Big Prawns and Panoramas: Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

This is the first in a series of posts about Borneo. I’ve been looking forward to this trip for a long time, and you can read all about my love affair with the country here. Borneo’s capital, Kota Kinabalu, was the first stop on our two week adventure. Pretty much just passing through, I hadn’t expected or thought a great deal about this part of the trip, but for us it had two highlights. The first was Mount Kinabalu and her truly stunning views. The second was Kota Kinabalu’s busy night market; decidedly less touristy and more authentic than I’d imagined, and complete with some very big, juicy shellfish.


We had a day and a night in KK, and set off on a tour early in the morning to the foot of the mountain. The ride is a good opportunity to see the city alive and in full force, in rush hour! It is most definitely a growing city, and from all of the construction works, banner ads for luxury offices and urban living, and roads packed with commuters, the capital seems to be booming. We also passed the State Mosque and, although we were glancing through the window of a mini bus, it looked very striking. Our guide, Eric (who had so much to tell us he will be featuring in his own post very soon!) was very proud to tell us about this, and how it was inspired by the Mosque at Mecca.

Within an hour or so you are out of the city, and climbing windy roads with the mountain in the distance. We stopped off along the way at a viewpoint to enjoy some of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen, before driving a little bit further to the foot of the mountain. Here, we walked some jungle trails and went to the visitor centre to learn about the mountain’s history. With a permit, you can also do a 2 day trek to climb the summit, and given more time I would have definitely done this; I can only imagine the view from the top!

Mount Kinabalu, Borneo

Mount Kinabalu, Borneo

On the way back down, Eric was very excited to tell us that he had ‘had a call’ to say that there was a Rafflesia flower in Kota Kinabalu that was blooming. These humongous flowers, he told us, only flower once every seven years, and even then only for around five days. So, we felt pretty lucky to be trekking into someone’s private garden to see it….

Rafflesia Flower That night, we went for dinner at the night markets. There is a lot of fish. Fish fish fish; two sides of the market separating raw and barbecued (don’t go to the raw side if you’re squeamish). The smells coming from the barbecue side are amazing, and the people are all very friendly and keen for you to come to their stall. The majority of the people there were locals, and the place was only scattered with tourists, so we sat on long plastic tables eating lobster and banana fish (on our host’s recommendation), and soaked up a little bit of Bornean culture.

Kota Kinabalu Night Markets

From there it was a 6am flight to Lahad Datu, on our way to the Danum Valley. I was pretty much fit to burst at this point, and it was everything I could have dreamed of and more. Watch this space for my next post – Into The Jungle!

Vickie xx xx


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