I really thought there was nothing interesting to see in Kota Kinabalu….. but I was wrong!! Super wrong!!
Whenever I attempt to book during budget airfare promos,I often notice that Kota Kinabalu would be one of the destinations with the lowest rates. Perhaps the reason was because it was near the country of course. Also, I thought it was too near and I don’t have any idea on what’s there, that’s why I wasn’t interested in visiting. But then, when Frank chanced upon super low fares at AirAsia, we didn’t hesitate to book. I know right now you may be thinking, “Why AirAsia?” Well, despite the crisis they are going through right now, we still opt to fly with AirAsia, as our personal experiences with them have been really good compared with other low cost airlines where you don’t feel comfortable. With AirAsia, you pay less but you never feel “cheap.” And so with this, allow us to share with you our most memorable trip for 2014…. The awe-inspiring and enriching Kota Kinabalu!
Travel time: Only 2 hours from Manila
Currency Exchange Rate: 1RM= 13Php (for pocket money, I usually bring around 100-200USD just to be sure)
OK. Before we forget…. Whenever you go to a place/country for the first time, be sure to grab a map or two at the airport upon arrival. It’s usually FREE and will of course be very helpful especially when going around. We know that to get lost in a strange city is one of the most fulfilling experiences ever, yet still, it pays to be well informed as your safety is top priority.
Take a good long look at the city map and try to find your location as well as the places you plan to visit.
Kota Kinabalu is situated on the tropical island of Borneo, and is the state capital of the Malaysian state Sabah, which is one of the two states of East Malaysia. The location of the city is absolutely amazing and is teeming with natural wonders and marine life. Ideal for both first class budget travelers.
Where to stay:
Well, for this trip, we stayed at the Grandis Hotel. It’s connected to a local mall, making it super convenient if you need to go shopping. This hotel is also strategically located near major tourist spots like the famous Gaya Street where the famous Street Sunday Market takes place. Safe, cozy, clean and spacious. Highly recommended!
WHAT TO DO:
1. Visit the Mari Mari Cultural Village
Before our tour, I totally had no clue on what this place was all about and why our guide Jasthy included this in our itinerary. All along, I thought it was just one of those mandatory boring old places you need to visit. Little did I know that I’d re-discover my roots here.
Mari Mari Cultural Village tour is located deep in the countryside about 25 minutes away from the modern and developing Kota Kinabalu city. It operates as a live museum that preserves Borneo ethnic culture. Their aim is to share the knowledge, history, culture, and tradition of Borneo with everyone so it won’t be forgotten.
The tour offers you the opportunity to see and experience the culture and lifestyle of how the indigenous ethnic groups of Borneo used to live in the olden days when electricity had not yet been introduced in their land. The village features 5 different ethnic tribes in one village namely the rice farmers of Dusun, the longhouse residents of Rungus, the hunters and fishermen of Lundayeh, the cowboys and sea gypsys of Bajau, and the famously feared headhunting tribe Murut.
Believe it or not, our tour guide is half Pinoy ( he doesn’t speak Filipino though, but I remember he said his father’s surname was Dela Cruz)
this live museum showcases how these tribes lived long before electricity was available. Here, you will also get to taste local rice wine and even traditional rice cakes
Here at Mari Mari Cultural Village was where I got to appreciate our Filipino roots all the more, as I realized the many things we have in common. I felt really fortunate to learn all about our Malay roots in this trip. People here in Manila have been too westernized that most of us have forgotten where we really came from.
House of Badjaus (I believe they are also same with our Badjao brothers in Zamboanga Mindanao)
The package also includes a buffet meal at the end of the tour.
2. Experience the Coral Flyer (island to island zipline from Gaya Island to Sapi Island)
One must take a ferry ride from the Marina Sutera Harbour Jetty port to get to Gaya and Sapi Island.
I never thought this place was gonna be this clean and beautiful!!!
the Coral Flyer is a double-span 250m zipline from Gaya Island to Sapi Island and is the longest zipline in Borneo
I wish we had ziplines in Edsa too….. lols
the whole ride was kinda “bitin” for me though coz the view was spectacular! MUST EXPERIENCE!!
3. Meet Nemo in an Exciting Sea Walking Adventure at Sapi Island
After reaching Sapi Island via zipline, we then continued on with our Sea Walking adventure.
while waiting for our turn….
For this experience, we were instructed to remember 3 hand signals…..
this means “OK”
“TAKE ME UP/I QUIT”
It was my first time, so I felt so nervous as I don’t know how to swim… But you see, you don’t need to know how to swim to experience this.
It’s really safe!!
the whole experience was soooooo amazing!!
Frank while feeding the fishes….. having the time of his life…. hihihi
Aside from walking underwater and fish feeding, you will also get to enjoy a mini underwater show where the divers will let you touch certain plants and corals as part of their campaign to spread marine conservation awareness. The highlight of the whole experience was the part where the diver lets you hold a coral with a “Nemo” clown fish in it!! AWESOME!!
4. Experience the Klias Wetland River Cruise to spot Proboscis Monkey
Bringing you closer to the amazing wildlife of Borneo is this river cruise where you can get to see the elusive Proboscis monkey, rare Silver Leaf monkeys, mischievous macaques and a myriad species of birds that inhabit this unique riverine environment. As dusk falls, look out for crocodiles lurking by the riverbanks.
For the Klias Wetland River Cruise experience, I highly recommend you dedicate half a day for this, as getting there (one way) already takes around 2 hrs…
A buffet dinner is also included after the tour
Where to Eat
Whenever visiting another country, remember this… WAG MAG-INARTE!! (don’t be picky/don’t act like an ass! lols)
WAG MAGING KJ sa KK!!!
If you’re not open to the idea of experiencing foreign dishes, then I highly suggest you stay in your room forever!! lols
Seriously, always take the opportunity to experience as many new flavors and experiences as possible! Here in Kota Kinabalu, you can find countless restos and street corner food stalls serving authentic Melakan food!
Here are some must visit eating spots…
1. Explore the Night Market for Melakan eats
When in Kota Kinabalu, always save extra tummy space for Malaysian Street Food. Here’s what we saw during our visit at the night market…
BBQ chicken wings at 5RM each
Enjoy a smorgasbord of the freshest catch either grilled or fried
local donuts…. hihihi
2. Go to Legend Coffee Tea along Gaya Street (across Pizza Hut) to experience Sarawak Style Laksa!
for Laksa and noodle lovers, this place is a sure MUST VISIT!! Don’t forget to pair it with fried chicken wings!
Enjoying Sarawak Laksa just before our flight back to Manila
the popular Sarawak Laksa along Gaya Street,
a look at our bill
3. Try out Malaysian Versions of popular fastfood chains
While walking around the mall connected to our hotel, we just got so curious on how the KFC in Kota Kinabalu tastes like…. and so we just had to try it!
Hmmm their original chicken was a bit bland compared here in Manila. Their bun was just so so, but their mashed potatoes were very good and the gravy was of perfect consistency. Also, we noticed that people kept looking at us while we ate using spoon and fork coz it seemed that locals there eat with their hands in KFC. #awkwardmoment
Frank and I are suckers for milk tea and we’re glad to find really good milk tea here at Yoyo Cafe!
*sigh* like in any epic trip, saying goodbye is always the most difficult….
In only a span of 3 days, I’ve developed an attachment for Kota Kinabalu and a deeper appreciation about my being Filipino. I never thought I’d ever experience this in a foreign land, but I did. I didn’t feel homesick at all and I truly admire how the people here are making efforts in preserving their culture unlike in Manila where we tend to patronize western culture too much. People here know who they are. They take pride in their food and culture. They are not confused with their identity…
There’s truly a lot more to discover here in laid back Kota Kinabalu. More places to see, flavors to experience and more people to meet!
So for your travel itinerary this year, be sure to visit our friendly neighbors in Kota Kinabalu first before traveling farther. It may be near, but guarantee that it will be all worth it!!
If you plan to visit Kota Kinabalu, I highly recommend Jasthy, a veteran tour guide in Malaysia. He’s very friendly, reliable and will offer you the best rates! You’ll learn so much from him like we did! You may contact him at +6019.871.22.89
For the best Kota Kinabalu air fare rates, visit AirAsia.com