Hello everyone! So recently my friend and I successfully made it to our first trip together to Sabah! We had been planning to go on a trip together for years - starting off too ambitious with planning a trip to Korea, then Japan, then Philippines, then New Zealand where we searched for good places to go to even making a full itinerary, until we finally realized that 'Dude, we are too ambitious on this trip planning. Let's plan for something nearer, cheaper, and shorter first'. Soooo, we finally came up with a plan to Sabah! Yay! Back to the land below the wind for me! It all started when Fatihah found really cheap AirAsia roundtrip tickets to KK (BKI) from Kuala Lumpur (KLIA2). The total we paid was RM340.24, which means that one roundtrip flight ticket is RM170.12/ person. I guess it was during promotion period some time in March. So basically, we bought our tickets about 5 months earlier in order to secure this cheap deal. Also, it was actually a 5D4N trip, but considering we did not do anything on the last day here, so it's actually considered as 4D3N.
P/s: If anyone wants a complete itinerary from my recent trip, feel free to drop your email below! I will forward it to you :)
17 July: 1st Day
Our flight from KLIA2 was at 4pm, so we reached KK about 6:30pm. Then, the car rental owner was waiting for us outside Arrival Gate #3. If Kundasang/ Ranau is the place you're headed to first, I suggest you to rent the car from Big Momma's Car Rental (http://www.bmcarrental.com). Affordable, and definitely good service. Rm100 for deposit. If you have further questions, feel free to check the website above. Please don't ask me simple questions that you can get answered from reading it. Lol. All communication was done through Whatsapp. We were planning on just getting a Proton Saga for RM130/day for two days, but we were offered a Perodua Bezza upon arrival since the Proton Saga's renter had not returned the car yet (Ooops!). So, we basically got a free car upgrade, since Bezza is RM10 more expensive than Saga. Yay! Also, the good thing about this company is that they can pick it up from the hotel that you're staying, so you don't have to take a cab or something to return it. They will come to you!
Since we were on a tight budget (cause we stingy and unemployed), we booked a cheaper room at inns. If you want to save even more money, you are welcome to book a hostel too! I just did not want a hostel since I don't think it would be comfortable staying with strangers. The inn that we booked was around Asia City Complex. A strategic place, 18 mins away from airport, 10 mins walk to CentrePoint Mall, and 'bout 15 mins walk to the port. Asia City Complex is a busy place with a whole downstairs dedicated to seafood restaurants and some small shops selling souvenirs. There are also some stalls offering Durian- eating experiences and durian desserts, obviously for the foreigners. The seafood restaurant is called Welcome 100% seafood restaurant and it covers the whole building, but they separate the restaurant into two parts: one that serves pork and one that serves no pork. They have separate kitchens for these two parts. So if you're Muslims and prefer a no- pork place, you can go to the no- pork part of the restaurant located on the right side of the building, or you can just ask the waiters.
After we settled down and took shower, we walked towards the port around the Filipino Market (Pasar). If you like handcrafts, Filipino Market is definitely a great place to go to where they sell pearls, crystals, brooch sets etc. Next to the Filipino Market, there is also a small- scale wet market selling fresh seafood, vegetables and fruits, and also stalls that offer seafood dinner set for as cheap as RM30 for two people! They have table and chairs for you to sit and eat, while enjoying the busy chaotic market environment. Most of the food stalls are open until 11pm, so you can take your time and walk around first.
18 July: 2nd Day
Went to Kundasang today at 7am. There is also Mamak Restaurant downstairs that open 24 hours if you want to go early and get breakfast first in the morning. The drive to Kundasang took us about 2 hours. The traffic was pretty bad going out from KK, since there was a lot of road construction going on and hundreds of roundabouts!! Let me tell you something. Sabahan do not like traffic lights, so you can find roundabouts at most parts of any towns. Our first stop was Desa Dairy Farm since it was raining heavily. One helpful tips... Bring a thick sweater or jacket, because when it's raining the temperature here drops to 10 degree Celcius! That's like winter in Colorado! The wind doesn't help either. This place is so famous for its beautiful scenery and the dairy cattle that it is often called Mini New Zealand. The entrance is RM5 per person, and if you go at certain times, you get to see different activities such as Raw Milk Processing, Calf Feeding or Milking Process. Calf feeding isn't free, you can pay RM1 for the grass and feed the calf. Also, you should definitely try their chocolate frozen yogurt (froyo) or ice cream for only RM5.
Then, our next stop was Kundasang War Memorial, which opens from 8.30am to 5:30pm for RM3/ person for Malaysians. For foreigners, it would be RM10/person. I loveeee history so I think this place is a cool place to learn about British colonial (and Australians) in Sabah. Since it was raining from morning until night, we decided to just check in to the inn at Ranau. Our initial plan was to go to Sabah Tea Garden, Sg. Moroli Fish Spa, and Hot Spring Poring all in one day, so we can go hiking tomorrow at Kinabalu Park or Poring Hot Spring and visit the Rumah Terbalik (Upside Down House) on the way back. But oh well, plan can change! That's why it's good to have flexibility in your itinerary. There are a number of halal, Malay restaurants in Pekan Ranau, and their food were definitely good (and very cheap)! The ones that I have tried are: Restaurant Sri Hasanah & Katering, Sri Dina Enterpise and Restaurant Anjung Selera. Restaurant Anjung Selera has a delicious Nasi Lemak Bungkus in the morning, and burger stall at night. So definitely go try it.
P/s: Check for Rafflesia blooming around Poring in the morning at
For the third day, we went to Sabah Tea Garden first thing in the morning. Don't forget to take a picture with the I ❤️ Sabah Tea sign. If you want to take the educational tour and learn more about the tea, it is RM14 per guided tour.
Next, we went to the Tagal Sg. Moroli Fish Spa which is 5 minutes from the Sabah Tea Garden. The fees are RM5 (to dip your feet), RM10 (to swim with the fish) and you can also buy food to feed the fish for RM0.50/small pack.
Lastly, we went to the Hot Spring Poring (Kolam Air Panas Poring) which was around 30 minutes away. Honestly, I hate the Hot Spring Poring because it is not a big swimming pool where you can just go in and chill. They renovated it to make several small bath tubs that can fit around four people, so you have your own private space. Other than the hot spring, you can go to the Canopy Walk, Butterfly Park and also hiking to Waterfalls and Bat Cave. Hiking to the tallest waterfall would take about 4-5 hours, so we could not do that since we need to rush back to KK by evening. If you're interested, you can read all about it here: http://www.mysabah.com/wordpress/waterfalls-of-poring/. What I hate about the Canopy Walk and Butterfly Park is that there is extra fees for everything. Butterfly Park is RM3 per perosn. To go to Canopy Walk, it is RM4 per person, and they charge you RM5/ phone. So, if you don't want to pay so much money, just use one phone to take picture of everyone on the Canopy Walk. The worker would just observe you first to see if you use only one phone to take picture or more, and if everyone in your group pulled out their phones at the Canopy Walk, the worker will walk to you and ask for RM5/ person. Also, when we were on our way to drive back to KK, we saw a sign right in front of the entrance to Hot Spring that said, Rafflesia blooming! Two flowers, about 72 cm. You just have to drive 3 min down the road to Vivienne Rafflesia Garden. You can walk too, but the road is muddy especially after heavy rain so I don't recommend doing that. The guided tour is RM20/ person, and there's not time limit on how long you can stay and take selfies with the flowers. You're not allowed to touch the flowers since it will make it wither faster. Overall, it was a great experience since Rafflesia is one of the largest flowers in the world, and to sight one is very rare unless you go and hike the Kinabalu forest!!
Then, we drove back to KK, and stopped at Jambatan Tamparuli for a while on our way back. We skipped Kinabalu National Park and Rumah Terbalik since it was gloomy and 'bout to rain. If you have time, you can go to Signal Hill Observatory Platform or Tanjung Aru to chill and enjoy the view.
20 July: 4th Day
Today we went to islands! Was SO thankful that the weather had been treating us nicely. Walked from our hotel around Jalan Gaya where my mom used to work before (ahhh so much feels being back here!) to Jesselton Point (JP) around 7am, and the walking took about 15 minutes. If you want to go early, the first boat ride is at 7am, so come anytime before. If you are worried about getting breakfast, you can just buy something from the stalls at JP. They have fruits, food. Also, I advice you to bring lunch, since lunch at the islands are limited and expensive too. So at JP, you can buy the boat ride and transfer ticket in the yellow building to the right side. Don't easily agree to the first person that approaches you. My friend and I got a boat ride and transfer ticket for RM45, which include boat ride to two islands (Pulau Sapi + Manukan), life jacket and also snorkelling equipment. If your aim is to island- hopping, then you can also purchase three- island ticket (a bit more expensive), or just one island (cheaper). Usually they rent life jacket and snorkelling equipment separately for RM10/ each. If you don't need it, save money and don't rent! Haha. If you're a student, bring your student card and get RM10 off, like we did. So basically, the ticket was RM55 initially, but we got RM10 off and only paid RM45. You also need to pay an Island Conservation Fee of RM3 (for Malaysians) and RM10 (for foreigners). If you're doing island hopping, keep your conservation fee ticket since you need to show it when you reach the other island's jetty. No ticket, NO ENTRY. They will ask you to go back to Pulau Sapi to pay for the conservation fee ticket (which in my opinion, is absurd and not systematic at all).
If you're not sure which islands you want to visit, these blogposts have helped giving me rough ideas of what to expect on each island:
The boat ride from JP to Pulau Sapi is 15 minutes, quite rough and it would hurt your butt (seriously!). But it was fun for me! I was sitting next to a lady from Singapore, and she was freaking out all the time we were on the boat... It's even worse that she was sitting at the end and got water splashed all over her. The boat ride from Pulau Sapi to Pulau Manukan took us 7 min boat ride. At Pulau Sapi, we were approached by a man that offered us to do parasailing. RM130 for two people, which is VERY affordable. Some of the other activities that you can do is banana boat ride are coral flyer/ flying fox from Pulau Sapi to Pulau Gaya (RM65). If you suggest to do island hopping, I think two islands are enough. Waiting at the jetty for your boat can be a pain in the ass since their boat system is not systematic at all. And if you don't speak Malay, you'd be very confused. Also, the last boat going back from any islands to JP is at 5pm. So, you can choose to go back anytime by 5, since they have boat transfer every house.
21st July: 5th Day
Initially, we wanted to do a lot of things on the 5th day, but my friend wanted to meet up with her friend that she had not seen for so long, and she wanted to do some seafood shopping to bring back to KL. So, we had to change our plan and could only do one thing today, which was a visit to Monsopiad Heritage Village near Penampang town. It was a great place to learn about the hero in Kadazan culture, Monsopiad. The fee was RM30/person with guided tour and cultural show, so I think that was pretty good. We spent roughly about 2 hours here. If you have a bigger budget, you can actually go to Mari Mari Cultural Village in Inanam where you can learn about 6 0r 7 local ethnic communities. They put all ethnics' villages in one place, so you can tour them all. But the price is RM180/ person.
Our movements around KK town were mostly by walking, but sometimes we took Uber/ Grabcar too! Always keep an eye on the promotion codes to use when requesting Uber and Grabcar, cause they can save you a LOT of money. For example, I had promo code for RM15 off ride for 3 times. So, I had used it to go from the hotel to Monsopiad Cultural Village. The Grabcar ride cost me Rm15, but I paid 0 ringgit!!! Yay!
Also, if you have more time, you can visit the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, Karambunai Beach or Tanjung Aru Beach (be VERY careful of the jellyfish because jellyfish stings hurt so badly!!!). If you want to buy fresh seafood to bring back, then you should visit the Pasar Besar (Big Market) next to the Filipino Market. I suggest you to go to the market early in the morning since the seafood market close after noon and/or have very limited seafood. Also, the market or the store nearby offers free seafood packing too, for you to bring as your checked luggage. AirAsia doesn't allow seafood products on its cabin, so you need to purchase a checked luggage.
In a nutshell, it was a good trip and good catching up session with my friend. Looking forward to more trips with her in the future :)
#What should you pack?
#What should you pack?