Weekend at Kota Kinabalu

My friend Kesh invited me to Malaysia for a few days to celebrate her birthday. Since I had a holiday that week as well but work for the rest of the week, I decided to stay for 9 days so we can spend the weekend touring. Going to Kota Kinabalu was totally unplanned so instead of just flying in to KK from Manila, I flew to KL. We had dinner at Nando’s – something I’ve been wanting to try since I read it in KC Tanglao’s (Kesh!) Gezellig series. Then early the next day, we trooped to the airport again for the flight to KK.

First glimpse of Kota Kinabalu

It was kind of surreal being in Sabah. I mean, it’s Sabah! It had never been in my dreams to visit the place, but Kota Kinabalu is highly recommended for tourists – although more for the mountain, than for swimming.

From the airport, we went straight to the port. The port office is huge and clean. We booked a trip for 2 islands. We were booking for specific islands but we had a misunderstanding with the lady at the counter due to language barriers, and it was too late to change the islands we were going to visit.

Port in Kota where you can book the island hopping tour from different service providers

The first island we visited wasn’t as scenic as I expected. It was more crowded and more commercialized, but there was plenty of space to swim. We even met a few Filipino cooks, who were so excited to see us and converse in our mother tongue. They said very few Filipinos visit Sabah There were barely any corals – which was good, because we didn’t have the right shoes – but there wasn’t much to see underwater. Still, it was a good place to swim. There are several buffet offerings in the island, and we chose the one with the Filipino crew.

The part I loved most about Kota Kinabalu is that it felt like a cleaner version of home. There was barely any traffic, it was modern, and the sea was so clean.

View of Kota Kinabalu at night

We transferred to the second island, where there were less tourists, but that meant just more space for us to swim. I swam a bit farther from shore because I saw fish that looked transparent against the white sand. I was having fun until what looked like a water snake swam underneath me. I paddled back to shore in a hurry and couldn’t venture that far anymore.

Spacious room and comfy beds

When we got back to shore, we went straight to the our hotel, Dreamtel Kota Kinabalu, which we booked through Booking.com*. It was an excellent choice, because it was spacious, very clean, and affordable. After a quick nap, Kesh and I headed for Shangri-La because it has the best views of the sunset – another recommended activity in KK. Sadly, since there was a bit of rain, the sun didn’t come out to play. There were so many people when we arrived. The two restaurant/bars of Shang were full of people waiting for the view like we were.

The next day, we made one more stop before going to the mall. We went to Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu because of its reflection in the water. We didn’t enter anymore, but it was my first time to see a Muslim temple up close, and it took my breath away. It’s so beautiful!

I think under the right lighting conditions, the reflection in the water is more visible.

We had so much time before our flight so we went to the mall, had lunch, and even watched xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Our trip to Kota Kinabalu didn’t go as planned, but it was a gentle and interesting preview to Malaysia.

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