Kota Kinabalu – Sabah


Kota Kinabalu, often only a transit stop for travelers that are headed to the pristine coral reefs and wild jungles of Sabah, offers a lot to those travelers that decide to stay on. From tropical island-hopping to incredible seafood, a steam train ride into a bygone era to orangutan encounters.

Just a short trip from Kuala Lumpur, and a short 40-minute flight from Brunei, Kota Kinabalu makes a good case for tying in a stopover within a stopover if you have already visited Asia’s major flight centers and are looking to break up a long international flight in an unknown destination. Here are some good ways to make the most of it.



Eat, eat and eat

Kota Kinabalu’s rich ethnic diversity has created one of the most diverse culinary scenes in the Southeast of Asia. Seafood is king here, unsurprisingly.

If you want one of the freshest and most affordable feasts in town you should go to Welcome Seafood Restaurant. Simply select what you want from the tanks and then indicate your desired cooking style and it will be on your table in a matter of minutes.

A meal at Alu-Alu café is worth spending a little more. Just don’t be fooled by the café modest surroundings. At the cafe seafood from an organization dedicated to the harvesting and distributing of seafood from sources that are sustainable is prepared with the modern Chinese-style finesse.

Hang with orangutans

The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, located in northeast Sabah, still is the best place in Borneo to get close to the island’s critically endangered orangutans. But for people who don’t have enough time to go east, it is possible to admire these amazing creatures in their natural habitat just outside Kota Kanibalu.

The Shangri-La Rasa Ria, which was set up thanks to the help from Sabah Wildlife Department, owns a 64acre nature reserve that acts as a middle house for orphaned orangutans until they get ready to integrate with their kin at Sepilok. There are twice a day viewing sessions available, where visitors can watch the orangutans feed and play for one hour.

Visit the City Diverse Sights

Is no longer easy to picture Kota Kinabalu as a British colonial trading post because it has become one of Malaysia’s fastest-growing cities. One can hardly blame it with just three buildings that survived the 1045 bombings by the Allies. While businesses bloom in Kota Kinabalu’s office blocks, day-to-day life thrives as much as it always has at street level.

Kota Kinabalu’s central market, which is by the waterfront, is a feast for the eyes and the stomach. It has everything, from exotic tropical fruits to prawns the size of little lobsters. This wet and dry central market opens all day, every day, and it also makes some great photo opportunities. Walk south, and you will get to the colorful Handicrafts Market, which is perhaps the best place in Sabah to buy inexpensive textiles, pearls, and many other souvenirs.

Kinabalu National Park

Around 40 thousand people try to scale the summit of Malaysia’s tallest mountain each year, but you don’t have to climb Mt Kinabalu just to appreciate the first World Heritage Site in Sabah. In an all day tour, it is possible to take the botanical gardens nature trail at the base of the mountain, take a small dip at Poring Hot Springs, and stop at an optimal viewpoint to take the best picture of the astonishing peak if the clouds part for long enough.

The moving Kundasang War Memorial is a worthy pit stop. It commemorates the 2,345 British and Australian soldiers who died during the Sandakan Death Marches and is located six clicks east of the park headquarters. Just 6 men survived the horrific events, and only because they could escape.