Kota Kinabalu – the capital city of Sabah, East Malaysia is a city with mesmerising islands, surreal waters and natural beauty! Facing the South China Sea, it has its own fancies of snorkelling, swimming and sunset gazing. Commonly referred to as KK, it derives its name from the famous Mount Kinabalu, which is self-explanatory of its mountain trekking expeditions. Come, let’s explore the enchanting beauty of the gorgeous city of islands, malls, sports complexes, sun and sea...
Kota Kinabalu is loaded with tourist attractions. The variety of things to do is far more than any other city. It is perfect for nature lovers, flea market buzzers, beach walkers and sand and sea addicts. It is claimed to be one of the fastest growing cities of Malaysia owing to the major commercial and industrial centers found here, along with its touristy spots!
1. Drive-along or walk-along: What would you expect in a city with lush green vegetation and trees, good breeze and a typical equatorial climate? A land with no dry season, good amount of rainfall and humidity of course! Imagine driving along a road with coconut trees on either side of this region with a tropical climate and sea breeze.... Yes, driving along or merely walking along the banks, road-side or beaches of KK is a mere experience by itself. Try it out when you have nothing else to do – let the ethereal beauty of the trees, water side and city by itself diffuse into you! Walking along gives you enough panoramic coverage of the vast stretch, while keeping you connected with its not so hot temperatures and mild drizzles and rains all year long. Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?
2. Snorkelling: A base for a number of diving adventures and snorkelling, Kota Kinabalu house some of the best spots for this rage! Its islands make it one of the most spectacular dive sites of the world. Some of the most famous ones are Sipidan, a mushroom-shaped island with lots of wreck sites to dive from. It also offers a three-day licensed course. A significant spot called the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine park houses five of the most gorgeous islands, namely – Gaya, Mamutik, Manukan, Sapi and Sulug. These islands have unspoilt and well preserved coral reefs along with an endless variety of colourful fish. The underwater life out here is simply spectacular! Packages for stay, boat trips, BBQ lunches and diving are available. Island hopping packages are available too. Pre-booking or reaching the park at early hours is highly recommended. The packages are awesome and generally include skin diving, boat transfers, guide, fresh food, entry fee, jetty fee, equipment rental etc.
3. ‘Peak’-a-woo: The trip to Kota Kinabalu cannot be complete without peaking the scale of Mount Kinabalu. A once in a lifetime experience, the climb uphill is sure to woo you to come back here again and again and again.... Mount Kinabalu is the tallest mountains of SE Asia, with a height of 4095m. With just two days in hand and not necessarily any prior experience in mountain climbing, it is not that tough a peak to conquer. Situated at the Kota Kinabalu National Park, the views from and on it during sunrise and sunset are to die for! With just an 8 km distance to cover, the ascend and descend takes within 48 hours and anyone with a decent amount of stamina and fitness can do this! Their official site and helpline have packages to help you with the preparation, equipment, cost, transportation and accommodation.
4. Indulge yourself in soulful music: The famous Jazz festival, called the KK Jazz Festival happens here annually. With international performers burning the stage with their live performance, the crowd goes bonkers. The festival boasts of hosting the best and top-most performers such as Son2nos, Nah You Sun, Hong Kong’s Junk Unit, Mood Indigo from UK, Malaysia’s Double take and the likes. While jazz is promoted via this festival, it gives a break to many local and budding artists. Gear up for this multi-faceted jazz extravaganza to feature in the upcoming month of July 2015. Make sure you block your calendar and book your tickets well in advance. Besides this, local Sabah music is played at different centres all year round.
5. A dash of culture: Let us peep into the culture of Malaysia retained at KK. A number of cultural venues exist in KK, out of which there are four main ones. The Sabah State Museum is the main museum of KK, situated very close to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. It houses an art gallery, the Science and Technology Centre and the Ethno Botanic Gardens. Another famous art gallery is the Wisma Budaya Art gallery which hosts a number of exhibitions all year long. If you want to experience Malay culture shows, you must try the shows at Monsopiad Cultural Village. The Hongkod Koissan building situated at Penampang hosts the annual Kaamatan or Harvest Festival as well as a beauty contest called the Unduk Ngadau Beauty Contest. It is home to the KDCA or Kadazan-Dusun Cultural Association.
6. Diving into history: a number of historical landmarks are found in the beautiful city of Kota Kinabalu. The Atkinson Clock Tower near Bandaran Berjaya is believed to have been built in 1905. It is a pre-World War II building and was used earlier as a navigation aid to ships. Interested in spending a few hours at a war museum? There is the Petagas War memorial located near KKIA for that, as a reminder to the people who went against the Japanese in World War II. Another important site is the Town field or the Padang Merdeka, wherein landmark events like Sabah’s declaration of independence and formation of Malaysia took place. At Sembulan, you will find the Double Six monument, built as a memorial to remember the first Chief Minister of Sabah and six other ministers who died in a plane crash on 6 June, 1976. Thus, it was called the Double Six Tragedy.
7. Shopping: Kota Kinabalu is a paradise for shoppers. With endless market stores, it offers a variety of flea markets with local goods at great prices. Try to bargain and take goodies at heavily discounted prices. Besides these flea markets and street side shops, there are lots of old bazaars found everywhere. If you are looking for something more specific, try the KK Handicraft Market that displays batik, hand printed and other fabrics, along with home decor items, sarongs, brooches, colored crystal, pearls and local handicrafts at the best prices possible. The heart of KK houses the famous Sunday Flea Market at Gaya Street that sells everything right from fresh local produce, home grown vegetables and fruits to shirts, clothes, jewellery, hardware and artefacts. For the mall rats there is Center point, KK Plaza, Wawasan Plaza, Wisma Merdeka, Karamunsing Complex, Suria Sabah Shopping Mall, Megalong Shopping Mall etc.
8. Entertainment: As if all the above was not enough, KK has four cinemas to spend a good time unwinding. Movie buffs could go to Golden Screen Cinemas or GSC, Megalong Complex or Growball Cineplex and enjoy movies they like. There are two GSCs, one at Suria Sabah Shopping Mall and the other at 1 Borneo Hyper Mall, both of which have eight halls each. Borneo Hyper Mall stations a bowling alley and pool tables as well – a complete entertainment package, watch a movie and go bowling!
9. Sports: Are you game for some fun? For all the sports fans, head to the Likas Sports Complex at KK with a number of sporting facilities open to public. Equipped with a badminton stadium, tennis stadium and a twenty thousand seater soccer stadium, this complex also has a gymnasium for fitness freaks! What’s more – you’ve got a huge swimming pool, diving range, hockey field, squash court and an indoor climbing centre. It clearly is the biggest sports complex in Malaysia and houses endless sports events all year round. Having hosted a number of national and international sporting events, KK has more than just one stadium. It has four golf courses – Sabah Golf and Country Club at Bukit Padang, Kinabalu Golf Club at Tanjung Aru, Karambunai Golf and Country Club and Sutera Harbour Golf and Country Club. Check out the other sports complex at the suburbs of KK, in Penampang, equipped with a full-sized football stadium. If you aren’t pressed for time, here’s the list of sports-centres and other centres related to sports: Ararat Sports and Souvenirs, Lea Sports Centre, Borneo Sports Arena and Jugs Sports Bar.