We had no concrete plans for Kota Kinabalu. Sometimes wondering around uncovers things to do. The first thing we did was walk around the city and head towards the lookout over the city. Surprise, it is a city. After being spoiled with the views in Mabul it was not that exciting. We are more nature people anyways. Our lack of plans caused us to continue walking up the road and over the hill. A road sign directed us towards the Kota Kinabalu Wetlands. Why not? I didn’t have high hopes but we would see price and decide then. It was a few dollars so we decided to go in. There was no one there except a few members of the staff.
We wondered around the mangroves and enjoyed the quiet (a rarity in South Korea). The boardwalk was in good condition so we walked the entire park. There is not a lot to see unless you look. Lots of crabs, and lizards roaming around if your patient. The mud makes popping noises as the tide goes out which is the only noise you would here. We both climbed the mangroves just because.
Kota Kinabalu was strange. It was oddly expensive to eat out, and a lot of businesses had horrible hours and were closed at random times for prayer I assume. And so far customer service was hit or miss. Some people just didn’t want foreigners in their restaurants I guess because we had the worst service. We stayed at Borneo Backpackers which was great. Rooms and facitilites were clean. Below is BiruBiru Cafe which you have to walk through to get to Borneo Backpackers. I don’t know what their problem is but they have no idea what customer service is. Your part of the hostel. Do you want people guests to eat there or only locals?
Kota Kinabalu is one big empty mall. There is construction everywhere. All people do is shop which reminded me of the herds of people doing their weekly Wal-Mart excursion to buy things they don’t need. KK is malls and near empty or completely empty condos. We walked trying to find a dive shop and ended up in a condo-office style block. It was like being in a ghost town. This trip to find a dive shop lead us to the Sabah Museum which might be the only good thing about KK unless you like shopping.
The Sabah Museum was interesting. There was a lot of information about the different tribes that used to be prominent on the island and just general information about the islands development. I learned a lot so I was pleased. On the museum grounds there are a number of traditional homes on display which you can go into. I like that kind of stuff so it was interesting. We spent quite a bit of time going through all of them but you can easily walk through quickly. We had walked a long way to get to the museum so we wanted a cab. No one wants to use a meter, worse than Thailand for sure.
The next day the plan was to check out the market and Tanjung Aru Beach (the only beach). The market was the worst I have been too in Asia. Nothing was even close to being handmade, just mass produced crap and people selling knockoff sunglasses, watches, the usual. Getting to the beach was a whole event in itself. The local buses are not easy to use. We went to the tourism office and the lady gave us completely wrong information. After walking up and down the road which we were told a driver directed us in the right direction to a completely different street. Once there you have the option of a random bus or a random van with a few stops painted on the sides, similar to the songthaews (red trucks) in Thailand or the Jeepneys in the Philippines. We got on a bus waiting for it to fill up. I have no idea how people get to work on a daily basis. Malaysia had no consistency when it came to local transportation.
Once we reached the beach we found a little hut and sat there. Which we had not done. I am not one to sit on a beach so within a half hour I was in the water when I noticed all of the jellyfish floating around. Well this started an hour of taking photos and observing. Once the sun set and we walked the beach our noses directed us toward an outdoor food market. The food was cheap and delicious. Getting a cab was impossible. And they refused to barter or use a mirror. There was no way I would pay almost 20$ for a cab to go a few kilometers. They mocked and laughed. Walking was going to take awhile back and the buses had stopped running. Since the beach is right by the airport we walked there and grabbed a shuttle bus from the airport. Malaysia equals horrible local transportation.
Next: Diving Kota Kinabalu with Scuba Junkies.