An Authentic Experience in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

It’s world famous for the incredible orangutans and for relaxing on its stunning white beaches. However, there’s so much more to the beautiful destination of Sabah, Borneo. Sabah’s state capital, Kota Kinabalu, also known as KK, is home to over 500,000 people. It is a hive of activity and also the gateway to Kota Kinabalu National Park.

Proboscis monkey
Proboscis Monkey ©MDHarding

Reaching Kota Kinabalu

The easiest way to reach Kota Kinabalu is by flying. We flew from Singapore with the budget airline Air Asia. The 2-1/2 hour flight was comfortable with a quick in-flight service. I can highly recommend the additional in-flight snacks. The samosas and pineapple cake were delicious!

Air Asia planes at Kota Kinabalu airport
Speedy arrival with Air Asia ©MDHarding

Where to stay

There are a few accommodation options from beach resorts to city hotels. We started our Sabah adventure in KK at the Mercure Hotel. The hotel is ideally located to enjoy the many shopping malls, local restaurants and much more. If you prefer to eat in don’t miss the delicious cookies at Phileas Cafe and noodles at Compass rooftop restaurant. There is also Fratini’s Pasta & Pizza. If you’re on the run to the airport, pre-order a Fratini’s pizza to go. Amazing!

Rooftop bar at hotel in Kota Kinabalu
Rooftop bar at the Mercure Hotel ©MDHarding

Traditional cuisine to try

If you love trying local cuisine, don’t miss a visit to D’Place Kinabalu and sampling the authentic Butod dish. These grubs can be ordered cooked or uncooked. I hear they have an unusual taste. Something for the more adventurous! The restaurant has lots of other local delights which can be sampled via a buffet or menu selection.

Grubs with slices of cucumber
Appetizing starter – Butod ©MDHarding

Local attractions

Explore the government buildings, including one shaped like a battery. Then there is the beautiful Sabah State Mosque, divinely floating, its intricate detail shimmering in the lake waters below. The prayer hall holds up to 12,000 people and is open daily except for Fridays.

Will you be visiting KK on a Sunday? Don’t miss Gaya Street Sunday Market. There are antiques, clothes, food and much more filling the entire street. Go early to avoid the crowds; it opens at 6am!

A visit to KK would not be complete without a visit to the Mari Mari Cultural Village, thirty minutes away. Enjoy the three hour interactive tour and learn about the many tribes of Sabah, with traditional dancing, too. Also, there is a mixture of delicious nibbles and drinks, including locally made whisky! It is a very memorable and enjoyable trip, one I would highly recommend.

Traditional dancers at the Mari Mari Cultural Village
Traditional dancing at the Mari Mari Cultural Village ©MDHarding


Kota Kinabalu is a shopper’s paradise. It has several large shopping malls including Suria Sabah, Imago Shopping Mall and Centre Point Sabah. There is something for everyone, from clothes to food and of course the essential souvenirs. And most malls are open 10am til late, so plenty of time to get your shopping in! While out and about don’t be surprised to meet the most welcoming and friendly people. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting and speaking with the friendly shopping mall security.

Shopping mall security officers
Friendly shopping mall security ©MDHarding

I hope you enjoyed reading and are inspired to visit Kota Kinabalu while experiencing an authentic visit to the beautiful Malaysian state of Sabah, Borneo. Until next time, Happy Travels:) x

Many thanks to Sabah Tourism.

About MichelleDeansHarding


 Michelle has a love of travel and photography, which has currently taken her to six continents. Experiencing other cultures/history and food both independently and while working on-board luxury cruise ships. Discover more about Michelle, her enthusiasm for travel and photography via:

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3 Responses

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  3. Avatar for MichelleDeansHarding


    Everything seems amazing aside from the traditional food. Well, I am not judging their custom but I won’t be able to eat that.


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