Its safe to say that going to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah for a KL city girl like me feels a complete different country altogether. It’s so rich in culture, nature and the people are ridiculously nice (probably because they’re more laid-back) & it truly is an experience. If you’ve never been to KK, I suggest you do so (right now!) especially because I’m about to give you a detailed tour in this post of places you must visit & things you must eat.
Like most KL people, I took for granted that KK is still Malaysia and we can just hop over at any time because it’s not going anywhere. My bestfriendloverperson Atie has been living there for over 3 years & only when she had to move back did it force me to go visit.
Honestly, huge mistake on my end because I’m in love with the place & I wish my holiday was longer so I could explore more of Sabah. I had a week & here’s what I did;
Since I was mostly traveling on my own, the easiest way to get things done is to check Airbnb Experiences to see what I can do while I’m there to make the most of my trip. I found this Kombi experience with Suchen & I have no regrets! Besides the ride being one of a kind, Suchen makes a great tour guide, is super friendly & is a photographer by profession (so much yes for my Insta-worthy shots).
This Airbnb experience consisted of 2 locations but I ended up staying at this one & the pictures are self explanatory as to why I decided to do just that.
Sungai Kobian, Babagon is a fairly secluded river that only the local villagers in that are seem to visit. The place is paradise with its incredibly clear water (with fishes!) and since it’s shallow, it’s safe too. With the hot weather on that day, cooling off in the river was perfection.
Once I got there, I took all the pictures I wanted & then proceeded to just zening out in the water for hours until the sunset. There’s nothing like reconnecting with nature & it was just what I needed to rejuvenate.
If you’re heading to Sabah & want to check out the Kombi experience, here’s the link: CLICK HERE.
I booked another Airbnb experience, & this time it was a photowalk to explore KK City itself via a photowalk. Basically the photographer takes you around the famous touristy spots to take pictures & also as a guide to give you information about these places. I will forever be thankful to have booked this experience because meeting Ean (the photographer) really made my trip a whole different experience on its own.
She took me around & we shot in a couple of places around the city but to be honest, I wanted to experience the culture more than anything.
I enjoyed the time spent with Ean & the touristy places were nice for picture taking but being the foodie I am, I asked her to take me on a food hunt instead & these places did not disappoint – Little Sulap for the local food & Biru-Biru Cafe for the coconut ice cream & waffles ;
During our food break we exchanged ideas & spoke about the cultures in Sabah. I found out there were only two Hindu temples in KK & Ean wanted to check it one of it out but was always shy to go alone so we made a trip there;
I wanted to experience a different culture instead of my own so we went to the cultural village that located at Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA). I had tonnes of fun playing tourist – checking out the types of houses they had, the costumes, learning to play the instruments & joining in their band to perform, blowing a blowpipe and popping a balloon, attempting to dance with minimal skill, trying the local wine & freaking out about the worm they eat.
If you’re looking for a photographer who is so incredibly talented & doesn’t cost a bomb, Ean is someone that comes really high on my list of recommendations. She’s accommodating, easy to get along with, & takes such amazing pictures! You can check out her Airbnb experience; CLICK HERE!
Ended the night with some good seafood;
The day started with mee Tuaran at Kentin Bakut (the goreng Tom Yam one is summers!) before the drive to Kundasang.
Kundasang is known as the New Zealand of Sabah thanks to its beautiful mountains and scenery, as well as colder climate. I was sold when they told me I’d see cows at the Desa Dairy Farm 😀
Its basically a tourist spot for suckers like me who want to see some gorgeous nature & cute cows. The fresh milk & gelato there is also a must try. You can also buy milk & grass to feed baby cows & goats (which I obviously did several times because hello, so cute can die type!)
Since my attempts to steal a baby cow didn’t quite go as planned, we decided to head back & stopped by Pekan Nabalu for the worlds most amazing pineapples. I generally don’t like pineapples and I *cough*lie saying I’m allergic to avoid eating it but these magical pineapples were something else – so sweet & legit melts in your mouth.
Seriously, you MUST have it. I’ve even taken a picture of the aunty who sells it for your reference;
I also tried Tarap which is their local fruit. Not a fan of the smell or texture, but worth trying atleast once for experience sake.
Sinalau Bakas on the other hand is OMG amazing. It’s wild boar but cooked to perfection & I’m salivating just writing this ;
& for dinner, Damn Good Burgers were, well, damn good!;
Since it was a Sunday, there’s the Gaya Market in KK city which is much hyped about. It’s basically a street market that sells souvenirs, clothes and food. It’s worth checking out if you’re looking for Sabah themed stuff to bring back, cheap beachy clothes & just for the bazaar experience.
Also, if you see this uncle doing calligraphy, say hi & buy his art! His PR game is so on point and he’s so talented. Absolutely loved his friendly vibe and stories;
KK is known for their beautiful sunsets & I was determined to find a place that I could see the sunset without having to deal with a flock of tourists. After some research & Ean’s help, we ended up at Sabandar Beach.
It’s a beach that’s off the regular tourist trails (I was probably the only tourist on that beach in my swimsuit & huge beach hat) & it’s near their ‘cowboy’ town with horses so don’t be surprised if you see horses on the beach too.
It was a rainy day & so apparently the sunset wasn’t as great, either way I personally was mesmerised.
Spent most of the day in due to rain, but managed to get some time to check out the Filipino Market which pretty much sells souvenirs & pretty pearls for cheap!
Literally down the road is the seafood market that sells the freshest seafood ever! The best time to visit those places are really early in the morning or later at night;
Met a friend for dinner & drinks at this bar called Kalamatas which is an Indian owned bar hence the delish Indian food. The satti sooru (Indian claypot curry rice) was so good!
The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park comprises a group of 5 islands & I visited the 3 that was suggested by the guide itself which was Sapi, Manukan & Mamutik. If you’re going to the islands, be prepared for huge groups of tourists. Thankful I went with Ean who basically likes personal space like I do so we went to more secluded parts of these beaches.
Be prepared to be spammed by amazing beauty because this water baby couldn’t get enough of how stunning these beaches were. First stop, Sapi Island. It’s a 20 minute boat ride from KK itself & is probably the most popular choices to visit.
What I loved about it is the clear gorgeous waters that had fishes even close to the shore. What I couldn’t stand was the amount of plastic floating in the water. I basically snorkelled to pick up rubbish & by the time I was done, I had a huge pile. Help keep our oceans clean, people!
The next one was Manukan island, which we hardly managed to spend much time at as we had lunch in one of the resorts that took almost an hour plus to bring us some pretty bad food. I’d suggest just bringing along cup noodles or something of that sort to avoid disappointment. It was a really beautiful island though with lots of water sports & it was so incredibly blue!
Mamutik Island was the last stop & probably my favourite one. It was more quiet & peaceful.
All my beach photoshoot pictures were taken by Ean, whom I’ll always be thankful to the Universe for connecting me to.
If you’re headed to Kota Kinabalu & looking for things to do, definitely check out the experiences I suggested & you can also get 10% off your total home booking & RM45 to use for an Airbnb experience worth Rm191 or more using my code if you’re a first time user; CLICK HERE!
You can check out my Instagram for more pictures & videos of this trip under my highlights: Sabah. Signing off now to get over the reacquiring holiday blues until the next one.