view of Sabah State Mosque from the river
Jesselton is the name of Kota Kinabalu during its British occupation. It was changed to KOTA KINABALU when the Malaysian federation was formed.
The moment I stepped into Kota Kinabalu, I immediately felt at home. Everywhere I looked, I felt like I was in Mindanao. The city is small, laidback, near the sea, and all the important places(airport, sea port, malls, offices, mosques, churches, markets, beaches) are very accessible and can be reached within 5-15 minutes travel. You can just walk to the nearby malls, guest houses, seafront or take a taxi with a flat rate of 15 ringgit.
Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman
The topography and climate is much like Mindanao and I wouldn't be surprised because Sabah and Mindanao are in close proximity. Like Mindanao, this place is blessed with bountiful natural beauty and resources.
I stayed at Gaya Street where the whole stretch of the long road is filled with backpacker's lodges and guesthouses. In Gaya Street, you can actually walk from one guest house to another to check which place will best suit you. I stayed at the Red Palm Hostel then transferred to Akinabalu Youth Hostel later. I felt comfortable at Gaya St because it's like the Chinatown of KK. Most of the stores, restaurants, guest houses, are run by Chinese. I get to eat my favorite Chinese dishes at the restaurants that are found on this street. I've been eating mostly Chinese food the whole time that i was in KK.
Sabah State Mosque
When i feel like eating halal, I go to the Filipino Market near the seafront, and feast on grilled prawns, fish, chicken barbecue, etc. There is quite a big number of Malay Chinese in KK. They speak Hakka, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Bahasa. I understand a few basic words of what they are saying but I can't speak any of the Chinese dialects so I would just answer in Bahasa when asked about what i like to eat or drink. I'm linguistically challenged when it comes to speaking Chinese. I couldn't be proud of my Chinese heritage because of that. My parents did not send me to Chinese school when I was in grade school just like what filipinos w/ Chinese heritage do to their children. Well, its not yet too late. I have promised myself to study Mandarin and Hakka. Most of the filipinos living in KK are either filipino/chinese or Muslims from Mindanao.
The Muslims speak Bahasa and Tausug, the Muslim dialect that sounds like Bahasa, only its spoken with a tough tone. But they also understand and speak tagalog well.
On Sundays, Gaya Street(Bond St) turns into a Sunday market where food, clothing, handicrafts, chinese herbs, and a lot of stuff are on sale hawker's style. I bargained for a black onyx bracelet for only 10 ringgit. I had fun checking some exotic goods on sale, including live pets. I also brought native coffee for my Dad, and Gudang Garam cigarettes for my friends back home.
There are not much bars or clubs to hang out and party at but I like the chillout places which are mostly open seaside restaurants, cafes, & hawker areas. You can just relax and drink beer or coffee at the seafront facing the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, or at Tanjung Aru beach which is just 15 minutes away from the city center.
You can catch the golden sunset at these areas while you sip your coffee or drink your beer. Food and drinks in KK are much cheaper compared to KL. At least I was happy with the price of beer in KK as compared to KL. If you want a change in scenery, you can go up to Signal Hill at the back of the city and view KK and the sea from a high altitude.
I checked what's going on at the Filipino Market(Pasar Filipina) at Sinsuran Complex at the back of Le Meridien Hotel. There are lots of handicrafts on sale very similar to those items sold at Quiapo Ilalim Market in Manila and in most handicraft stores in the Philippines. The pearls on sale are also those seen at Greenhills Shopping Center in Manila. I also saw batik sarongs and scarves, lots of souveneir items, t-shirts, woodcarvings, etc.
@Filipino Market- broiled prawns, lobsters, squid, ikan(fish) for the non-pork eating Muslims
Of course I enjoyed most the food hawkers area at the back of the shops. Fresh seafood, fruits, rice cakes, desserts are on sale. This is where I eat my dinners. Grilled prawns are one of my favorite food. I just pick my food, sit at the long table beside the Muslims and eat like everybody else. It's fun eating that way at the hawkers. Hot and cold water is available for you to put in the small bowl where you will rinse your finger. Then start eating your rice and fish with your fingers. Set aside the bowl because you will use it to rinse your finger again after eating. And don't ever confuse your rinse bowl as your soup bowl. And don't eat your fingers! LOL! Well, you may really ask for spoon, fork, and knife if you want to stop pretending that you enjoy eating with your bare hands.
The taxis in KK have no meters but they implement tariff rates like 15 ringgit within the city, 20 ringgit to the airport, 100 ringgit to Lok Kawi, etc. If you go out of town, rates are varied depending on the destination. The taxis would always apply uniform rate.