[Kota Kinabalu] ~ From Sun-Up to Sundown

For that day was my first with a foreign sea. –08.23.14


KK Day 2

Though I cannot swim, beach and I have this relationship that only in its presence do I find the calm, some kind ‘it’s-ok-to-pause-from-life’ reassuring hug (wow, someone’s in romantic tone of writing haha). So when I listed down my to-do’s this year, going to one in another country inevitably there. It was not thoughtful but ended in one in Kota Kinabalu – one that is touristy but accessible and not so pricey for a solo traveler.

Not bad for a first time at a foreign sea, followed by a romantically thrilling glimpse of an intense sunset and a surprise find of a Murakami book, this 23rd of August turned out one hell of a day.

IMG_0280When I knew I had to try to beach bum in a foreign one, I had no particular Where in mind so when I got a relatively cheap airfare to Kota, one of the first things I checked was whether I could see some beach. Good that there was and that since it was a first, better that it seemed not that difficult (and pricey) to go to. It has always been a dilemma for a solo traveler like me to find affordable beach trips especially the secluded ones tend to be those that require boat trips that cost tons (or maybe I was just not that good as exploring? But at least from my perspective, those tend to be hurtful on the wallet) It was a breeze going to the port as I simply had to retrace my steps from previous. Being there early, there were few passengers with me. Didn’t get to go inside the ticketing office the previous day so I did not realize until that day how systematic the entire thing was. It took me some minutes of decision-making which of the tour agency stalls to approach until for some reason, I chose Sunny Rainbow. Will later on realize why it was not the best choice given last night’s previous encounters with the group who kept on bugging me. Initially planned to hop on all three islands but unfortunately for a solo traveler, those agencies only allow maximum of two islands. I then was forced to choose two – Manukan and Sapi as online research quite taught me this would be least crowded. Sulug could have been best but apparently, one needs special permit to go there.

IMG_0112  Fellow earlies.

~~~IMG_0114Among all, why Sunny Rainbow.

~~~     IMG_0120

For a beach trip, I overpacked. Not gonna happen again.


As I was getting my life vest and snorkeling gear, the guy who was helping me looked familiar. He then answered my quiet question and reminded me that he was part of the group at the bar the previous night. I remember feeling tense because he felt hostile toward me- leaving me in that area where we were supposed to wait for the gear. Upon reaching the boat, I wanted to be ejected when I saw the first guy who approached me. It was then confirmed in my mind that he was wearing a “Sunny Rainbow” uniform last night! It must have been implanted on my subconscious then when it was time to choose, it was that that I remembered. Slow clap, Teng. Sloowwww clap.

As expected, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is still a tourist destination so while I prefer to be alone, I had to share beach with people and simply push my zone-out button. From the boat, I was with a group of locals who were so giddy they even asked me to take their picture with them. They comprised majority of our ferry’s passengers. It was just I and another solo traveler who I would later know to be an Indonesian (whose name I unfortunately forgot). Luckily, this big group had a different itinerary so I was left with the fellow solo traveler when we reached my first island destination. We had a quick chat on our way to the entrance. That was when I knew he was from Indonesia. He talked about their beaches there but I guess I was not paying much attention. I mainly remember his relaxed attitude about traveling – how he did not have anything set in his day and he just impulsively decided to try one of the beaches. Not a big deal, I suppose, since he came from a country with beautiful beaches, and it seemed to me that he is quite well-travelled. We parted ways and as usual, found my spot for lazy. Stayed for about 2 hours on each island – most of time pie spent on water, forever trying to figure out why water keeps on getting on my nose though I was wearing snorkeling mask and having those “tsk” moments whenever I spot a “barkada” of fish passing by just about when I was taking a break from all those water-inhaling. Took advantage of crowd too so spent quite some time people-watching – mostly kids being taught by their parents how to swim and well, those ‘guys’ who were wrestling!

What I like about is that while you can see some local tourist people around, they don’t bug guests. I was approached by one but when I declined, he left me in peace. I was reminded of quite a contrast when I was in this touristy beach and someone offers me massage literally every 5 minutes!

I couldn’t say which one is less crowded but I remember my attempts in both islands to find some spots away from the crowd. On the first one (Sapi Island), there were these rock formations which I tried to brave. A lifeguard approached me to remind to be careful because the rocks are slippery. Stayed some time there nonetheless but I was not brave enough to go further out. On the second, tried to go around the island and saw a version of the beach opposite the swimming area. Another rocky part of the beach so expectedly, people do not tend to flock.


While waiting for our ferry


Green marker.



No one but we were actually quite a group on this ferry.



Yey! that this was this big group’s first destination.



Where I was first bound – SAPI ISLAND



Those clouds on a clear sky day.



My first pause but then I opted not to stay because I expected that eventually people would sit on this.



My beach buddy at our spot



Spot the difference between this photo and next…






My too much stuff (and that “baon” beer)



So we’ve been warned.






Seemingly also a ‘rock’ from a zoom-out



RockOn play.



Maybe just me, but those ‘holes’ are quite gross.






Choose your rock



Someone’s hiding from the sun.



Unexpectedly lovely view from the waiting area



Hmm. This first deserves a selfie.


Next and Last Stop:



This adorable scene.


IMG_0273 IMG_0276 IMG_0278

Because “X” has a nice ring to it.



And this because those colorful, tiny human dots are pretty.



Near the crowd, my spot. People-watching at its finest.



Wrestle some more, people!



On a staring contest with the sea



Spot less ‘travelled’





On my way back to my spot, tried cold “teh ta rik” which well, I did not like. I kind of predicted this because I am never a fan of tea – even when there is milk in it. Took literally just less than 5 sips then eventually gave up. Well, I just had to try it after all.


This she preparing my iced pulled tea.



Carinderia :  Pulau Sapi-style


I was back in town around mid-afternoon, my sand-y self walking back to hostel. A quick refresh and I headed to Waterfront again to catch sunset. On my walk there was like an extension of my first day that I unintentionally reached the markets – one with food and handicrafts. I was not expecting much because I thought their claim to a beautiful sunset is overrated. Luckily, I was wrong. Sunsets are always beautiful, of course. But there is an extra intense in theirs that I like. Couldn’t explain it well too but there was an pre-sunset afternoon vibe that sets the difference. It was a bonus too that the café where I sat had an almost 100% Filipino crew


Because I oftentimes get hungry; ate something called Kon Loh Mee.



Reunited with this spot in front of the marlin statue



A discovery of this food market



Giddy vendor



More street food. Unfortunately was feeling full to try.



By this time, I already regret having eaten a full meal.



O there you are, Handicrafts Market. Grabbed some of my take-homes here.






Back at the Waterfront for another attempt at sunset.



And versus previous, nature was generous that day



Not only was sunset intense, it also lasted long


So the flags could be seen



Interesting coconut table pieces.



Oh this chicken street food, why were you haunting me?


Night spent at a take 2 on Party Play Café but since performer was not as lovable as on previous night, decided to just grab a beer and spent rest of night at hostel. Grateful that I did as hang-out at the common area led me to that Murakami book (the latest one at that!) that a traveler left in the book exchange corner. Not a very good act but I did get the book without giving anything in return – yet, at least – as I had been meaning to buy one the following day.


A “WAAAAA!!!” inside my head when I saw this.


20140823_223829 20140823_230126

Mandatory bed clutter photo to end the day!


With all my favorite things, this was one hell of a day.

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