I will always associate Kota Kinabalu with rains, OK may be not always, but surely till the next trip. Due to the rains we could not go island hopping on our schedule. But that gave us half a day to explore the landmarks of the city which was fun. In this post I show you Kota Kinabalu in pictures. Kota Kinabalu is also emerging as a destination for Indian weddings.
Situated by the Likas Bay, Kota Kinabalu City Mosque is an impressive structure. The construction of the mosque started in 1989 and it was opened to the public in 2000. It is surrounded by a constructed lake which adds to the charm of the place. I did not enter the premises but I ran to the outside where a crowd had gathered. It is from there you get a good picture of the mosque with its reflection. The entry to the mosque is free.
The first thing that caught my attention about the temple was its beautiful architecture. Then the color red stood out. Pillars, walls, lanterns all were red. People came in to offer prayers.
The walk around the temple will take about 20 minutes if you do it at leisure. The entry is free.
Sutera Harbor Marina is home to beautiful yachts. Space is available for rent both for long and short term. While we were waiting for our speedboat to Sapi Island, I marveled at the beauties parked there. I even marveled at a couple who were going about their business on a yacht. Their suntan was to be seen to believe!
You get out of the airport and you are at the beach in Kota Kinabalu. I took the picture from Shangri-La Tanjung Aru. While we were going to the resort our guide told us- this is beach number 3. It was number three because there were 1 and 2 before it. As someone said, what is there in a name? Call it beach 3 and it still would be stunningly beautiful. I got to know that Prince William and his family stayed at Tanjung Aru sometime back.
We stayed in the heart of the city first at Hyatt Regency and then at Le Meridien. Right across the Le Meridien is the local market for vegetables and fruits. On my last day I walked out in the morning and took a stroll. I was amazed at the variety of chili the shop displayed. They took my photo session easily in their stride. One person asked me if I would like to go island hopping to which I said I had a flight to catch in a few hours.
Mari Mari Cultural Village is an excellent place to discover about the tribes of Sabah and their customs. They have built the houses of five tribes and enact the living conditions for the tourists. It is targeted at the tourists, I was not sure how I would like it but it was a lot of fun.
Island hopping was on our agenda but the rain gods had other plans. We visited Sapi Island on the next day but you can see umbrellas were out on the beach. We still got a window of clear weather and managed to zipline on the Island to Island Coral Flyer. It was fun to zipline from Gaya Island to Sapi Island.
The Sabah State Mosque is an impressive place of worship with its golden dome and gold inlay work. Our guide John told us that all important people came here to offer the prayers. Once again we looked at it only from outside. There were a lot of cars round so I could not get a clear view from any side.
Finding a Grudwara in Kota Kinabalu was a surprise. It was not on our original itinerary. We went there because of the rain gods and in the end I am happy as I discovered a piece of India in Sabah. We met Mr. Avtar Singh on the premises who told us a bit about the history of the place. Jesselton was named Kota Kinabalu in 1963. Sikhs primarily came to Malaysia as police officers with the British in 1865. However, it is said that they were not the first Sikhs to arrive in Malaysia. The first lot came as political prisoners in early 1800. Avtar ji said that some went back to India at the time of World War II but the ones who remained got integrated into the local society.
Right behind the Gurudwara is a railway line which connects Kota Kinabalu to Tenom. It is known as Sabah State Railway. We were told that the road connection is faster so the railway line is not much in use.
This sums up my visit to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia. I for sure wish to go back and explore more.
PS.The view of the city in the first picture has been clicked from the Signal Hill, the highest point of the city. Itgot its name as flags were raised on the hill as a signal to the ships arriving at Jesselton Port in earlier times.
Once again it was the weekend. With the new job it meant that the brat was right around the corner. He had two days off instead of his usual one day! Hoping against hope the sage put her feet up. All she wanted to do was day dream about her trips. Soon enough there was a knock on the door. The Sage reluctantly got up to open the door. She was not surprised to see the brat all sleepy eyed at noon. It looked like he just woke up and straight came in looking for a cup of tea. Thank God that the sage had some peace and quiet at least till the noon. For some strange she was reminiscing about the Wedding in Sabah and the stories she heard about them! There was no hope of it now.
The Brat: Good morning …
The Sage: If you say so, though it is well past noon. Good to see you awake.
The Brat: Will you like to have some tea?
The Sage: I always like to have tea.
The Brat: Then why don’t you go and make some?
The Sage: Ah the usual trap, and I fall for it always. OK I will make us a cup of tea.
The sage returns with two cups of tea.
The Brat: So what is new? What is new on your blog?
The Sage: Instead of new, I actually wish to discuss the old, remember I went to Kota Kinabalu?
The Brat: Even I can’t forget it because of the business class travel stories you would tell everyone, (then adds under his breath) weather they wanted to listen or not!
The Sage: What do you think I am hard of hearing? However, there is another story from the trip, about the weddings in Sabah!
The Brat: Weddings in Sabah? Now what is that? (it is a rare historic moment when he looks confused but he did on the mention of weddings).
The Sage: There is a resort Shangri-la Rasa Ria which hosted a 700 guest Indian wedding from Kolkata.
The Brat: Oh boy!
The Sage: Yes it was the talk of the town! Apparently they wanted cars only for airport pickups, no vans! Getting 300 taxies in Kota Kinabalu was quite an adventure apparently! So was getting 700 people through immigration! Not to forget getting in the cargo as people cannot carry everything in luggage if they wish to attend a big fat Indian wedding.
Actually there are two Shangri-La properties one I mentioned, Rasa Ria and the other is Tanjung Aru. Both can host large Indian weddings. Then there are city hotels like the Hyatt Regency and Le Meridein which can host them on smaller scales. Apparently for the Kolkata wedding the chefs were flown for India. Hotel wedding planners can sync things with the wedding planners hired by the wedding party.
Both Rasa Ria and Tanjung Aru provide stunning outdoor venues by the beach! Everyone only needs to pray that it won’t rain! Even for that special prayers can be arranged in Sabah!
The Brat: Wow that is quite something!
The Sage: What do you think?
The Brat: What do I think about what?
The Sage: About getting married and maybe in style?
The Brat: Oh please I am too young to marry and I would rather use that money and time to go on an exotic tour! And you can’t blame me, I caught the habit of traveling from you!
The Sage: Well, I will have to admit you have a point there!
The Brat had finished his tea by now and was fidgeting in the seat, The Sage was hopeful that she could go back to her day dreaming pretty soon!
PS. The Brat and the Sage are semi-fictional characters that bear strong resemblance to my family members.
PPS. I was invited in this trip to Sabah by Silk Air and Sabah Tourism Board.
Hyatt Regency Kota Kinabalu (KK) was the first hotel I stayed in Sabah, Malaysia. I spent two peaceful nights at the hotel. I visited KK on Silk Air FAM trip in collaboration with Sabah Tourism Board. The airport is very close to the city of KK. Hyatt regency was hardly a 15 minute drive. Hyatt Regency is a city hotel.
The check-in process at the Hyatt was smooth. They asked for our passports and handed us the room keys fast. The wifi password was also given, it was valid on two devices. I had an ocean view room. I was happy with my room.
The room was spacious and inviting. The work table was large, the easy chair inviting. The bed was comfortable. There was temperature control in the room. The sound proofing was good. On the first night I was so tired that I slept like a log. On the second night I could hear the muted sounds of the planes due to the proximity to the airport. But then I am sure the same would be the case with all city hotels.
I had an ocean view room without a bathtub. On the hotel tour I did see ocean view rooms with bathtubs too. There was a time I used to enjoy bathtubs, as I don’t have one at home. But once I realized that I was wasting a lot of water by using them, I am quite neutral to them now. In a way I was happy not to have it, there was no temptation for me! The bathroom was good, it could be used as an open area but there were doors that could make it private.
I enjoyed both my breakfasts at Hyatt Regency KK. They have a large spread with the usual suspects like fruits, corn flakes, milk, cold cuts, eggs etc. They also had a Malaysian spread and Indian food too! I was amazed to see samosas at breakfast!
I had one buffet meal and one Indian meal at the Hyatt. Both were good. There was enough for the vegetarians to eat at the buffet. If you do not mind fish sauce your choices would increase even further. I would highly recommend that you try their sugarcane juice and tender coconut for drinks.
They have Chef Govind who makes amazing Indian food. The chef is from Uttarakhand. Sometimes when I eat Indian food abroad I find it not to the Indian taste at all. But Chef Govind’s food is 100% Indian, I never felt I was eating outside my country!
The hotel has excellent convention facilities. They have revamped their bar and it felt like a happening place. I particularly enjoyed their swimming pool. Overall, I enjoyed my stay at Hyatt KK. If you wish to make a reservation do check out their site.
And finally here is a short video.
When I saw Mari Mari Cultural Village on my Sabah itinerary I was curious about the experience. Would it be a tourist trap? I went in expecting it to be one, but I came back pleasantly surprised.
We arrived at the Mari Mari Cultural Village for the morning slot. It was raining. We were a little early so we waited near the ticket counter area. There was a cat playing with people. The village is about 25 minutes drive from Kota Kinabalu. It is set in a green area which makes it even more special.
AK our guide came along and herded us near the entrance. He asked if we knew what Mari Mari means. It means ‘come come,’ I knew it because the guide for our whole trip, John, mentioned it earlier. Later when we would linger around a house and not budge, AK would say ‘mari mari’, let’s go to the next one!
However he wanted a leader among us who would great the head of the Murut tribe, as they would accept us in their home only then. No one volunteered. So, AK declared- the person with red umbrella would be the leader. He was Ming, a young man from China traveling with his bride to be! We would be visiting 5 tribal homes that of Dusun, Rungus, Lundayeh, Bajau and Murut in that order. Lundayeh and Murut were head-hunting tribes of the past. AK said there are 32 tribes in Sabah in all.
We crossed a bridge over a small river to head to the village. Our first stop was by a platform outside a Dusun home. Harvest was stored there. Then AK pointed out to a head hanging there along with crop! He pacifies us quickly, saying the head is MIC, made in China. AK said head hinting probably started in Sabah because sea gypsies would steal harvest from the land people. Fed up, one day someone cut off the head of a sea gypsy and hung it by the storage area as a warning to others- steal our crops and we would cut your head!
We went inside the house after listening to this chilly story. The house was pleasing to look at but rustic. The food styling was superb throughout. I kept clicking all the kitchen displays!
There was an attic in the house with a ladder leading to it. I asked what was it used for? AK said it was the bedroom for the unmarried daughter of the house. After she went up in night, the father would take away the ladder and put it in his room!
We were offered rice wine in the house. As we moved to Rungus home, we were offered rice cooked with chicken in a bamboo. I gave it a pass. Throughout the trip we would be offered things to eat, honey, pandan juice, snacks and more. It was fun.
The rain had stopped by now. Umbrellas became more of a walking aid. Some of the tribes live in long houses. As the name suggest, the house is long and the entire tribes used to live in the same house. More rooms would be added for new family members. Young unmarried men would usually get to sleep in the common areas, rooms were for married people. And I have already told you where unmarried girls slept!
Our third stop was at the Lundayeh tribe which was one of the head hunting tribes of Sabah. AK said that they would however go headhunting only in war. Murut were the ones who would do it for sport too! There were photo opportunities at every stop! The first photo in this post was clicked with people depicting Lundayeh tribe!
Bajau were the sea gypsies of Sabah. AK said he belonged to the same tribe. They had the most colorful home of all the five tribes that we saw. The colorful pavilion was a wedding set up.
AK told us an interesting story about Bajau tribes. He said once a child was three months old, the sea gypsies would throw the baby to the sea. This was a practice hundreds of years ago. If the child didn’t swim, they would let it drown! He said some Bajau people still throw their babies to the sea but they would run after the child with outstretched arms saying, “My baby, my baby” if s/he didn’t swim! They no longer let a child drown.
We went to the Murut home last. We were given an opportunity to blow darts on an effigy! I managed to hit the chest of the straw man, not very impressive, one had to get the throat! AK was an expert at it!
Inside the house was a lot of fun. They had a rattan trampoline in the middle. The traditional purpose was to keep the youth indoors as the tribe had a lot of enemies. So it was better if the kids played inside. The local lads can jump up so high!
We had a fire making session using bamboo sticks and soft bamboo shreds! It was easy for the experts! Apparently a woman would get married if she could make fire and a man when he had hunted a few heads! We were given henna tattoos too! Original tattoos involved piercing with thorns and then sealing the design with bee wax. I was happy with the alternative arrangement of henna!
After this we moved to the hall for the cultural show. Without saying much, I present the video of the spectacular bamboo dance! We were given a chance to do the dance too. The tempo was so slow and yet I would get my feet caught regularly between the bamboos.
The other performances were colorful too, but the bamboo dance was the highlight. It was performed the last.
Now lunch was the only thing left on the agenda! They managed to find things for vegetarians too. I had spring rolls, stir fried vegetables, omelette (I eat eggs), finger chips and fruits.
I went to Mari Mari Cultural Village expecting very little but I came out quite impressed and a little more knowledgeable about the tribes of Sabah.
PS. My trip to Kota Kinabalu was sponsored by Silk Air.