14 Jul GUIDE TO BORNEO 2 – SABAH
Located on Borneo Island’s north-western side, Sabah is known for its super-sized offerings. The rafflesia – the world’s largest flower – is a parasitic plant that blooms here to a whooping one metre in diameter and the 30cm-long Kinabalu giant red leech (longer than the average human male foot) lives here. Additionally, the 4095m Mount Kinabalu – a granite fortress that’s known as the loftiest peak between the Himalayas and New Guinea – is found in Sabah’s Kinabalu National Park, a World Heritage Site. Falling just below the typhoon belt, there are a variety of natural riches on parade in the fertile region, plus the state experiences a balmy tropical climate, making it the perfect place to visit all year round.
=How to Get There=
The nearest airport is Kota Kinabalu International Airport, the main gateway to Borneo Island, serviced by two main Malaysian airlines, Malaysia Airline and AirAsia. Other airlines such as Silkair and Dragonair also operates in KKIA.
There are a lot of long distance express buses operating within Sabah, which are comfortable and air-conditioned. There are also short distance inter town travel on mini buses and vans. You can book these via travel agencies or through your hotel reception.
It is not advisable to rent your own vehicle to drive as the road signs are not put up accurately and you may spend more time getting lost than getting to your desired destination.
=What to See & What to Do=
• Mount Kinabalu
No specialized mountain climbing skills are required to ascend it, though along certain sections on the summit trail, hikers will need to rely on guide ropes to make the ascent and descent. The trail that most tourists use is described as a ‘trek and scramble’. Mount Kinabalu is the highest peak in Sabah’s Crocker Range and the gorgeous landscape ranges from tropical rainforest to subalpine at near the summit. You can take a minivan from Night Market, City Centre to Kinabalu Park at RM20.
• Rumah Terbalik Di Sabah
Address: Kg. Telibong, Batu 21, Jalan Telibong Tamparuli, 89208 Tuaran Sabah
Similar to Germany’s ‘The World Stands on its Head’ upside-down home, Rumah Terbalik Di Sabah is best described as an otherworldly upside-down home, a childhood fantasy come to life. Billed as Southeast Asia’s first, the 1,500sqft compound looks like its neighbours traditional Sabahan homes, but the house, car and even a wheelbarrow leaning against the outdoor wall are all flipped over.
• Rafflesia Trail
Sabah’s Rafflesia Forest Reserve exists to protect the rafflesia – the world’s largest flower. The quest to find this rare plant begins in Kota Kinabalu, where you can take a bus upwards of 1500m through thick pockets of Bornean mist to the Tambunan waterfall. Then the trail leads into the forest; scrambling through the trees, stepping round enormous buttresses and over fallen logs you come to a clearing, and there it is, lying on the ground in splendid isolation: the unmistakable blood red bloom, spotted with white markings – a lone and beautiful rafflesia. You can take the bus (1 hour) from Kota Kinabalu to The Rafflesia Information Centre at Tambunan.
• Turtle Watching
You can witness this remarkable sight at the Turtle Islands National Park, which is made up of three small islands (Selingan, Bakkungan Kecil and Gulisan) in the Sulu Sea off the east coast of Sabah. At night, a ranger will take you to watch green turtles nesting on the beach and in the morning you’ll get the privileged chance to see their young being released into the sea. You can also book for a guide or ranger via www.sabahparks.org.my.
If you are going for an adventurous trip to Sabah, this adrenaline rush extreme air-sport is what you want to experience. At only US30 per flight, you can take off Mount Kinabalu, where you can either tandem, or solo flight. A recommended operator is Borneo Adventure Team.
• White-Water Rafting
Two rivers, Padas and Kiulu allow for tourists to experience white water rafting. It can be booked via your hotel reception for a tour package. Transportation is provided and they will pick you up from your hotel. Be prepared to get a minor cut or two as you rough it out with the water and sea rocks.
• Central Market
Address: Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens
Held along Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, Kota Kinabalu’s Central Market is much like its Kuala Lumpur counterpart. Occupying a strip of waterfront real estate in the middle of town, this souk has vendors that sell a variety of merchandise including local food – the stalls selling nasi campur have good value-for-money meals.
• Handicraft Market
Address: Jalan Tun Mohd Stephens
Sandwiched between the Night Market and Central Market in Kota Kinabalu, this bazaar is the perfect place to get reasonably-priced souvenirs including jewellery, bamboo goods, pearls, seashell crafts and textiles. Be sure to bargain as you’ll get better deals than the advertised sticker prices.
=What to Eat=
Best foods of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah:
• Tuaran Noodle – similar to fried prawn noodles, it is served without the prawns but with sumptuous amount of pork belly and pork lard
• Roti Kahwin – perfectly toasted bread spread with homemade kaya and generous amount of butter; most suitable for breakfast
• Bak Kut Teh – pork ribs with herbal soup served with a pot of chinese tea
• Tenom Noodle – stir fried egg noodles with dory fish or thick marinated porn slices
• Coconut Pudding – the insides of a coconut scraped out and frozen together with pudding, refreshing, sweet and thirst quenching
• Ngiu Chap – noodles with a choice of beef meat, beef balls, beef tendons or all of the goodness into one bowl of beef noodles soup
Below are some restaurants that serves the above must eat dishes when you visit Sabah:
• Kedai Kopi Yee Fung
Address: 127 Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu 88000, Malaysia
• Welcome Seafood Restaurant
Address: G15-18, G/F, Komplek Asia City | Phase 2A, Jalan Asia City, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
• Fatty Kee
Address: 8 Lorong Bakau, | Jalan Pantai,, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
• Restoran Sri Melaka
Address: No.9, Jalan Laiman Diki, Kota Kinabalu 88000, Malaysia
• Yu Kee Bak Kut Teh
Address: 74, Jalan Gaya, Kota Kinabalu 88000, Malaysia
• El Centro
Address: Ground Floor, Lot 32, | Jalan Haji Saman, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
=Where to Stay=
• The Last Frontier Boutique Resort
Address: Kinabatangan River, Kampung Bilit, 90000 Bilit, Malaysia
• Borneo Natural Sukau Bilit Resort
Address: Lot 1, Kampung Bilit, Sandakan, 90200 Bilit, Malaysia
• Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa
Address: Pantai Dalit, Tuaran, 89208 Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
• Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan
Address: Sandakan Harbour Square, 90000 Sandakan, Malaysia
• Hotel Sixty3
Address: 63, Jalan Gaya, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia