My First Night in the City
inally, the time came for this Vacacionista to witness the wonders of East Borneo, mainly in Sabah State. I’ve been preparing for this trip since April and thought it would be a great way to celebrate my birthday too.
The flight to Kota Kinabalu was a bearable 2 hours from the Philippine capital, Manila. Although, the air time is short, the delay with the flight was exhausting. Still, I got to BKI in one piece. So after checking into Bunibon Lodge on Jalan Dewan at about 9pm, armed with a map and giddy determination, I immediately set out to tick off the first couple of items on my itinerary even if I only had a couple more hours before midnight.
First stop for the night had to be dinner and randomly choosing among the many restaurants around the Gaya Street area, I went to have my fill of Kuching Laksa.
Next, my wandering feet took me to Kota Kinabalu Night Market by the waterfront, the city’s seafood haven, where I just had to have a taste of the grilled stingray with sambal sauce on recommendation from Daniel of Ahbing.com . The place was still packed with diners even late into the night.
Following this, I walked towards KK Waterfront where I lost my bearings and decided to ride a cab to take me to Jesselton Point, Signal Hill Observatory and the Atkinson Clock Tower. The ride to all three destinations by taxi was RM30.00. I was fortunate to have picked a cab whose driver was a Filipino from Zamboanga, so he knew how to speak Bisaya too. Manong Hamid narrated how he moved to Malaysia back in the late 70s to escape from the Martial Law and how he’s made Sabah his home following that. There are a lot of Filipino settlers in Malaysia mostly from the Visayas and Mindanao regions. This is is mostly owed to the close proximity between the Philippines and Malaysian Borneo.
My first meal in KK: Kuching Laksa
The KK Night Market by the waterfront is packed with locals and tourists alike
The market offers a wide variety of seafood and the best part is that it's relatively inexpensive (RM10 - 20) per serve
Sambal sauce and grilled fish have a different kind of mouth-watering chemistry together
Remembering gradeschool geography lessons about land bridges in Southeast Asia, it made sense that Filipinos would have Malay features how both the Filipino and Malay language would have similar-sounding words for example, “lalaki” in Tagalog and “lelaki” in Malay means “Male” for both languages.
We drove through the city and made our first stop at Jesselton Point where I got that “old town” feel of the city. I noticed the locals by the waterfront bars chatting and laughing the night away while the sea breeze gently rocked the vessels at the dock.
The Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal entrance
locals come by here to chill out with friends and family
Shortly, I went to see a view of the city at night at the Signal Hill Observatory and to see the Atkinson Clock Tower on a bluff by the same road. The Atkinson Clock Tower is one of the prominent landmarks in Kota Kinabalu being the only surviving structure from the destruction of the city (then known as Jesselton town) during World War II.
Night view of Kota Kinabalu from the Signal Hill Observatory vantage point
The Atkinson Clock Tower: standing proud since World War II
Right before Cinderella’s hour, I had my first taste of the famous Borneo White Coffee at the the Coffee Shop by Borneo Backpackers hostel then made it back to the lodge to prep for the next day.