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The Poring in Poring Hot Springs is in fact the Kadazan word for "Bamboo". Thus, the true English translation of the Malay "Poring Air Panas" should be "Bamboo Hot Springs". However, nobody bothered, hence forth it is known as Poring Hot Springs. Back in the day, oh say, a million years or so ago, Mt. Kinabalu must have been an active volcano. If you've ever been to the summit, you will see the obviousness of this statement there.
Today, Poring Hot Springs is the only evidence left of its former thermal self. During its history, Sabah, or North Borneo as it was previously called, was invaded and occupied by the Japanese. During the Second World War, Prisoners of War were commissioned to harness the previously natural setting at this location and it was turned into Japanese style hot tubs. I am unsure as to whether or not the facilities today are the original structures, but the Japanese style has been retained nevertheless.
As such, the hot tubs are built slightly below the actual source of the hot water. The hot water is piped (as at the source it is hot enough to hard boil eggs) and presented at the tubs along side a cold water tap. Due to reasons of hygene, the tubs are drained after each use, but they are also fairly large and thus sometimes take some time to fill. There are several other sized tubs scattered about nearby, which are not tiled and communal. Hot water flows freely through these and are always at the ready.
There are also two or three indoor tubs for private use. The better of the ones is the Raffelsia, which is quite new, spacious and nice and clean. The other tubs are fairly basic, almost like what you would find at home, but do feature two big tubs side by side. The facilities are also basic, but clean.
The other pools in the part of the facility are cold-water pools. There is a freely accessable rock pool, as well as the paid-access slide pool, which is a series of 4 cascading pools, the upper 3 of which are margined by a water-slide. The water in these pools is fed by a river and thus is constantly replenished. This part of the facility is quite popular amongst tourist and locals alike, especially during weekends and public- and school holidays.
Starting beyond the hot springs towards the mountains, there are two jungle trekking paths. The one path is a short route, estimated to be completed in about 1 hour or so, at the end of which awaits a 10m high waterfall. The second path is a 3 hour return trek, the reward of which is the highest waterfall in this part of the world at over 100m high.
Other attractions include the Buttefly Sanctuary. However, I visited in August 06 and didn't get to see even one buttefly (outside the gate I managed to see a few though). The Butterfly season though, is aparently in March, April, May. Maybe I'll visit then and update this post.
Further along is a canopy walk. The purpose of a canopy walk is to provide an opportunity to hang around in the tree tops and experience the wild life that is found there, which, in theory, is more vivid and vibrant than the wildlife you'd see on the jungle floor. I didn't see any wildlife, but the Canopy Walk at least was a little cool. The entire route, including the Canopy Walk itself, is probably 2 kilometers or so. The actual Canopy Walk itself though, consists of 4 segments each of which are about 20m or so long . There is an observation deck after the first segment, for if you wish to stand around and wait to see something worthwhile.
Recently upgraded, the walk is sturdy and solid. Wooden walkways rest on steel ladders, which in turn are weaved into the netting. The netting creates a wall on either side of the walkway, so it's child-safe as there is no possibility of falling off the walk, even accidentally. Even if you don't see any wildlife, the fact that the walkways are so high up in the trees make this experience worthwhile.
Back near the pools is the Jungle Restaurant. Almost part of the forest, the restaurant is of a standard quite higher than the facilities around it. The decor helps it to blend in and become part of the Jungle. They serve a buffet lunch and ala carte menus the rest of the day. The food is either western or popular local cuisine. They also serve soft drinks and alcohol, which along with the food is comfortably priced.
Before you can reach the hot springs area, you have to of course enter through the gate. If you visit the hot springs after Kinabalu Park, make sure to retain your Kinabalu Park entrance ticket, as then you don't have to pay at Poring Hot Springs.
The facilities at Poring include the ones mention above, plus a multi-purpose hall slash visitor centre, as well as several accommodation options. In partner with Sabah Parks, Sutera Sanctuary Lodges also manages the accommodation and restaurant at Poring Hot Springs. Opposite the visitor's centre, you will find the SSL receiption staffed by friend and good looking staffers. This is also a souvenir shop stocking local trinkets and some essential items including snacks and soft drinks.
Because Poring Hot Springs is a good 3 hour drive from Kota Kinabalu, it might be worth while to spend a night here. Another good reason to do so, is to the see the fire flies along the river, which of course is only possible at night. Recently renovated and completed at the end of August, is the Tempua Lodge. Now suited for only two people, preferably a romantically involved couple, the Lodge is another sexy location. It features an outside balcony area before you enter the front door with seating for two.
In the door is the living room with cable (Astro) Tv and a small pantry with coffee making facilities and a sink. Overlooking the edge of the jungle is another balcony leading out of the living room. Adjoining the living room is the large bedroom featuring a king sized double bed. The trimmings are all bamboo from the roof down to the wall. White linen is rounded off by green throw pillows. The bedroom is airconditioned. En-suite is the green marble bathroom with twin-sinks and an mirror that runs the lenght of the wall. The show is big and spacious located next to the loo. Outside, and sunken below the eyes of anyone who might to sneak a peek hidden a little court yard of sorts, is a bathtub with a rain shower. You imagination is the limit.
The only down side about this Lodge is that it's in a busy part of the resort, located near the entrance to the hot springs. That will make it difficult to enjoy the peace and quiet until early afternoon when the day-trippers go home. The evenings will leave plenty of serenity to enjoy though, and privacy will be in abundance.
Other accommodations include the 75-bed hostel, featuring basic, but clean and comfortable bunk beds in rooms with 4 or 6 beds. The Engang Lodge is currently closed for renovations and is expected to reopen at the end of October 06. On the slope of one of the hills that runs out of the resort is the Rajawali Lodges. Two units perched side-by side feature 4 bedrooms capable of sleeping 6 persons. It's airconditioned with living room, dining room and cable (Astro) TV. Prices of the accommodation range from RM46 per person per night for the hostel at the lowest end, up to RM 380 per unit for the Rajawali Lodges. The Tempua Lodge is also RM 300 something for two people and is the only accommodation that includes breakfast, which is served at the Lodge itself.
It is also possible to pitch a tent on what is otherwise used at the football field. During the school holidays, the campsite is abuzz with school groups making use of the facilities. It is not that common to see foreign tourist do the same though, as many don't travel with tents. The opportunity, however, is there.
Fronting the gate to Poring Hot Springs is a row of shops displaying local handicraft and selling local fruit. During the relevant season, it's a good place to find and try Durian, the extremely popular local fruit. As popular as it is amongst locals, as shunned it is by foreigners. A smell and taste to behold.
Along the road from Ranau to Poring Hot Springs live many local Kadazan who work various blue collar jobs, including the sprawling paddy fields. These people are very modest, humble and indeed very friendly. If you are the adventurous type who love to meet interesting people, feel free to stop or ask your guide to introduce you to somebody. Unofficially, these people would love to meet you and share their lives with you. Gifts of fruit, veggies and other relevant items are always talked about for weeks after.
http://www.sabahparks.org.my/ - the government body that overseas Sabah's natural heritage;
http://www.suterasanctuarylodges.com.my/ - book accommodations directly, they are not a tour operator.