Kota Kinabalu Trip Report (3D3N)
24 October 2012
Late evening flight from JB to KK, via Air Asia. Landed around 10.00+ pm. Picked up by Paul (pre-arranged driver with van), who sent us to Winner Hotel (pre-booked but not paid). Winner Hotel was a disappointment (please see hotel review).
25 October 2012
Breakfast (included in price of room) was acceptable – you get to choose from a few sets: chicken porridge/noodles/nasi lemak/toast with eggs and sausages & baked beans + coffee/tea. Paul (our driver) came at 8 am and so we set off for Kinabalu Park. On the way, we passed an “upside-down house” (which is a tourist attraction) but we didn't stop as it didn't seem like a big deal. We reached Tamparuli (according to Paul, it is so named because long ago, a Chinese man was speaking on the phone and when the other party asked where he was, he said 'tempat lori' – literally translated as 'the lorry place' - so the name became Tamparuli). Here, we got down and crossed the suspension bridge on foot (a very interesting experience which my parents enjoyed), the bridge sways with every step you take, but it's quite stable and safe, no worries). Paul drove the van (via the road and bridge for vehicles) and met us on the other side. We stopped at a Chinese coffee shop for Tuaran mee (something like wantan mee, except that it is fried together with roast pork, charsiew and fishcake slices) and drinks – not spectacular but OK. Next stop: Pekan Nabalu – where almost everybody stops to take a break/visit the restroom/take pics/buy souvenirs/look around. Note: most things are overpriced, so if you want to get souvenirs, better go elsewhere. We stopped here for quite a while, such that when we resumed our journey, Paul said it would be better to go straight to Poring Hot Springs and go to Kinabalu Park the next day. That was fine with us, so off we went to Poring Hot Springs (which is on the road to Ranau and beyond). On the way, we stopped at St. Peter Claver Catholic church, in Ranau town, as Paul had noted that we were interested in churches (being Catholic). Mention should be made of the numerous 'churches' that we passed, perhaps one church at every km. WE didn't actually see the churches, just the signboard stating 'St. James church', 'St. Patrick's church' etc and a little road leading to the church.
The walkway leading to Poring Hot springs is quite nicely done up – with bamboo plants lining both sides of the path. A little beyond that is the tree-top canopy walkway (one has to get separate tickets for that). I had long wanted to 'do' the tree-top canopy, so my parents waited at the hot spring area while I climbed (and climbed, and climbed …....). Well, it is not for the faint-hearted, and one has to be relatively fit. It was a great experience & greatly recommended (just be sure one does not have fear of heights). After the canopy walk, I went to check out the hot springs – well, there are many pools (round and rectangular) where one can soak one's feet. I did try putting my feet into the water, but it got a tad too hot for comfort, so I got up after a minute or so.
After that, we went for lunch somewhere near the entrance to the Hot Springs. It was a new Chinese coffee-shop type of restaurant. Since we were only a party of three, we decided to order a la carte, rice with dishes (lemon chicken, some vegetable soup & bittergourd cooked with black bean paste) – it was pretty good & reasonable too (RM30 for 3 of us).
Next, it was back to Kundasang, to the Desa Cattle Farm (entrance fee RM2 per person), to see the cows lining up to be milked and to feed. There is a viewing area, where one can see the whole process (but be warned, the smell can be quite overpowering!). One can buy fresh milk too (RM2.80 for 500 ml of fresh milk). After watching the cows, we decided to call it a day & checked into the Cottage Hotel. Quite a nice hotel (please see Hotel Review). After freshening up, we decided to walk around near the hotel. I suddenly remembered the Kundasang War Memorial, but unfortunately, it was already closed (by this time it was 6 pm). My parents and I wanted to walk into Kundasang (on the map, it seems quite near, and for young people, maybe it is near), but it proved too challenging for my parents ('cos it's uphill all the way) & night was falling. I walked (as quickly as I could) & managed to look around, but really, there wasn't much to see, just some shophouses, eateries & minimart. I retraced my steps to where my parents were waiting & we made our way back to the hotel. Opposite the hotel is a little provision shop which was doing a roaring business (as one can find almost anything in it – they even had Vicks Vaporub!).
Dinner was at the Cottage Hotel Restaurant (the prices are very reasonable). My Dad didn't have much of an appetite & neither did I (as my tummy was not behaving itself). So we just ordered fried rice, fried bee hoon and fried kway teow (RM7 each, but the servings were huge!). They also have steamboat (at RM20 per person, minimum 2 persons) – very reasonable, but we really could not eat that much.
26 October 2012
Woke up early to try to see the peak of Mt Kinabalu. Unfortunately, it was covered by clouds. After breakfast, it was off to Kinabalu Park Headquarters. Paul drove us to Timpohon View where we finally got to see the peak of Mt Kinabalu! What view! Truly magnificent & majestic! It was wreathed in wispy clouds, but you could see it clearly off and on. After snapping many pics, we went to the Liwagu Exhibition Hall, where everything about Mt Kinabalu and the Kinabalu National Park is showcased. There is even a time capsule!
After that, it was back to KK for a few highlights. First stop in KK: The Tun Mustapha Building (formerly Yayasan Sabah) – an architectural wonder. Next up was The Signal Hill Observatory. Now actually, this should be a good spot (and indeed it is) for seeing the whole of KK. But KK is not very pretty to behold (far too many buildings) and one can only see the sea in the distance. Coming down the hill from the observatory, you see the back of the Atkinson Clock Tower. Paul stopped and let us take photos here (which was good thing, 'cos the old folks did not need to climb any steps). Coming down the hill, we passed Yee Fung Restaurant (Paul said it's famous for curry laksa & ngiu chap). Next we went to the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (we requested it, as we wanted to pray and take some photos). The main cathedral was not open, but the prayer room was. Very big compound and well-designed.
By this time it was past noon, so Paul drove us to 1 City Hotel (which I had booked via telephone the previous day, since the first hotel was a disappointment). It was not quite time to check-in yet, but they allowed us to put our bags in the room. I must say the staff are all very helpful. Since it was time for lunch, we went looking for something to eat. Since it was a holiday (Hari Raya Haji), many of the eateries were closed. So we made our way to Plaza Warisan (there's a food court on the second floor), where we had roast pork rice (RM6 per plate). It was just so-so. We went back to the hotel, and the room was ready, so we took a rest (since it was too hot to do any walking around). At about 4 pm, we decided to walk towards the market. The weather was none too good, there was a light drizzle. Next to the market is the handicraft (Filipino) market. But it wasn't open. By this time the drizzle was getting heavier, so we decided to take a taxi to Welcome Seafood Restaurant in Asia City (recommended by Paul and also the receptionist at 1 City Hotel). Managed to hail a taxi (who asked for RM12). The restaurant occupies a few shop lots on the ground floor. We were amazed at the crowd as it was only around 6+ pm and the rain was steadily falling. We got a table somewhere near the middle of the shops and were very promptly attended to. The lady taking our orders was very helpful & efficient. Everything was very nice (kam heong crabs, butter prawns, deep fried squid, fried Sabah vegetable with garlic) and the bill only came up to RM67! A very satisfying meal! Took a taxi back to hotel (RM12). Since it continued to pour, we did not venture anywhere else but had an early night.
27 October 2012
Awoke bright and early, to explore KK on foot. First, headed towards the waterfront. It is very nicely done up, and one can just walk along and enjoy the breeze as well as the view (of many fishing boats & other types of boats, and the nearby island – Pulau Gaya). A very pleasant place to spend the time. We walked all the way to Gaya Centre Hotel, then crossed a few streets to Gaya Street. We made a beeline to Yee Fung Restaurant (my Dad is a great fan of beef noodles) where we ordered Ngiu Chap (Beef Noodles). The serving was quite generous & the beef tender. But I found it a tad too salty. After that, we walked along Gaya Street, popping into whatever shop we fancied. Gaya Street is a very pleasant street to walk along because there are trees in the middle, which provide shade (it is also where the 'tamu' or Sunday market is held every Sunday).
We took a leisurely walk back to the hotel to take a short break, after which we set out to the market. Walked past the market, handicraft market and on towards the salted fish market. This was where we were headed (my Dad being a great fan of salted fish). We found the stall recommended by Paul (it was not open the previous day) and proceeded to buy dried prawns (RM38/kg), dried cuttlefish, amplang & kuih cincin and salted fish (the salted fish was rather pricey, but my Dad wanted to buy it, so ….). They packed it very nicely in a cardboard box. Well, since it was rather difficult trying to lug a big box around, we hailed a taxi to take us back to the hotel (RM10). After taking a shower, it was time to check out (12.30 pm). We left the luggage at the counter (they keep your luggage for you in a locked store room) 'cos our flight out was in the evening.
Next, went in search of lunch. Made a beeline for Wiya Chicken Rice (which is just diagonally across the road from 1 City Hotel). Wanted to eat here the previous day but it was closed. The unique thing about the chicken rice is it comes in the shape of a pyramid! The boiled chicken (pak cham kai) was quite good, smooth and tasty. RM6 per serving.
The next few hours were spent walking around the shopping complex (KK Plaza, I think), which was rather old and quite run-down. Did not venture far as my parents cannot walk very far or fast. We had tea and toast at a nearby coffee-shop. Our pre-arranged taxi came to pick us up (Paul's brother, who drives a taxi!) at the appointed hour, so it was 'Bye-bye, KK!'
Notes: i)Would have liked to see the islands (P. Manukan etc.) but the old folks were not keen, so maybe next time!
ii) One must not miss having at least one seafood meal while in KK. The locals say the seafood in Sandakan is even better!
iii) If you ever come to KK, do make it a point to stay at Kundasang (or thereabouts) one of the nights, cos there's no point rushing up to Kinabalu Park HQ, then Poring Hot Springs, then rushing down again (it is too tiring and you might not see the peak of Mt. Kinabalu at all).