Travel Diary: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Never had I imagine that I will be traveling to Borneo since I was a child. I was hearing about it in school especially in Geography classes. However, I didn’t think it’s worth the time, money and effort to visit the place.

When Cebu Pacific launched a promo fare for Kota Kinabalu, I was still hesitant to book for tickets. I searched first for blogs, reviews, etc. for KK and there I found Biyahe Ni Drew’s episode in KK. What impelled me to click the book button was the food Drew ate in Kota Kinabalu… Authentic noodles, roasted chicken wings, coconut with natural pandan flavor… hmm, let’s go to Kota Kinabalu!

It is unfortunate that Frank went sick before our flight. Luckily, we managed to get his fever down before we went to the airport or else, he will be held at the immigration for health check. What we can’t do anything with is his diarrhea. How can we have our food trip in Kota Kinabalu now? We just hope and pray the antibiotics the doctor has given him will effect soon.

We arrived KK at 2AM. We were fetched by the service of our hotel, KK Suites Hotel. The driver was a Filipino too, however, he and his family migrated in KK for 3 decades now. So, his Tagalog is not that well enough for us to converse properly.

KK Suites Hotel
I got our accommodation in Agoda at a discounted price. It is located at the famous, Gaya street where the Sunday Market is held. I was hesitant at first to book here because I was sure the Sunday Market would be noisy. Since it will start at around 5:30AM, we’ll be woken up early in the morning. But, since the hotel got really good reviews on Agoda and TripAdvisor, I booked it anyway.

Bed 2 - KK Suites Hotel

The room is small but very cozy. It features different birds per room. Assigned to us was a Crimson Sunbird.


I’ve read reviews that A/C doesn’t work well in this hotel but ours is great. Bathroom is clean and spacious. It’s a plus also that they have a bidet. The room also has a TV however, for foreign tourists like us, we can’t find anything we can watch in English. Wifi is good but sometimes connection goes down.


What I really liked about this hotel is it is located in Gaya street, where many local restaurants are located. Our plan to have a food trip in KK would be better if we stay here in KK Suites Hotel.

Yoong, our contact person at the hotel, is so accommodating. He answers all of our questions as fast as he could. He even gave us a pack of coffee before we come home. A simple gesture but will put a mark into guests hearts.

Before our flight, I was able to do some research about some things you can do in KK. However, because Frank is sick, we weren’t able to do a lot. In fact, we stayed more hours inside our hotel room because Frank really feels weak. Even so, he forced himself to get up late in the afternoon for some walk around the town.

DAY 1:

  • Signal Hill Observatory

Since Frank just able to get up late in the afternoon, we decided to walk around KK to familiarize ourselves with the city. And our first stop was Signal Hill Observatory. We wanted to see the whole city first before we explore it. You can get to Signal Hill via taxi or via a short cut up along a forest of trees. However, I can’t say if it’s a good or bad idea as it is a 5 to 10-minute hike. I was hesitant because Frank is still weak to climb up. Still, he insisted to go and take the hardest way to get there. He doesn’t want to be in Malaysia and stay under the sheets the whole day. Fortunately, it somehow helped Frank to get better. I guess because of the exercise? Or the explicit beauty of the view?

Signal Hill 04

Anyway, at the Signal Hill Observatory, you can see the whole city of KK in aerial view. It is open 24-hours but the restaurant closes during evening. It is best to visit here during sunset. Some locals spend their afternoons here, running, walking and talking with each other.

Signal Hill - Trek 04
On our way up the Signal Hill
Signal Hill - Trek 02
Trek going to Signal Hill Observatory
Signal Hill - Trek
Don’t worry! You can rest midway up in this hut.
Signal Hill
Entrance to the Signal Hill Observatory
Signal Hill 03
Welcome signage
Signal Hill 05
View at the top
Signal Hill 02
There are also a lot of bench available
Signal Hill - Free Wifi
Free Wifi!
Signal Hill - Trek 03
On our way down
  • Street Art Gallery

I think it has changed over the years from the original state. The photos I’ve found on the internet were different to what we have seen. Anyway, they said after an earthquake hit KK, local artists went to this abandoned building to paint/draw in tribute to the lost of their city.

Street Art Gallery

  • Filipino Market

If you’re into affordable food, then definitely Filipino Market is a must visit. Here you can find different food choices. Usuals are seafood, cold drinks, grilled chicken, desserts.

Filipino Market

DAY 2:

  • Sunday Market

Sunday Market are held in Gaya street from 5:30AM to 1:00PM. You can find various items here at a low price. There are souvenirs, clothes, household items, accessories and even pets.

Sunday Market 02
View from our hotel room during Sunday Market
Sunday Market
Pets are also sold here
  • Waterfront

This is where the nightlife of Kota Kinabalu is held. It is a strip of bars and restaurants on seaside. At the back side of the new mall, Oceanus (also in Waterfront), a lot of locals spend their afternoon.

  • Escapee

Since Frank is not fit enough at the moment to try out extreme activities in KK like climbing Mt. Kinabalu, go diving, etc, we found another activity we can do and not exert much physical effort. Escapee is based on the international Escape Room which is a real life mind boggling game. To give you an idea, one must solve several mysteries and puzzles in order to escape the room.

Escapee 02 Escapee 04 Escapee 03

Frank and I decided to escape the themed-room, Prison Break. Our hands were handcuffed before we get inside the room. There were no lights inside the room. There were two (2) cells, one at the right and one at the left. We were separated, one in each of the cells. Given only one flashlight, we must escape the prison.

Escapee 01

DAY 3:
At last, Frank has gained back his energy! We were able to book a tour for our last day in KK. Yoong, from KK Suites Hotel, arranged this tour for us.

  • Nabalu Market

This is our first stop. It is a handicraft market. Locals sell different native fruits, food, handicrafts, and clothes here. Not only that, Nabalu market also serves as a tourist spot as well because of its explicit view of Mt. Kinabalu. They say one must go to Nabalu Market as early as they could because Mt. Kinabalu will be cleared of clouds in the morning.

Mt Kinabalu 02
View at the Nabalu Market

Mt Kinabalu 03Nabalu Park

  • Poring Hot Spring

There are numerous things you can do in Poring Hot Spring. You can swim, trek at the canopy walk, fish spa, or just relax with a good nature view.

Poring Hot Spring 01
Refreshing! (WARNING: There are two faucets available, hot and cold)

Poring Hot Spring 04 Poring Hot Spring 02

Poring Hot Spring 03
Dip your feet!
Falls - Poring Hot Spring
Mini falls at Poring Hot Spring
Fish Spa
Fish Spa at the foot of the falls
Canopy Walk
Canopy Walkway
  • Kinabalu Park

This is the starting point for those who will climb THE Mt. Kinabalu. As for other tourists, you can also have a small trek here to discover and learn more about the plants in Borneo.

Rafflesia 03
Rafflesia, the biggest flower in the world


1. Sin Kee Bak Kut Teh

Bak Kut Teh - Sin Kee Bak Kut TehSin Kee Bak Kut TehSin Kee Bak Kut Teh 02

Must Taste: Bak Kut Teh
Operating Hours: 4PM – 11PM
Address: 26, Jalan Pantai, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

2. Filipino Market

Satay - Filipino Market

Must Taste: Satay (Honey Roasted Chicken Wing)
Operating Hours: 5:30PM – 11PM
Address: Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

3. 5 Star Hainanese Chicken Rice & BBQ

Seafood Pasta - 5 Star Hainanese5 Star 5 Star 02

Must Taste: Seafood Pasta
Operating Hours : 8AM – 11PM
Address: Jalan Gaya, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

4. Kedai Kopi Yee Fung

Laksa - Kedai Kopi Yee FungYee Fung 03 Yee Fung 02Yee Fung 05 Yee Fung 01

Must Taste: Laksa
Operating Hours: 7AM – 5PM
Address: 127, Jalan Gaya, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

5. Fook Yuen Cafe and Bakery

Roti Kahwin - Fook YuenFook Yuen 02 Fook Yuen 01

Must Taste: Roti Kahwin and Tea Tarik
Operating Hours: 6AM – 12AM
Address: Jalan Gaya, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Who says Borneo is not worth a visit?? Well, I was when I was in school. But now, I’m so happy I was stand corrected.



11 thoughts on “Travel Diary: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

  1. Wow! Now i am excited to go to kota kinabalu after reading ur blog. Thank you! Btw, u would like to ask how much pocket money should i bring? I dont want to be spending too much. Budgeted travelist here. Lol. Thanks

    1. Hi Jean!
      Well my husband and I only spent MYR 1,500 including accommodations. 🙂 Don’t worry, I find everything very affordable in KK. BTW, thanks for reading my blog!

    1. Hi! Sorry we’ve not tried any travel agent there as we’ve just did our itinerary personally. Although, if you check-in at KK Suites, they can arrange all your tours for you. 🙂

  2. Hi Francess!

    Just saw your blog and I admire you and your hubby a lot since you’ve got to go to different places already (sweet!) by the way, me and my husband will be going to KK in December, too. I just want to ask if how you guys did your DIY City Tour since we will also be staying along Gaya Street. Hope you can help me out with this. I would really appreciate it a lot. Thanks in advance and God bless 🙂

    1. Hi Kat! Thanks for reading my blog. Anyway, before our flight, we’ve already searched for places we’ll be going to and how to get there. However, we’ve not been able to visit all the places we’ve planned because my husband was sick. All we’ve done is walk around the city proper, tried as many dishes as we can. 😉

  3. The best way you can enjoy your experience in Kota Kinabalu is to splurge on seafood, sample durian all around and do activities like swimming, snorkeling or challenge yourself while climbing.

  4. From post-midnight walks within the small neighborhood to vibrant Sunday morning strolls in the street market remembering the beauty and character of Kota Kinabalu keeps my soul beaming.

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