The hidden paradise of Sabah~Part 1

Photo of The hidden paradise of Sabah~Part 1 by Niharika Baruah

The opportunity to visit Malaysia came my way in the form of a conference, where I was thinking of submitting my work. The conference was held at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia from 7-10 th October 2018. The writing and submission of paper started a long back from around April 2018, and finally got accepted around July 2018. Luckily, I got an offer for a student travel grant from the conference organizers also, which helped me a lot. So, I had quite a lot of time to plan and visit this beautiful country.

Photo of The hidden paradise of Sabah~Part 1 1/5 by Niharika Baruah
Sunset at Tanjung Aru beach

I myself am a travel freak, so this opportunity was a great way to share my research and also experience the rich culture of this beautiful country of Malaysia. First I had to understand the geographical location of Sabah because it's not the usual place that people visit when they travel to Malaysia. I read quite a lot of blogs and googled a lot to finally plan out my itinerary to combine a few places along with Sabah because it's not always that I will get a chance again to visit this place. On researching the place, I was pleasantly surprised to know that Sabah (a state of Malaysia) forms a part of the Malaysian Borneo Island. It borders with Sarawak (another state of Malaysia) and Kalimantan (a state of Indonesia). Some quick facts:

1. The capital of Sabah is Kota Kinabalu. Sabah is home to the world's largest flower Rafflesia.

ii. Mount Kinabalu is a part of the Kinabalu National park in Sabah, which is the highest peak in the Malay Archipelago.

iii. It is a UNESCO world heritage site.

iv. Sabah has a rich collection of wildlife like the orang-utans.

Photo of The hidden paradise of Sabah~Part 1 2/5 by Niharika Baruah
With traditional dancers at the conference gala dinner

Now, considering the geographical location of Sabah, it meant my conference location was quite far from peninsular Malaysia. So, I had to plan accordingly. Firstly, I had to book my tickets and accommodation. Then apply for my Visa. There are two types of Visa for Indians to enter Malaysia: (i) eNTRI, (ii) eVISA. I applied for the 30days single entry eVISA as my purpose was attending a conference and got it via e-mail within a day.

Photo of The hidden paradise of Sabah~Part 1 3/5 by Niharika Baruah
At manukan island

My journey started on the 6 th of October 2018 from Guwahati along with my husband, and we finally reached Kota Kinabalu on the 7 th of October after changing three flights. The journey was a bit hectic, but the excitement of travelling to a new place always overpowers my tiredness. I missed half a day of the conference but planned to attend the rest of the interactive sessions which were lined up till the 10 th of October. Do not forget to buy a sim card, which is easily available at the airport for around INR600-700 for 10 days. There are different plans suiting your needs.

The day we reached Kota Kinabalu, it was almost evening, so we had not much time to do local sightseeing. However, we decided to visit the famous Tanjung Aru beach to witness the sunset. Unfortunately, it rained quite heavily that day, so it was all cloudy and no sight of the peeping sun. We did not get to see the beautiful sunset as claimed by the pictures on Instagram, but we did enjoy our time by the beach. There were lots of locals with tourists clicking pictures and playing and having some good quality time with their families.

So, all the work done, I had plans to do some sightseeing in and around Kota Kinabalu. On the first day of my stay, I decided to do a bit of local sightseeing and grab some good food near the waterfront, which has lots of good restaurants and a beautiful open seating area connecting almost all the food hangouts. First stop was the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque, which is such a beautiful architectural structure. I have not seen a mosque so pretty to date. The blue dome with intricate gold work and the four minarets gives such a splendid feel to the whole area. It also has a man-made lagoon surrounding it, and so righty called the "Floating Mosque".

Photo of The hidden paradise of Sabah~Part 1 4/5 by Niharika Baruah
Kota Kinabalu City Mosque

Next stop was the Menara Tun Mustapha, located around 5km away from the city centre. The building is structured as a 72-sided polygon with walls made of 2,160 special reflective glass panels that can withstand wind speed up to 272 km/hour. Suspended from the central core of the building are steel radial brackets where some 96 high-tensile steel rods are hung and hold the 30 floors of the building. This building is known to be the fourth of such high-rise "hanging" office building in the world and has been a famous landmark and tourist attraction ever since its construction in 1975. I found it really amazing. Just next to it was the Sabah State Administrative Centre, which is also a huge monument standing tall beside the South China Sea.

It was time to do some local shopping after visiting a few of the places and have a good evening snack. So, we decided to take a Grab to the waterfront area and relax for a bit. It's a very happening place in the whole of Kota Kinabalu with live music at all restaurants and people from all around the world enjoying to every bit. Also, the local market is just adjacent to it, where many souvenirs and local food products can be bought. I must tell you that Grab is a very convenient way to travel inside Malaysia. The prices are also quite reasonable. It works the same way as Uber/Ola in India.

So, the first day ended on quite a happy note with a combination of work and exploring local sites. It was time to take a good night's sleep to gear up for the next day. There are lots of places that can be visited in and around Kota Kinabalu. I will note all the places in my next blog. However, links are given below for bookings:

Amazing Borneo tours, Downbelow Adventures, Get ur Guide, Sabah Booking

Stay tuned till my next part is up. Happy travelling until then.

Points to be noted:

The cost of eVISA is approximately INR 3000 valid for single entry 30 days of travel, whereas for short travel of tourism purpose you can take the eNTRI which comes to around INR 1400 and is valid for 15 days of travel in Malaysia. The flight cost breakup is as follows: Guwahati to Kolkata and back: INR 5000 approx. Kolkata to Kuala Lumpur and back: INR 21000 approx. with 20kg luggage in Air Asia Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu and back: INR 9000 approx. with 20kg luggage in Air Asia

Note: Air Asia fare only comes with 7kg of cabin luggage, so extra check-in luggage can be bought at an extra price, which I had to do because I have still not learnt to travel light (Guilty much!!). Also if you book early, you can save around 7-8k on the whole trip or even more. I booked all the tickets around 1.5 months before the travel date.

Photo of The hidden paradise of Sabah~Part 1 5/5 by Niharika Baruah