Kota Kinabalu

My sister and I arrived into Kota Kinabalu around 10am and this time our transfer company was waiting for us with a name card. I felt like a VIP even in the old van. The ride to the Le Meridien hotel didn’t take long. In under 15 minutes we were standing in a lovely 5 star lobby waiting for our turn to check in.

Our turn came but the room was not yet ready however reception held our luggage and also gave us drink vouchers for their restaurant. I received a teapot of English breakfast tea while my sister ordered herself a latte.

Within an hour our friendly receptionist advised us that our luggage had been taken up to our room and we could go up and make ourselves comfortable. This was still hours before the official check in time, it made me so happy. Clearly I’m easy to impress.

Our hotel room had impressive views of the South China Sea. After a long shower we headed to Oceanus shopping mall a short walk from the hotel and settled in for Nandos. Africans and their chickens…

After lunch we browsed the mall but many shops were vacant. We decided to walk further along the street to get a good indication of the area. I am not one who enjoys being cat called,  with this little annoyance my sister and I stuck to busy streets as we headed back to the hotel.

We booked a full day tour to Mt Kinabalu for the next day with our friendly concierge. We then took the lift to the pool and bar floor. I had a Singapore sling while my sister had a margarita, as our feet dangled off the side of the pool.

Dinner time came and we headed down to the 5 star restaurant for the buffet course. The variety of food was amazing; there were curries, seafood, steaks and many salads. My plate had a bit of everything. As we sat there in food coma state the waiter brought out crab. My sister determined to get her money’s worth helped herself to a crab claw. With pieces of shell all over the floor and juices across the table,  and with that tiny piece of flesh I came to realise that crab is messy to eat. Remembering we were in a 5 star restaurant we quickly excused ourselves without making eye contact.

The bed was heaven and I drifted off very quickly. Morning came by even more quickly. With a full day tour ahead our bellies were filled with the delicious buffet breakfast. Our tour guide Chichi met us in the lobby for our tour. My sister and I were the only people on this tour, it felt like our own private trip. We had packed hiking attire, swimmers and a first aid kit. Chichi gave us entertaining commentary along the way. After 2 hours of driving through the city and winding through cliff roads we reached our first stop in a small town lined with souvenir markets. We had 30 minutes which was used wisely to buy little trinklets. The day was cloudy, unfortunately we did miss seeing the Mt Kinabalu peak.

Onwards and upwards we drove until we reached Mt Kinabalu National Park. Chichi fearlessly led us through the park teaching us how to extract water from bamboo and which colour berries to eat (the pink ones). Chichi also explained she came from a tribe of head hunters and how she’d grown up in a village but thankfully  she’d been able to get an education, learn English and become a guide. She now lives in the city with air conditioning and can afford to look after her parents. I was so happy to hear this and impressed that tourism has had such a positive impact on her life.

We drove for another 30 minutes before we reached the hot springs and canopy tree walking area. Chichi led us into a restaurant, a hole in the wall. We were treated to chicken broth as a starter. Next was rice with sweet and sour fish, and barbecue chicken. And for dessert we had mini bananas and pawpaw. This food was so amazing!

All 3 of us waddled up the hill and struggled up the ladder to the tree top canopy walk. It was worth it. The high views were very beautiful. Once our feet were firmly placed on solid ground again Chichi left my sister and I to venture off. We walked down to a waterfall and took in the amazing dense forest around us.

We tracked our footsteps back to the hot springs. The water felt like I was dipping my feet into hot tea. After a while I did get used to it and just let my legs dangle. The sound of water running and the sounds of the forest were very relaxing. Rain clouds started rolling in which ended our awesome tour. With the rain coming down my sister and I fell asleep and woke up again as we approached Kota Kinabalu.

Chichi dropped us off and we dragged our feet up to our room for a long hot shower before dinner. Tonight we would sample the a-la carte menu. Pasta was on the mind. We both headed back to the pool floor however the water was too cold so bedtime it was.

Our final day at the Le Meridien was spent shopping at Imago centre however we quickly found out that the malls had similar stores and prices to Australia. The afternoon was spent lazing around the pool before settling in early for the night.

My sister and I moved hotels to a more traditional part of Kota Kinabalu. Our hotel was attached to 1Borneo Hyper mall and we were surrounded by many beautiful mosques. The hotel while rated 4 star was very disappointing. There was water damage in the bathroom and the air con was very poor. There were still room service dishes in the hallways from earlier that morning. Unfortunately we stayed due to affordability. We kept reminding ourselves that we would be spending more time out of the hotel.

We spent the afternoon wondering through the shopping mall and again settled in for Nandos. After a shower we slept. The following morning was spent at Starbucks before heading out on a tour to an animal sanctuary. Most of the animals were resting, given the humid heat I would’ve done the same. My main purpose for visiting the sanctuary was to see orangutans as they are native to Malaysia. The younger ones were playing on the swings whilst the older ones were hiding in the trees. We watched a bird and snake show before heading back to our hotel. Tonight Japanese was on the menu, the sushi was very good.

For our final day in Malaysia my sister talked me into booking an island hopping tour. I’m so glad she did. We were transferred to a pier and taken by speed boat to Sapi Island. As we were part of a tour we had to wear life jackets at all times as a safety precaution. My sister and I snorkeled in the shallow waters and then sun soaked. Lunch was served and it was divine. There were seafood dishes, barbecue meats and salads. After lunch we boarded the speed boat to one of the smaller islands where we had fresh coconut water whilst lying in the hot sand. This was such a great way to spend our final day in Malaysia.

We sped back to the mainland. Our evening was spent at the Japanese restaurant again. From there we grabbed some ice cream, donuts and coffee and people watched at the mall. Our Starbucks barista taught us some Malay; terima kasa (thank you) and sama sama (you’re welcome). This was a fantastic end to our girly trip.

We could not wait to check out of the hotel the next morning. Our taxi was booked to the airport as early as possible even though we had 4 hours until departure. The business class lounge was taken full advantage of. The food was amazing, the drinks were icy and the duty free shopping was amazing. I was thankful for the generous luggage allowance on Malaysian Airlines.

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