Kota Kinabalu (KK) is on the isle of Borneo, in the state of Sabah in Malaysia. It’s one of the main cities within Malaysia. Most people will know of Borneo and the animals there, we thought we’d be close to them being in KK, it turns out we were at least 5 hours’ drive from any of the main areas. This meant we were quite limited of what we could do during our stay there.
We saw online there was an Orangutan rehabilitation centre within KK ran on the grounds of the Shangri-La resort. Later we found out the Orangutans that lived there have since been released into the wild, which is great news… but bad news for our stay in KK. There is also a wildlife park just outside the main city, however, looking online it seemed it wasn’t the best kept place at the moment, and we weren’t wanting to see animals in distress.
KK does have a really cool mall; we went there a few times to get food and a smoothie from Boost as they worked out to be half the cost of what we’d normally pay in the UK. During our travels of Malaysia, we have found that they love to build shopping malls, but they have a weird problem of leaving shops empty. We don’t know why this happens, but it seems the shops are an afterthought. Opposite the mall is something called the ‘Pillars of Sabah’, which is really cool. Here comes a history lesson…
After allied bombing in WWII there were only 3 buildings left in the whole of KK, literally 3. One of these was a building that stood until 1992 when a fire hit the old Land and Survey building, as a result the whole building burnt down apart from the floor and the 30 Pillars holding the building up. In 2019, a group of street artists came together and decorated each Pillar with street art highlighting a certain animal that lives on the island but is endangered. This was pretty cool to look around and understand what is going on in the world around us. (We hope you enjoyed that lesson).
One day we did manage to go to a beach just off Prince Phillip park. This beach was so quiet, we were the only people on the beach relaxing. The water was clear and the sand near the water had thousands of tiny sand balls and small holes everywhere, after a while we realised, we could see tiny crabs running around the beach, which was cool to see.
Another thing we did manage to do was visit a funfair. We found out about this by seeing signs on lamposts in the city and thought why not. We managed to fail at the fair ground games as we only popped one balloon between us on a dart game. We did better at the dodgems where the Malaysian tactics of try to dodge people was over-ruled by our ‘smash into anything that moves’ technique. The best ride was the ‘Octopus’ ride which was a bit like the waltzers that would rise and fall. We are sure we saw the kid in the next cart die a few times as the ride went round as his Mum had him in a sleeperhold the whole way around the 5 minute ride, but he walked off so we assume he’s okay. Just to warn you if ever you go to a fair in Malaysia, they like to fill every ride before starting the ride, so we did have to wait 30 minutes for our favourite ride to actually go.
KK was a place where we were hoping we could do more than we planned, if we were to go back to Borneo again we’d go further north to Sandakan, here you get to see the animals and visit the famous ‘Turtle Islands’. If you’ve seen some of David Attenborough’s programmes, he shows the nightly hatching of turtle eggs, and you can watch them crawl across land to reach the sea.
So, in KK we thought we may be able to get another country off the list by travelling to Brunei which is also situated on the Island of Borneo. We didn’t realise until we were there that it’s not just as simple as getting a Grab to the border and walking over, you’d need to take 2 ferries and a taxi to get there, taking a total of 5 hours, and the same on the return. As much as we wanted to get another country out of the way, we couldn’t warrant the effort for a stay of a few hours in another place.
We decided to change our plans a bit after KK, originally Kuching was up next, this is also in Borne. However, after researching it seemed there wasn’t much to do there either. We’ve moved our flights around and are going to Singapore earlier.