Welcome to this page

Welcome to my blog!
I am sharing stories of my trips and providing some tips in case you also want to travel.
This is also a photo blog, so I hope you like the candid photos I have taken from different places!

Thank you for visiting my blog.

- CB (freezymenthol)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Kota Kinabalu Second Time Around

It's better the second time around!!!

Last year, I went to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia as a lone backpacker.  Enjoyed visiting the islands and shopping at the various outlet stores in downtown KK.  I also had a chance to immerse myself with the locals and the tourists.

This time, I brought my family to let them experience what Kota Kinabalu has to offer.  I wanted to post another photo blog just like before, but decided to do a travel blog instead to help people plan for their trip should they go to Kota Kinabalu.

Things to Bring:

If you plan to go to the beach, bring the essentials - extra towel (in case the hotel won't allow you to bring theirs), sunblock lotion, goggles or snorkeling gear (you will need it), proper swimwear (the Marine park is strict) and light clothes.

If you plan to hike at Mt. Kinabalu - bring a mountaineering backpack, and shoes, essential mountaineering gear I suppose (sorry, I don't climb, but I guess you know what I mean).

If you plan to shop, bring an extra luggage - you will definitely need it.

Getting there:

Cebu Pacific offers regular flights from Manila to Kota Kinabalu.  Other airlines also offer the same such as Air Asia.  Be sure to go to the following sites to check their travel dates:


These are budget airlines so be sure you know their rules and regulations - especially the luggage policy.

NAIA Terminal 3

Once you arrive at the airport, you can take a taxi cab that would take you to a hotel in downtown Kota Kinabalu.  The taxi would cost MYR30.  It is a flat rate so don't expect you can haggle the price.

A view of KK Airport from the window.  Sunset looming in.

The only way to go to downtown KK from the Airport would be by taking a taxi which would cost MYR30

Where to stay:

There are tons of hotels in Kota Kinabalu from the backpackers' hotels, botique to hotels to even 5-star hotels.

If I were to recommend a hotels to stay that would be Hotel Eden 54, and Jesselton Hotel for those budget conscious.

Jesselton Hotel is very historical.  This is where the Bristih Royals stay during the time that KK was still a part of the British Colony.  The accommodations here are very reasonable.

Hotel Eden54 is where we stayed.  It's a very nice Botique Hotel. Ling-ling, the receptionist was very helpful and courteous.

For those who wants a perfect view of South China sea, try Le Meridien, Hyatt and Hotel Gaya.

Hyatt is facing South China Sea and will give you great views from your hotel room.

To those who want to splurge, there is Sutera Harbour, and Shangri-La Tanjung Aru.

You may want to check the following websites for good rates:

Those are the sites where I usually go to and book a hotel.

Getting around:

In downtown Kota Kinabalu, you can walk from Centerpoint Sabah Mall to Suria Sabah Mall and you can find interesting shops in between.

You can also take a cab and the usual far is MYR10-15. 

Here are some few places you can visit in downtown KK.

Suria Sabah Mall
  • It is one of the bigger malls in downtown KK with high-end brands to tempting outlet stores (especially F.O.S).  There is also a food court which is overlooking the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.
Suria Sabah Mall

Gaya Street Market (Sunday only)
  • Every Sunday from 6am to 12pm the stretch of Gaya Street is closed for the regular weekend market where you can find souvenirs, shirts, pets, novelty items and many more.  I would suggest that you come there very early.  Because around 9am onwards it could get very crowded.
Gaya Sunday Market
Gaya Sunday Market

Atkinsons Clock Tower
  • This old clock tower stands discreetly at the hills side of Kota Kinabalu City.  You can see the clock tower when you  go at the back of Jesselton Hotel.  There really isn't anything to do here apart from taking photos with the clock as your background.  But this structure has been witness to how Kota Kinabalu developed from being Jesselton to the city that it is today.
Atkinson's clock tower

Signal Hill
  • It is an observation deck at the top of a hill in KK City.  This place offers a fantastic view of the entire city and a peek of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.  Don't fret this place is free.  There are two ways to get there: take a taxi (the easiest one), or take the jungle trek up the hill (I suggest you do this).  The jungle trek starts form a flight of stairs at the back of Jesselton Hotel.  Just follow the route and it'll take you to Signal Hill.
Signal Hill taken from our hotel room

Jungle treck going to Signal Hill
a view from the top
My brother and my cousin on the other side of the deck.
panoramic view of the city and the islands.

1Borneo Mall
  • This is the biggest mall in KK.  But this is already about 30 minutes outside of downtown KK.  The the trip going there is almost worth the considering.  The taxi would cost MYR25 and on the way you will see the floating Mosque, University of Malaysia in Sabah, the Immigration Building and the a great view of South China Sea. 
Jesselton Point
  • This place will be your starting point if you plan to go to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.  It has a big arch with a sign "Kota Kinabalu Welcomes You".  There are good hawker stalls that offers cheap food and drinks.  Great place especially during sunset.
A Welcome Sign that greets tourists and visitors of KK
Speed boats in the background.  These would take you to any of the islands in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
Jesselton Point

Tunku Abdul Marine Park
  • If you are not hiking to Mt. Kinabalu (which is one of the two reasons why you are going here), then going to Tunku Abdul Marine Park will be the highlight of your trip.  In Jesselton point you can purchase tickets for the speed boats that would take you to any of the islands: Palau Manukan, Palau Sapi, Palau Mamutik, Palau Sulug.  One island trip would normally cost around MYR17.  But going to two or more would actually save you money.  
  • I would suggest to take the Palau Manukan-Mamutik combo for starters.  This would cost about MYR25 and an additional MYR7.20 for the terminal fee and MYR10 for the environmental fee.  The environmental fee would be paid when you dock on the first island and is a one time payment if you hop on to two or more islands.
  • The park has basic ammenities such as a canteen/cafeteria, changing rooms and restrooms.  They alsohave beach tables for free. 
Purchasing tickets that would take us to the islands

stern warning not to feed the fishes in the Marine Park

Palau Manukan
Welcome greet here in Palau Manukan

Bomb shells found in these islands

A photo taken from Palau Manukan overlooking Palau Gaya
Bring goggles or snorkeling gears, you will enjoy the day of swimming with the fishes in these islands

You may see a "bayawak" roaming around Palau Mamutik

Swimming with the "bayawak"
the sand is comparable to Boracay, IMO

Mt Kinabalu Park
Where to eat:

Seafood!  Yes, there is a dampa style dining in down town KK.  I would suggest you try Hua Hing restaurant.  They have the freshest finds at the most reasonable price.

Alway have a dinner in one of these seafood restaurants.
"Dampa" style.  But the good thing here is no extra charge when the restaurant cooks the seafood.
Hua Hing Seafood Restaurant

Also try Malaysian hawker stands that offer Nasi Goreng and Nasi Lemak.  But if you're not into local food, then you'll find the usual McDonalds, KFC, Burger King and other international establishments around.

KFC in Malaysia for those who do not want to eat local food.

I hope you find this blog helpful.  If you have any questions, just hit the comments section and I'll respond back.

At the dock of Palau Manukan, waiting for the boat that would take us to Palau Mamutik (island at the back)


  1. Hi there. Thanks for your post.

    Could you help me decide? Would my hubby and I book a flight to Hongkong or Kota Kinabalu?

    Please advise. Your words will surely be a great help.

    Keep on blogging! Ur posts are very informative and helpful. Kudos! Visit my blog, too. http://realitiesandrealizations.blogspot.com/

  2. It really depends on what you want to accomplish. Hong Kong has a different feel as compared to KK.

    Common to both locations:
    shopping - they both have factory stores you will surely enjoy. they both have cheap electronics, except for the fact the HK has an Apple Store.

    Now, if you want to go to Beaches, Island Hopping, Mountain Climbing, Nature Trip and the like, I suggest KK. They also have the best resorts. The Shangri-La resort is one of the best and cheapest compared to other Shangri-La Hotels.

    If you are after Theme Parks, City Tour, Buildings, Night Shopping - then HK is definitely for you.

    I like both. If given the opportunity I'll visit both again. But if you are asking me to choose one, I'll go for HK.

  3. cool post! we're going to KK next month and this would really help! thank God i found ur blog :)

  4. Thank you for the comprehensive account of your trip. We will be going to KK in May and perhaps we will take the route you took. did you have an overnight stay in one of the islands?

  5. MASWings fly you to Kota Kinabalu every day! :) http://on.fb.me/1846Don

  6. Everest Base Camp Trekking:Along with hiking through mountains and valleys, the Everest base Camp lets you travel through traditional Sherpa villages and Gompas means monasteries. We view the chaste peak Buddhist customs and their sacred peaks and valleys as well. The beauty of the great Mount Everest lying in the background of all other immense peaks can be spotted as the trek culminates at the foothills of the Everest Base Camp.
    Trekking in Nepal
    Everest Base Camp Trekking
    Annapurna Circuit trekking
    Manaslu Circuit trekking
    Kanchenjunga base camp Trekking
    Mansaarovar Kailash Shiva Parbat Yatra

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  8. hi......................
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