First Trip to Sabah

Sabah is one of the 2 Malaysian states located in Borneo – the other state is Sarawak- and we call them East Malaysia. The rest of the 11 Malaysian states are located in Peninsular Malaysia (West Malaysia). Not many Malaysians living in Peninsular travel to East until these last couple of years or so. It’s not difficult, really, one just has to hop on to a plane and fly across the South China Sea. The problem was flights were expensive in those days. But now with low cost airlines such as Air Asia, Firefly and Malindo Air, and our national airlines, Malaysia Airlines, competing with them, fares have lowered tremendously (and much lower during promotions), folks from Peninsular can now fly to East.

trip to sabah map of malaysia

Our flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu (KK), the capital city of Sabah was 3 hours with transit in Labuan for nearly 45 minutes (Labuan is an offshore financial centre). By the time we arrived in KK airport and checked in our hotel, it was already lunch hour.

We stayed at Hotel Dreamtel, a 3-star hotel strategically located in the city. It’s within walking distance to the Gaya Street Sunday Market Fair (5 minutes), cafes, restaurants, shopping malls (5-10 minutes) and Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal (15 minutes). The hotel is clean and comfortable – a good deal for US$60 a night.

Once we freshened up, we headed out to have lunch. We came across a coffee shop which sold rice and noodles. I ordered an Indonesian mee soto ayam (noodles in spiced chicken broth) whilst Su who is a vegetarian ordered rice, veggies and seaweed kerabu. Seaweed Kerabu or seaweed salad is a common appetiser dish in Sabah.

Plane food, was as usual, horrible, so thank God for that lunch at the coffee shop. We were satisfied and felt excited to start exploring the city centre on foot. KK city centre is small and easy to navigate around – it takes about 15 minutes (or 3 blocks) to walk from the hill to the waterfront.

We planned to go to Manukan Island which is the second largest island in Malaysia’s first marine national park, the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. The island is just off the coast of KK, easily accessible by speedboat with a journey time of 15 minutes. We walked to Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal and bought our ferry tickets to board the speedboat for MYR30 (US$9)*. Upon arrival at Manukan Island, we paid a conservation fee of MYR3 (US$0.90).

*this includes terminal fee

When we arrived at Manukan Island, the waters around the jetty were emerald green and the colours seemed to change to light blue further away from the jetty. And most amazingly, the waters were very clear and we could see fishes swimming in it!

trip to sabah jesselton

trip to sabah manukan island waters

trip to sabah manukan island fishes clear water

The sand on the beach is light brown and very clean too. We didn’t spend a long time on the island – only 1.5 hours – because we arrived in KK just after mid-day and the last boat returning to the mainland was 4.30pm.

trip to sabah view from manukan island

trip to sabah manukan island beach

Most tourists (sometimes locals too) picnicked on the beach or snorkel just off the shore. Su swam in the waters whilst I opted to stay on the beach to relax under a shady casuarina tree. The weather was warm but not scorching hot.

Here are pictures of Jesselton Point jetty – divers are back from their diving trips and unloading their stuff from the boat.

trip to sabah jesselton point ferry

trip to sabah jesselton boats


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