Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pack My Backpack to Kota Kinabalu!

16 – 21 May 2009

Travel Mate/s
Nian & Astri (my best Gals)

16/May/2009 Jakarta (Indonesia) – Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia)
17/May/2009 Kota Kinabalu: Sunday Market in Gaya Street – City Sightseeing – Mt. Kinabalu
18/May/2009 Kota Kinabalu: Mt. Kinabalu
19/May/2009 Kota Kinabalu: Mt. Kinabalu – City Center
20/May/2009 Kota Kinabalu: Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park – Philipino Market – Waterfront
21/May/2009 Kota Kinabalu: Mall Hopping – Kota Kinabalu Airport – Jakarta (Indonesia)

Travel Notes
Why to go to Kota Kinabalu?
It was a part of my new year resolution back then in 2009, to do something extraordinary. Climbing Mount Kinabalu (4,092 metres above sea level) – located in Kota Kinabalu) which is a prominent & the tallest mountain on the island of Borneo (Kalimantan), the 20th tallest mountain in the world (*refer to wikipedia) and include in top 5 highest peak in Asia..well it should be one of the definition of ‘something extraordinary’ :)

And yes again, Mount Kinabalu is known to be the most accessible mountain in the world. It means no specialized mountain climbing skills required to conquer it. It is perfect!

(Kota Kinabalu in the head of Borneo)

Kota Kinabalu (formely known as Jesselton) is the capital city of Sabah-Malaysia. The city is located in Borneo (Kalimantan). It is a really perfect gateway. In Kota Kinabalu City Center, going everywhere is actually under a reasonable walking distance. It is easy to find a cheap place to stay, to eat and to shop.
From getting tanned in white-sandy beaches, getting chilled in the top of mountain peak, enjoyed a beautiful sunset in the city or shopped till drop in local market. It is a small city with a lot of tourist attraction.

My Must-see and Must-do Checklist in Kota Kinabalu:
Mount Kinabalu
– of course, visit Kota Kinabalu without try to conquer the mountain would not feel complete. I will post more details about the mountain in separate post since it will have a lot of details:) It is one of a kind experience which will last in my memory like forever.

(view from the TOP)

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park it is a coast of island consists of 5 island: Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, Sulug and Mamutik. Those islands have white-sandy beach with a translucent sea water which enable us to see its variety of colorful fish. Combined with a clear blue sky and warm sunshine, i got tanned :) Recommended activities are: snorkling and diving. To reach the marine park, I should walk to the Jesselton Point (under a walking distance from Gaya Street) then rent a boat complete with guide/snorkling/diving instructor.

(Sneak peak in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park)

Sunday Market in Gaya Street this weekly fair gather a super variety of local hawkers selling their goods. For the tourists, I can find a wide range of traditional ethnic or handycraft souvenirs to be brought home. This market also offer local food, household, pets, fruits, herbs, flowers, copy of branded goods and even you could find a message therapist. Bargain is a must in this market. Unique thing about the market is that it is cover the whole Gaya Street (formerly known as Bond Street). So every Sunday, the street is closed for the market. And since Gaya Street is the main street in Kota Kinabalu City Center, so you will find this market is cover up almost all part of the city center. It is just on and on and on :) The market start in 6 AM and close at 1 PM.

Philipino Market this is the place where you could buy a souvenir/handycraft. Bargain is a must also in this market. But if I could recommend, more variety in Sunday Market Gaya Street than in this market.

Enjoy Sunset in Waterfront (Sunset deck) – the city is provided with the sunset deck where you can sit and enjoy the sunset in a convenience atmosphere. You could find food and drink stalls near the deck. Near the sunset deck, you would find fish market where you will find fresh seafood. My recommendation is to have your dinner of seafood here and bargain still required:)

Sabah Museum Historical fact and artefact of Sabah. Located in the museum complex, we could visit ‘Heritage Village’; set of traditional house and Sabah Village.

City sightseeing Walk! See the Australian Road, Atkinson Clock Tower, Gaya Street, Jesselton Hotel, KK Tourism Office and Signal Hill where we could see full overview of KK city center.

VINCCI store (Malaysia brand) – a must visit for Shoes lover. We could find the store in shopping Malls. Me is shoes lover!

(Pose with style in Gaya Street - Gaya in Indonesian Language means Style in English translation)
The local people in Kota Kinabalu are friendly, helpful and informative. There is a moment when we stand in sideways discussing about the appropriate taxi rate, a local old man just jump in into our discussion and gave us the information needed. Yeiy!

Medium-Low, total spending was more or less USD 400 for total 6 days 5 nights, include airline ticket and personal shopping bag:)
Half of the spending was for Mount Kinabalu.

Details are below (Current exchange rate used is USD to IDR 9,000):
Airline – (using AirAsia) Jakarta direct to Kota Kinabalu round trip was USD 99
Accommodation in Kota Kinabalu City Center – (Akinabalu Hostel & Rainforest Lodge) more or less USD 30 for total 3 nights stay.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park – more or less USD 10 per person include boat, entrance fee, diving/snorkling instructor & equipment
Mount Kinabalu – more or less USD 238 per person include 2 nights accommodation & meals, climbing permit, climbing insurance, entrance fee, guide & porter, transportation roundtrip from Kota Kinabalu (KK) City Center to Kinabalu Park HQ, transportation Kinabalu Park HQ to Timpohon gate, Walking Stick & deposit box

Personal Notes
If Singapore was my first leisure overseas trip then Kota Kinabalu was my first backpacking experience. I was literally use backpack instead of suitcase:)

(Our cozy room at Grace Hostel - Kinabalu Park HQ)
As a backpacker, it was also my first time to stay in a budget hostel instead of a hotel. And hostel is a really good value of money. Cheap is not always equal with bad, dirty or noisy. Hostel concept means we share some facilities with other; such as bed room, bath room, recreation room, dining room, etc. And sometimes do self-service; such as prepare our breakfast, cleaning the dishes, laundry our dirty clothes; etc. Depends on the hostel rate. It is fun right? As a trade off, we can get a cheap price for sleep and of course exposure to other fellow traveller:)

My recommendation for staying in Kota Kinabalu would be to find a hostel/hotel located in Gaya Street. It is the city center. Bus and taxi station are across the street. Near a minimarket; named Milimewa. Walking distance to waterfront; sunset deck and jesselton point. If you stay in Rainforest Lodge or Akinabalu Hostel like me; it is the center of resto and open bar. If you miss junk food, you can find Pizza Hut, KFC and Burger King nearby. And Gaya Street Sunday Market is exactly in front of your hostel door:)

(beautiful girls eating manner;> )

My unforgetable moments was related with hostel too. To minimize our cost, we bring several instant food which only need hot water to serve it. In one of our hostel which was the room rate include breakfast. During the breakfast time, we found that the breakfast serve was very minimum so we intend to eat our instant food. When ask for hot water, the waiter said that no outside food allow to be eat in their restaurant. So what we did after we got the hot water, we brought our instant food and eat them in roadside where a lot of people walk around us. It is not about we can not afford to buy the breakfast in the resto, it is about our value so we should stand for it:)



  1. Definitely a good reference for anyone who wants to visit. Especially for the medium-low-budget traveler :)

  2. First time climb the mountain, first time to do the snorkeling, they said first time is hard but they forget to say it also so much fun! Btw, keren deh masih inget2 berapa2 harganya, huehehehe, g udh lupa smuaaa :D - Nian

  3. how long did it took you to climb the mountain?

  4. Hi!
    It depends on your speed during the climbing. But normally people can reach Laban rata after 5 hours (during day climb), then from Laban Rata to Low Peak for about 1.5 hours (night climb).

    Mine was 7 hours to reach Laban Rata, our speed was quite slow and it was raining which caused we need to be more careful :)