Kota Kinabalu

I can confidently say that Kota Kinabala in Sabah, Malaysia on the island of Borneo is not in the top 5 for Prime Tourist Destinations in South East Asia. Why? Because I am most definitely the only blonde, western female in this city. Similarly, the search for answers to pressing questions like: “Which way to the beach?” and “Where is the nearest travel agency?” have been met with confused looks and little information. Even Google is a bit hazy. Sean and I spent the first two days looking for an agency to no avail. (ETA: today we found three, one street over. Rookies. We also mixed up the drier with the washing machine this afternoon when we both found we had no underwear left. Our incompetence is astounding.)

The locals have been lovely, greeting us with kindness and saying “nice to meet you” after we buy our morning bottled water. Our waiter at the local restaurant was wearing a shirt that said, “Still a Virgin?” on it last night, but I don’t think he had any idea what it meant.   

Sean and I are only eating one meal a day because we’re too lazy to move from this overpriced hotel ($15 a night, um) to a cheap hostel. It’s a morning bakery bun, a very late lunch that covers us for dinner, and an ice-cream in bed that feeds our travelling bellies. We’re also listening to Adele’s ‘Hello’ 10+ times a day, usually consecutively. WHAT A TUNE.

This hotel has leaky ceilings and drain holes that smell like arse; towels that are stained with blood(?) and a shower that is nothing more than a phallic-like detachable hose. Prostitutes frequent the lobby, viral videos sound in the halls and there is a faint hammering sound during the morning that has yet to reveal why and where it is happening. At 1am the front desk prank called us. 

We caught a boat out to Sapi Island (translated to Cow Island, but alas no cows) the other day. A beauty of a place surrounded by hypnotising blue waters and populated with hundreds of Malay holiday goers. We snorkelled and saw 10 fish, feeling we could sufficiently tick it off the list. There wasn’t much else going on in that regard unless we were willing to fork out an unreasonable amount of dosh. The return trip, snorkel included, cost about $12, with a $3 conservation fee on arrival. That was my budget for the day blown in one foul swoop, but abso-bloody-worth it.

We climbed up to Observatory Point overlooking Kota Kinabalu and revelled in the view of the city, which seemed to hide the ground level conditions well with its clinical structures and strong colours.

Tomorrow we're catching the local bus out to the bottom of Mount Kinabalu (1.5 hours) to a little shack owned by a Malay hippy. We're going to climb as high as the government allows (alas the peak is closed off after the earthquake from earlier in the year) and revel in this guy's home cooking and cheap scooter hire. Keen to leave the city and trek into the wild!