THIRD WHEEL goes to KOTA KINABLU

Third wheeling may sound uncool to some but for me it’s totally different. Spending time with my sister (Ate Joy) and his boyfriend (Jans) has been a normal routine. At first, it was awkward and bit uncomfortable but later on, the benefits are practically awesome. Joining them means crossing out some activities on my bucket list, tasting delicious food and exploring new places for FREE. Yes, you heard it right, for FREE. Recently we travelled to Kota Kinabalu and here are some of the perks, I got.

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1. Free PLANE TICKET to KK.

     Yes, third wheeling brought me to Kota Kinabalu for FREE. Just like that! “Selemat Detang” (Welcome) are the first two words I received from an airport staff after 2 hours of travel from Manila to KK International Airport. We arrived at KKIA around 1:00 am in the morning, unfortunately there are no shuttles available only taxi.  We bought voucher ticket at the taxi counter and the price is already fixed for RM 30.  The taxi driver assigned to us is friendly, he recommend places and share extra tips for our trips. After 15 minute drive we’re already at Basic Hotel.  The location of our hotel is at the center of the KK’s city, it’s was not a luxury hotel but recommended for budget travelers just like us. We booked it through Agoda and paid for only 1,000 PHP for 2D/1N.

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Thank God, we landed safe at the Arrival Hall of KKIA 🙂
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Basic Hotel

2. Free Island Hopping at KK.

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Blue waters at Manukan Island

It was the peak of summer heat so it’s perfect to plunge ourselves in water. The three of us are all “oceanholic “ so, on our first day we decided to try the most recommended activity, Island Hopping. There are four islands that are part of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park namely, Manukan, Sapi, Mamutik and Sulug. This Marine Park is well maintained by the locals to preserve its rich marine biodiversity. To get there, from hotel we booked an Uber to Jesselton Point and costs us RM 6. Jesselton Point is a busy port for boats and speedboats going in and out of their country.

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Selamat Detang to Jesselton Point
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Buy your tickets here and try to avoid friendly locals who will offer boats, they double the price.

Here’s a quick reminder and guides:

1. Try to be early as possible to avoid long queu. There are a lot of visitors coming in and out.

2. Only book your Island Hopping from a tour operator at Jesselton Point ticketing center. The price depends upon the number of islands you want to visit. On our part we chose Borneo Bums as our tour operator for three islands  Below are the packages.

• Two Islands     = RM 23 per adult & RM 18 per child
• Three Islands  = RM 33 per adult & RM 23 per child
• Four Islands    = RM 43 per adult & RM 28 per child

Additional:
• JP Terminal tax     = RM 7.20
• Conservation fee  = RM 10 for each island.

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These are the legit and official travel tours inside JP Ticket Hall.
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Beach Bums Borneo rate packages
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On the way to embarking point. On the left side are small canteens where tourists can dine.

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3. Make sure to wear life jackets as you sail. It’s really fast and bumpy but safe. Time travel is about 15 – 20 minutes to the first island. The guides will let you know their first stop and remind you to comeback after an hour to go to another island. Don’t be confused if you are the only guest who will leave the boat. Along with you are different guests that booked 1 – 4 islands. So some are not allowed to enter other islands.

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4. Keep your tickets dry. Upon arrival you will present the ticket and pay for the conservation fee. Guides will assist you and remind you of your call time.

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Each islands have uniform entrance hall.

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5. Always check your time. Note that the last departure is between 4 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.


What to expect on these three islands? 

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All islands possesses a long stretch of white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. There are small stores per island but you can save if you will bring snacks and drinks. If you like water activities, you can ask the guide to assist you. Also, bring beach mattress because locals sell it for about RM 25 – 30.

1. Manukan
Our first island was Manukan. It is considered the 2nd largest island (51 acre) of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TARP). The whole area is clean and you will notice modern houses and mini parks that tells some history.

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Yes to exposure of belly!

2. Sapi
After an hour at Manukan we then headed to Sapi. It was the smallest yet the most crowded. We stayed for 2 hours at the island. We enjoyed swimming and snorkelling.

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3. Mamutik
Our last island, Mamutik. It is the least crowded. Just perfect because we are already tired. So if you want to maximize the day without bothering to leave the island and catch the boat call time, 2 islands are already enough. The quietest place but the most expensive. Their foods and water sport equipment’s are bit pricey compared to other islands.

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Overall, it was a worth it summer “seaxperience” (my own word). There are a lot of Filipino vendors and guides so don’t bother trying to speak English all the time. 

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3. Free exploration of KK’s rich history.  (Mari-Mari Cultural Village) 

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Mari-Mari (Come-Come)

We went to Mari-Mari Cultural Village, its travel time is about 25 – 30 minutes away from city proper but it allowed us to see lush greens of trees and mountains. As soon as I stepped out of the car, the ambiance of the place gave me warmth feeling. Upon arrival, ushers welcomed us with their big smiles and shouted “Mari-Mari” which means “ come-come”. Seriously, their smiles are contagious. The village aims to share history and experience culture. At first, I though It will be plain discussion of their old ways but it exceeded my expectation. It was fun and interactive cultural experience. We learned and enjoyed hands-on experiences, from food tasting of local dishes to demonstration of local arts. After our names has been confirmed, they orient us about do’s and dont’s inside the village. The rules are pretty simple.

What we actually get for a 2-3 hour tour are the following:

• Knowledge of their 5 major ethnic groups in Sabah
• Wide understanding of the architectural design of their houses.
• On-hand demonstrations of fire-starting using bamboo.
• Taste traditional delicacies and each tribe has their own specialty. Their rice wine is the best!
• In depth experience of traditional practices.
• Chance to use their blow pipe weapons.
• Watch the guides perform their cultural dances.
• After the cultural performance, lunch awaits at Dining Hall to sample the local food.

See our photos below:

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Traditional rice wine making.
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Cheers! Their rice wine is the best! We even asked for another one. Hahaha
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Bees that produce honey
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Traditional biscuit cooking process.
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Fire starting using bamboo
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Demonstration of rope and vest making
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On hand experience of bamboo blowing towards the enemy.  It’s not easy guys.
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Testing their traditional trampoline.
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After the cultural performance, my sister and Jans tried playing their local instruments.
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House of Badjao

Few Tips

  • Wear comfortable walking shoes / sandals / slippers
  • Casual wear (light clothing)
  • Apply mosquito repelant lotion

Facts and important information:

1. Walk-ins are not allowed. Book and reserve ahead of time.

2. They have 3 scheduled tours ( 10 AM, 2PM, 6 PM) You can opt to rent a car or book with transportation.

WITH TRANSPORTATION

Morning and Afternoon Package (10 AM and 2PM)
Inclusion: Lunch

(Non-Malaysian)
1. Adult = RM 180.00
2. Child = RM 160.00

(Malaysian)
1. Adult = RM 150.00
2. Child = RM 120.00

Evening Package (6 PM)
Inclusion: Dinner

(Non-Malaysian)
1. Adult = RM 200.00
2. Child = RM 180.00

(Malaysian)
1. Adult = RM 170.00
2. Child = RM 140.00

WITHOUT TRANSPORTATION (Rent a Car or Free from Hotel)

Morning and Afternoon Package (10 AM and 2PM)
Inclusion: Lunch

(Non-Malaysian and Malaysian)
1. Adult = RM 98.00
2. Child = RM 83.00

Evening Package (6 PM)
Inclusion: Dinner

(Non-Malaysian and Malaysian)
1. Adult = RM 1100.00
2. Child = RM 93.00

And of course it’s free again, thanks to them. Though it looked like I’m their official photographer that runs every now and then to capture their poses, it’s alright.  Anyways, I love taking photos so it’s a win-win <3


4. Free taste of LOCAL Foods and Delicacies <3

 

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This activity is what I like the most. Eating <3 Good thing the three of us are inlove with food. It wasn’t so hard to decide what food to eat. During our stay we tried different local foods obviously they have this distinct taste that in every meal I had, this particular ingredient is always present. To my research they love chili, ginger and some local spices that they almost include it on every dish. Below are the local resto we dined.

1. Welcome Seafood

On our first night at KK, we heard that Welcome Seafood restaurant offers that best of Malaysian dishes. At the Philippines, it’s like Dampa. You get to see live fishes, shrimps, crabs, lobsters and many more on different aquariums. When we got there, a long waiting line shocked us. The place has many tables inside and outside but both tourist and locals flocks every night at Welcome Seafood. We’re really hungry that time, we’re actually loosing hope to find a table and seat but thanks to one of the supervisors she assisted us and reserved us for a table. But the best part is the price is absolutely reasonable and seafood dishes are really delicious.

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2. Bak Kut Teh at Sin Kee Restaurant

Must Try: Dry Chili Bak Kut The
Price: RM 3.00 to RM 12.00
Operating Hours: 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM

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Bak Kut Teh. It looks like adobo

        Bak Kut Teh is a local cuisine in Malaysia and one of the popular dishes in KK. It is a pork rib dish cooked in broth of herbs and spices for hours. There are numerous restaurant serving authentic Bak Kut Teh in town but my personal choice is Sin Kee Restaurant located at Gaya Street. They offer Dry Chili BaK Kut Teh (best-seller) it’s really delicious while the normal Bak Kut Teh that has soup has a strong taste. I prefer the dry one.  Usually you will see many people but their service is surprisingly quick, after 1-2 minutes your order is at your table.


3. Filipino Market (Street Food)

Must Try: Satay (Honey Roasted Chicken Wing)
Operating Hours: 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM

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    If you’re a total nomad without a doubt you will love this place. It’s a big place composed of different street food not just in Malaysia but from South East Asia. Most of the customers are locals while tourists are obviously just trying foods but won’t stay too long in the place. Aside from the street foods they have three LCD powered free film showing every night.


4. Borenos Chicken (Local Fast Food Chain)

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        There are some popular fastfoods in Kota Kinabalu like KFC and MCDonalds but I’ve learned through online research that they have finger licking chicken and you’ll definitely love it. Well, locals here are proud of their own version of chicken fast food. Boreno’s Fried Chicken are all farm bred in Sabah. Their chickens are really juicy and not oily. The taste is quite impressive. We wanted to order more but me and my sister have chicken allergies so we need to control our taste buds. But John Sen obviously savoured the chicken.

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5. White Coffee at Old Town Coffee 

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       Last part, my most loved, coffee. I and John Sen are both coffee lovers so part of our taste list is to try their local coffee. On our last night while slowly walking on the streets of Kota Kinabalu we saw Old Town Coffee it’s actually near Jesselton Point and Atkinson Clock Tower. After the bustle of night and buying souvenirs at Filipino Market, it’s good to rest and sip some hot coffee. Old Town Coffee is best recommended for white coffee lovers. We ordered their white coffee and it was delicious! We actually bought 5 packs of their instant coffee comes in different flavors. It’s worth coming back and it’s cheap.

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5. Free EXPERIENCE of Kota Kinabalu

That pretty sums all of our activities in Kota Kinabalu but there’s more. More than the activities, it’s the experience I get from visiting other countries. It broadens my horizon. I got chance to communicate and socialize with different people and lastly I learned to understand their cultures and tradition.  Hope one day you get to visit Kota Kinabalu.