Traveling doesn’t always have to be expensive. One of the joys of backpacking is to find everything as budget-friendly as possible.

My initial plan was to visit Brunei this year. It’s the last ASEAN country that I haven’t seen. When I found out that it’s near Kota Kinabalu, I decided to include Kota in my itinerary. The first thing that seduced me of Kota was the mountain. According to Wikipedia, it is the highest peak in Southeast asia. Being an inexperienced climber, the thought of reaching the summit pushed me to book my Airasia flight to Kota Kinabalu. My only hesitation was that most of the climb packages were too expensive…that was UNTIL I read about Juncle Jack.

Jungle Jack's We-Are-Out sign

Jungle Jack’s We-Are-Out sign

“Now everyone can climb Mt. Kinabalu with Jungle Jack!”

This place is managed and kept by the owner himself, Uncle Jack. He was a chef master in a number of Hilton hotels; an avid fan of country music; and has three dogs and five puppies. You can ask more about him when you meet him in person. I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to answer you.

Uncle Jack and his Jungle Jack

Uncle Jack and his Jungle Jack

What gives this place its uniqueness is the homey feeling and the jungle ambiance. If you’re looking for a fancy hotel with chandeliers, receptionist and a lobby, then this place is not for you, but I assure you that you’ll easily develop a covalent bond to the people staying there. I met new friends from US, Holland, Japan, Britain and Spain.

Clare, me, Yoshi and David posing after the reaching the summit.

Clare, me, Yoshi and David posing after the reaching the summit.

The moment you step in, you’ll be welcomed by the playful dogs Rice Wine, Husky and the mama dog (I can’t remember her name) who just gave birth to 5 puppies. When I reached the place, nobody was there. The rooms were closed except the kitchen 😉 — which was good enough for me! I was engulfed (literally!) by the fog. I got excited that I quickly grabbed my camera and started taking photos of the surroundings! It felt so surreal, mysterious and magical: the cars and trucks passing by, the bridge that seems to fade away in the fog.


Jungle Jack Kitchen

Jungle Jack’s Kitchen

How Much?

I spent RM580.00  (just an update, I heard the climb cost has increased to RM650.00) for a 4-day, 3-night stay in Jungle Jack and Mt. Kinabalu. Before, the management of the park used to allow a 1-day climb to the peak, but for safety reasons, they decided to keep it to 2 days (minimum!). My itinerary was:
Day 1 – Arrive in Jungle Jack
Day 2 – go to Kinabalu park and start the climb to Laban Rata where I slept in Lamaing Hostel
Day 3 – 2AM continue the climb to the summit (Low’s Peak). Descend back to the park and drive back to Jungle Jack
Day 4 – Go back to Kota Kinabalu City

Laban Rata's beds

Laban Rata’s beds

This cost already includes the food and accommodation. It’s a real bargain because most of the packages that I’ve seen from the internet is typically priced from RM900.00! This cost is applicable only to foreigners, Malaysians get a cheaper rate.

The beds are clean and are housed in a container. There is hot shower (this is a must!!), clean toilets, kitchen (where you can prepare your own breakfast, coffee, sandwich, etc), and a patio. For all the digital nomads don’t fret, there’s also internet connection!

Jungle Jack's bedroom in a cargo container

Jungle Jack’s bedroom in a cargo container

What You Need to Prepare

Just be yourself! Uncle Jack will take care of everything. If you didn’t bring clothes for the cold climate, uncle Jack can lend you. If you need the trekking stick (is that what it’s called?), he can provide you as well. If you need a beanie, a pair of gloves, socks, jacket, etc…uncle Jack has them all! As long as you’re not a fashion-conscious backpacker, then the clothes will fit you right. He also sells the cheapest bottled water in the city. A 1.5L that typically costs RM2.00 is sold there for only RM1.00.

Mt. Kinabalu Trail

Mt. Kinabalu Trail

How To Go There

First things first, you need to inform Uncle Jack the dates that you intend to climb the mountain. Go to his Facebook page and send him a message (Jungle Jack Facebook Page) OR you can give him a call through this number +60-109477509.

He has to check with the management of the park if there’s an available slot on the day that you want to climb.

Jungle Jack's Patio

Jungle Jack’s Patio

If you’re coming from Kota Kinabalu airport, follow these directions:
1. Take the airport bus/shuttle and ask the driver to drop you at Merdeka Field. This is the last of the three bus stops. – RM5.00
2. Take the van/mini-bus to Ranau. You can ask around Merdeka field where these vans are.
3. Ask the driver to bring you to Jungle Jack backpacker – RM25.00

Kota Kinabalu Airport Bus

Kota Kinabalu Airport Bus

Merdeka Field bus stop in Kota Kinabalu city

Merdeka Field bus stop in Kota Kinabalu city

Enjoy the climb! Please send my regards to Uncle Jack. I’m Aldrin by the way. If he can’t remember me, tell him he’s that guy who works in Singapore but is from the Philippines. 🙂

If you want to know how it feels climbing the peak of the mountain, read here: Day 2 Climb: The Cold Peak of Mt. Kinabalu

Sunset Mt. Kinabalu