Sunday, May 29, 2016

Simply Nicolas: Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Kinabatangan

Kota Kinabalu (KK)

KK is the capital of the state of Sabah, situated in north-east Borneo and is home to the second busiest airport in Malaysia. Supposedly, around 55% of Sabah is forest, and it’s well known for being home to many species (including many rare species) of monkeys, apes, birds, reptiles and aquatic animals. There are many beautiful islands that border the north and east coasts of Sabah, however, due to threats from kidnapping groups in southern Philippines, travel is not advised to many of them.

I hopped on a bus from the airport, which was a set price of 5RM (so refreshing to not need to haggle), which took me into the centre of town, just a short walk away from my hostel. The place where I was staying was pretty nice and homely, and had a brand new washing machine that was free for guests to use – fresh smelling clothes at last!

I had been dreaming of satay for a few days before arriving in Malaysia, so my first stop for lunch in KK was ‘Yuit Cheong’s’, a local restaurant with a long history that is known for serving excellent, freshly barbecued satay. Sure enough the satay was good (although not the best I’ve had, Singapore retains that crown so far). Non-the-less, I was satisfied, and at 0.70RM (£0.12) a piece, 10 cost me a mere 7RM (£1.20) and I was totally stuffed. I wandered around the town for the afternoon, stopping by the market to buy some  delicious fresh mango and felt very content.

By evening time, I was craving Indian food, so I headed to a nearby place to get my fix. The food did not disappoint, and cost very little at 8RM (£1.37). This meant that I’d spent less than £10 all day on food and accommodation – not bad:)

I spent a few days in KK milling around the small city, eating good food, working on my CV and looking for jobs – the latter part taking a lot of mental power and time.

Before long, I booked a very cheap flight to Sandakan, in order to visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, and the Kinabatangan River. In hindsight, I could have just taken a bus from KK, but the flight was more convenient and was almost the same price as a bus.


When I arrived in Sandakan, my plan was to take the bus from the airport to the city for only 2RM (£0.34). I waited for more than 30 minutes in the hot sunshine, only to be told by some passing cars that there were no airport buses on Sundays. Seemed quite strange, but luckily there were a couple of other people waiting at the bus stop, so we shared a taxi for 30RM (£5).

I dropped my bag at the place where I was staying and as usual, went out to take a look around. It didn’t take long at all to look around and to see that there really was nothing to do there. There were a few small shops and restaurants, and that was basically it. Many of the restaurants seemed to close pretty early, so by around 6pm I was bored senseless. My hostel had satellite TV and a broad selection of DVDs, so me and pretty much everyone else who was staying there opted to stay home and watch a couple of movies.

The next day, I went to visit the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok – around a 1-hour drive from Sandakan by public bus. I went with some guys who were staying in the my hostel, and by mistake, we took the local bus to Sepilok Junction rather than the public mini-van to the orang utan place. Sepilok junction is around 2.5km from the entrance to the rehabilitation centre. Luckily, there were a couple of other tourists on the bus, so we paid 2RM (£0.34) each to get a taxi to the centre so that we would arrive in time for feeding (the bus was 2RM too).