When one thinks of Kota Kinabalu the first thing that comes to mind is the enormous figure of the famous Mt. Kinabalu, which is located a couple of hours away and fills the skyline.
However, even if you aren’t climbing the mountain, there are still plenty of things to do in this city to fill a couple of days. We flew in and out of Kota Kinabalu, or ‘KK’ as it’s dubbed by locals, and spent a couple of days here at the beginning and end of our visit to Sabah. Here are some of our highlights:
- Take a day trip to the islands
KK is on the coast, and although the coastline is more suited to fishing rather than swimming, the city is still conveniently positioned a half an hour boat ride away from Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. This national park comprises five islands, which make for great day trips.
We chose to go to the small island of Sapi, which is very popular with tourists due to its beautiful coastline, sandy beach, and clear water, which hundreds of breeds of fish are available to spot from diving, snorkelling, or even just swimming in the shallow water.
The island is busy and very popular with the locals, but if you can avoid weekends and high tourist season, you should end up with a nice spot to spend a relaxing day at.
- Visit the Night Markets
Due to it’s location, there is no wonder that KK is bustling with restaurants selling freshly caught sea food. However, we would advise giving the restaurants a miss, and instead paying a fraction of the price in the local night markets. During our time in KK, we were able to visit both the Philipino and Chinese Night Markets.
The Philipino Night Markets serve freshly caught sea food as you would expect, but even if you didn’t fancy fish, there are BBQ’s selling chicken skewers for around R1.50 (A$0.60) and delicious mango juice’s for R1.00 (A$0.35). The restaurants also served plates of delicious greens, although I’m not sure if we can consider it healthy considering how much garlic and butter was on them!
Each night these markets are filled with locals and packed to the rafters with different hawker stalls. The markets are open late so I would recommend going as late as possible – that way it is easier to negotiate yourself a good deal and the sellers are a bit more relaxed as you walk through the market!
The Chinese Markets were completely different; a huge square food court was surrounded by a number of different establishments. Sea food is the speciality here, although I’m not a huge sea food fan so I was able to get hold of twenty chicken dumplings at R1.00 (A$0.35) a time which were delicious! Most of the stalls in these markets also sell alcohol, so it is a great time to grab a drink with your meal and enjoy the bustling chaos of South East Asia whilst you eat your meal.
- See the sun set on the Waterfront
The views of the sun set on the KK Waterfront are breathtaking. Each evening, the glow of the setting sun reflects off the clear water below and turns the whole area into a beautiful relaxing orange. For around half hour, camera lovers crowd the best spots looking for the perfect selfie, whilst the many bars on the strip serve happy hour drinks and food to the patrons sitting out on the deck.
As you’d expect, this part of town is very expensive, but if you eat instead at one of the local night markets afterwards and just go there for a happy hour drink, the beer price of R14 (A$6) is well worth paying to get the best seat in town for the sun set.
Overall, KK is a nice base for travellers to start from before they move on to either climb Mt. Kinabalu or venture further into the state to see the wild animals in the rainforests of the North East. A great place to start and finish our Sabah trip!