And.. I am back with more stories about Kota Kinabalu!
There are so much stories to tell, and to make this post more valuable to the readers, I made a quick guide so your visit to my blog will be much more worth-while.
Flying to Kota Kinabalu
Kota Kinabalu has an international airport which makes visiting from different parts of the globe easier – most of the carriers are from the other Asian Countries. In the Philippines, you may now fly directly from Manila to Kota Kinabalu through Zest Air. Flights is every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. You can check out the flight schedule here.
Flights are housed in Terminal 4, which is the old Domestic Terminal.
For most of the countries, it is a requirement to have a passport valid for more than 6 months at the time of arrival and departure in the host country. The rule is the same for Malaysia. Do not risk traveling with expiring passport. You might be lucky to get a departure stamp but re-entry to Philippines might be a problem. There was once a traveler who denied re-entry or departure from the host country because his passport is less than 6 months valid. He was held up until he was able to secure a new passport from Philippines – which means additional expenses and trouble.
Depending on the country of your passport, you might as well check what documentation would be needed to enter Malaysia. For Philippine Passport holders, no VISA is required to get to Kota Kinabalu.
Click Read More to know what else you need to know about Kota Kinabalu..
Once you landed in the airport, don’t get too excited to take pictures of every spot especially in the immigration area. Unlike most of the immigration process in which the officer takes a picture of the traveler, Malaysia has a different way of identification process. You have to visit Kota Kinabalu to find out! But no, no undressing is required 😉
Money – Forex
1 Philippine Peso is equal to 0.72 Malaysia Ringgit
1 Ringgit is equal to 13.70 Philippine Peso
If you find it hard to do the math, or if you are coming from a different country, you can always check the exchange rates at www.oanda.com.
You may exchange money from the airport or hotel, or check local Forex centers in the mall. Like what I always tell my friends, better to exchange from the hotel to avoid getting counterfeit money.
Just exchange enough Ringgit, so there wouldn’t be much loss on currency exchange once you are back in Manila.
It was funny that during our trip, I only had Php500 peso in my wallet as I meant to withdraw peso in the airport – unfortunately, Terminal 4 doesn’t have ATM machines so I flew from Manila to Kota Kinabalu with only Php300 and a few spare US and Canada Dollars. I so much relied that my credit cards can save me. I have a funny (horror) story about credit card transaction (just keep on reading..)
Major credit cards are accepted like Mastercard and Visa, but I cannot recall if American Express is widely accepted in Kota Kinabalu.
We were treated like kings and queens when we arrived in Kota Kinabalu, that getting around and moving from point A to B was such a breeze.
For D.I.Y. travelers, getting around Kota Kinabalu can be done by walking. The streets are safe and less polluted as even main roads have trees and nice landscapes. Although traffic can be bad too. But I wouldn’t mind commuting here.
Taxi service are negotiable from the airport to hotel. Price starts at RMB 10.
Major transport mode is bus (standard fare is RMB .5 to RMB 2).
For drivers, you can rent a car and drive as long as you have your driver license. Please note though that you will be driving a right-hand drive car, and car flow and traffic may be a little different.
Where to Stay?
For a small state like Sabah, it is not a surprise to see many lodging places in the area as Kota Kinabalu is now one of the top destinations in Asia. There are hotels from backpackers inn, standard hotels and luxurious resorts.
Popular chain hotels like Le Meridien, Hyatt, Shangri-la and even Tune Hotels have a branch in Kota Kinabalu.
If there is any recommendation I have to make, I would say, stay at Sutera Harbour Hotel. Check out my review here.
Our tourist guide told me that there are hotels which are near the beach, near the shopping areas, or near the city which travelers can choose from depending on what kind of activities they want to try. An interesting observation is that there are no sky-high buildings in Kota Kinabalu. Probably this is a strategy so tourist can see more of the city no matter which floor you are on.
Knowing the History of Sabah and Kota Kinabalu
I used to hate going to museums when I was younger, but now that I am older – I suddenly feel the joy of visiting old houses, and museums, looking at encased artifacts, reading history that dated several years ago, and looking at my own amazement from the reflection I can see through the glass casings.
Philip, our tourist guide brought us to Muzium Sabah for a quick tour of the old Sabah history. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside, so I just kept my memory working.
When we entered the museum, we were greeted with a 24-meter long Bryde’s whale skeleton. As we walked through several sections and hallways, I got to better understand the history of Sabah, and how much similar it is with our country. The way of living, from hunting, pottery, beadwork and ceremonies are somewhat similar to the ethnic groups in the Philippines. However, like what I learned from my previous trip in Indonesia, no matter how similar two countries appear, it is the people which made the difference.
The interesting things that really caught my attention about the Sabah history are the traditions and ceremonies which include the unique way of burying deceased bodies, and be-heading as a mark of power and respect among tribes. I was quick to process this information – especially when Philip keeps on telling me to watch my head. Well, that is because I am tall and some areas have low ceilings and fragile displays. 😉
It is in the Sabah Museum I got to appreciate the unique wildlife and rich flora and fauna of Sabah. They got cats that look like a tiger, Orang gutan, a baby elephant – Borneo Pgymy Elephant – the smallest elephant in the world!, a monkey with a big nose called Proboscis Monkey, and even Tarsier (but ours look healthier!).
They have 600 plus species of birds – don’t ask me to name them all, and we haven’t even gotten to the marine life. And off we go to the next section..
The Beach and Marine Life
Our exciting island-hopping adventure actually happened on Day 2, but let me just share with you the nice pictures here. A trip to these islands would be perfect if you have half day to spare.
Imagine, we boarded a speed boat and off we invaded the beautiful islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. It is actually a marine park composed of five islands – Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug and it is just a good 10 minute boat ride – well depending on how competitive captain is!
First stop is the Pulau Manukan..
What you can do here? Swimming, snorkeling, and Scuba-Doing!
- Wants to see the fish but don’t want to get wet and doesn’t know how to swim.
- Wants to see the fish but don’t want their head to get wet
- Wants to see the fish but don’t know how to see but is willing to get wet
- Wants to see the fish, and get totally wet
Even before this was served, we know something good is coming.