Kota Kinabalu area (Malaysia)

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Kota Kinabalu area (Malaysia)

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Review of "Kota Kinabalu area (Malaysia)"

published 16/11/2006 | daylehall
Member since : 02/07/2004
Reviews : 502
Members who trust : 144
About me :
Happy New Year everyone :-)
Pro Loads to do, great wildlife, great scenery, lovely locals
Cons Ran out of time to see everywhere we wanted
very helpful
Value for Money
Ease of getting around

"KK - Definately more than OK!!"

Some of the local people's houses

Some of the local people's houses

I stayed in Kota Kinabalu (also known as KK) in October 2006 for nearly 3 weeks. Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah.

Getting to Kota Kinabalu (KK)
You can fly to KK from London Heathrow as we did. We travelled from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpar, and then to Kota Kinabalu as its not possible to do a direct flight. The flight in total was around 15 hours - 12 hours to Kuala Lumpar and 2 and a half hours to Kota Kinabalu.

We stayed in a five star resort while we were in KK which was outstanding and very reasonably price.

There is a large variety of places to choose to stay in KK, these range from 5 star resorts, down to small beach huts and hostels which are great for backpackers as it keeps the cost of accommodation down. The hostels are especially good for backpacker as you get to meet like-minded people and can share your experiences and offer advice to one another.
Many of the hostels are very basic, offering a bed and a ceiling fan. There are shared bathrooms but these were in a clean condition. We stayed at a hostel for 2 nights while we were doing a trip and I found everything to be as expected. I was quite worried about the state of the shared bathrooms but there was no need as it was all very well maintained. We paid the equivalent of about £3.50 for each night we stayed at the hostel and this also included breakfast so prices are more than reasonable.

The nicer hotels, 3-5 stars usually have pools and in resort facilities such as a spa and nice restaurants although food and drinks inside the hotels are about twice the price than if you were to get them locally in town.
There are some nice hotels in the main town of KK although the hotels nearer to town do not tend to have swimming pools etc.
Our hotel, which was in The Sutera Harbour Resort was about a 7-minute drive from the centre of town so I felt this was an excellent location. I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone wishing to visit KK.

Time difference
Malaysia is 8 hours ahead of GMT. This means that you can often feel slightly jet lagged when you get there but we just made sure that we stayed awake and went to bed at their bedtime and out body clocks soon adjusted.

In Malaysia, their currency is the Ringgit. While we were out there, the exchange rate was £1 for RM 7.00

Getting Around KK
Getting around KK was very easy and cheap. The main method of transport is taxi. Out hotel was 10 minutes away from KK city centre and a taxi into town cost us
RM 10.00 which is about £1.50 so it was reasonably priced. However, from our hotel, they also offered a free shuttle service which was very useful. It ran every hour up until 9pm. However, I am not sure that all hotels would offer this service.
There is also a local bus service which we were informed by other people was very easy to use. However, we never actually used to local bus service as we thought it would be easier getting taxis and then we didn't have to plan our days around the times of the buses.

Eating Out
There are lots of restaurants in KK offering a large variety of food. We found a lovely little Restaurant called Jothy's which was an Indian Restaurant. A three-course meal cost us £7 each and this included drinks. The food was delicious as well. Although the restaurant is very small and doesn't look up to much from the outside, I really would recommend this restaurant to other people. To be honest, we probably would not have gone there either but it was recommended to us by my parents who went to KK a few years ago. Jothy's is situated about a 5-minute walk from the Centrepoint shopping centre so is very easy to get to.
Another place we liked, was called Olives and was situated on the top floor of the Centrepoint shopping centre. In here, they served a range of food from typical Malaysian dishes as well as western food. We quite often went here for lunch where we got a milkshake each and also a toasted sandwich. It cost £1.50 for your whole lunch so we were very impressed with the prices and the staff were very friendly. It's only a small café style shop but very homely inside with a good range of cheap food.
In KK you will find a massive range of cuisine and there are restaurants located everywhere so you don't have to walk for miles to find somewhere to eat. You can have Malaysian food, English food, Chinese, Indian and there are the normal fast food shops such as McDonalds and KFC dotted around the town.
Another restaurant which I would recommend is Atlantis. This is situated on the seafront and you can have your meal outside and look out over the sea which was a nice touch. The food was outstanding, probably my next favourite restaurant after Jothy's. The restaurant is very modern and is very nicely decorated in blue with a bubble theme. Te food was slightly more expensive in here though, I assume because it is quite a posh restaurant but a 2-course meal and drinks still only cost £15 each.
Of course, as well as all the restaurants there are all the hawker stalls in town selling a variety of food. Some people were reluctant to eat from these stalls as to be honest they didn't look very hygienic but as long as the food if hot, I cant see you having any problems. My boyfriend tried some fried chicken (I'm vegetarian so obviously didn't eat any) and he thoroughly enjoyed it and it certainly didn't give him a dodgy tummy.
To sum it up, there is a great variety of choice of food in KK. I loved the fact the you could literally have something totally different every night and it was nice to be able to try some local dishes as well as my usual favourite like Chinese. You will certainly not go hungry in KK.

Things to do in KK
Although KK is quite small, you will still find loads to do. There are many shopping centres, the main one being Centrepoint which is a large shopping mall spread over 4 floors. There is also a cinema and a bowling alley. There are other smaller shopping centres but unfortunately I cannot remember the names of them.

There is the Philapino market situated on the seafront at the far end. Although all the stalls are very small and its sometimes difficult to get around (as its so cramped). This market opens around 10am and closes around 8pm although some stalls are open till later at around 10pm. The stalls sell handmade goods as very reasonable prices. I bought some necklaces back as presents for friends and the more you buy the cheaper they will sell them to you. You can barter with the locals as often they will tell you a price that is too expensive and you eventually agree on a price somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed this market as local people run all the stalls and it was fascinating to see some of the crafts they had made by hand.

Also on the seafront is the fresh food market. This was also fascinating to walk around. The stalls sell fresh fruit and veg and also fresh meats and fish. This market is open all day, up until about 9pm. You will find hundreds of different types of fish and crabs. We didn't actually buy anything from this market as I think it's more of a market for local people who have cooking facilities at home which we didn't have at out hotel. They also sold meats such as chicken and beef. I must admit that some of the stalls were not very hygienic, for example, there were stalls with chicken meat laid out on them and this meat would stay there in the boiling hot sun until somebody bought it which I didn't think would be too healthy. At the far end of this market, they have stalls that cook food fresh there and then. We ate dinner here one night and had a Malaysian curry with some rice. This was very cheap - £2 for both meals. There are a few benches where you can sit and eat your food although this did get quite cramped as many of the locals come here to eat! The stalls offer a variety of foods such as curries with rice, whole cooked fish and chicken meat on skewer to name a few.

There is a stretch of restaurants and bars along from the market. There are a few restaurants and also a few pubs / bars. There was an Irish bar here which had a pool table and played English music. The only problem with drinking in Malaysia is that the prices are not that different to here.

Many of the large hotels have a pub / club in the resort which can be useful if you only want to stay in one place. The clubs have various themed nights throughout the week. For example, the club called Jugs that was attached to our hotel has ladies night on a Thursday which meant all women got free drinks all night!! They also had special offers and happy hours which were good to take advantage of!

Many of the bars and clubs in town had local bands playing throughout the week. We watched a couple of them and it was good entertainment. The Reef Dance bar and Grill was another place that I would recommend to people wishing to visit KK, this is situated on Beach Street.

There are five small islands located near to KK and boat trips to these islands are very cheap. It cost us £5 for a return boat trip to the islands. These islands are Palau Sulug, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Mamutik, Palau Manukan and Pulau Gaya. We visited Manukan and Mamutik. We went scuba diving from Mamutik. Scuba diving was spoilt slightly by the fact that we went during raining season and due to the many thunderstorms the visability was quite poor. However, on another day we went to Manukan Island to do some snorkelling and the visibility was great, we saw loads of brightly coloured fish. Again though, due to thunderstorms, we had to cut our trip shorts and head back to KK as the boats stop sailing in stormy weather. I would recommend this trip to anyone though, the furthest island is only a 2o minute boat journey away and its great to see the other islands. All sorts of activities are offered on the islands such as scuba diving, snorkelling, para sailing etc. The islands we visited also had restaurants and gift shops as well as small beach huts which you could stay in over night.

If you are interested in the history of Malaysia there is the Sabah State Museum but we didn't visit it so I can't really give you any details!

Attractions that are easily accessible from KK
One of the main attractions of KK is Mount Kinabalu which is situated in Kinabalu Park. Kinabalu Park is on the northern end of Borneo. Trips were offered from our hotel and the price was £30 per person and that included the 2 and a half hour coach trip from our hotel and also entrance into Kinabalu Park. Kinabalu Park is dominated by Mount Kinabalu which stands at 4, 095 metres making it the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. The grounds are rich in species with examples of flora and fauna from the Himalayas, China, Australia and Malaysia.
We never got round to climbing the mountain or visiting the park as we ran out of time but we spoke to many people who had visited and they all recommended the trip. Also, within the grounds of the park are the pouring hot springs where you can bath in them - I have to say this did appeal to me!!
I have a friend that backpacked in Borneo and he climbed Mount Kinabalu, he did a 3-day package where you actually stay in accommodation at 3, 000ft! They watched the sun rise, sunset and also had a guided day of bird watching so there are a variety of activities to do while at Kinabalu park.

White Water Rafting in Kiulu
About a two hour coach journey from KK is Kiulu and The Kiulu River. Here, you can take part in white water rafting. We paid £15 each for coach journey, the rafting and hire of all equipment and also a BBQ lunch. White Water Rafting is fantastic. As we had never done it before, we decided to go on a Grade 2 course which is basically the safest one. My only regret is that we didn't do a slightly higher grade. All the instructors were very professional, and gave us some safety tips like what to do if the raft capsizes etc! The white water rafting took about 2 hours down the Kiulu River and there were some amazing view throughout our journey. There are 6 people to a raft and we went with about 7 rafts in total. Each raft had a guide and all passengers were provided with a life jacket, helmet and paddle. After we had completed the course, we were provided with a BBQ buffet lunch before we headed back to KK. I would recommend this trip to anyone wanting to try White Water rafting, the course had a few drops in the water but if you are a bit of a dare devil then I would advise you to go for a grade higher then 2.

On the whole, Kota Kinabalu is an amazing city and well worth a visit. If you used to Ibiza clubbing holidays then it probably wouldn't be your sort of this but if you like cultural holiday with plenty to do then you would thoroughly enjoy Kota Kinabalu. I have only covered a small percentage of things to do as quite honestly we ran out of time to visit all the attractions so I have just reviewed the attractions that we took part in or visited.

Thanks for reading.

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Comments on this review

  • traveller55 published 16/12/2006
    I like KK as well......great review
  • UnholyConfessions published 27/11/2006
    Looks like you had a good time. Very informative review and some cools pictures aswell. I could only dream of a break such as that at the mo though!
  • rosehall published 26/11/2006
    Excellent review. Sounds like you had a fab time and made the most of every moment.
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