It’s refreshing to get away and travel alone again. No one to answer to, no one to escort you, and you can do as you please. Yes, I feel like an adult again!
After a long flight from Colombo, to KL, then to Kota Kinabalu I met my friend Kristen at our hostel. So technically I’m not alone, but I really like having a friend – not someone you just met – to travel with because it can be difficult to compromise on what to do and how much to spend.
KK is a small town yet has the biggest airport for the state of Sabah. Most travellers head here to climb the mountain – Mount Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in South East Asia. A 10 min drive from the airport gets you into the city center which is filled with backpackers and BnB’s. For most independent travellers this is the base to head either south to Mulu National park (featured in Planet Earth) or east towards Sipadan where the diving is meant to be the world’s best.
We were in KK for 2 nights before heading east ourselves, to Sandakan and head into the jungle.
Sunday was spent at the Sunday market which happens in Chinatown. It’s pretty big and you can spend hours battling the heat and haggling. The variety is wonderful and we got some good deals. After the market we headed to the Jessleton pier to catch a boat towards Tulka Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Somehow we ended up at the local pier and of course touts were running up to us to give us ‘deals’. In the end, for 40 ringgits we got a boat to take us there for the day, plus snorkel rental which we didn’t even end up using because it was murky with mildew in it. We ended up on Manukan Island, the most popular island with a resort and plenty of facilities like a convenience store and showers. We ended up renting cleaner snorkels but the water had almost no visibility, but there were definitely some very big and colorful fish in those waters.
The beach was nice with blue waters, but nothing to boast about. And it was refreshing to get away from the city where it seemed to rain everyday for just a little bit. Add on the humidity and you got a summer mess!
The locals were really friendly and everyone spoke in English. I love exploring grocery stores in new countries, it always gives you an idea of what the culture is like, I can spend hours exploring. Prices were cheap and mangoes were everywhere. I was very happy.
on the pier at Manukan island
By night KK gets deserted pretty fast, and I got a serious unsafe vibe. A few girls at our hostel also told us a story about almost getting robbed by the pier. Of course this kept us alert. We headed to the night market on our last night but with a group of 5 which included a guy. It still didn’t keep the men’s attention off of us, whistling and making comments is somewhat a hobby for loitering Malaysian males. They find it amusing even though they never get any sort of response to all of it.
The night market is by the seafront and next to all the western styled pubs and restaurants. I don’t understand why people would travel all this way to NOT try the local cuisine and stick to what they know. Besides, seafood is fresh and the best at the local markets plus cheap!
The fish I had wasn’t the best (too dry) but add on the rice and I was satisfied. The local restaurants are also clean, cheap and delicious. Malaysian food has always been one of my faves due its fusion with Indian and Chinese. You get the best of both worlds, and Milo!
KK doesn’t have much to see, but as a jumping point it can be amusing for a day. No longer, no less.