Saturday, May 9, 2015

19-hour Layover in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu Malaysia

Ok, I feel so guilty now. Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia was supposedly just our gateway to Bali in Indonesia. Taking it for granted, we didn’t do much research about the city only to find out that our 19-hour halt was way too short.

It was ten in the evening and the group was too tired and famished to even lift our bags. We pre-arranged an airport pick-up from our hotel in the heart of Kota Kinabalu which made our lives easier upon arriving at the airport (check here for discounted tours, transportation and activities in Kota Kinabalu).

Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
Elevated walkway in the city
Kota Kinabalu Malaysia

After settling, we went out on a very humid night to search for a dinner place.  Our stroll led us to the Waterfront area and we combed almost all the hawker stalls for some Mee Goreng, Kopi Ice and Satay (thinking that it would be as fun and vibrant like the street food scene in Kuala Lumpur).

Nasi Lemak
Nasi Lemak
We found a nice eatery with an open-air dining area. The server assisted us immediately and later on find out that she’s a Filipina from Mindanao who now lives there.


Kota Kinabalu Malaysia

We had Mee Goreng Ayam (RM 6 | US$ 1.67), Mee Goreng Seafood (RM 7 | US$ 1.91), Nasi Lalap (RM 6.50 | US$ 1.81), Teh ‘O’ Ice and Kopi ‘O’ Ice (RM 2 | US$ 0.56 each).

The Mee Goreng was just ok, it was kinda bland. The Kopi Ice was the same, it didn’t have that strong coffee and milk flavor that they serve in Kuala Lumpur. But it was ok.

Mee Goreng Ayam Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
Mee Goreng Ayam
Nasi Lalap Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
Nasi Lalap
Kopi Ice Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
Teh 'O' Ice | Kopi 'O' Ice
Moving on, we went on and tried another hawker stall that sells Satay (RM 5 | US$ 1.40 / 6 pcs.) and some grilled chicken wings (RM 5 | US$ 1.40 / 3 pcs. Chicken wings). Much to our surprise, the server was, again, a Filipino. We chatted for a while and then sampled his grilled stuff. The chicken satay with its peanut sauce was yummy. The grilled chicken wings was equally tasty. Me thinking that we should’ve hoarded some more for our beer night.

Kota Kinabalu Malaysia

Satay Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
The highlight of our dinner
We didn’t have plans the next day (we.are.the.best.travelers), so we just walked around and found ourselves on one of the important landmarks in Kota Kinabalu, the Tourism Office along Jalan Gaya (Gaya Street). Apparently, there were three structures that survived World War II around town and the building that houses the Tourism Office was one of those.

Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
Splash of colors
Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
Street art
Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
Chill
Built in 1916, it was used as the Printing Office, Audit Office, Town Board, District Office, Attorney General’s Office and Post Office. After it was named as a heritage building, it was formally appointed to the Sabah Tourism Office which also serves as the Tourist Information Center. The city’s reference point or the Kilometer Zero is also situated in the area.

We, of course, needed some help going around town so we sought the advice of one of the tourism officers. They then told us that the Atkinson Clock Tower is just around the corner and that we could probably make a quick visit.

Atkinson Clock Tower
Atkinson Clock Tower
Situated on top of Brace Hill, the Atkinson Clock Tower is one of the important structures in Kota Kinabalu that survived after World War II. It was named after Francis George Atkinson, the first District Officer of Jesselton. The original structure was made of merbau wood but was replaced through the years. It once served as navigation aid to local ships.

After visiting two important landmarks in the city, we strolled along the famous Jalan Gaya and went to the small alleys that lead to much interesting areas.

Along Jalan Gaya, we found this certain eatery that was packed with diners that afternoon. The Yee Fung Restaurant serves the famous laksa (I tried laksa in Singapore and had good memories about it).

Yee Fung Restaurant Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
Yee Fung Restaurant
We ordered a large laksa (RM 8 | US$ 2.23) which was intended to be shared. The laksa was legit. The creamy broth brought by the coconut-based curry soup was heaven (we asked for a refill of the soup, they happily obliged).  It was, yes, spicy but we can handle it pretty well except for one of my buddies who was perspiring all throughout the meal. You should have a high tolerance for spiciness when visiting Malaysia and even if you say Please put little little spicy it will be spicy for the Filipino taste buds, tested it gazillion times.

Yee Fung Restaurant Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
Jam-packed
Yee Fung Restaurant Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
Laksa
To battle the heat, we then headed to another famous but underrated coffee shops around town, The Fortune Coffee Shop (which was recommended by Ms.Tova of Horizon Hotel). It was late afternoon but the coffee shop was packed with locals who were in for some nice drinks. We had Kopi ‘O’ Ice (RM 2 | US$ 0.56) and Teh Tarik for our non-caffeine lover friend (RM3 | US$ 0.84). I loved it. It was totally the perfect thirst quencher that scorching hot afternoon.

Fortune Coffee Shop Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
Fortune Coffee Shop
Fortune Coffee Shop Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
Teh Tarik and Kopi 'O' Ice

Taking advantage of the time left, the group headed to the Handicraft Market along the Waterfront. We checked out some souvenirs and stuff, haggling is of course encouraged.

Kota Kinabalu Market Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu Market Malaysia
Dried fish and stuff
Kota Kinabalu Market Malaysia
Sepak Takraw
As hastily as it can be, we dashed to our hotel, packed our stuff and hired a cab going to the airport. We paid RM 30 (US$ 8.35) for the quick 20-minute ride to the airport passing by the Sabah State Mosque, the city’s state mosque.

Sabah State Mosque Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
Sabah State Mosque
It was a quick layover but I’m sure that we are so coming back to Kota Kinabalu and explore more of what Sabah has to offer. Next stop, Bali!




4 comments:

  1. Ang dami pa rin napuntahan sa layover. Most of the OFWs there yata are from Mindanao, yun din kasi mga nameet namin sa kainan at tourist spots.

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  2. Can't believe you went to Kota Kinabalu without climbing the Kinabalu moutain. Definately write that behind your ear if you ever return and if you are into moutain trekking, ofcourse ;-)

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