Kota Kinabalu (KK) is an easy place to visit

If you have not travelled in Asia, both Sabah and Sarawak are easy introductions to the area.  As many of you will know, Malaysia is my favourite Asian country – my recent travels have confirmed it! KK and Kuching are great places to start.

On my trip in July-August I stayed at the Hilton ( read about it here) while on other travels to KK I’ve stayed at what my friend named as ‘CCC’s’ – cheap, cheerful and comfortable’s.

One of the must-do in any Asian city is visiting the market, and yes, I do have meals in them!

Here are a few pictures to whet your appetite for travel in Malaysian Borneo – which is a fabulous, ideally placed ‘stop-over destination” to break your trip between hemispheres.,

Search on KK, Kota Kinabalu, or Sabah – in this blog – to see other pieces I’ve written about this delightful part of the world.

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Hilton Kota Kinabalu ticks all the boxes for me

Flying into KK or Kota Kinabalu as its officially called, we, my friend Judy and I were picked up by Ben who was to be our guide – many thanks to Sabah Tourism Board for helping host us for 3 days and organising my itinerary. Ben was an ideal, and professional guide, and of course our driver, Wilfred (who incidentally, we find out, grows vanilla) was a safe and considerate driver.

First stop the was the Sabah State Museum, where we walked through the heritage village, in and out of many traditional houses and watched women making jewellery and arts and crafts. Inside the museum we enjoyed, in particular, costumes of years gone by and a photographic exhibition. We also made a note to ourselves to read more by Agnes Keith whose first book about ‘North Borneo’ as it was then, has become a tagline for Sabah – Land Below the Wind while another of her books, Three Came Home inspired a film of the same name.

Checking into the Hilton Kota Kinabalu, that evening we had early dinner with Jeremy, the marketing manager from the Hilton: he didn’t need to do any ‘marketing’ as the hotel and the Rooftop Poolside Bar and Grill spoke for itself. I had an Angus beef steak which was thick, tender and cooked perfectly, exactly as I’d requested – rare. Judy had salmon and said it too was faultless.

While up there we met the chef as well as the cooks and wait staff. Breakfast was in the Urban Kitchen on the ground floor and, as always, although I loved the wide variety of global food, I particularly enjoy being able to have Asian dishes for breakfast. The Urban Kitchen has an international buffet every night as well as having a special menu – for instance, Monday Malaysian, and Saturday Local Seafood Market. The Rooftop also specialises in the local seafood.

The Hilton Kota Kinabalu – really central, and which accommodated us for three nights in luxury – has been open since mid-March 2017 and, going by our experience, it’s living up to the names international reputation. Its spacious, luxurious rooms are all you could wish for – including in my room, a large rain or ‘deluge’ shower and big TV. It also had many power points and USB plugs, essential for travellers, and the bedside lights were fantastic – often one of the worst features in hotel rooms!

I also loved the welcoming lobby with its huge chandelier and especially the variety of little seating areas and magazines. Off the lobby was a quiet and well stocked library which impressed me.

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The Hilton staff were impeccable. I asked one of the wait staff ‘why are the Hilton staff so friendly?’ He responded. ‘I don’t know, maybe it’s just typical Malay, ma’am’. It’s true the Malay are friendly and helpful, but the staff here seem to really enjoy their various roles. Of course, Sabah, with the highest number of tourists in Malaysia, is not called ‘friendly state’ by accident.

This is about the third Hilton I’ve stayed at – it certainly was the best, by a long shot – and this, as followers of my blogs will know, is truthful and is exactly how I’d have written this had I not been hosted.

The clock is ticking

‘You’re away for 8 weeks? Really?’

People are amazed at the length of time I will be in Borneo … not even all of Borneo but SabahSarawak and Brunei to be exact, the top third of this island, the worlds third largest. But now the clock is ticking, and just as I counted down my days ’til my big adventure, so too is my countdown app counting  down the days until it’s time to board the plane  here in KK and return to New Zealand : and that’s where the second part of my journey starts, writing articles and blogs about it all!

So, as the clock ticks faster and faster I thought it was time to tell you about my  plans for the next 2 and half weeks … my calender is full!

Tomorrow I’m off to Kota Belud … for what is evidently ‘Sabah’s most vibrant market’; the next day, still in the home of  Sabah’s most traditional people, the Rungus, I’m heading further north to Kudat for a couple of nights at Tommy’s Place. This was the areas first capital, and of course I will be visiting the tip of Borneo and spending time on the beach  – and who knows what else!

Back to KK – as Kota Kinabalu is known locally – for a nights rest before I’m off to Brunei for four days, hopefully to get to see the Sultans Palace which is only open 3 days a year … always right after Ramadan ends, perfect timing for my trip. I’m travelling by ferry with about an hour stop-over on the duty-free island of Labuan, Malaysia.

Back to KK for another nights sleep at the Borneo Backpackers, re-arrange my luggage then off to the  much talked about area of the East Coast of Sabah … like most travellers here I’m ignoring the over-conservative travel warnings or advisaries that many western countries have on their websites.

Sandakan means the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, Labuk Bay and the proboscic monkeys, among other things – including the annual Sandakan Memorial Day ceremony  – on the site of the PoW camp. This will be interesting as I knew nothing about this part of WW2 until I ended up here in  ‘Australia Place ‘where cheap accomodtion can be found among the printing works, and where the Australians camped when they liberated KK. More of this later!

Add few more days with a night safari in Sukau and bush walks in the celebrated Tabin Wildlife Resort, and you can see the next 17 or so days are full!

I still aim at producing a photo-a -day and I know there will be very few words to accompany them … saving them until I write the stories and re-live my adventures again . . . what a bonus two holidays for the price of one!

So time to stop writing and head for the night market .. the Hari Raya one where all the special foods of the holiday season are available. No wonder my goal of not putting on weight in Malaysia was doomed to fail!


Ps. Apologies to those of you who got the unfinished, unedited version of this an hour ago 😦

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Kota Kinabalu: capital of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo

Kota Kinabalu , Sabahis very different to it’s neighbors State capital – Kuching, Sarawak – and if you are new to Asia, this would be a very easy place to start exploring the region. Food is often the stumbling block for travellers but here you can choose from many western style eateries . . . as those who know me through Facebook, or this blog, know, I mostly eat local food wherever I am.  Today I grossed out some of my friends with the photo of durian I’d just bought for Sunday breakfast. ( from the weekly Gaya Street market).

However this blog is not about food but just a few of the highlights from my time here – to date.

KK (as the city is often called) has the KK City Bird Sanctuary only 2ks from the city centre … I emerged from there an abject failure as  birder as could hear many of the 80 species there, but saw few. Seems I’m more of a social birder, requiring big slow birds to watch. But it WAS high tide so not a good time in among the mangroves; well that’s my excuse.

Boardwalks are essential in mangrove area
I did watch these ants carry a crab claw home ... they have good taste
KK City Mosque - the biggest here, and arguably the most beautiful in Malaysia
Walking back from the city mosque I did see a feww of these birds
The Atkinson Clock Tower where I had my inelegant fall
A purple heron keeps its distance at KK wetlands
Pot-bellied proboscis monkey .... quite an unfortunate face too!
And finally, the naughty long tailed mcaque!

Not everything has been covered, so more highlights in another blog. (I went to see the proboscis monkeys with a bus/boat tour with TYH Borneo – http://www.tyhborneotours.com )

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