Runaway Photo: Pingle Ancient Town, Sichuan, China
January 11, 2013
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January 12, 2013

Runaway to Sister’s City: Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia

Yun Qing
Kota Kinabalu Night Market

Florescent coloured fish at Kota Kinabalu Night Market


My affair with Kota Kinabalu was brief. I was very excited to spend my holidays in a whole new land for me, and couldn’t wait to come back to explore more. The most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen was at the waterfront of KK. Borneo is such an interesting place. I was very excited to see the offer from Yun Qing. Now, without further adieu, here’s the Runaway to Sister’s City: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.


1. If you use only one word to describe Kota Kinabalu, what would that be?


Laid back. Life seem to pass much slower in KK which may be good for anti-aging.


2. Do you consider Kota Kinabalu as your home? How long have you been living there?


That’s actually a tough question. I’m away from KK (we pronounce it as “keh-keh”) for about 11 months in a year since I work overseas.

But home is where my family is so KK will always be home.


3. For you, when is the best season to travel Kota Kinabalu? And the reason why?


Every time of the year because the weather is similar. But November to March is “rainier season” which is not good if you want to spend time at the beach or hike Mount Kinabalu.


At Sutera Harbor jetty

At Sutera Harbor jetty

4. Tell us about your favourite and the least favourite thing about Kota Kinabalu.


My favorite thing about KK is that we can see Mount Kinabalu from every corner of the city. When you look up, you can see the dark blue mountain lurking behind the clouds.

My least favorite things about KK is that it’s too quiet which is good if you want to retire. Another thing I don’t like is that the public transportation is not very developed so visitors will need to have a car to see the other sights.


5. We all love food. Is there any local special food everyone should try?


I recommend sheng rou mian which is roughly translated as “raw meat noodles” but it actually has cooked pork. It’s rice noodles in pork broth. Trust me, it’s good.

If you don’t like pork, you can try Tuaran Mee which is a type of stirfried rice noodle.


6. What is the first thing would you recommend us to do right after we arrive in Kota Kinabalu?


Grab a “pearl milk tea” (also known as “bubble tea”) from milk tea franchise Yoyo. There are branches in shopping malls such as Centre Point.


Gaya Street

Gaya Street


7. Where do you recommend to go for a day trip from Kota Kinabalu?


There are so many places to head for day trips!

Go to Ranau to soak in the hot springs and visit Kinabalu park on your way back.

Join a white water rafting tour and get wet in a rubber float.

Sun bath or snorkel at one of our islands (Pulau Manukan is a good choice).



8. What is the most famous landmark? And which one is your favourite?

Even though Mount Kinabalu is not located in KK, I still say it’s our most famous landmark. However, I’ve been lied to by our education system that it’s the highest mountain in Southeast Asia. It’s not!


Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu


9. Where’s your secret hangout place? The place where you feel most comfortable, or had the most fun.


When I was a kid, my dad brought me to the State Museum a lot so I fell in love with museums.

At the Sabah State Museum, you will see models of different houses found in our state. Last time I was there, there was a skeleton of a whale inside the main building so it smelled like dead whale.


State mosque

State mosque


10. Sunny day, warm outside, and you don’t have anything on schedule. What would you do? What’s your go-to activity in Kota Kinabalu?


It’s not really a touristy activity but I like to hide in the library away from the sun.


11. How much is for a cup of coffee?


A glass of “kopi” costs about RM1.80 (US$0.60). It’s local coffee with condensed milk and sugar.



12. Would you recommend us one ‘off-the-beaten path’ place in Kota Kinabalu?

Please take your time and visit a tamu (taa-moo) in one of the suburbs. It’s a traditional weekly market where they sell fruits, vegetables, baskets, clothes and almost everything you want.

If you cannot make it to a tamu, Gaya Street in the city center has a weekly morning market on Sunday. You can buy souvenirs here too.


On a boat to the islands

On a boat to the islands


13. Any quirky things about Kota Kinabalu that travelers should know?

We’re fiercely proud of our state, do not praise other states too much when talking to locals. 😉


Houses at museum

Houses at museum


14. I’m a fan of souvenirs. Which one should I buy in Kota Kinabalu?


Cheesy wooden keychains in the shape of sompotons (a traditional flute).


15. As a local, would you like to share your secret travel tips about Kota Kinabalu with us?


Don’t stay in KK too long but use the city as your stepping stone to more adventures. Make sure you visit Mount Kinabalu (sign up months in advance if you want to climb the mountain) or the islands.


Yun Qing

About This Week’s Sister:

Yun Qing is a travel enthusiast with a short-term travel goal of visiting all 13 Malaysian states. Her long-term goal is to go on a round-the-world trip in 2013 to celebrate the fact that the world has not ended, yet.

She writes about her journeys and the food she meets at her blog YQ travelling []. Connect to her on Twitter @yqtravelling .


Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, a happiness-seeking storyteller. Photographer, writer, and trained mechanical engineer. Life-long nerd. I left the cubic farm to follow my true love: the world. A firm believer of serendipity, astronomy enthusiaster, and living by passion and love in life. Currently, on a quest to discover stories and find the place where I can call 'home'. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Google+ .

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