KOTA KINABALU, MALAYSIA – It was our first time to travel as a group abroad. We were High School friends (plus a colleague) that embarked to a fun Kota Kinabalu trip.
It was fun all thought out: from planning to execution. This was the time we realized that to travel as a group abroad was a one-of-a-kind experience.
I have to arrange most of the things for this trip. The main focus was not to spend much on accommodation, food and tour packages. We also planned to have an overnight Brunei side trip hence we have to calculate to the very last centavo. It was a challenge I took by heart.
The good old days of flying out from DMIA
Our meeting place was in Megamall. It was just convenient to use The Philtranco bus line to DMIA back then. This was a direct service hence we alighted in the departure hall of DMIA. However, when AirAsia partnered with Zest Air, they have made NAIA Terminal 4 as their main hub.
Our AirAsia flight was pre-booked with seat assignments and in-flight food. Yeah, my first experience of flying with AirAsia. I was hooked since then.
Start of the fun Kota Kinabalu trip!
Our airport pick-up was arranged with Lavender Lodge. The pick-up was late. We paid 25 MYR for the whole group (or 5MYR/pax).
The location of our room was in the 4th floor. Since there was a bit of change in our booking, Lavender Lodge decided to lower the price of our 3-night stay from 465 MYR to 390 MYR. This was with a shared bathroom where the water supply was not that strong and one of the water heaters is not working.
There was a TV lounge, billiard pool and the free wifi was strong.
For breakfast, it was a choice of coffee or tea with toasted bread and some usual spreads.
Other hotel/accommodations recommendations for Kota Kinabalu
Where to eat in Kota Kinabalu
1. Seri Selera Seafood Complex – Just across Lavender Lodge. Skip this place. Not worth the price and the cleanliness was questionable at best. Cost was around 21RM/pax.
2. SugarBun Cafe – at Beach Street, below the Rainforest Lodge. It was a comfy place with cheap and delicious food. Must-try is their 3-layer iced tea. Live performances are available in most nights. Cost was around 18Rm/pax.
3. KFC – we needed some fast food fix in the airport! Cost was around 7RM/pax.
4. Night Market food stalls – Cheap at 4RM/pax. You will be given a plate with rice and then you will choose 3 kinds ng dish viands.
Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot Spring Tour
During our first night, we exchanged some Malaysian Ringgit bills from Centen Mas Money Changer inside City Parade Mall. Or you can do it in CenterPoint Mall.
Gherald (aka Ismail, his Muslim name I think), our tour operator, picked us up in the morning from Lavender Lodge. We first did the Kota Kinabalu City tour: Gaya Sunday Market, Signal Hill, Kota Kinabalu City Mosque and the Kota Kinabalu Chinese Temple .
On the way to Kinabalu Park, we passed by Nabalu Tower. It was cloudy that time hence we were not able to take a picture of Mt. Kinabalu. There were many souvenir shops in this complex as well. When we reached Kinabalu Park, it was already foggy/cloudy in Timpohan Gate, elevated at around 1,866 meters above sea level. We had our lunch in a local “carinderia.” They served 5 Malaysian dishes. We were not able to eat all of the food served.
Our next plan was to hike a trail to see and smell a Rafflesia. However we were informed that the only flower in bloom has already withered the day before our arrival.
We did not plan to swim or dip in the Poring Hot Springs but we decided we will do the Canopy Walk for 5RM/pax (plus 5RM/cam).
Kipungit Waterfall was just 315 meters from the Canopy Walk. Some foreigners were already swimming when we got here. Then we walk another 675 meters to Gua Kelawar (Bat Cave).
Some beach bumming in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TARP)
In Jesselton Point, we paid 29RM/pax. 13RM for the boat, 6RM for tax, 10RM for the island fee. We just went to Sapi Island. Aside from the usual beacj bumming, you can do scuba diving in Sapi Island. A hiking trail at the other end of the island is another activity you do here. However it was raining lightly at the later part of our stay.
I was really amazed how organized they are in TARP. Something that I was hoping that can be done in the Philippines.
Getting out of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
We bought our souvenirs inside the “Filipino Market.” A great place to bargain.
After being exhausted shopping, we decided to drink some coffee in a nearby Starbucks coffee shop. Our flight back to Manila was still in the afternoon.
It was indeed a fun Kota Kinabalu trip for our group.