Kota Kinabalu: 25-29 Mar 2009 Diving Trekking

25 Mar 2009, Wednesday: Arrival

My friend and I booked our air tickets to Kota Kinabalu just a few days before departure. Air tickets are relatively cheap now: SGD48 for Singapore (SIN) - Kota Kinabalu (BKI) by AirAsia and SGD105 for BKI-SIN by Jetstar, inclusive of taxes. I arrived at Kota Kinabalu at midnight. Taxi to the city normally costs RM20 but because it was late there's a 50% surcharge. Taxi tickets are to be bought in the airport. It was a 10-minute ride to the city.

We didn't have any hotel booked so we walked around viewing the available rooms. Although it was a Wed night, some of the hotels were fully booked or they didn't have 2 single rooms available. Most of the rooms were really crappy! Don't these people have any pride in taking care of their hotels? Some smelled musky, some looked very old, some stairways were not cleaned but the worst one was Malar Kinabalu Hotel. On the outside it looked quite ok. We were told that the lift was not working and we thought, fine, it happens sometimes. We took the stairs. The stairway was tiny, old, dirty and it looked like it had never been cleaned. I walked carefully to avoid touching the railings or walls. When we reached the third floor we both decided that regardless of how the room looked, we were not going to stay there. The corridor was narrow and filthy. The thought of getting the century-old germs from the door knob transmitted to my hand made me cringe. We left the hotel without viewing the room.
Don't ever stay at this hotel

We must have viewed rooms in about 10 hotels before we found one which was acceptable. We stayed at Hotel New Nan Xing at Jalan Haji Saman (near Hyatt Hotel), tel: 088263390. It costs RM80 per night for a standard room with a queen size bed. The hotel is being renovated so it looks quite new and clean. There's a TV and fridge in the room. No safe in the room but (free) safety deposit boxes are available at the reception. The air-con in my friend's room was not working but it just took them about 10 minutes to resolve the problem - the switch somewhere was not turned on. We chose to stay at this location because it's a 10-minute walk to the Jesselton Point ferry terminal from which we can take boats to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and a 3-minute walk to Wisma Sabah where the dive shops are. We were happy to have finally found a nice place to spend the night. The next day we agreed to extend our stay there till the end of the trip. We didn't regret that decision: the staff were friendly and helpful, housekeeping was good too, we had free newspapers every morning. We recommend staying at this hotel if you're looking for something cheap, clean and close to the ferry terminal.

Other places to stay (closer to the seafood places) are:
- Hotel Traveller. Shoplot 27 & 28. Jalan Tugu, Kg Air. Tel: 088-256195, 256196. Email: tvlerhtl@streamyx.com
Single room without window costs Rm 68 per night, with window Rm 73 per night.
This one was newly opened in Mar 2009. Located near Hotel Kinabalu, across the road from a Esso petrol station. I didn't check the rooms but if it's new, it can't be that bad.
- Seri Borneo Hotel . Tel: 088-280777
Standard single room costs Rm 80++ per night and a standard double room costs Rm 90++. Prices subject to 5% govt tax and 5% service charge. Breakfast included. Most hotels don't offer breakfast but this one does. It is located close to Le Meridian hotel and the Waterfront Esplanade. I didn't check the rooms either but the hotel reception and stairs looks well maintained.

26 Mar 2009, Thursday: Trekking at Manukan Island

We had breakfast at a place near the hotel. They served us an extra egg prata (not free of charge of course) so we wound up with too many...

After breakfast we checked out the dive shops across the road at Wisma Sabah. There's a tourist information center in there and we thought we could obtain some information about accommodation, resthouses or camping at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. However, the guy was not very helpful. Although he had a very wide smile across his face, it was clear to us that he was trying very hard to get us to leave. Apparently, the only way to stay on the island overnight is to book a room in the expensive resorts on Gaya island or Manukan island. We later found out for ourselves that there is a guesthouse and camping on Mamutik island.

Wisma Sabah, where the dive shops are located

There are about 6 dive shops there. Some are really expensive. The cheapest ones are:
- Sabah Divers. Tel: +6 088 256 483 / 6 012 833 9901. Email: sabahdivers2u@yahoo.com
This is the one we used. Rm 160 per person for 2 dives. Rm 200 per person for 3 dives. Includes equipment rental. Extra fees per day: Rm 6 for jetty fee, Rm 50 for park fee for non-Malaysian or Rm 20 for Malaysian, optional Rm 5 for insurance. There is a fuel surcharge of Rm 25 per day if there are less than 4 divers.
- Excel Dive & Tours. Tel: 6088253870/60128375836. Email: info@exceldive-tours.com. Website: www.excelborneotours.com
The divemaster had other bookings so we didn't use this one.

We made our booking for 2 dives for Friday. We then proceeded to Jesselton Point ferry terminal. The moment we walked in, everyone at the 7 sales counters called out to us to buy their tickets. Tunku Abdul Rahman Park consists of 5 islands: Manukan, Gaya, Mamutik, Sapi, Sulug. All of them sell return tickets at the same price of Rm 17 to any of the islands. On top of the boat ticket, we've got to pay Rm 6 for jetty fee and Rm 10 for entry to the island. Boats depart about every 15 minutes in the morning and every half hour in the afternoon. It takes about 15 minutes to reach any of the islands. Boats coming back to KK city depart every hour. The last boat returning to KK city is either 4pm or 5pm, depending on the day.

Jesselton Jetty ticking counters

We bought tickets to Manukan island. We thought there might have been some nice trekking or running path but the path was kind of short - it took us less than half an hour to walk it. It was kind of boring in there so we took a small path down to the beach. I wasn't prepared for the walk along the beach and didn't have any sunblock on. I got a little sun-burnt on my chest (you can see it in my Friday pictures). Walking round the island on the rocky beach was challanging. Some parts were slippery and hard to cross but we managed. I wonder how my friend did that while carrying his huge camera in his hand...

I had to get a drink after the long walk because I had finished my water. The price of the drink was double the normal price. I suppose they use every opportunity to rip off the tourists.

Back at Jesselton Jetty

Back at KK city, my friend and I had to resist the urge to drink alcoholic drinks because we were going to dive the next day. Somehow the urge to drink alcohol is always stronger when I know I'm not supposed to drink it. On normal days, I hardly even drink.

We visited the local night market beside the Waterfront Esplanade (it doesn't have a name and is not marked on the tourist map). It's where the locals go to eat and buy fresh seafood, vegetables and fruit. We had chendol for dessert there. We love eating the local food. It's more fun!

27 Mar 2009, Friday: Diving at Gaya and Sapi Islands

Today's diving day! We walked over to the dive center to pick out the equipment. Then we took a small boat to dive out to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. We were hoping to see whale sharks and we heard that divers and even a snorkeler saw whale sharks the day before. The weather was great for diving.

I dived at Hanging Gardens - Gaya Island. My friend didn't join the first dive. Visibility was about 8m. We dived to about 18m. The currents were manageable. We were a group of 4 divers. One lady's air guage wasn't working. She only told us after we surfaced. Fortunately she didn't run out of air. We broke for lunch on Sapi island. There were several monitor lizards that were very tame. The people taking pictures of them didn't bother them too much.

I ordered sardines sandwiches at the only eatery on the island. It took them about 20 minutes to make the sandwich although it was way before lunchtime and the only customers were the other 2 divers and me. After lunch, I sat on a log facing the sea. The breeze was constant and almost cold. Or mayb it felt cold because I wasn't wearing very much.

My friend joined the second dive at Sapi South - Sapi Island. My friend was my diving buddy for this dive. Visibility was around 5m only and it's easy to get lost if we don't stay close. He disappeared towards the end of the dive and of course I got worried. I alerted the divemaster who signalled us to stay and wait. After waiting for a about 10 seconds there was still no sign of my friend so the divemaster swam back a little to look for him. He returned without my friend and then instructed us to stay where we were. After a few minutes he came back and signalled OK and guided to us continue with the dive. I was still worried because I still had no idea where my friend was. We continued with the dive for another 10 minutes and I was relieved to see my friend on the boat when we surfaced. He said he was low on air so that was why he went back up to the surface. I asked him why he didn't signal to me or the divemaster but he said he did and the divemaster instructed him to go up to the surface. I found it really puzzling that the divemaster didn't seem to know where my friend was when I alerted him to my friend's disappearance! I was too tired to sort out the confusion with the divemaster afterwards. I felt I must be the worst dive buddy to lose my buddy :( Anyway, we're all fine although we didn't have any luck with seeing whale sharks :( Better luck next time. But now to complete the dive...

No dive is complete without a drink! Diving is bad for me!

28 Mar 2009, Saturday: Trekking and Swimming at Mamutik Island

My friend and I headed off to Mamutik island in the morning. It's a very small island. We only took 30mins to walk round the forest trek. It seemed like nobody had walked through the trek for a long time.

There's really not much to do on this island except to laze around. I unrolled my towel on the beach under a shady tree and lay there for a while. At 1pm when the sun wasn't as intense, I went for a swim in the sea. I swam alone because my friend didn't want to swim. There were some rocks closer to the shore and I had to be careful. I was enjoying my swim rather far out in the sea for about 20 minutes then all of a sudden paranoia struck me. The water seemed very deep and I couldn't see rocks or anything below. It was totally stupid to be afraid because there were no undercurrents, the waves were not strong, I was not tired from the swim, there were many people at the beach and other people swimming (but they were far away), my friend was on the beach so I think he would be looking out for me, and I dive so I should know that there's nothing underwater that I need to be afraid of. I didn't panic but I'd have to admit I was afraid for a while. I swam back closer to the shore. My movements were relaxed and calm but my mind was still racing with fearful thoughts. I managed to reach the shore without a problem.

After my swim, although we weren't hungry yet, we headed to the only cafe on the island to order our food at 2pm. We figured they would take really long to prepare the food so it's better to order early before we get hungry. As we guessed, they took 45 mins to serve the food. There were about 4 people ahead of us waiting for their food but it took 45 mins to serve it! The staff would serve the wrong food to people then go from table to table asking whether somebody else had ordered it. They couldn't get the orders right - no wonder they took so long! When the food arrived, we were glad to receive what we ordered. Even if they served us the wrong food, I think we would have just eaten it. We wouldn't have wanted to wait another 45 mins and maybe it would still be the wrong order.

The tide was lower after lunch. I couldn't swim because the water was shallow and there were too many rocks on the sea bed. We took some pictures and lazed around till 5pm when it was time to take the last boat back to the city.

I'm a mermaid who swam out of the sea! [Click to enlarge]

After a shower it was close to 7pm already. I ordered wanton mee and my friend ordered chicken with soya sauce. The food came fast but they got both our orders wrong! They served me noodle hor fun :( I was hungry so I just ate it. Disappointing... it put me in a bad mood for the evening. We were both sick of getting slow service and wrong orders. I was glad to be leaving for Singapore the next day.

After dinner it started to drizzle rather heavily. I was looking for a massage place which I saw 2 days before in that area. The massages places charge Rm 60 to 68 for a 1-hour massage. I went for a half hour back massage which costs Rm 35. My friend didn't go for a massage so he went off without me. He offered to come back after half an hour but I declined because I didn't want to interrupt his shopping or whatever he was planning to do and I didn't know whether I would want to extend the massage to an hour. The massage was alright. I would have preferred more pressure and a male masseuse. I walked back alone and regretted not accepting my friend's offer to meet me after the massage. It was a 8-minute walk. The streets didn't feel that safe and a few guys who were standing around or walking pass me whispered "hi" lecherously. Seriously, what did I expect - some guys even called me "dear" in Malay when I walked pass them with my friend beside me. It's not a good idea for ladies to walk around alone at night.

29 Mar 2009, Sunday: Departure

The taxi to the airport costs Rm 20. We arrived at the airport about 1 hr 15 mins in advance to take the 10.20am Jetstar flight back to Singapore. The lady at the check-in counter told us that our name wasn't on the list and we have to wait for half an hour. I asked what what was going to happen after half an hour and she told me that they were going to call JetStar and assured me that "it should be ok". Sounded to me like it's something that happens all the time!

Anyway since we had time, we went for some breakfast at McDonald's. I ordered a hotcakes meal. At first I was quite pleased that it was cheaper than in Singapore. But later I was disappointed when I realised that they gave me 2 pieces of hotcakes instead of the 3 which I get in Singapore. The hotcakes were not hot. The margarine appeared to have been melted then re-refrigerated! I guess I get what I pay for.

After more than half an hour, true enough they managed to trace the passenger list and we got our boarding passes. The plane took off late and I was glad to be on the plane back to home sweet home where my food arrives fast and I get served what I order!

Accommodation: 4 nights * Rm 80 = Rm 320
Diving, park and jetty fees, insurance for 1 day: Rm 221
Boat ticket, park and jetty fees for 2 days: Rm 66
Massage: Rm 35 for half hour
Taxi to and from airport (shared, divided by 2): Rm 15 + Rm 10 = Rm 25
Food, groceries and 2 alcohol drinks (est): Rm 140
Sub-total (est): Rm 807
Plane tickets: SGD150
Total: SGD520


Anonymous said...

finally, a picture in a bikini top :)

smokin hot body. i'd love to go diving with you someday

Anonymous said...

great bikini body. nice tits

Anonymous said...

your bikini is too big for you

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