Live the Magic of Authentic Sabah
– The Mesilau Trip, 20 to 21 March 2005
-- An Account by Alicia Wong, ATM-B, VPPR, Brunei Speakers Club
“Goodbye and thank you all for coming!”
With that, the Division K 9th Annual Convention was officially over. Or was it? Not so for a group of delegates and their families!
Sunday, 20 March 2005: 20 members of The Kota Kinabalu Toastmasters Club (KKTMC) and The Brunei Speakers’ Club (BSC) and their families took off in their 4WDs. The group comprised Division K Governor Richard A. Gontusan, DTM; Area K1 Governor Yee That Hian, ATM-S; President John Liew, ATM-B and his wife, Mary, and two children, Sean and Shannon; Vice President Education Ronald Tang, Andrew Thien, ATM-G and son, Nixon; Sylvia Marten, ATM-B; Agnes Yapp, CTM; Jeremy Pinso, CTM; TM Dora Danny and Karen Kua, CTM from KKTMC; with VPE Ridwan Siddiq, CTM and his wife, Yanti, and son, Lukman; Geoff Andrew, DTM; TM Lim Yeong Koan and I, Alicia Wong, ATM-B from BSC.
Our destination: Mount Kinabalu. Our goal: fun, fellowship and laughter.
Organised by Agnes, the first stop on our itinerary was for food. We had a simple lunch before setting off from Kota Kinabalu. Two stops and two hours later, we finally arrived at Mesilau Nature Resort. After the stale air-conditioned air of the car, it was a relief to tumble out from the car and to breathe in the crisp, fresh air. Nestled at the foot of Mt. Kinabalu, at 2,000 meters above sea level, Mesilau Nature Resort was a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Promenade Hotel, where the convention was held. It was calm and quiet, and only the buzz of insects and the occasional hooting of birds could be heard.
After checking-in, we lugged our bags from the car to our lodges, the Witti Range. It was a short, covered path, but it seemed like a never-ending trek uphill to the lodge. The day’s travel was taking its toll. We split up into our assigned lodges and rested ourselves.
At 7pm, we all met up again for dinner. The simple buffet was beautifully served in traditional Sabahan baskets and crockery. After a leisurely dinner, we did what fourteen Toastmasters would do when they get together – we had a Toastmasters meeting! John was our Toastmaster of the Evening, and he was supported by a team comprising Jeremy, Sylvia, Ridwan, Yee, Agnes, Richard and me. We had speeches by Richard, Ronald and Geoff. However, the star of the evening was surely Dora, who delivered her tenth speech that night to achieve her Competent Toastmaster Award (CTM).
You would think that once the meeting was over, we would have all returned to our lodges for a good night’s rest. It was not to be so, as we decided to play Pictionary. With the exception of Jeremy and Richard, no one had played this game before, so we eagerly gathered around the board as Jeremy explained the game. We split up into three teams: Agnes, Jeremy, Richard and Ronald were in one team and Sylvia, Geoff and Yee were in another while John, Lukman, Koan and I made up the final team. Dora and Karen were appointed judges.
Hilarious pictures were drawn as people tried to guess words such as kerb, steer, picnic basket, champagne, fireplace, oil painting and millionaire. The game tested our creativity and brought out little known sides to everyone. John was a gifted player. Yee took his game very seriously. Sylvia was loyal. At the end of the first game, when Ronald suggested that we change team members, Sylvia glared at him indignantly and shouted, “Never! We shall sink or swim together!” Her team sank.
It was a good thing that we were in an isolated lodge as everyone was screaming and shouting with laughter. We finally threw in our pencils at 2.30am – mainly because the lack of sleep was causing some people to draw some very strange pictures. But the one lesson everyone drew away from the game was: the more advanced a speaker you were, the less you could draw.
Monday, 21 March 2005: Although it was announced that breakfast would be served at 8.00am, no one turned up until half an hour later. Many had to be dragged from their beds. But it was a beautiful morning, clear and cool. The Siddiqs took their breakfast outdoor, sunning themselves in the warm sunshine.
After breakfast, we took group photos with the mountain peaks hovering over us. Someone mentioned that there was a new trail up the peak of Kinabalu, which started from Mesilau. Apparently, that was news to Geoff. He looked up the mountain with so much longing that we were afraid that he might start scaling it straightaway.
The next part of our trip was eagerly led by Nixon Thien, who announced, “Who wants to go swimming? Follow me!” It turned out that Andrew had brought Nixon to the Poring Hot Springs before and he evidently remembered it! The child’s enthusiasm spoke volumes for the place.
We loaded our bags into the 4WDs and drove down the other side of the mountain. The drive was short, only about an hour, but the difference in weather was contrasting. Mesilau was cool and pleasant, while Poring was hot and humid. Dora and Karen were seen to be slathering on sun-block as we entered the park.
All of us, with the exception of Karen and Agnes, who had done it before, decided to brave the canopy walk. It was a half hour trek uphill, and when we finally arrived at the platform, many of us were gasping for breath. Little Nixon theatrically fainted and flung himself onto Koan’s lap, much to our amusement. The canopy walk was suspended about 60 meters from the ground. Sadly, I am unable to describe the surroundings as I kept my eyes firmly in front of me. After the canopy walk, the walk downhill was a breeze. We took a welcome lunch break and split into two groups after: one went bathing in the pools while another group went to the waterfall. Poring’s waters were rich in sulphur, which were renowned for their skin-curative properties. The hot spring waters were piped into several open-air Japanese-style baths.
When we got back together, we all enjoyed refreshing coconuts before taking off to see the next attraction: Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower. We were at the right place, at the right time, as we were told that the Rafflesia blooms for only four days. The flower that we saw measured 600mm across and was carefully protected by the locals. It was indeed a sight worth seeing.
Our trip was coming to a close. On our way down the mountain, we stopped by Kundasang. We bought tiny bananas, crispy love letters and sweet langsat to sustain us on our journey down. We also ended up buying souvenir T-shirts, caps and bracelets to remind us of our holiday atop Mt. Kinabalu. Halfway down, it started raining, but that did not dampen our good mood.
It was still drizzling as we came to our last stop for the evening, Kg. Salut Seafood Restaurant. Situated by a river, the restaurant on stilts was the perfect place to end our journey. Conversation was kept to a minimum as we tucked into the sumptuous food. There were succulent prawns, spicy crab, fresh vegetables and warming soup. In the background, a flock of white storks flew overhead to roost on the trees. An otter swimming across the river caused a mild commotion when we thought it was a crocodile. We hung around for a while, long after the tables were cleared. Much as we hated to admit it, the trip was well and truly over. Goodbyes, hugs and handshakes were exchanged as well as promises to visit each other. As Ridwan said, those who couldn’t make it really missed out on a memorable trip.
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