Kota Kinabalu Trip 2009: Part 1

Just got back from my Kota Kinabalu Trip. Love the fresh seafood there. I’ll be updating once I adjust back to my normal schedule.

Leaving Kota Kinabalu on flight MH065.

Day 1

Wanting to catch the early flight to Kota Kinabalu, I woke up at 4am with just 5 hours of sleep crammed in the night before. The 45 minutes bus journey to KLIA offered an opportunity to catch up on my sleep. By 6am we already had our boarding passes for our 7:30am flight.

KLIA at 6am.

Fate has it that we got the Boeing 737-400 with the registration 9M-MQQ. I have a history with this plane and this coincidence is just too, should I say, disturbing. The flight took 2 hours and 30 minutes and it seemed to drag on forever. I got some sleep and I was feeling quite fresh when I landed at the new Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA). Almost completed, it looks similar to the Kuching International Airport.

KKIA at 10:40am.

Since the trip was planned just less than 24 hours ago, when we landed we had no arrangements whatsoever. So I called one of the backpackers and made a booking for 3 persons for the rate of RM18 per night per person. That would be our backup plan in case we couldn’t find the backpackers that our friend recommended.

We also poured over the different transportation options to get to town and around Sabah. Taking the taxi is the most expensive way to travel. In fact, with the 3 of us, it would be cheaper to rent a car for a day. But since we were on a tight budget, we took one of the cheapest and most abundant transport in Sabah: the mini buses.

One of the mini buses that we took to get to the city from the airport.

From the airport to the city using a taxi will set us back RM20. The mini bus only cost RM1.50 per person. The mini buses are actually ordinary vans driven by reckless horny drivers who would use the horn to signal the stopping of the bus.

Planning the trip as we go along.

Once in the city we went about to find “Traveller’s Light”, a backpacker hostel where one of us had stayed before. This backpackers is situated on Lorong Dewan, together with many other backpackers. This is the place to go if you want to find cheap backpackers.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that we did not make any prior bookings, the place was already full. The receptionist recommended “Kinabalu Backpackers Lodge” located about 100 meters away. Unbeknownst to us, this was a blessing in disguise.


Kinabalu backpackers lodge charges RM20 per person for accommodation in their dorm rooms. The rooms are air conditioned with clean sheets and pillow, hot water shower, free breakfast, free WiFi and free umbrella in case it rains and you want to go out. If you don’t have a WiFi enabled device with you, there are 2 computers available for use, free of charge. The whole place is very clean and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to stay in Kota Kinabalu city.

After checking in we went for lunch at the nearby coffeehouse. This kedai kopi Kak Tini is located beside the Tugu Peringatan Malaysia on Jalan Bandaran. The mee sup and soto is a must try. Food is reasonably priced too. The place is almost always packed.

Left: soto ayam (chicken). Right: mee sup daging (beef).

We also wanted to visit the new 1Borneo shopping complex which claims to be the biggest shopping mall in Borneo. There is a free shutter bus going there from Wisma Warisan (Warisan Square) but seats are limited so you need to be there 30 minutes before to collect your free ticket. We didn’t know about this at first but we were lucky that they had 3 more empty seats available for that trip.

Looking down Jalan Tun Razak. It was a cloudy day, perfect for getting around the city by foot.

1Borneo is a big shopping center located about 12km away from the city. It is big but under occupied. Many shops are still not open and it seemed deserted on a lazy Tuesday afternoon. It will probably be flooded by students from UMS which is located nearby. There’s nothing much to see here, just one big shopping center. The hovercraft service wasn’t ready yet when we went.

Kerosene is sold at petrol stations here in Sabah! In KL, the only place where you can buy kerosene at a petrol station is at the airport, where they refuel aircraft.

We also took a walk along the waterfront along Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen. There was nothing much to see in the afternoon as the night market only opens at night. At around 4pm it started to rain as we were walking back to the backpackers. So we decided to go back and rest and then go our for a seafood dinner.

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