It’s November again, which means it’s my birth month, which means it’s time for a trip again! This year, our destination is Kota Kinabalu. My two friends Rina and Celine, and I booked our tickets a year ago (Nov 2013) and the time the return ticket was just around 1,400 PHP. I kept checking the fare during the past few months because one of my friends wants to come along, too but the prices have really gone high. Our original booking was for Nov 6 – 9, but due to schedule change, it was moved to Nov 7 – 10. It’s a good thing we always book our accommodation like a month before our trip so that wasn’t affected at all. We were going to be in KK for 4 days and 3 nights so we booked two hotels, Hii5 Hotel for the first two nights and Lanvin Hotel for the last night.
Anyway, so the day of our trip finally came. We didn’t even have an itinerary planned nor booked any tours. We were expecting to go on an island tour, go to at least to island in Kota Kinabalu and go on a city tour, explore the landmarks such as Atkinson Tower and the State Mosque. But we were so wrong! 4 days was definitely not enough!
Our flight to Kota Kinabalu was at 9:05 AM (We figured out just the night before that our flight was leaving 30 minutes earlier) so I woke up early, as if it was just a normal work day for me and I have a shift at 6:00 AM. Up until before I left the house, I still haven’t decided whether I’ll take the Citylink bus from Eastwood or the shuttle bus at the MRT Taft Ave station. I decided to do the Eastwood route at the last minute which was a terribly wrong decision. I arrived at the Eastwood Mall at around 5:45 AM because I read that the first trip is at 5:30 AM. But when I got there, the security guard informed me that it arrives at 7:00 AM. Seriously, who would travel to work that late when most offices start at either 8:00 or 9:00 AM?! Anyway, it was still early but I had to think fast. I decided to take a taxi instead and I thought it would be faster since I was already in Eastwood. And I was right, 30 minutes later, I was already at NAIA 3. It’s minus 300 PHP my budget though. Ate Rina was already at the airport and was having breakfast on the 2nd floor. After checking in and paying the travel tax (1620 PHP), I went to meet Ate Rina. Once she was done with her breakfast, we went downstairs so she could check in, then we went to pay the terminal fee (500 PHP), went through immigration and then to the boarding area – which was really really far. LOL. And dammit, why wouldn’t they operate those walkalators. Surely, those aren’t just for show, right?
While waiting for Celine at the boarding area, Ate Rina and I watched 3D2N, the Jo Insung episode. Well, that made time pass by really quickly since we had to wait an hour and a half before our flight. The flight was delayed for about an hour and we arrived in KK at 11:35 AM which was the original arrival time on our itinerary anyway. After an a hour and a half, we arrived at KKIA Terminal 2 , which is just a really small airport. It’s like one of those domestic airports that we have here in the Philippines. No questions at all at the immigration, you just need to give them your passport and go through biometrics. We didn’t even have to fill out an embarkation card.
One of our concerns upon arrival was going to our hotel which turned out not to be a huge problem at all since there was an airport bus transfer booth at the corner near the exit. It was just 5RM per person and it will take you to the city. The man at the booth informed us of the location of the hotel, gave us a free map of Kota Kinabalu and it we just need to get off at the first stop, which is at Centrepoint Mall and we can walk from there. He was really nice! He was like, “I give you beautiful bus!” and he was right, the bus was indeed beautiful. LOL! Our stop was actually near the airport, it only took us a few minutes to get there.
We decided to take our lunch at Centrepoint since it was already past 12 noon but we had to go to a money changer first because only Celine had ringgit, Ate Rina and I only had peso. During that weekend, 1000 PHP = 72.30 RM. Fair enough, that’s 13.83 PHP for 1 RM. There were a lot of fast food restaurants at the mall but we opted to go to the food court which is like the hawker stalls in Singapore, but inside a mall. We were really confused in the beginning but we got attracted to this buffet-like (but not really) restaurant. Basically, there are different types of dishes on the table – choices of fish, chicken, seafood, veggies etc. You’re given a plate of rice and then, it’s up to you what dishes and how much of it you’re going to put on your plate. There’s a woman who just takes note of what’s on your plate and that’s what she’ll write on your “bill”. Once seated, there’s someone who will give you a list of drinks that you can choose from. I chose Korean-style chicken wings, rolled-up egg and bean sprouts tofu (My favorite! I wish I put a lot more on my plate!) and then fresh coconut juice as my beverage. My total was 11 RM, 7.50 for my food and 3.50 for my buko juice. Not bad because I was definitely satisfied with my first meal in KK and that experience was really fun. We thought this would be a great business idea. We should have this kind of restaurant in the Philippines, too! You have control on how much you’re going to put on your plate like a buffet but not pricey. This is a perfect example of our favorite UMKTG speak — “approximation”, we just take what we want and they “approximate” how much they’ll charge us. Hahaha! And this is a culture that we noticed in the succeeding days as well. Whether it’s with food or taxi fare XD
After lunch, we walked to our hotel and even if it was just supposed to be near Centrepoint, we almost got lost! Thank goodness for Celine’s GPS app on her tab, we were able to reach our hotel in one piece. We totally went the wrong way, if we just went straight on the other street in front of Centrepoint, we would’ve gotten to our hotel much faster. One funny moment was when we were wondering if we’re supposed to turn right or left, so we crossed the street and we were like “Oops, wrong way! It’s that way!” Hahaha. That was really helpful! Hahaha!
We were placed in Room 317, which was like at the end of the 3rd floor so we didn’t have a nice view. Darn. I was actually not so satisfied with Hii5 Hotel but I will write my hotel reviews on another entry. One thing I liked about our first hotel though is the bathroom, it was modern and there was a bidet. LOL. We told ourselves that we’ll just take a nap since we were tired from the flight and because we all woke up really early that morning. After an hour nap, we’ll do our city tour since there are not a lot of attractions in KK anyway. However, we ended up sleeping for about 3 hours! It was already 5:00 PM and our first day is almost over but all we’ve done was sleep! Hahaha! We didn’t think it was sayang though since we didn’t have a lot of things planned in KK anyway. So we got up and set out to explore the city! Our first agenda was to buy some groceries like water and what we’ll eat for breakfast the next morning. The location of Hii5 Hotel was really good. It’s located near a lot of malls and local stores. There was a bakery (kind of like Bread Talk) in front of our hotel and most of the pastries cost less than 2 RM. Ate Rina and I bought an egg tart and pudding bread that cost 1.60 and 1.80 RM each while Celine bought a bun with fried egg inside for like 2 RM. Not bad. There was another bakery not too far from there but we were kinda loyal to that first bakery. We found out on Sunday morning that the pastries and cakes in the other bakery are so much more pricey. Plus, it’s pretty disappointing that it was already 9:00 AM but they haven’t filled the shelves with bread yet. Hello, people are supposed to eat breakfast way earlier than that!
Another local store that we kept coming back to was the mini-grocery store next to our beloved bakery. That’s where I bought a 90ml shampoo that cost 2.90 RM (I forgot to bring shampoo and conditioner!) and bottled water. It was pretty cheap, the first bottle we bought was 3RM. I believe it was 1 litre, and then the next day, the bottled water that we bought was only 1.50 RM. We just concluded that maybe one brand was like Wilkins and the other was Hidden Springs in KK. LOL! And they had iced gems there, too! We didn’t buy any though since we also have that in the Philippines. Hahaha.
So we went out after that long nap… Before we crossed the street going to Centrepoint, there was a rainbow. Err, double rainbows! Over-achiever ang rainbow sa KK! We just had to take a groufie. Hahaha!
We bought the rest of our groceries at the supermarket in Centrepoint, we were able to buy a lot of stuff for less than 20 RM. There was also a lot of hawker stalls near our hotel and we decided to have our dinner there. However, it was still early so a lot of the food stalls weren’t opened yet. We didn’t have a lot of choices. We kept walking until we got to a mall called Star City and we decided to eat at a restaurant called Fook Yuen. I believe it’s a pretty famous food chain in KK (or maybe even in Malaysia?) because it had several branches in KK. Food was really cheap there as well. I ate chicken rice (LOL. I know, not a very brave choice since we also ate that when we were in Singapore) and cold milo (which will prove to be my favorite drink in KK. I tried it twice! Hahaha!) My total for my dinner was 6.70 RM. They also had WiFi so we were able to update our Facebook status about our first day in KK. Lol.
We went back to the hotel to put away our groceries and then went out again to go to the Waterfront. Our agenda was just to take pictures and drink Tiger Beer. LOL. We read that alcohol is really expensive in KK so clubbing wasn’t really part of our itinerary, we just really wanted to drink Tiger Beer. After walking around the dock, we settled at the first group of table we saw when we got to the Waterfront. That was where I wanted to sit from the first time we set foot there because there weren’t a lot of people. Thank goodness, a Filipino saw us and chatted us up. He told us that they sell two large bottle of Tiger Beer for 45 RM, without any taxes. We were fine with that since the price for a small bottle of Tiger Beer in one of the other restaurants was 11 RM ++ (++ means tax, I guess) and when we saw the bottle, we thought that it was a good decision. I think it was around 690ml per bottle, so we drank about 3-4 glasses of beer each. We talked to that Filipino guy for a while, but unfortunately, we didn’t get his name. His parents are Filipino but he was born in Kota Kinabalu. If I remember it correctly, his parents are originally from Iloilo. We asked him for tips about island hopping since we decided to forego the package tour that was offered to us. I read on a blog that it’s actually easy to get to the island so we don’t really have to pay a lot for an island hopping tour. He told us that we could take a bus to Jesselton Point for just 1RM, pay around 30RM for the ferry to take us to the islands, 15RM for the life vest and snorkeling gear, and we also need to pay some kind of environmental fee, just like what we pay when we go to Boracay. I believed him because that’s exactly what I read on a blog. After finishing our beer, we walked back to our hotel and called it a night.
Basically, all we did on our first day was sleep, eat and drink. LOL. We slept early since our agenda for Day 2 is island hopping!