I did it! I booked my first international flight some months ago, flew out-of-the-country, and laid my entirety on a foreign land before my 30th birthday. I am a latecomer to this milestone, I know, but it was my first time and I am deeply happy about it in the pinkest sense of this emotion.
P and I flew to Kota Kinabalu (KK) for only a 3-day stay. After all the rescheduling, we departed Manila at 11:45 pm and arrived in KK at past 1:00 am. We bought a local simcard at one of the 24/7 shops in the airport for RM25, booked a Grab with almost zero waiting time, and arrived in our Airbnb in Luyang, Perdana a little past 2:00 am.
We went up to Mt. Kinabalu, trailed the Canopy Walk, dipped in Poring Hot Springs, swam in Manukan & Sapi islands, visited Sabah Museum, ate local food, and strolled from one tourist spot to another like the Filipino Market, Jesselton Point, Gaya Sunday Market, Atkinsons Tower, and more. For a short stay, we were able to roam a lot of places because KK is intimately small with most of its tourist spots being closely connected. The place felt so compact that you can do a lot without traveling too far.
We were lucky that it rained a bit because it added up to the coolness of the high altitude, which we craved. The color of the sky was dim but beautiful. Somehow, you can imagine the plants, grateful for the drizzle. We ourselves were thankful. How could we not when it nourishes all of this lush foliage.
Poring Hot Springs
This place is known for their open-air public hot tubs. The hot spring water here is rich in sulphur, which helps with skin problems. This water is piped into the tubs that you can control with a faucet. There are also baths in private cabins and a cold pool I wish I could fit in my pocket and take with me to Philippines where the heat is unforgiving.
My favorite part of this spot is not the clock tower but the stairs that I casually call the Cath Kidston steps. Lo and behold!
This is a small museum that you can finish in maybe an hour if you will not go around taking too many photos, unlike me. My favorite part of the museum is the ceramics area where I got to see beautiful urns and salvaged china from the Jade Dragon Wreck. There’s also an activity for kids where they can try to “fix” a broken vase by sticking the shards back on its body.
Entrance fee for non-Malaysians: RM15 per head
A random “sari-sari store” in the city that is very colloquial Filipino.
The Filipino Market has several specialty nooks to serve your interests from food to souvenirs. There are stalls where you can choose fresh food selections and ask the vendors to cook them for you. You can also opt to pick dishes that are already prepared. The food is dirt cheap from chicken, seafood, to lemons that I have to wipe happy tears while eating in awe and disbelief with the price point. I love the kitchai lemon drink, which I think is the counterpart of the Filipino calamansi juice.
There’s also an area here called the Handicraft Market where handcrafted souvenirs from across different parts of Asia are sold. I bought a bag, sarong, and two dreamcatchers that all looked splendid and native as it can get.
We met with tourmates here, who went to Manukan and Sapi islands with us. There are many stalls in the port, selling local food, pretty beach hats, colorful buoys, and swimwear. A vendor greeted me in Korean and I answered with a generic “Good morning.” “Oh, you’re Filipino? I can tell with the voice.” “Yes, I am very much Filipino.” I ordered an Iced Americano, no sugar, for RM5. The vendor and I are now Facebook friends.
Boat Fee: tour to the two islands were booked thru Klook for Php 2,185 per head, inclusive of hotel pick-up & drop-off, boat transfers to & fro, and buffet lunch.
Manukan and Sapi Islands
I am in love with the beach! The sand is white and superfine like cappuccino froth. We met five Filipinos in the tour: Janlyn, the tour guide, Yuki & Grace who are girl friends, and Jona & Joch who are a couple. Joch proposed to Jona in the island and she said yes! We were all strangers but it was a natural response for all of us to be happy for them. Again, we all added each other in Facebook because social media is life.
Everything was a lovely experience. KK felt safe and peaceful even in the late of the night. It was interesting that under the rain, all of the locals we saw were not using umbrellas. We didn’t have one ourselves because it was just unlikely to pack one for a flight. Paolo and I kept walking under the rain, sometimes holding hands, treading unfamiliar alleyways at past 10 o’clock in the evening. The rain felt extra therapeutic as it touched my forehead and dampened my hair; as I heard its faint sound splashing on the asphalt and breathed in its earthy scent.
I am just thankful for being alive.
*Complete photos will be uploaded in ig.