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zaktim Kota Kinabalu - A travel report by Tim
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Kota Kinabalu,  Malaysia - flag Malaysia -  Sabah
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zaktim's travel reports

Kinabalu, civilised Borneo.

  8 votes

Kota Kinabalu is the biggest and busiest town in the Malaysian Borneo province of Sabah, a short flight (and cheap with Air Asia) from KL. KK is a classically culturally diverse Malay city, tightly packed streets of cafes (kedai kopi) and small private stores in its centre, more recently flash shopping centres have sprung up all over the place in stark contrast to the semi-urban sprawl that straggles out along the coast N and S. Locally the world revolves around fishing, palm oil plantations, and increasingly, tourism: the province is loaded with great outdoor activities for the more adventurous punters...

Favourite spots:
Gunung (Mt) Kinabalu is said to be the most accessible mountain over 4000m (it reaches 4095m), and is certainly a very rewarding climb. Mighty good thing the park also offers hot springs where you can go and relieve aching thighs after the 2-day, very steep 18 km trek (9 kms each way). The Pulau Tiga national park immediately off the coast has some beautiful beaches and good snorkelling/diving, and receives much less attention than dive sites on the eastern side of Borneo, despite having been the location for a 'Survivor' series. That said, Sipadan in eastern Sabah is a world-reknowned dive location, and I'm told is worth every minute of the travel to get over there. Unfortunately there have been some recent security problems in the area however as illegal Philippine immigrants seek even less legal means of income.

What's really great:
That unlike peninsula Malaysia, Sabah feels more exotic, more wild, and not everyone speaks English well, or at all. I find myself in SE Asia offended by the English language, and so I enjoyed the gesticulating and stunted conversations in my rusty Malay that Sabah demanded.

Sights:
Mt Kinabalu, even from the bottom, is wonderful. The offshore islands are gorgeous and much less touristed then others in the region - think clean sand, blue water and jungle with orchids.

Accommodations:
Farida's Guest house, v.friendly and well priced, but a bit out of town. Take the #1 minibus and get off at the Likas shops. Ask directions from there. Farida speaks perfect english and is very helpful in all sorts of tour organisation help. Also Planet Kinabalu hostel at the S end of Jn Gaya in the centre of town. New and clean, this friendly, laid back hostel is how other hostels should aim to be...but look hard, it's street entrance isn't obvious.

Nightlife:
There are a few, the best ones being attached to the major hotels. Be aware that in some places beer is sold in 'sets'; groups of 4 cans, instead of singly or in packs of 6, as is more familiar to me.

Hangouts:
cant say.

Restaurants:
down on the esplanade adjacent to the Hotel Promenade is a set of formalised street hawker stalls-cum-restaurants. All look good, but the one at stall #10 deserves a special mention for excellent fresh seafood. In town, go to a Kedai Kopi for chinese-style stir-fries and noodles or to a muslim restaurant for curry-and-rice type classical Malay food.

Other recommendations:
to the S in Sarawak, I heard so many good reports about Mt Mulu National Park that it should probably make your itinerary if you're serious about isolated jungle trekking. Also there's heaps of opoportunity for jungle river trips and meeting indigenous tribesmen. Brunei is not for tourists, there's just nothing of any particular note except the only cafe in the world from which you can see the entire petrol industry, from extraction bore, to refinery, to service station. Wow. (or is sarcasm forbidden on this channel?)

Published on Tuesday December 16th, 2003


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Tue, Dec 16 2003 - 06:29 AM rating by marianne

It was interesting to read this as I might consider going Kinabalu this summer. The only thing which deters me is that it may be too touristy. Is this true?
Brunei is actually quite nice to spend a few days. I wrote an article about it, which you might like to read

Tue, Dec 16 2003 - 05:29 AM rating by downundergal

Great report and packed with some great "grass roots" info.
Cheers,
Kerrie

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