Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kota Kinabalu City Tour

September 23 (Sunday)
The rain finally came to spoil our holiday. Or looking at things positively and differently I am glad it only came today and not yesterday. Our plan to eat out in Gaya Street was frustrated by the shower so we ate at the Cafe again. Today being Sunday traders set up their stalls along the Gaya Street to sell variety of goods in this traditional Sunday Market. So if you like to see what the locals do please make sure to be in KK on a Sunday.

We checked out at 8.45am and waited in the lounge for Roy to pick us up for the 3 hours city tour. The rain hasn't subsided and we were prepared for something less than what we've paid for (RM65 per person) but no travel agency can promise a good weather. To be honest, finding something to do for under 6 hours is difficult and the city tour is the only reasonable tour we find useful on our last day. Furthermore we really didn't have the time or transportation on our own to see this historic city previously named Jesselton after Sir Charles Jessel during the time of British colonial rule until 1963. On September 30, 1968 the city was officially renamed as Kota Kinabalu which was also called Api Api by the locals.

KK city has a population of under 500,000 with some 25% being foreigners (substantial numbers are Filipinos and Indonesians) followed by the Chinese, Bajau and Kadazandusun, the latter two being natives of Sabah. When I prompted Roy he placed the foreigner population even higher as 40%. No wonders the Sabahans are very unhappy to have their towns and cities invaded by outsiders.

Our first stop was to the 30 storey Menara Tun Mustapha, formerly the Sabah Foundation building built in 1977 using state government money. Its uniqueness lie in its single column structure. I joked over the safety of those whose office are at the periphery instead of the centre. There wasn't much to do but snap a few pictures and move on to see the City Mosque (also known as Likas Mosque as it is situated in the Likas Bay). This mosque is unique because it is surrounded by a man-made lagoon and tourists can rent boats to paddle around the building.

We went next to the Poh Toh Tze Buddhist Temple but it was under major renovation and being still drizzling we decided to 'swap' with another destination and asked Roy to drive us to the campus of Universiti Malaysia Sabah instead. Founded in 1994 it boast of a huge campus ground. It was very quiet being a Sunday and rainy. So we took some pictures for remembrance and moved on.

The highlight of the tour must be looking at KK from the observatory tower on Signal Hill which is just behind the tall buildings of the city. The drizzle has stopped by then and I was able to take several lovely pictures, some of which I share here. They are of actual size which you may enlarge for better viewing.

The last stop was to check out the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. It wasn't in the itinerary but Roy obliged and we still have time left. QEH is a very old hospital now undergoing massive structural renovation. The tour ended at 11am and we asked Roy to drop us off near Gaya Street where we experience for ourselves the ambience of an open market. Discovering the restaurant recommended by our nephew last night we went in for 2 bowls of hot beef noodle. After buying some souvenir tee shirts for the grandkids we strolled back to the hotel to rest before retrieving our bags and get a cab for the airport (fare: RM30).

It has been a quick weekend getaway and compared to Kuching I must say KK is much bigger, more vibrant and perhaps have more to offer. If you are thinking of Kuching don't be put off by my remark because she has what KK don't have, a quietness many travellers actually like. I did.

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