Wednesday, 15 May 2013

White Water Rafting at Padas River

“Morning Sir. This is the third wake up call” said the courteous voice over the other line. I looked at my watch and it was 4.45am. I have been ignoring the first two calls as I was quite tired, having slept quite late the night before. “Ok. I’m on my way down now” I said with a coarse, sleepy voice. The Media team (me included) was supposed to gather at the lobby of Hotel Promenade Kota Kinabalu, Sabah at 5.00am for our Padas River White Water Rafting event (5.00am? Oh no!).

We were soon in the bus heading towards Beaufort. It was still dark outside so some of us continue with their sleep while I chose to eat the packed breakfast prepared by the hotel which consists of a bun, an apple, an orange and a bottle of drinking water. We reached Beaufort Railway Station in less than two hours and were later told that the train that was scheduled to depart from the station at 7.32am will be 30 minutes late. That’s great because I have time to explore some part of the old Beaufort town.

The 'old n rustic' charm of Beaufort town (Photo credit: Ridhwan Baihaki)
I headed to a cluster of two storey wooden shophouses and saw a shop with a signage that says ‘Restoran Idaman 1’ (I wonder where Restoran Idaman 2 is). I figured that I need some extra carbo besides the meagre breakfast I had on the bus so I was looking forward to a set of roti bakar (toasted bread) or a plate of nasi lemak. Well, I was indeed lucky I walked into the old restaurant because right there on every table were plates of packed nasi lemak in banana leaf, ready to be eaten by a hungry wolf like me. I ordered a glass of hot tea and a short while later, a lady came with the tea and a small bowl of soup. I told the lady that I didn’t order the soup but she said it comes with the nasi lemak. This was the first time I ate nasi lemak with soup. I later learned that the locals here take soup with whatever rice meals they have. “It helps you to digest the food better” said Haji Yusuf, the owner of the restaurant. I bade ‘salam’ to Haji Yusuf after paying for the meal and headed back to the Railway Station, about 300 metres away.

The camera-shy Haji Yusuf, owner of Restoran Idaman 1.

The old restaurant seems to have a steady stream of regular customers 
(Photo credit: Ridhwan Baihaki)
The train to Tenom (the last station) took off at exactly 8.00am. It was an old diesel powered locomotive with four coaches-two passenger coaches and two cargo coaches. The train was packed and I was forced to stand in the cargo coach which I shared with a local family of three and their ‘baggage’ which, among other things, includes two bags of rice, a cooking gas cylinder and two live chickens! There, I befriended a middle-aged Russian couple, a thirty-something German couple and four Swedish teenagers who were also in the same cargo coach. The one and a half hour journey was nowhere near to comfort but none of the passengers seemed to be complaining. I was told that for most of the kampungs (villages) along the railroad, the train is the only means of transport to and from the towns, so it was common to see passengers getting off the train right in front of their houses. The train took us through several villages and secondary forests and after the third station, it was alongside the menacing-looking Padas River all the way until we reached Pangi station, where we disembarked from the train.

None of the passengers in the cargo coach seem to be complaining.
More than half of the train passengers turned out to be participants of the Padas River white water rafting. A group of about a dozen Koreans and few more from Lebanon, China, India and Singapore made up the rest of the numbers. We were divided into a few groups. My group and three others were briefed by a young instructor by the name of Ash. We were taught of the techniques, safety measures and the do’s and dont’s. Ash explained that the Padas River is Malaysia’s most popular water rafting destination and is one of the most challenging water rafting circuit in South East Asia. The difficulty level is class 3 and 4 and sometimes can go up to class 5 during the rainy season.

World class paddlers in action?
Soon after, all of us, complete with the water rafting gear, were seen paddling into the middle of the brownish river in seven inflatable rafts. We went through seven rapids with funny names. They are Merry Go Round, Head Hunter, Scooby Doo, Washing Machine, Cobra, Curve and Lambada, and some of them are really very fierce and nasty. The exhilaration started the moment we touched the water. Splashing water, controlled paddling and unexpected drops and turns are all packed in the adventurous 70 minutes Padas River raft ride experience.

A young beverage seller at a house near Rayoh station.
The 9km rafting journey ended at Rayoh station, where we had a shower, changed to fresh clothes and a good lunch before the next train to Beaufort picked us up about 2 hours later. We endured another one and a half hour back breaking train journey and, by the time we boarded our air-conditioned bus at the Beaufort station, the feeling was like ‘stepping into a super-luxury coach’, if you understand what I mean. Well, what happened in the bus during the one hour journey to our next destination was very hard to describe…. simply because I was fast and sound asleep, and I guess so was everyone else in the bus! LOL! Anyway, the Padas River white water rafting experience was simply ‘undescribable’, if there is such a word. So, if you are into water adventure but you haven’t been to Padas River, you haven’t really seen it yet.

For more information on tourism activities in Sabah, please visit:

1 comment:

  1. River rafting is the rarest and most wonderful outdoor experience I ever had. It was great passing through the rapids of grand canyon rafting that I can feel the swell of rushing adrenaline inside me. It was definitely great!


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