Kota Kinabalu area (Malaysia)

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Kota Kinabalu area (Malaysia)

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Review of "Kota Kinabalu area (Malaysia)"

published 04/05/2003 | wilsonc
Member since : 03/05/2003
Reviews : 3
Members who trust : 2
About me :
Pro Lots of things to do and see, perfect for relaxation, and for those looking for adventure
Cons Not for those seeking nightlife and not for shopaholics
very helpful

"Land Below The Wind..."

Kota Kinabalu is Sabah's capital city. For those uninformed, Sabah, formerly known as North Borneo is situated on the East of Malaysia. Kota Kinabalu received city status in the year 2002. In this opinion, I'll be introducing you not only to the city itself, but I'll also be including a few other not to be missed attractions while you are in Sabah. And who better to give you an insight than a local resident here. ;)


Kota Kinabalu itself is too small a city and area to actually talk about. The main attractions of Sabah are actually situated slightly further away from Kota Kinabalu. However, the city is equally important as it is the gateway to the rest of Sabah when you reach here. Once arriving at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, the first place you'll end up in is KK.

You can at most spend 1 or 2 days discovering the minor attractions in the city and move on to other areas in Sabah. There is another option which is to chill at the resorts in KK. There are two five star resorts right in the city which are both huge and very well equipped with all sorts of facilities ranging from swimming pools to even golf courses. I will cover more on this later.


Air fares from Peninsular Malaysia, more specificaly Kuala Lumpur is very affordable these days. The two main airlines you would normally find is Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia. There are of course a host of other airlines to choose from. The typical prices are:

for Malaysia Airlines, an economy class return ticket would be around £180 but for the year 2003, they are having a 50% discount on all local flights which basically gets you to KK for peanuts.

for AirAsia, peanuts would be overstated because a ticket here costs ONLY around £50 and they are always, i mean literally always, having some sort of special rates which brings down the price even more. The service is exactly like EasyJet back in UK where they just provide the flight service with extras that are little to none.

The flight is very brief and should take around 2-3 hours. At the airport when you arrive, you can get taxis, book rooms at the resorts, rent a car, etc. You could also book at a resort beforehand and have their rep personally fetch you at the airport.

In KK, public transportation is abundant. The resorts always provide shuttle service to their guests. For those opting to go for smaller hotels or backpacker lodges, taxis are quite cheap. I wouldn't however recommend taking the local bus. There's nothing whatsoever wrong with it but I'd say it'd be a waste of time to try and get used to the system when you could be off enjoying yourself. Buses are good to take only when you are travelling to outside of KK to places like Mt.Kinabalu, or the other attractions I'll mention later.


You can find all sorts of accomodation here to suit your needs and budget. There is foremost the two large resorts which are Sutera Harbour and Tanjung Aru Beach Resort. Sutera Harbour is HUGE! There are two 5 star hotels, a golf course, multiple swimming pools, a beach area, and etc. This is a good place to unwind. Another good place to unwind would be the Tanjung Aru Beach Resort which is under the Shangri-La group. There is no golf course here but they have a beach area, nice swimming pools and everything else you would imagine from a 5 star resort. These two resorts are the most accessible because they are in the city area. There are also a few huge resorts away from the city that are very nice and have more extra facilities such as jungle walk, village tours, etc.

Apart from the resorts, in KK you can find other nice hotels such as Hyatt Regency and The Promenade which costs a lot less. However, if you are thinking of going extreme budget, there are always the backpackers lodge or the smaller hotels available. Just ask a cabbie and he'll bring you to one of them. And don't worry, KK does not have the dingy types of inns. Even the backpacker lodges are very nicely set up.

Prices for higher end hotels are around £25-£40 and the budget ones should cost you around £5-£15.


You can find almost any cuisine in KK and the food is not that expensive either. I would recommend asking your hotelier to point out some places because there are just too many to mention here. What I can say is that KK has a lot of good food, provided you know where to find them. You can try out authentic Malaysian dishes, or if you're feeling homesick, western cuisine or fastfoods are everywhere.

A typical meal should cost you anywhere from £0.50 to £4.00. Cheap isn't it.


Like I mentioned earlier, the attractions are not focused in the city itself. However, there are a few places that are worth visiting.

First off, you may like to have a bird's eye view of the city at the Signal Hill Observatory. The view there is magnificient and any taxi can take you up there in a jiffy. Try going in the late afternoons to catch the sunset. Another nice place to catch the sunset is at the Sunset Esplanade or Anjung Senja which is right in front of the Promenade Hotel. KK has breathtaking sunsets, I'm sure you'll get a lot of nice photos to take back with you.

If you're interested in knowing about Malaysia or specifically Sabah, a good place to start would be the Sabah State Museum. They charge a very small entrance fee. Inside, there are plenty of exhibitions portraying the origins of Sabah and it's ethnic groups, amongst others. You can also see how the different traditional houses from various ethnic groups look like. And if you think you have the guts, there is also an exhibition on Sabah's headhunting past. It is a very small exhibition with real skulls on display but for those who are really interested, there is a real headhunting village known as the Monsopiad Village which has been turned into a tourist attraction and NO ...they don't headhunt anymore ..but who knows.. ;)

Also in KK or just adjacent to the city is the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park which comprises of five islands surrounded by coral reefs. The islands are Pulau Gaya, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik, Pulau Sapi and Pulau Sulug. These are really beautiful islands that are definitely worth visiting. It is only a short boatride away and simple accomodation is available. The waters are crystal clear and you can see all the fishes swimming around. The beaches have clean white sand. The islands here are among the many beautiful islands we have around Sabah.

For nightlife, KK offers a few bars, cafes, and clubs. The ones worth mentioning are Shenanigans(Hyatt), KK's (Sutera Harbour), Blue Note (Tanjung Aru Beach Resort), and the newly opened Reef Dance, Bar and Grill which is situated on Beach Street, another place worth visiting. Beach Street is a new tourist area right in the middle of KK. You can go there to walk around, chill out and at night you can even catch some free cultural shows.

For shopping, there are lots of cheap well crafted handicrafts for sale to take back as souvenirs. Clothes are available cheaply anywhere just in case you forgot to pack. ;) ...I wouldn't call KK a shopping paradise but we have almost all the basics and a bit more. We have a few large shopping malls around the city that are more than sufficient.


This is where Sabah shines as a tourist attraction. Outside of the city life lies the natural beauty and suuroundings. I will only mention a few main attractions but I must remind you that there are tons and tons of other things to see and do around Sabah.

First off the list is our famous Mount Kinabalu. Towering at 4095m above KK, it is our country's pride. I would highly recommend that you try hiking up the mountain as it is relatively easy and the reward you get from it just cannot be put into words. I've been up three times already and every time is an experience of it's own. When you stand up on that peak watching the sun rise up with the whole of Sabah in your view, nothing else can seem as wonderful.

The mount is accessible through the Kinabalu Park which is designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO for its outstanding universal values and role as one of the world's most important biological sites. The park itself is a wonderful experience with lush green rainforests all around you. This is the outdoors at its best and guess what? ..it's only a 2 hours drive from KK! You can opt to take a bus, shuttle or a taxi. All modes of transportation are very cheap.

Another equally amazing place to visit is Sepilok, home of the Orang Utans. This place also has lush green rainforests all around. The forests in the area are very well protected and preserved to ensure that the Orang Utans have a safe habitat to live in. Sabah has one of the largest numbers of Orang Utans in the world. In case you don't know what an Orang Utan is, it is the largest of the primate species. If you haven't seen one before, get your ass down here and see these cute guys.

There are like I said tons of other attractions such as the Gomantong Bat Caves, Danum Valley, the Hot Springs, the cultural villages, the many exotic islands and tons of outdoor activities such as white water rafting, diving, skydiving, paragliding... you name it, we've got it.


Malaysian Ringgit is used in Malaysia. The conversion rate at this current moment is:

1 GBP = 6.09443 MYR

You would prob be looking at a budget of around £20 or a lot less per day. And that my friend is cheap. Expense is no worry at all for the normal traveller. For the budget conscious, this is the perfect place to go to.


Local Time : 8 Hours ahead of GMT

Language : Malay is the national language but almost everyone speaks English so there's no language problems at all.

Temparature : It's hot and humid all year round. Tropical weather... we get the occasional rain. Perfect for those escaping the cold.

Crime rate : Is very low in Sabah. Crime or robberies against tourists are virtually unheard of. In fact, I've never in my life heard of such a thing happening. The only one case is the Sipadan incident. The update I can provide on that is the islands are now VERY safe as the Navy here has properly secured the area to avoid such things from happening. Furthermore, the incident was caused by outsiders, not the locals. So nothing there to worry about.

Etiquette : Malaysia is an Islamic country. I myself am not a Muslim but a Chinese but I would remind that tourists should respect certain rules such as no nude sunbathing and the likes. As to attire, we generally don't really give a damn but like in every country not just ours, going over the extreme is not recommended.

The People : Malaysia is famous for it's welcoming and friendly people. This is so true in Sabah as well. The locals here are very friendly and I often see complete strangers start up a conversation with visiting tourists.

When to come? : Anytime of the year is fine but if you do want to see some local festivities, Sabah's largest ethnic groups celebrate in full colour around May-June. You could get a guide to bring you to the center of the festivities.

:: TO SUM IT UP... ::

To sum it up, Sabah, or KK is THE place to go if your looking for leisure, relaxation, the great outdoors, and adventure. A lot of tourists come here for their holidays and they come from all over the place ranging from the UK, Europe, US, Taiwan, and etc.

If you're "mainly" looking for nightlife then go to KL instead coz KK is probably not the best place for the such. For the shopaholics, this prob isn't the best place either, unless you're a handicraft shopaholic.

I'm not sure if I've missed out anything. If you want some other info included pls leave a msg for me so that I can further improvise this article.

Below are a few links for further reading and info:



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Comments on this review

  • rubies published 02/10/2003
    Hi, What an excellant op,we are going to KK next march,and are staying at the tanjung aru for 12 nights.You have given us lot's of helpful info,thanks
  • Donnie_Brasco published 05/05/2003
    Sounds like a fab place to visit! a brilliant, well-informative op! :-)
  • see-search.com published 04/05/2003
    This is one of the best ops I've seen on here. Never been there but it's going on the "to do list". Cheers (_8-(|)
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Product Information : Kota Kinabalu area (Malaysia)

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Listed on Ciao since: 01/01/2001