Vacationista: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia


I usually avoid traveling or going on road trips during the Holy Week because of one word: traffic. But then, my itchy feet couldn’t be helped. I found P3500 roundtrip airfare to Kota Kinabalu (KK) where I’ve never been to so that sealed my plans. I intentionally chose the Wednesday night departure from Manila then Saturday morning arrival in Manila because I still wanted to spend a weekend in my home. I’m getting old that I need some time after a trip to ‘rest.’ Haha! I think I mentioned before that I have a traveling threshold (once every 3 months) and with a duration of 2-3 days only, though of course, there are exceptions. Anything more often or longer than that makes me not want to travel anymore. Lessens the excitement and novelty of it, I guess.

 We left Wednesday night and was so happy that there were only a few people both on the road going to the airport and at the airport itself. I guess everyone thought of leaving earlier to beat the traffic. I am also delighted to find out that there are now more shops and restaurants available in Terminal 3, including Café Mary Grace where we had dinner. Sis left her car at the covered parking lot and only paid P600 for about 3 nights of parking. Not bad. Things seem to be looking up for NAIA 3. 

Since we arrived early morning, we opted to stay at a small hotel called Dreamtel so we could spend our first day in the city. Taxi to and from the airport is RM45 while going around the city is about RM15. They have fixed rates there so best to ask the driver beforehand. Dreamtel was really value for money. About P3000 for 3 people per night, with decent breakfast and really nice, comfy, clean and big enough room and it’s near most tourist spots. Restaurants are also available downstairs & a convenience store is located nearby.


For our first day, we availed of the city tour available at the hotel for RM99, starting at 10am to around 1pm. We had the whole van to ourselves! I recommend taking a tour if you don’t mind the extra ringgit and if you want convenience, because honestly it was too hot to walk around the city.

 First stop is the Atkinson Clock Tower which is really just a clock with two faces. It’s actually near Dreamtel. I was quite surprised there weren’t a lot of tourists around, which was fine by me because I’m allergic to hordes of humans. Haha!

  Nearby was the Signal Hill which overlooks KK. It’s really nice how KK was able to preserve this hill, with all its lush greenery and forests and it’s all because the government mandated its preservation. How I wish our own government would do that too.

Following that was Tun Mustapha Tower, a cylinder type of tower that houses something like an NGO, where Malaysians can seek financial support or scholarship. I found this quite fascinating because of its architecture and reminded me of the sculpture Atomium we saw in Brussels, Belgium. 

 We then went to the Floating City Mosque which is the only Muslim mosque open to tourists. It’s really pretty and as the name goes, it’s surrounded by water. Our driver said that there was no specific reason why mosques are usually placed in the middle of the water but it does add to the beauty of the holy ground. If you want to go in, you’ll have to wear their proper attire (hajib and cloak) for RM5 rental fee.

 The next temple we went to was the Poh Tos Tse Buddhist Temple. 

I’ve been to other Buddhist temples that I didn’t think anything special of this one. That is, until I went into one of the small temples which housed giant guardians! Look at how tiny I am next to them! I would imagine my angels would be as tall, if not taller, as them.

 Aside from huge figures, I actually have a fascination with pretty walls. All sides of the temple had gorgeously painted walls.

  We stopped by the Handicraft Market aka Pinoy Market which sold local delicacies, food products, handicrafts and various merchandise (photo below of the tasty squid-flavored balls at RM8 and pretty key chains we bought at RM 13 for 15pcs). This was followed by Cocoa Boutique, which sold different kinds of chocolates since Malaysia is also known for their chocolate produce (photo below of the chocolate boxes we bought for approx. RM10 each). We also cooled off with some ice cream sticks with Cendol, Red Bean and of course, Durian (for mom) flavors, RM3.5 each. On the way to our last stop, got a glimpse of the huge Marlin structure in the middle of a rotunda as well as a pretty, huge-ass graffiti on the side of a building.

 We were dropped off at Wisma Merdeka afterwards. We had a late lunch at the food court (I love food courts!) located at the 3rd floor and opted for some vegetarian food which was so cheap yet so good. These two meals—where you get the viands by yourself—was only RM10.5. Bought a large milk tea with grass jelly from Golden Fish at the 1st floor for only RM4.2. Also bought mom some durian puff (she grabs every opportunity to eat durian) for RM6.35.

I then went around the shops to kill time. I saw the Guardian store – something like Watson’s – and went gaga over their products! I couldn’t buy their liquids since we have no check-in baggage so I only bought – get ready for this and don’t judge – 3 bags of 3 cotton puffs packs, with 226 pieces each pack (for a total of 2034 individual puffs) for RM11 and 6 bags with 5 packs each of super cute mini-wet ones (8 sheets each) for RM11 per 2 bags. Plus, three under eye masks eye (3 for RM5). In my defense, the cotton and wet ones were on sale. The mini wet ones were also very nice because they were corrugated, very thick and smelled so good. Flat cotton puffs in Manila are super expensive! Like, for 40 pieces, it’s already at P30. Even though I still have boxes from my Japan trip, it’s ok to hoard because it won’t decay. Haha! The wet ones and the eye packs are super cute! Nadala sa packaging. In one of the stores, I got curious with the pink face mask (RM8.9) because it seems like it’s for a masquerade ball so I just bought one for the heck of it. Later on, saw this in for Php200! Good thing I bought one 🙂

 By 4pm, the Shangri-la shuttle picked up the guests. Wisma to Shangrila was approximately an hour away with a bit of traffic but there were moments when the view was gorgeous. I shared here our Shangri-la Rasa Ria Resort and Spa Kota Kinabalu experience.  

 As for the mini-shopping, aside from those mentioned above, I found some gems – including this 20-piece sponge for only RM5 at a department store in Wisma Merdeka. It’s small but I plan on using it as a body sponge since I change my sponge every month. This solidifies my belief that items in our malls are so overpriced. Two of these in Manila would already be priced at Php100 (kalokohan). Below also are the key chains and chips we bought at the Pinoy market. We also went to a grocery store during our last night and bought some good ol’ coffee. The most popular is the Old Town coffee (hazelnut) for about RM15 then I added a pack of Yit Foh 3-in-1, about RM9 and this Drip Coffee box, about RM15, which I found interesting. When you open the Yit Foh, you’ll get a sachet inside, just like a tea bag. So cute.

 For our last dinner in KK, we went to the nearby mall called Suria Sabah Mall, walking distance from Dreamtel and right across Wisma Merdeka (though we took a cab for RM15). The food court is always a great choice when abroad because you get to try their local and authentic cuisine and since it doesn’t burn your pockets, you can easily opt to eat somewhere else if not to your liking. I had the Chicken Rendang meal with one rice, cucumber, peanuts with dried fish, boiled egg and sauce (RM7) and added three pieces chicken satay for a total of RM10. Super cheap! Cendol Kacang (RM5) and milk tea (RM3.4) were the perfect addition to the meal. 

 If you like malls, this mall could be great for you. It’s a combination of mid-high end (Coach) and low end (Daiso, which I love!). It’s not huge but enough to make you tired after walking. Bought more face masks (haha) from Daiso. Each pack (RM5.3 each) consisted of 7 sheets (photo way above). Daiso there is so much cheaper than in Manila, though Japan of course is cheapest.

I would probably go back to KK for the food, beach and shopping, though not anytime in the near future. It’s really a cheap destination to go to but with the same relaxation you can get from other countries. If you’re just staying in the city, one day would be enough, just like what we did. So if you’re planning on visiting, I suggest you opt to have some beach time (like us) or even a hike to Mt. Kinabalu (not us). =)




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