Sabah had always been on my travel bucket list. So when I had the opportunity to go back to Malaysia for a holiday, I decided to go for a short getaway to Sabah with my friend.
The trip started on a sour note. Our flight got delayed for two hours and I was stuck in a small room full of people it made me feel claustrophobic. It was quite frustrating as we’d planned to walk around the Philippine market at night time and grab some seafood, but because we landed around 9pm to Kota Kinabalu (“KK”) airport, we just check-in to our hotel and had dinner at a nearby mamak restaurant. Our hotel (Yomi Hotel) was very conveniently located. It was smacked right at the centre of KK, just three minutes away from Gaya street, and everything was at a walking distance, including Jesselton Point where we took off for island hopping! The price for the hotel wasn’t bad either for one night. There was no lift but one of the staff dutifully picked our luggages and took them to our room. The room was basic, and hardly any space to walk around. But it had hot shower, and because it was a budget hotel, you basically get what you paid for.
The next day was much better and we set off in high spirits, despite the terrible breakfast that Yomi hotel provided (nasi lemak was just plain rice, and the sambal was so runny it tasted like watered down chilli sauce). We made our way to Jesselton Point (15 minutes walk from the hotel). We were stopped by many people offering tour packages, but I would really suggest you guys to take tours straight from the Jesselton Point itself as I wasn’t sure whether these people were legit. We decided to go for these two islands for island hopping: Sapi and Manukan island, as we’ve found on google that these two islands were quite pretty to visit.
We found people selling dried seahorses which I believed were for medicinal purposes:
We passed through a market full of local snacks and vegetables. We were so tempted to buy something!
On the way to Jesselton Point, we stopped to admire the sea. The weather was calm and beautiful.
The boat took us to Sapi island first. I’m gonna skip this part and tell you don’t bother coming here. The island was small, with a strip of beachy sand. I didn’t do any snorkeling but I couldn’t see any corals or any beautiful underwater species. You might be able to see more if you go deeper into the ocean (which I didn’t), so I’d suggest you google first to check if Sapi island has good snorkeling spots. If you are snorkeling, I’d suggest you wear fins too! Because I could see loads of sea urchins yikes!
Sami island – it was just a long strip of beach, guys. Nothing much to see.
The next island was Manukan. This island was so much better and most developed! It was quite a big island, with chalets and small café and ‘kedai runcit’. We loved this island so much more. We spent four hours here and it still wasn’t enough. You can also take a hike into the forest (there’s a trail you can follow, but I’m not sure how far it is as we didn’t go in too far). We saw a massive lizard! I still couldn’t see any good underwater stuff nearby (but I wasn’t really swimming) so I can’t comment on whether if this island has good snorkeling spots.
Beautiful view from the jetty:
Thank god for this hat! The sun was quite unbearable during the day.
Manukan island has really nice chalets with a private beach, strictly for guests.
Saw a lizard on a hiking trail!
Using my hand as fish bait 😀
Had nasi lemak (coconut rice) for lunch, which we bought from Jesselton Point. We should’ve bought two each because the nasi lemak tasted yummy!
That night, we went to Plaza Shell to have dinner at this great authentic restaurant serving local Kadazan cuisine called D’place Kinabalu. And it was such an incredible food experience! I was greeted by the manager, Liza, and her super friendly team. It was a dinner buffet (approx. RM50 per person). There was a cultural show every night, and they pulled me in to participate! I learnt how to menyumpit (shoot needle from a long bamboo) and I managed to hit target! The food itself was spectacular. I was given a hot lemongrass drink which was refreshing and definitely a great ailment if you have a cold! I explored many different type of food such as Ayumbat, barrio red rice, bambangan, etc. At the end of dinner, the chef came out to greet us, and she was so young! She’s my age and yet she was able to cook so much delicious food! I was so impressed with the whole dining experience and the staff commitment was exceptional. I will write more about this restaurant in another post as I think it deserves its own separate post. There’s so much to talk about! And also, I’m so hungry right now I can’t stand looking at these yummy pictures. I feel like licking my laptop screen right now haha ^^’
Here are some teasers:
One of the dishes I had. So incredibly yummy!
We hired a car (Axia model) and took a roadtrip to Kundasang. Everybody recommended me to visit Kundasang and the place was high up and full of fresh air and amazing views, including Mt. Kinabalu. We were planning to buy breakfast on the road, but once we reached Ranau, we could hardly find any halal restaurants which totally stressed me out. In the end, we saw a place called Inshallah restaurant and we immediately pulled over. The restaurant was small but cosy; I could also see the mountains from the back view. There was only one staff who was the owner of the restaurant, and I saw him cooked and cleaned the windows haha. He served me nasi goreng (fried rice) and fried chicken, and my friend had nasi goreng kampung. The food was nice, although in big portions. I ended up giving my chicken to this cute cat who stayed faithfully by our table, waiting for scraps.
Fried rice with chicken
We saw another cafe up ahead with a sign ‘paranomic view’ so we immediately pulled over. The song ‘Sayang Kinabalu’ suddenly came into the radio which got us super excited and overwhelmed at the same time. The mountain was truly majestic and left us both in awe.
We arrived to Kinabalu park at first. I wanted to tick off the places that were recommended on google. Bottom line, don’t go to Kinabalu Park if you don’t plan to hike. There were loads of hiking trails, but we were hoping to see some good views without having to hike. Unfortunately, there was nothing special about it at all. So, my advise is, if you don’t intend to hike, then don’t waste your time here.
Next stop was Poring Hot Spring. This place is more for family rather than single travellers. The hot spring was okay in my opinion. If you go with your family, then your kids would definitely enjoy it, but for me and my friend, it wasn’t anything special. There was a tub where we filled it with hot water and we just soaked our feet in it. To travel this far for that kind of experience…like I said, it was nothing special. There was a bigger pool (rock pool) but I didn’t really want to swim with the other people because the water wasn’t streaming down like rivers, so I was worried someone could pee in there and that got me grossed out lol. We decided to try out the famous canopy walkway. Going up there left me gasping for breath (I’m so unfit I know!) The canopy walkway was probably the highlight of this hot spring. There were like three long hanging bridges, and the view was beautiful. Definitely not for the ones who are afraid of heights! But since I love heights, I immediately jumped onto the bridge and my friend screamed when the bridge shuddered (I’m so naughty 😀 ).
Finally, before we drove to our hotel, we visited Desa Dairy Farm. The farm was…nothing special, but a must visit nonetheless. It’s been dubbed as a mini New Zealand, but because I’m so used to UK countryside, it was as spectacular compared to what I normally see in the UK. The surroundings were still beautiful; I could definitely see the amazing Mt Kinabalu and the other mountains! It was windy, and the air was filled with cow dung but somehow, it smelled great for both of us lol. I was truly disappointed that we couldn’t walk down the green hills and get up close to the cows. The fields were no access to the public. There was only a small pen with three cows inside, and you have to pay to feed them with grass or a bottle of milk. I wanted to milk the cows too but they didn’t do that there. The best part about this farm was the ice cream. I tried chocolate gelato and frozen yoghurt. The fro-yo was definitely a winner! It was so creamy and smooth like cold cheesecake. Yum yum.
View on the way to the farm:
Definitely worth a visit for these ice cream!
Finally, as the sun was about to set, we drove to the Celyn Resort which was like a 10 minutes drive from the farm. To get there was a nightmare. There were no tar roads! Just gravel and stones and I cringed everytime I drove the car toward the resort. I would advise you to use a four wheel drive because I could feel the drive was killing the Axia! Once we check-in, I was immediately impressed to see our room. We picked the top room with a mountain view and it was spectacular! The room was spacious, and there was a balcony with a couple of chairs and table, overlooking this amazing view of Mt. Kinabalu and the countryside. It was windy and the air was absolutely fresh, so I spent time just watching the clouds go by.
Our amazing view from the balcony:
Loads of critters on the deck!
Just after dusk, we drove down to ‘Pekan’ to find this famous honey chicken wings. Everybody recommended me to try out the chicken wings in Kundasang. So we drove down to the pekan, and the restaurant was just behind Alliance bank. It was just a small restaurant called ‘Wak Ali’, but I could already see a queue forming. It sold each chicken wing for RM1.80. The smell was so good and we didn’t have any lunch, so we bought 20 wings lol. And because we were worried that we would still be hungry, we ordered KFC! So once we got back to our room, we devoured those chicken wings, and they were so so good. But I really overestimated my stomach. I was full after a couple of wings and KFC, and there was still 10 chicken wings left. So in the end, we headed down the reception and gave the uneaten ones to the manager there, and he took them from us willingly (never say no to free food!)
Here’s the plan: to drive out to Kota Belud in the morning for Pandan-Pandan island tour and Kawa Kawa river cruise in the evening to see the local monkeys, and my favourite: fireflies!
In reality, it was pissing down with rain. And it wasn’t just a light shower. It was angry, with thunders roaring above. So the tours were all cancelled, and we went to have breakfast at the resort. The breakfast there was such a disappointment. My scrambled eggs tasted horrible (how was it possible to even ruin scrambled eggs?), the chicken sausages tasted cheap in my mouth, and the butter…good lord, what did they use to make that butter? 🙁 I was truly disappointed because for a great resort like this, they should never use cheap ingredients ><
Inhaling fresh air in our room:
A cold morning and a hot cuppa: perfect <3
Catching up with some light reading before heading back to KK:
Afterwards, we simply drove down to KK with the rain drowning the world like crazy. I was worried that we might get caught up in a flood. In KK, we dropped by at Suria Sabah mall to watch Kingsman 2 movie (which was really great by the way). It was dark by the time we check-in back to Yomi hotel. And because it was raining, we couldn’t drive to Philliphine market to find cheap seafood, so we drove around trying to find an indoor seafood restaurant. I really wanted to try out Nelayan seafood restaurant but it was closed due to a private function! So in the end, we managed to find a halal restaurant called Thien Thien (near Tanjung Aru). We ordered soft shell crab, fried squid with salted egg, and Tom Yam. The soft shell crab was really yummy, and the fried squid made me sick due the salted egg (note to self: you don’t like salted egg!) The Tom Yam was nice, it was white and much creamier in flavor.
Before heading off to the airport, we stopped by at Gaya market. I enjoyed the market a lot because people sold so many things including food, pets, and crafts. Gaya market was really massive so we couldn’t explore everything due to time limitations.
Overall, Sabah was beautiful, and definitely worth a visit. Thank you Sabah Tourism for recommending me on places to visit! I love Sabah and there are still so much more to explore! I will need to come again and discover other beautiful gems in Sabah. There are no highways and large cities. Just the sea and nature, and I loved that.
I would really recommend you to visit the places I mentioned above during weekdays, so you won’t be overwhelmed with large crowds. You would definitely enjoy your trip more if you go during weekdays as you can have the places to yourself. I know this because on Saturday, we went back to the dairy farm to buy some ice cream, and we were so shocked to see so many people! Large tour buses filled the parking lot, and the building was jam packed filled with people. I would definitely won’t be able to enjoy with large crowd like that. So if you can, please go on weekdays.
Arrive to Kota Kinabalu.
Free and easy (if there’s time, go out and explore the Philippine market)
Arrange trip for island hopping at Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Be prepared to spend the entire day here. Bring a picnic blanket, a book, and just chill!
Dinner at D’Place Kinabalu at Shell Plaza, KK.
Depart to Kundasang.
Visit Kinabalu Park, Poring Hot Spring, and Desa Dairy Cattle Farm.
Buy the famous chicken wings for dinner.
Depart to Kota Belud.
Participate in Pandan-pandan island package and Kawa Kawa River cruise.
(this trip was cancelled for us due to rain)
Arrive back to KK and check-in.
Breakfast and explore morning market on Gaya street.
Arrive back to KL.
Flight: RM270 per person
Yomi Hotel (KK) http://yomihotel.com : RM230 for 3 nights (2 pax)
Ceylon Resort Hotel (Kundasang) http://www.celyns.com/resort/: RM225 for 1 night (2 pax)
Car rental: RM170 (2 days)
2-Island hopping: RM66 + admission fees
And other miscellaneous expenses i.e. food, souvenirs, etc.