Here’s a confession… A friend booked me on a flight to Kota Kinabalu and about a month before our trip I didn’t even know if Kota Kinabalu is in Indonesia or Malaysia. Much to the chagrin of my friends. Hehehe!
So why book a flight to Kota Kinabalu in the first place? Because of this bunch of crazies!
Yup, I gave in to peer pressure and the temptation of a seat sale. Kezia booked our flight for us on January 1, 2015 and we were scheduled to leave sometime September. Along the way, we were able to
convince bully a few more friends to go with us. Including this guy, Fra…
Renz (the guy in glasses) who had already been to Kota Kinabalu (KK) promised us we would enjoy our trip and that we don’t even have to spend a lot to have an awesome KK experience. He made us an itinerary that consisted mostly of eating, island hopping, eating, walking around, and even more eating. And we did exactly all that for for three days. Without spending over PhP5,000.
FYI a Ringgit (RM) is equivalent about PhP11 – PhP12.
Cebu Pacific Air flies from Manila to Kota Kinabalu daily at past 11 pm. To prepare for the trip, I opted to stay at home and rest for at least 24 hours before the flight. We had planned to do our Island Hopping the day we arrived in KK so I had to have energy. The flight takes around two hours. Luckily, our flight was on time. When we arrived at the airport, we got a large cab that would fit the five of us and our luggage. Our Kota Kinabalu Adventure was about to begin!
To facilitate paying for our cab and other common expenses, we decided to pool RM100 per traveler and we would use this pooled money for cab rides, some meals, taxes, and other expenses which we all had to pay for. I was the trip’s designated Group Leader so I kept and managed the pooled money. I got this smart travel tip from Kuya Andrew during our Hong Kong trip in December 2014.
From the airport we went straight to Sensi Backpackers Hostel. The entire cab ride, me and Kezia (the girl in glasses) were on the lookout for food places that were still open. And we were more than ecstatic to find out that there was one Azlina Sulawesi Kafe and Katering was right beside Sensi and it is open 24 hours a day, everyday. HURRAH! They serve Halal Food. Our favorite is the Roti Kosong.
We ate this with some hot noodle soup, enough to keep us full. After eating we went back to the hostel, discussed our itinerary and went to sleep. We agreed on waking up by 7 am so we could eat breakfast and start our island hopping early. So wake up early we did and we went just across the street to Fong Ip Cafe for coffee, milk tea, soft boiled eggs, and toast.
The hostel managers helped us secure a cheap package for island hopping and parasailing. After we got our temporary receipt from them, we walked along Jalan Haji Saman towards the Kota Kinabalu Ferry Terminal. We looked up the tour agency that our hostel referred us to, paid the remaining fees and taxes, and off we went.
We chose to do only two stops, one at Pulau Mamutik and another at Pulau Manukan. Basically, we did this at Pulau Mamutik.
We reserved eating lunch and swimming for our next stop. But first…
My four companions tried Parasailing en route to Pulau Manukan. And they enjoyed it. A lot. Parasailing is just one of the many advenuture and aqua sports activities you can do around Kota Kinabalu.
After the parasailing experience, it was time for lunch!
The restaurant of Sutera Sanctuary Lodges is a bit more pricey than the average restaurant in Kota Kinabalu, but every was in large servings and absolutely every part of every dish is delicious. When eating traditional Malay dishes, make sure to use the weird looking stuff served with the dishes. It is called sambal, their version of shrimp paste.
Here’s another smart travel tip. When eating at a restaurant with dishes servings just for one person, Pair up and order two dishes to be shared between you and your partner. That way you get to try two dishes. There were five of us so four of us grouped into pairs and Fra simply ordered whatever he wanted. We all got to try a bite of two of what the others ordered, though.
And we drowned all the spicy goodness with a refreshing Cucumber Shake.
After even more camwhoring (hehehe!), my four companions decided to take dip in the beach. After which, we went back to the main island to the comfort of our hostel room. After a bit of rest, it was time for dinner. We decided to try Yu Kee Ba Kut Teh. But the thing that excited us most was just a few steps away.
One thing Kuya Andrew repeatedly reminded me months before the KK trip was to bring him back some Old Town White Milk Tea. Good thing the Old Town White Coffee Cafe was just a few blocks away from our hostel along Jalan Gaya. So after dinner, we just walked a bit and got our tummies ready for coffee, tea, and desserts.
And yes, I bought and took home several boxes of Old Town White Coffee, White Milk Tea, Black Coffee, and Hazelnut Coffee.
It was the perfect way to end a wonderful first day in KK.
For Day 2, I opted to sleep in (#SignsofAging) while the rest of the group went up to the Signal Hill Observatory Tower. This was after we had already devoured a good amount of coffee and toast in the hostel pantry.
After, their Signal Hill adventure, they fetched me so we could have late lunch together. The plan was to walk the entire stretch of Jalan Gaya eating a little of this and that here and there. We were just at our first stop, Jolly Dovey when it rained. HARD! Phooey.
The good news, however, is we were near a souvenir shop and grocery shop where we were able to buy some souvenirs and some pasalubong. The better news? Five Star Hainanese Chicken was just across the street.
After lunch, they set out to visit Wisma Merdeka along Jalan Tun Razak. Wisma Merdeka is the biggest and most popular mall in KK. I was surprised when they returned to the hostel. They each had new luggage which they were able to buy at 70% – 80% off. Awesome deal.
After we packed all our things, we paid for our hostel fees, which was just around RM35 (Ph420) a night per person. And then we set out for dinner at Old Town White Coffee Cafe, once again. Old Town is also a full service restaurant that serves traditional Malay food fare. You can even get a set meal with a rice or noodle dish and a drink for a cheap price.
White Curry, as Pau discovered is an awesome dish. It is a curry noodle dish with creamer. There is an instant noodle version of this that we bought to bring home. Not as pasalubong, but for ourselves. If you get the chance to try White Curry Noodle Soup, try it. And tell me where I can buy some, as well.
After dinner, we cleaned up, picked up our stuff, and set off to the airport for our flight back to Manila via Cebu Pacific Air.
My Kota Kinabalu Adventure might not seem much of an adventure for people who travel a lot, but it was an adventure for me. To be in a new country, a different city, to meet new people, try new things, eat unique dishes, and have new stories to tell.
I went home with a new sense of adventure. Maybe not the kind that would make me conquer my fears, but I definitely look forward to more food, more sights, and more fun with friends in places still unknown to me. I have finally gotten the wanderlust bug.
When traveling abroad, be informed, stay connected, and keep sharing with SMART Surf Abroad P550.
SENSI BACKPACKERS HOSTEL
Address: 103 Gaya Street, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Contact Numbers: +6088-272796 and +60178-357700 (M)
Email Adress: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Sensi-Backpackers-Hostel-Kota-Kinabalu-497329306955380/
AZLINA SULAWESI KAFE & KATERING
Address: Jalan Kota Kinabalu Lama 2, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
FONG IP CAFE
Address: 100 Jalan Gaya, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Fong-IP-CAFE-150701350759
SUTERA SANCTUARY LODGES
Headquarters Address: Block B, Lot 9, Ground Floor, Signature Office, KK Times Square, Off Coastal Highway, 88100 Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Contact Number: +6088-487466
Email Address: email@example.com
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/suterasanctuary
YU KEE BAK KUT TEH
Address: 74 Jalan Gaya, 88000, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
OLD TOWN WHITE COFFEE
Kota Kinabalu Address: Ground Floor Menara Jubili, 53 Jalan Gaya, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Contact Number: +6088-259881
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/OldTownWhiteCoffeeMalaysia
FIVE STAR HAINANESE CHICKEN AND BARBEQUE PORK
Kota Kinabalu Address: Centre Point Shopping Centre, Palm Square, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia