Reign226's Guide to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Well, I've come up with something to do to tide my own anxiety with the impending university entrance which is going to be announced in about three week's time. I thought why not write a few entries on life in KK, Sabah, for the benefit of people who are going to study in UMS (god forbid). Of course, studying in UMS is fine...it is a fine place. Just that I am biased towards getting off KK. But I am digressing already:
KK is a nice place. Small, quaint, relatively safe and as a result, immensely boring. Of course, parents would probably delight in having their sons and/or daughters enrolled in the city below the breeze (that's our motto) because life here is very relaxed and slow. However, there are a few things that most people have a misconception of and I am here to fix it. Feel free to preuse this section in order to brush up on your local trivia.
Servay Hypermarket hides behind the foreground of this picture
First of all, we do not live on trees. I know, I know, it's a cliched thing whenever a Sabahan writes about the 'misconception' that people in Sabah still lived in trees. But I feel the need to mention it nonetheless. What is not a misconception is that if you are coming from a big city, be prepared to be surprised by the lack of good public transportation. For one thing, we only have one flyover in the heart of KK, and there is on-going construction of a highway (a real one) in the heart of the city, which makes hell out of the roads there. If you are planning on driving in Sabah, please don't do so until you have familiarized yourself with the hellish roads here. Ride in a local car first.
A...erm, flyover. Let's all point and look.
Also, the people here speak malay differently. I'm not really clear on the difference but it's mostly to do with the intonation. Note that the lexicon is also different. For example, people in Sabah refer to 'pantat' whenever we want to mention the backside. I was made to understand people in Semenanjung say 'pantat' to mean the female genitalia. Hell, I don't know if this is true or false, but I hope I wasn't bullshitted to. We have a few words such as 'om' and 'pilak' which refers to the illegal immigrants here. It is said that the illegal immigrants here emit a distinctive odour that any Sabahan or people living here long enough will learn to pick up. I am not bullshitting here.
On the subject of illegal immigrants, yes, it is a worse problem over here where we border Kalimantan and Indonesia. But the situation is largely under control. However, as a result, riding on the public transportation becomes much of a hassle because sometimes, the busses will refuse to travel certain routes whenever the police is conducting traffic checks. This, fortunately, is not often done. A few years ago there were a few pretty serious crimes involving illegals but the situation has calmed down a lot recently. It's not really a big deal so Don't Worry About It (DWAI).
I guess I should end the introduction here and head on for the meaty stuff.
Aaah, UMS. A pretty nice place. Supposedly the design won a few awards. It cannot be denied that it's one of the most, if not the most beautiful public university in Malaysia. I have been inside a few times and the university, in a word, is HUGE. Not only that, it is HILLY! You do NOT want to ride a bicycle inside the campus because you'll tire out very quickly. However, cycling TO university (if you live outside) is a viable strategy, but still not advisable because where the heck are you supposed to park it? The internal bus routes is good enough, for all practical purposes.
The road outside of UMS seems to be a bit dangerous. There have been accidents involving undergraduates here. It's probably nothing to worry about, and a coincidence that accidents usually involve undergraduates as it's the only road leading to UMS. Just exercise proper caution when on this road, like every other roads.
I am not really an expert on UMS because I've been inside only a few times. However, what catches the eye is the 'twin towers' sitting on top of a hill in the middle of the university. I'm supposed to say something about what it is, except that I have no clue. I believe, if memory serves, that it's the hostel, and there is a KFC outlet there. Other notable stuff of this university includes it's excellent location which is just in front of the beach (not sure if students are allowed to go there though) and being next to 1 Borneo, which is a new megamall opening in 2008, thereabouts.
Kingfisher Park is a HUGE housing estate that is sited about 2KM (around 3 minutes car ride) from UMS. It is a sprawling suburb that has it's own little commercial center that has some of the best food that the east coast of Sabah can offer. There is a huge variety including chinese, indian, malay and western treats inside of the commercial center and is probably the best place you can stay outside of UMS. My friend rents a house here, and the rent averages for about RM1000. It's a pretty decent house. Two stories, about 4 or 5 rooms not including kitchens and toilets. He managed to stuff eleven people in it, and it's still got space in the living room.
Wong Kwok recently launched the University Apartments that's supposed to be an alternative to Kingfisher, but I don't have any information on this place. I'm not even sure where it is. But all I can say is, don't bother, just try your best to get a place at Kingfisher and you'll be a happy person.
Unfortunately, as Sabah is a pretty sleepy town, do not come here expecting a lively nightlife. However, if you know where to look, there are enough things to keep your life as an undergraduate far from boring. More importantly, UMS is about 6 minutes by car from the city center. Six minutes! That's pretty darned close if you ask me.
Damai is a complex of shoplots situated a few minutes from KK. If you are going to Damai from UMS, take the Highway (seriously, this is what the locals here refer to the road. It's the first highway here connecting Luyang to Likas) as it will be closer than driving to KK then down. But who cares...since the difference is negligable. Anyway, the peak hours of Damai is from 5pm to about 10pm. Expect to see a lot of pretty girls here as there is a pretty large Coffee Bean nearby. This is also the site of the infamous Cyber X, arguably the city's largest and best cybercafe. Cyber X never closes and is close to impossible to get seats. Your best bet is to come here during 6pm when even gamers have to retire for dinner.
Describing the actual layout of Damai is an almost impossible task. Suffice to say, if you come from the road, the block to your right is Cyber X, and if you go straight and to the left, you arrive at one of the best places for 'makan malam' in KK, as long as you keep it before 11pm. The place I am talking about is usually referred to as 88 or, as my friends call it, Damai Super Corridor. It can get pretty packed here and it consists of about 5 different coffeeshops located back to back, not including the mamak and a-piang stalls. The prices range from cheap to average (about RM4) and the drinks here are really kau.
This concludes the Damai section. There's a place to game and a place to eat. What more do you want?
Aaaah...Lintas. It's located further away than Damai, but that's speaking relatively as it's only at most 4 minutes away. Lintas peaks at about 12am and lasts all the way to the early morning, depending on the situation. It is the location of the infamous Salim group of mamak coffeeshops that serves some of KK's best indian dishes. There is also a pool parlour here and it's usually vacated, unless you come here reeealy late. Has great tables, large, air-conditioned and relatively free from smokers.
A little secret: There is a moving Lok Lok van here that likes to appear around 12am. It is, to my knowledge, the only Lok Lok van in the whole of KK.
Lintas used to be a great place because of it's vibrant illegal racing nightlife. Nothing funnier than watching a Kancil roaring across the road, only to realize it's all sound, no speed. But there can be some pretty cool cars driving around. Unfortunately, it has mostly disappeared because the residents around the area have complained heavily about the noise. On lucky days, you'll be able to see people racing. More often than not, they have relocated.
Mega Pavilion, one of three cinemas in KK
KK has three great cinemas. GSC is a fairly large building and is easily recognized from the movie banners hanging from the walls. It has a decent screen and a decent pricetag. An average cinema. Then there is Mega Pavilion, which is classier and as a result, more expensive. I've only ever been there once, but they set the air conditioning too cold and it's not worth the extra few Ringgit I paid for, which is why I still stick to Growball, the third and hardest cinema to find because it's located in the 8th floor of Centre Point, the shopping mall here.
As for shopping, Centre Point is a behemoth and has almost everything you want. Growball operates the cinema, pool parlour and arcade here and there's always an event going on in both the ground floor event hall and also the 5th floor Palm Square. The local PC Fair is always held in the grand ball room but is much smaller than the ones in KL.
KK's branch of GSC
Karamunsing is the equivalent of Lowyat Plaza and has more computer shops per capita than anywhere else in Sabah. Prices here can vary wildly so be prepared to do some proper surveying. KK Plaza is the one I least go to, because in a way it's like a smaller, lesser version of Centre Point. As you can see, the shopping here is not really all that good, but if you come one a week anyway, it's not that bad.
Sabah is home to many picturesque islands and beaches. For all intents and purposes, I will focus on the popular destinations, and hope that I will be forgiven for leaving other things out.
The best and closest beach to town is a place called Tanjung Aru, a pretty upscale place that has undergone recent 'upgrades' to make it a Tourist Spot. What this means to the average student is... be prepared to spend. And take my word for it and do not order the 'wuo tie or sui kau' here. They're vegetarians. And cost RM1 apiece.
Tanjung Aru is actually a name given to a collection of three beaches. The first one is located right in the middle and is a good place to frolic around enjoying the sights and sounds. Beach 2 is located a bit deeper to the right and is a place for couples to go to at night because doing it in a car is somehow better than doing it in the comforts of a cheap hotel room. The third beach is arguably even more secluded.
Besides Tanjung Aru, I can't think of any other beaches to recommend going to, with the exception of Karambunai, but that's more of a five star resort rather than a public beach.
The islands are a different matter. You can choose from Manukan, Gayana, Sapi (and probably a few others I have forgotten) and these are all collections of islands located off the west coast of Sabah. One would go to the port located near the Marine Police's HQ and pay for the fare, which is about RM20 to RM25 depending on the destination. Then you will board a boat and they will bring you to the island, which is about ten minutes ride.
Most of the islands charge an entrance fee, and it is best to bring your own food and swimming equipment as rents are expectedly high. Personally I've only been to Manukan, and it's a pretty great place. Be prepared to meet lots of tourists if you are unlucky (or lucky, depending on how you look at it).
If you are planning on grocery shopping, always head to Servay Hypermarket Likas, which is closest to UMS. It has everything you could possibly ever want, and then some more. If you can't find it in Servay, just a short drive to Likas Supermarket will probably fix that problem.
This is a work in progress. I will update this post with relevant information and pictures when I have the time to go out and grab them. If you would like to know more about UMS and Sabah in general, do comment and tell me what I should write about. Thank you!