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Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Is Mount Kinabalu the Highest Mountain in South East Asia?

Mt Kinabalu (by Oscark for Wikipedia)
In 2004, I got the opportunity to travel Sabah (in Borneo) for the first time and part of the trip was to hike Mt Kinabalu. Prior to my incomplete ascent of the mountain, the guide stated the fact Mt Kinabalu is the highest mountain in South East Asia. My dad said to the guide that I disagreed the fact. So the guide changed bit of his mind, said for in terms of accessibility in SE Asia, it would be highest

For Malaysians, in our geography textbook states that Mt Kinabalu is the highest mountain in South East Asia and its height is 4101 metres. IT was taken as a fact but soon, some of us argue that statement is false and others insist the fact Mt Kinabalu is the highest in South East Asia. Let's dissect this statement into two categories:
Mt Kinabalu
The highest Mountain in South East Asia
It's height is 4101 metres

In 1997, using satellite technology, Mt Kinabalu lost 6 metres on its height (revised height is 4095.2 metres). This is nearly the same height of Mount Cameroon (subject to change), the highest mountain in Cameroon. Unfortunately, the old height figure got crossed over to the revised Geography Syllabus of 2003.


That leaves the first statement in dispute. I decide to poll my friends view on this matter. 23 people participated. The question posed: 'Is Mt Kinabalu the Highest Mountain in South East Asia?' The responses as below:

Survey Results:
Yes: 35%
No: 61%
I don't know: 4%

I am going to argue for reasons of Yes and No for the question


Those who argue on this premise may believing in what Malaysian Geography Syllabus stated long time ago. Some may said yes based on their research on websites.
Argument 1
The whole issue of this dispute stems from the fact what defines South East Asia. To nominate Mt Kinabalu as the highest peak in SE Asia, Burma and New Guinea should be defined outside of SE Asia. Burma used to be part of British India, so it should be included to South Asia category. New Guinea is claimed to be the largest island in Oceania. In Burma, there is Hkakabo Razi (5881 m) and Indonesian Side of New Guinea have four to five mountains higher than Mt Kinabalu. By kicking out Burma and New Guinea, your claim is correct.

Argument 2
Some of you argue, Burma is part of SE Asia and New Guinea (including Papua, formerly Irian Jaya) is part of Oceania. On that premise, you argue that Hkakabo Razi is part of Himalayas and it is very close or on the borders with China/India. Since it is part of Himalayas and bordering on other countries, Hkakabo Razi cannot be claimed to be highest. In short, its claim is disputed. You may point that language family group of people residing around the mountains is more related to China, than to South-East Asia.


Over the years, some of us fell love in geography or did some further research. What they found disproved the fact Mt Kinabalu is the highest mountain in SE Asia
Argument 1
South East Asia is defined from Myanmar (Burma) to Indonesia (Papua Region). ASEAN includes Burma and because of this, Hkakabo Razi is the highest mountain South East Asia. United Nations for statistical reasons put Myanmar in South East Asia, not in South Asia. In Papua alone, there are four to five mountains exceeding 4100 metres. Puncak Jaya (4884 m - not the old figure of 5030 m) is the highest peak in Papua, the highest  island mountain in the world and the highest mountain between Himalayas and Andes. Definitely, these two peaks are much higher than Mt Kinabalu

On this premise, Mt Kinabalu can get the consolation prize for being the highest mountain between Himalayas and New Guinea or the Malay Archipelago (excluding New Guinea).

Argument 2
This argument is subset of the first argument. Assuming Google Maps border is correct, I found that Hkakabo Razi lies wholly within Burma (it is close to the border with China). Even if it shares the border with China, it wouldn't matter. For example, Mt Everest is the highest mountain for both China and Nepal. On that premise, Hkakabo Razi rightfully claim the title of the highest mountain South East Asia

Concluding Remarks

In my opinion, I would say no to the fact Mt Kinabalu is the highest mountain in South East Asia (even the official Mt Kinabalu park website would say that). I am basing my stance with above arguments.

However, I am not implying the fact those who said Yes were duped or lied or totally wrong. It goes back to the question, 'Where are the borders of  South East Asia?'. Does a mountain shared by two countries could claim be part of SE Asia?

I leave it to you guys to decide on this matter.

P.S. I would like to credit UN, Wikipedia, Other blogs, other websites for building these arguments.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

North-South Expressway Highway Map

View Larger Map

After one month plus working on gathering and organizing the data, finally, it is done. PLUS FM/ HIS (+) contains around 810 geographical features and facilities along the North South Highway (Malaysia).
Abbreviation explained:
PLUS FM- PLUS is the common name for the highway and FM stands for Facility (or Feature Map)
HIS (+)- Highway Information System (PLUS)

Both maps (inc. link below) are two takes on the geographical data that I have collected over the years on field and online research. Facilities/ Features shown are:

  1. SOS (Emergency telephones)- not publicly available online
  2. Rest Areas
  3. Laybys
  4. Motorcycle Sheds- not publicly available online
  5. Points of Interest
  6. Interchanges
  7. Tolls
  8. Named River Crossings- mostly not publicly available online

A link to another take on this map:,513126.407464766,11261574.7459163,520428.345582528

Important Notes on the Map

Producer: Danesh Prakash Chacko (April-May 2013)

Source: Personal Field Collection/ GPS Collection, Panoramio, Wikipedia, PLUS (official website) Google Maps, Google Earth, Bing Maps, Foursquare.

Accuracy: Refer to accuracy statement found in each feature found in the map. Where it is left blank, it should be assumed as point positioned at 1 km viewing altitude in Google Earth or Navman GPS accuracy level (for SOS).Use the positional accuracy as a guide only, not for in-depth accurate mapping studies.

Currency: The map data as current of November 2012 (for rest areas and laybys, refer to date currency of PLUS website). However, the producer asks the users to use discretion when using the map and validate themselves on the highway.

Disclaimer: The producer has done his best to collect the information with relevant positional and attribute accuracy. His personal notes have been cross-referenced with other sources such as Panoramio and vice-versa. However, the producer disclaims himself for any mishaps or intentional/unintentional misuse of the data as a result using the map. Producer have omitted some of the data to preserve the general integrity of the data accuracy. In future, more data will be added to complete the map

Acknowledgement: I, the producer, would like to acknowledge fully all the online references (stated above) which were used for the completion of the project. I hereby ask all users to quote all the references mentioned above (or in the map) when the data is being utilized elsewhere. This is in spirit of recognition of other unknown contributors and respecting copyrights.



1) What is a viewing altitude mentioned in accuracy section?
Viewing altitude of Google Earth

You will encounter a statement saying called 'Google Earth 1.5 km viewing altitude'. The position of the facilities such as Fuel Stations were placemarked by me at 1.5 km (e.g.) height at Google Earth. The above image shows a red circle referring to viewing altitude. If I ever bring this across to an online Google Map/Earth, you can zoom in to this facility with great accuracy until hits 1.5 km viewing altitude

2) I find some of the information sections left empty for facilities. Why is this so?
For attributes (the description of the facilities), it means either this facility do not have particular attribute (laybys that do not sell fruits, so when you click the pin, fruit section is empty) or the accuracy statement was mysteriously have not been added. Over time, I may add the accuracy statement that were missing for selected facility categories (i.e. Emergency Telephones)

3) What do you mean 'digitized at 1:20000 in ArcGIS'?
Let's take an example- River Crossings. Most of the river crossings were place marked in Google Earth. They were subsequently imported to ArcGIS (mapping software). Over time, I realized that I missed two or three river crossings. To save time, I manually added them to the nearest .000 degrees (for latitude or longitude) in ArcGIS map at the scale of 1:20 000.

4) I noticed in reality, emergency telephones are not exactly correspond to the highway chainages listed in the map. Is there an error in your map?
Most of the emergency telephones I listed in the map have some highway chainage. For example, there is an SOS on Sungai Buloh exit ramp and its highway chainage is KM 453.9. In reality, the highway chainage listed is the one closest to this SOS. It doesn't mean this SOS is at KM 453.9. At rare instances, both the chainage and SOS location would correspond.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Fusing Your Passion with Maps

Today, I would like to present or promote another website. We hardly see people relating mapping with other passions they have. More so, from a sporting perspective. I have a contact, who was the Managing Cartographer of the World's Largest Atlas, The Earth. Now he works for ESRI in America which is one of global leaders and pioneers of the GIS industry. I know he is passionate in making maps and reading his website, equally passionate on Tennis. This blog I presenting shows the linkage of his passion in mapping science and Tennis.

-Unknown to much of the world, GPS and GIS is and could be used as powerful tools for Sporting events-

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Free GIS Dataset site

While I am still working on Online Map of North-South Highway Facilities, I decided to present you a link that is an interest for all map-makers. We all need digital data, but they are not free. Below here is the link that can give you a heads-up for any of your project:

If possible, do help out the person in charge of website to provide other potential free GIS data depots online or other means of helping too. I use the site on and off to get datasets for paper-map production.

You might note that Malaysia is not listed. I would like to take the opportunity that if you want to take my data from maps, You are allowed for non-commercial purposes/educational/personal/non-profit/presentation purposes. This is to be fair. This means you can attribute the source of data to my blog address.