Travel: Sunday walking tour in Kota Kinabalu

Hello from KL! We are finally back from our two-week stay in Sabah for the consular mission that my husband led. The past two weeks were so hectic and enlightening. Aside from the consular mission, we were also able to get to know undocumented Filipino kids who only have access to education through alternative learning centres.

But I’ll write about those things next time.

For now, I wanted to share with you photos of our walking tour of Kota Kinabalu’s (KK) main district which we did on a Sunday – our only break during the mission. We couldn’t go far even though I was dying to see the fireflies at the Kinabalu National Park because the following day was expected to be hectic.

No time for the beach either (insert sad-faced emoji here) so we decided to just explore the city and not go too far – make do with what little time we have there. KK’s main district is filled with budget hotels/hostels and restaurants that offer great food at very low prices. My husband and I actually gained weight there from all the eating we did.

It’s great for those who wish to go backpacking. When visiting KK, I suggest you make sure your visit falls on a weekend. That is, if you want to see and experience how Southeast Asian locals get their shopping on.

Gaya street on its busiest day – Sunday.

During my husband’s courtesy call on the mayor (where again, I was made to come with), he and his press officer told us to drop by the Gaya Sunday Market as most tourists end up with great experiences and finds there. So on Sunday morning, my husband and I walked to Gaya Street to find it closed to traffic as stalls selling almost anything you could imagine, lined up one of the city’s busiest streets.

When we were told that you can find almost any knick-knack you can imagine there, we thought the mayor’s press officer was just exaggerating. She wasn’t.

Flashlights in varying colours and sizes.

Local snacks.

Plants – some were decorative, while others were a bit more helpful with a couple of species promising to repel mosquitoes.

Indonesian and Malaysian batik.

But the ‘find’ that we wanted so bad was something we couldn’t have. We were ready to shell out for her, granted that she was going to to be filed under “impulse purchases” and she wasn’t cheap. However, customs restrictions in bringing her to KL and our condo not allowing pets, decided for us. We couldn’t make it happen. It was rather heartbreaking but we had to walk away.

We wanted to name her Sabah! She’s so adorable and sweet.

Sabah and her brother. They were such a hit to shoppers that day. But they’re kind of pricey at RM1,400 (almost 20,000 pesos!) each.

Reflexology slippers.

So nice to see a Filipino Kulintang (those 9 little gongs arranged next to each other) there! The Kulintang produces a beautiful, melodic sound. It comes from predominantly Muslim Mindanao, in the Philippines.

Beads and stones turned into exquisite necklaces.

Small figurines of Hindu gods. Spot my fave! Ganesha. 🙂

There’s a small roundabout in the middle of Gaya street with an old yet charming fountain.

Nearby is the Sabah Tourism Board’s office where we stopped for a bit to check out where and how we can get to the Sabah Museum.

It’s a great resource centre with lots of informative leaflets on different places in Sabah.

We were told that the museum is open everyday from 9am-5pm and we can either walk to the place which may take over an hour or take a taxi for around 10-15 minutes. So we decided to drop by the harbour and the Filipino market first (which were nearer) before taking a taxi to the museum.

A view of the South China Sea. 😉

The Boardwalk is a good place to take photos.

Just remember to wear sunglasses when you’re going between 10-1pm. The sun can be very bright and it can be quite humid.

It was almost noon then and pigeons were already having lunch.

We entered the Filipino market where you can find almost anything you can see at an SM grocery store in the Philippines. Making Pinoy sweet style spaghetti is never a problem in Sabah, apparently. 😉

These Baroque South Sea Pearls are exquisite! A steal at RM 1000 (Php13,782, EUR245.22, USD306.89)! But you can still ask for a discount. 😉

The Filipino market is also known for its street tailors.

And handicraft – both Filipino and Sabahan inspired.

It was past noon but we weren’t hungry yet. Eating a lot during breakfast buffets at hotels does have its perks. You can last longer when taking long walks. 😉 However, we were so sweaty and thirsty!

This chocolate shake with pearls was a great way to beat the heat.

I practically drooled all over this gold-tinged South Sea pearl necklace! Of course, I couldn’t afford it without resorting to selling one of my organs in the black market. It’s at RM19,000 (Php261,865, EUR4659, USD5830).

The Filipino market in Kota Kinabalu comes alive at night – around 6 or 7 pm. When we dropped by at day time, there were a good number of shops that were closed so it’s best to go in the evening. We then took a cab to the Sabah Museum. We paid RM15 for the 10 minute ride. Note that taxis in Kota Kinabalu do not use their metres. Even if the cab’s sign says ‘Bermerter’ (metered taxi). The minimum charge within the city is RM12 and it increases as you go further. It’s useless to ask the cabbies to use the metre instead as it’s common practice in KK to use fixed rates for cab rides.

The entrance to the Sabah museum.

The entrance fee costs RM15 (Php206.74, USD4.60, EUR3.68) and will get you inside the Sabah Museum, the Heritage Village, and the Islamic Museum.

The museum’s architecture shows traditional, Southeast-Asian elements.

A Lepa Pasil sits outside the museum. It’s a traditional sailing boat that looks rather small but can sail to islands around southeast asia that are quite far. It’s also quite fast and known for its floral carvings.

Photos are not allowed inside the Sabah and Islamic Museum. But they’re both worth a visit as they discuss history and culture not just in Sabah itself but in neighbouring Asian countries as well and how people from different islands (now separated by modern borders) interacted with each other and lived harmoniously hundreds of years ago. The museum also discusses the not-so-distant history with old models of cellphones and computers used by Sabahans on display. Remember the Nokia 3310? Yeah, it’s a museum piece now. 😉

Vintage cars used in Sabah during the 50s.

My husband and I love trains. He likes all of them while I have a penchant for the vintage ones. Reminds me of how people used to dress up for long train journeys and when they used to have drinks in a special train car while wearing pretty white gloves and fancy hats.

The Islamic Museum. No photos allowed inside where you can take a peek into daily Muslim life and beliefs. Intricately designed pieces such as Koran stands and betel nut sets were also on display.

At the Heritage Village, you get to walk around a traditional Sabahan village complete with rice paddies and irrigation.

Sabahans and Filipinos built their houses similarly. No surprise there. The house appears to be on stilts that are not there to protect them from flooding (ok, maybe that’s a secondary reason). Beneath the house is where they keep their pet chickens to protect them from the weather.

Are you sure I’m not in Pangasinan (A province North of Manila)?

After the museum complex, we took a cab back into KK’s main district so we can get a massage and have dinner after. Our feet were sore and a short session of foot reflexology and a back massage was just what we needed. Posting more later. Love, Carol

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