would order food, mainly vegetables, that are delivered to them from Kundasang, and they can cook in the homestay kitchen. The Desa Dairy and Cattle Farm are also located in this area.

Our interest, however, was none of these. It was instead a parking lot located nearby Mesilau. Baby Tilapia found this odd parking lot on Google Maps, and wanted to go take a look and see why there was a strange parking lot seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Baby Tilapia spends a lot of time looking at Google Maps, and this is how we often find interesting places that most people don’t go to, or even know about.

Getting to this parking lot involves driving through the Mount Kinabalu Golf Club. There are luxurious homestays and lodges located in this golf club, which is for members only. Halfway through the golf club, there is a side road that leads to the parking lot, and a temple, which was temporarily closed on the day we went, so we didn’t visit it. In fact, we didn’t even know there was a temple there until much later. The temple is obscured by a cloud on Google Maps.

The side road took us beside a fast-flowing river, which we later discovered to be the Mesilau East River. There are two rivers, the Mesilau West and Mesilau East, that flows to the village of Mesilau. The East River which we drove beside, forms a deep ravine, and the road that we drive on is fairly steep, with gradients as steep as 25% in some places. Fortunately the car we are driving has a powerful engine, and we easily make the grade.

If you have a GoPro, this video would be much nicer.

Driving over some parts of the river is fascinating. We get to see huge boulders on the river bank, caused by some landslide in the past. We eventually reach the mysterious parking lot, and we found that it belongs to the currently closed Mesilau Nature Resort. Mountain climbers used to stay at this resort before climbing up Mount Kinabalu via the second trail that reaches the summit.

Called the Mesilau Trail, it joins up with the trail coming from the Kinabalu National Park Headquarters at around the Layang-Layang Shelter area. However, this trail was closed after the 2015 Sabah earthquake that took 18 lives, 10 of which were Singaporean teachers and students from Tanjong Katong Primary School on a climbing trip.

In 2017, there was a landslide here, which authorities said was part of the stabilisation process from the 2015 earthquake. The landslide dumped soil and massive boulders into the river. The nature resort has been closed since then, and a ranger told us that we couldn’t proceed any further.

Photos don’t do it justice, so here’s a video of the Mesilau East River ravine.

We parked the car to take some photos of the ravine. As we walked about, trying to find good spots to take photos, we could feel under our feet that the soil wasn’t compact, and was in fact quite loose. It will probably be a few more years before the authorities feel safe to reopen this trail.

Having said that, because this trail is not open, there are only a few visitors to this part of Mesilau. We were able to take many photos and enjoy the low clouds (or is it that we were high?). We also stumbled upon some wild strawberries.

Some past visitor probably threw some strawberries here.

Not passable by car, but by pedestrian.

Farm visit

It was starting to drizzle and as we didn’t want to get wet and cold, we headed back to the car to continue our exploration of the area. We followed the road which was quite poor condition at some points. Despite the potholes, the roads were still tarmac, and we drove along them until there was no more tarmac road to drive on.

Cabbage field

You definitely won’t go hungry here.

The view is amazing! Imagine living here…

The road had led us to the northeastern part of Mesilau, where the vegetable farms were. There are many farmers here, some of whom were clearly stateless or illegal. But here, no one bothers them, and they are able to make an honest living for themselves and their families. We saw fields of cabbage being grown, and one group of farmers told us that the six of them have to harvest and pack 3 tonnes (that’s 3,000kg) of cabbages every day.

A group of six farmers have to harvest 3 tonnes of cabbages daily.

The harvested vegetables are loaded onto pick-up trucks and driven down to town where they are sold at wholesale prices at the Kundasang Market. Buyers come from all over Sabah, and even as far as Brunei and Sarawak, to purchase these fresh vegetables.

It is thanks (or no thanks?) to these farms that have caused the temperature of the surrounding area, including Kundasang, to rise over the years. Locals in Kundasang say that in the past, they used to have to wear 3 layers of clothing at night, but now they can wear just one t-shirt.

It is estimated that in the 1990s, the daily average temperature used to be about 10 to 18 degrees, whereas nowadays, the temperature ranges from 18 degrees at night to 30 degrees in the day time.

Tiny houses, or tiny homestays.

Imagine it’s night, cold, windy, and you need to use the toilet… which is outside.

Back at Kundasang, we have a late lunch at a highly rated roadside stall called Ngiu Chap Kinabalu Restaurant which is 100% Muslim owned. All food sold by Muslim-owned businesses are halal. The theory here is that it is the responsibility of the Muslim business owner to ensure that the food is prepared and served according to Muslim law, and if they fail to do so, it is not the customer, but the Muslim business owner that will face judgement from Allah.

To us, it doesn’t matter, as we are not Muslim. This beef noodles we ate at this restaurant is quite delicious, but the price is rather high at about RM15 per bowl. The price told us that this restaurant targets tourists, not locals. The main attraction of this restaurant is actually the view it has of Mount Kinabalu and the surrounding areas.

Beef noodles

Nice view… if you haven’t seen other views in Kundasang

It’s not bad lah.

Maybe if it wasn’t so cloudy today.

If we were normal travellers, we would be impressed by the view. However, having just come from Mesilau where we feasted on amazing views, we were unimpressed. If you take the time to explore Kundasang properly, you can find much better views.

We stayed in Kundasang until it was time to move on.

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