At kuala Lumpur airport we got a flight to Kota Kinabalu. From the airport, there are public buses (5RM) to town. Kota Kinabalu or simply called KK is the capital of Sabah, located in the Island of Borneo on the west coast.
Borneo is all about its green lush rainforests, wild jungles, wild animals, high mountains and countless caves, but for me, Sabah was mostly about its paradisiac beaches, small towns, villages, markets and the food. We missed intentionally all the sanctuaries, jungle trails and natural reserves because we did it all in the other part of Borneo – Sarawak. Sarawak is less touristic, unspoiled and cheaper for those kind of activities.
We arrived at night and I got instantly impressed with all the night markets, lights, smells and busy vibe. During the day-time KK is still picturesque (not as much as Kuching), but still has its own beauty. The best way to know KK is by foot, so walk around and allow you to lose yourself in the city.
I really love markets and KK doesn’t disappoint, at least in number 🙂 The Central Market – ‘Pasar Besar‘ – its a great place to explore KK’s culture, it has countless vegetables and fruit stalls and an area that sells homemade delicacies and even fresh tabaco. Markets are the life and blood of a city, so they are always a nice place to go if you want to feel the local culture. Sellers aren’t pushy at all so you can just wonder around seeing all the different stalls. Behind this one, they have a Fish Market the ‘Pasar Ikan’. Nearby there’s the Pasar Filipino, that is basically a Salted Fish Market, and a small Fruit and vegetables Market.
Just because I’m already talking about markets, why not to carry on?! 🙂
The Gaya Street Market opens on Sunday mornings and finishes by 1p.m. is full of souvenirs, crafts, trinkets, clothings and lots of live animals for sale what is very upsetting. Its bustling crowded so the key is to get there early, but don’t expect anything extraordinary. The food and natural medicine products are interesting but that’s about it.
The Handicraft Market has a few workers seating outside sewing, inside all the stalls are selling the same, so nothing special.
The night market, sets up at around 5 pm or so and is located beside the handicraft Market and beneath Le Méridien hotel, and it has two main sections – one where they sell fresh ingredients, and another where you can eat. The food stalls are more focused on seafood than anything else. Obviously, we don’t eat seafood but we eat seaweed 🙂 They’re not like the dried ones I’m used to buy at the supermarket these have a soft and succulent texture and are called sea grapes, sea caviar or Latok. Despite the seaweed that I found extremely ‘exotic’ they have other plant-based dishes and delicious treats like fresh fruit and juice, fried bananas, pancakes filled with peanut butter and sweet donuts.
KK Waterfront, it’s a very sophisticated part of KK and nice for a walk to the mall’s ocean front mostly during sunset, where boats are docked for the night. Tanjung Aru Beach, it’s a great place to walk along the beach and to observe the sunset too, (bus from of City Hall or Wawasan Plaza (4RM))
The City Mosque, is picturesque on the outside, again mostly during the sunset but sometimes they don’t allow non religious people in, but that’s fine because there’s nothing much to see there. Just admire the building and the beautiful lake around it, sometimes looks like the mosque is floating on water. If you are at KK for a short period, give this one a miss.
Because we didn’t want to do any organized tour we rented a motorbike at ‘gogo’ for 45RM, we ride up the north coast, visiting a few villages and beaches. It was a lovely day, without plans, so we drove with the wind and stopped as many times as we wanted.
Borneo is truly incredible, If you’re in Southeast Asia, don’t forget to visit!
photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha