We arrived in Kota Kinabalu (KK) around 8pm. They have this annoying thing on this part of the world, where bus terminals are waaaay out of town, so additional transport needs to be sorted upon arrival. Normally, if you manage to arrive before 5pm, there are options: buses, Angkot, Bemos, etc. However, those are seldom available after dusk, and you have to settle with an overpriced taxi. Moreover, all the drivers conspire with each other so that you can’t get a drive with any, but have to chose the first one in the queue, who got there first. We tried our best to be cheeky and ask the last guy, but he immediately asked the one at the front, and it took us quite some time and bargaining to get the price down to 25RM for the trip into town. We shared a dorm with Clara and Jasper, in a hostel they had stayed at previously and recommended. We had also shortlisted the same place while doing our research, and it was quite empty. As a matter of fact, once our friends left the following morning, we had the dorm to ourselves for the rest of our stay.
Our mission that night was to find a laundry that was opened 24 hours. The hostel clerk pointed to a nearby one, but they were not in service. After that, we asked at a couple more places, and the police ended up giving me the information I was after: there was a 24hr laundry about 20 minute walk away from our current location. We strolled through the streets, admiring the decorations, counting the giant rats that ran by. We eventually reached the laundry, and set out to find some dinner once our clothes were inside the washing machine. We chose a scrubby Indian restaurant a few metres away from the place so we could keep an eye on our clothes. We ordered a pretty light meal, including a Martabak, but after 30 minutes, Jasper and Clara had finished their dishes and ours had not arrived. We asked about it, and 15 minutes late, a plain roti was delivered. ‘Err this is not what we ordered, please bring us the martabak’. All in all, it took about an hour to get our food (takes about 3 minutes to cook) so we were far from pleased with this venue. We asked for the bill and 5 minutes later, when it had not arrived, we did our math, left money on the table, and went to retrieve our now clean clothes. While we were doing so, one of the restaurant staff came around to tell us we had underpaid them. We asked to see the receipt, so he went back, and started scribbling on a piece of paper. To our amazement, the numbers did not match what was on the menu. We pointed this out, and he advised “Oh, that menu is old” “Well that is your problem, isn’t it”. Lets just say a few minutes later we were gone, paying what we had originally left and halfway between satisfied and ‘I will rip your eyes with a spoon’ faces on. On our way back, we passed the bar strip, a pedestrian alley with chairs and tables in it, quite picturesque. It was around 1am by the time we made it back to our beds, so we fell asleep rather quickly.
After 3 days in the jungle, it was quite wonderful to be in a place with AC and hot showers. We said Aufwiedersehen to our friends, hoping to meet them again in Mulu a few days later. That morning we found the cheapest flights possible from KK to Mulu, and from there, to Kuching. Originally we had planned to go overland from Miri, but the flights were only 10$ difference between both destinations, and there is no way we could make it overland with that amount of money, so the decision was rather simple. Once we had our plans sorted, it was time to relax until the flying time came.
We did a lot of reading, writing and working out in the AC room for the next few days. We explored KK as well, but mostly either early in the morning or after 5pm, as the heat was quite unbearable. We walked through a mall, surveying eating possibilities, and found a stand that had Italian bread, sandwiches and pizza, which we thoroughly enjoyed. A lot of time was wasted walking around and investigating the shops and food courts around the place.
We also walked to the old English port, and the fish market. I only spent about 15 minutes in there though, as the smell quickly put me off, but they had an enormous amount of fresh sea food in offer: squid, giant prawn, huge crabs (including horseshoe crabs), cuttle fish, lobster and all sizes of snapper and a bunch that I couldn’t identify. Possibly quite the paradise for someone that actually eats marine life for sure…
One afternoon, we climbed the hill just outside of our hostel into a view point above KK. Unfortunately, many skyscrapers have made the view from up there just ok, when it could be amazing, but that is the story of ‘progress’! On our last night, an afternoon market appeared on one of the parks, and we had cheap street food there, sitting on a bench in front of it and observing the locals pass by.
All in all, our stay in this city was a mini holiday between super active periods, and it was very enjoyable for both, though I was getting itchy feet in the end and was ready to get a move on. We took the air bus to the airport, and the flight to Mulu was over before we knew it. The view from the air was first stunning (the KK coast looked beautiful from the air) and then… Take a guess!
Oil Palms! You got it!
After flying over Brunei, we stopped over at Miri, where we had to get out of the plane, go through customs, and get back on. They treat Sarawak and Sabah as different countries more or less, so you get a stamp in your passport as you go through. We were only 6 people on the second flight, and it was over in about 30 minutes. As we came out of the airport, a lady was holding a sign with my name (first time ever) and she welcomed us to Mulu with a big smile on her face.