Map courtesy of Sabah Tourism.
I think the worst thing you can do in just about every destination is pick up the local tourist map and find out what there is to see. Every time I have done this I set off to see lame tourist attractions that I wouldn’t even consider at home never lone spend money on. I’ve learnt now.
Get the map so you can gather your bearings and put on your best walking shoes and set off. Gather some water in your day pack – you’ll need it. It’s humid in Kota Kinabalu – affectionately known as KK. The humidity was intensified by the dry season and the thick haze. Humidity that is so high that after a shower you have sweat at the back of your knees. Give me dry heat any day!
Kota Kinabalu is a wonderful city of over 600,000 residents. You will not feel this straight away and it may even be retrospectively that this appreciation is apparent. There are a number of expatriates living in KK. It is a major fishing port and of importance industrial and commercial city to Malaysia.
It was originally settled by Charles Jessel of the British North Borneo Company (BNBC) in the 15th century. The town was originally called Jesselton. With both colonisation and World War II, there is a rich and interesting history to the region.
I mentioned numbers of expatriates living in the city because with them comes a few westernised delights. Obviously when in Rome you do as Romans do and you will want to eat Malaysian Food. We did when we passed through KK on our way in. However, after 10 days in the jungle with no coffee, no milk and upset stomachs the opportunity of eating western food was too difficult to go past. You should of seen the kids devour milkshakes and icecream. We ate at El Centro. It has a blend of Mexican, American and Pizza. It was amazing!
We had lunch at Chilli Vanilla which I also recommend. There is a supermarket in the shopping centre nearby to Jesseton Wharf where you can buy Vegemite and other overseas deliveries. I would recommend this store for any good quality souvenirs you may want. I was taking home a stuffed toy and I wanted to make sure it was of good quality. This is your place.
The Night Market is worthy of a wander and exploration. The seafood here was very good. You will source cheap souvenirs here to take home.
Scuba and snorkelling trips from here can be as short as a day trip but most of the nearby islands have accomodation.
The Shangri-La has an orang-utan centre but I question if the purpose is to attract tourists or actually partake in valuable conservation work. Reviews say they were closer to the Orang-utan here than in Sepilok. Personally an animal in the wild always wins and I think possibly just bad luck on their behalf.
The Sabah State Museum, the War Memorial and the Art Gallery are all worthy of visit. If you are into trains the North Borneo Railway is a trip down memory lane or an opportunity to think you are about to arrive at Hogwarts.
We stayed at the Dreamtel Hotel which is centrally located, clean rooms and good service. The outside of the hotel is a bit rough so take care in the evenings.
Would I go back? KK is a gateway to all that Sabah has to offer and I would love to explore more of Sabah.