Here are some notes and comments regarding our trip to Kota Kinabalu:
We took a round trip flight via Cebu Pacific from NAIA 3 to Kota Kinabalu. They have one flight in the afternoon every M-W-F. Another option would be via Air Asia but you have to take off from the Clark Airport in Pampanga.
From the airport you can take a taxi going to Kinabalu Park for about 150 Ringgit (you have to negotiate). In our case we requested the Lodge to arrange for a pick-up. We paid 250 Ringgit which was OK since there were three of us to share and it was late in the evening.
We used a taxi on our return to the airport and we only paid 150 Ringgits.
Taxi from Kinabalu Park to Mesilau Nature Reserve was 85 Ringgits one way.
Liwagu Suites (Kinabalu Park) - we were upgraded to this lodge from Hill Lodge - is very spacious. Bedroom is located at the Mezzanine. There is a veranda at the back which overlooks some trees (quite birdy early in the morning). There is also a mini-ref, a TV, and daily complimentary coffee and bottled water. Hot water is available. However, our suite (#4) caused a leak in their hot water tank when we took a hot shower at night which flooded the the hallway in front of the suites. When they turned it off, we lost our hot water. Thankfully, they transferred us to Suite#3 which never had a problem with the hot water. Our friend, Ralf Nabong, which was booked in Suite#2, also did not have a hot water problem.
Witti Lodge (Mesilau) - another upgrade for us from our original booking at Crocker Range Lodge. Our lodge comprised of three rooms: one at the lower level (where we stayed) and two more at the second level which were unoccupied. Again, there was a mini-ref and a TV. Complimentary coffee and bottled water were also included. Hot water is also available. But they don't have a phone in the lodge so you can't contact the reception area if you need something. They recommend using your mobile phone but if you're from another country that could be quite costly. They have a porch in front facing a patch of forest.
Hill Lodge (Kinabalu Park) - is very basic. Instead of one king bed, we got two singles. There were no mini-ref or TVs. Hot water is available, so is the complimentary coffee and bottled water. They also have a porch in front which faces the parking lot, but also gives a great view of Mt. Kinabalu.
Inside Kinabalu Park and Mesilau Nature Reserve the food is not too good and quite expensive. The breakfast buffet at both areas (same menu) is the same every single day. Except for the congee, which was lukewarm, everything else is cold, including fried rice, scrambled eggs, chicken sausage, chicken curry, etc. But since it is free, you can't really complain.
Liwagu Restaurant is an ala carte place. Since we only had sandwiches there - which wasn't that good either - I can't really comment on the entrees. They're expensive though.
Another option would be at the restaurant just outside Kinabalu Park. You go down a flight of stairs (quite long), cross the street and there you are. Food here is much better and a lot cheaper. Their lunch menu is very similar to chinese dishes and quite tasty. The average lunch is about 6 Ringgits and coke in a can is only 2 Ringgits. Compare that to a 22 Ringgit hamburger and 8 Ringgit coke in a can at the Liwagu Restaurant.
Getting around the parks:
At Kinabalu Park there is a van (and a very nice driver) that will transport guests from the reception area to any point within the park (the reception area, the lodges/hostels and restaurants are located at some distance from one another). Sadly that is not the case at Mesilau which was even compounded by the fact that the roads within are like roller coaster rides in their undulations.
The courtesy and helpfulness of the staff, both at Kinabalu and Mesilau, more than made up for whatever the lodges lacked in amenities. Despite our problems (lack of hot water, flooding on our first day) the staff did everything they can to make our stay as comfortable as possible.
Our original booking was to spend our last two nights at Mesilau. But because of the strain of walking to and from our lodge to the restaurant/reception area, we decided to return to Kinabalu Park on our last night. Inasmuch as the lodges at both areas are owned by the Sutera Group, the staff at Mesilau coordinated with their counterparts at Kinabalu Park to have us stay at Hill Lodge with the same price as the one we stayed in at Mesilau (which was cheaper than those at Kinabalu).
On our last day, when we were about to board our taxi that will take us to the airport, the entire staff came to see us off. We never had that kind of experience before and we will certainly never forget that.
To the staff (and our new friends) of Sutera Lodges at Kinabalu and Mesilau, we say "Terima kasih".