Tag Archives: Kota Kinabalu

Eating in Kota Kinabalu (Part 2)

Continued from Eating in Kota Kinabalu (Part 1): Cultures Crashing

One of the things I loved about Kota Kinabalu is that the food was very affordable. On the average, the meals we ordred cost us around RM 8 each, and that’s with drinks. We splurged a bit at Kedai Kopi Lotus and Upperstar, but it was still well within a reasonable range. The servings are also good, so we didn’t feel shortchanged. We forgo eating at fast foods, the only time we did was when i ordered a Zinger from KFC to get rid of the quesy stomach I had after drinking teh tarik one time. In my opinion, skip the fast food and go eat local.

Kedai Kopi Lotus
I was beginning to think that most food places around Kota Kinabalu are called “kedai kopi”, so long as they have coffee and tea to go with the other stuff.

This place was outside of the KK City Center. I wouldn’t have gone if our friends didn’t bring us here. It’s a restaurant, but stalls owned by other cooks are stationed outside. One offers dumplings, another sells grilled seafood and chicken wings. Order food from any of them, and once it’s delivered, you pay on the spot. It’s a popular place for the people who live nearby, and many of them drop by to buy food rather than cook.

I never got the name of the dishes we ate. We had an almond pudding, a noodle dish with some chicken and veggies, dimsum, chicken wings, and grilled fish with shrimp paste and kang kong.

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We also had dinner at a similar place a day later. It had a fascinating story, because it was located in a place in KK where the houses were on stilts.

More noodles
We had a free day, so we decided to strike out on our own for lunch. We decided to try Kedai Kopi Yee Fung along Gaya Street. Luckily, it wasn’t crowded. I wanted to try the claypot chicken, but it was out of stock so I decided to try their yee fung ngau chap. Had a glass of kitchai ping go to along with it. The noodle serving was smaller than Nountoun’s, but the drink was in a tall glass and I was happy.

Lunch

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Eating in Kota Kinabalu (Part 1): Cultures Crashing

The food of Kota Kinabalu has elements of the familiar mixed in with the novelty of new flavors. Perhaps this is so because our similar roots, and that the climate and topography is also quite like ours, their ingredients are quite like the ones we use ourselves.

Kota Kinabalu has a strong Chinese community, with many restaurants carrying Chinese dishes alongside the Malay and Indian ones. They have European influences too, particularly British, as the Malaysia was a colony of the United Kingdom for a long time.

Food was not something Shabby and I planned for on this trip (then again, not a lot of it was really planned). Like our activities, where and what we eat was done on the fly, and was mostly based on the recommendations of our hosts. We went to places that the locals particularly liked, and more often than not, it was almost always packed.

Day 1
Our first meal in Kota Kinabalu was at this small kedai kopi (which I believe translates to “coffee shop”) place near our hotel. It was open 24 hours, so it was a good spot for us to grab something to eat when hunger pangs striked. The food was laid out carinderia style, but you can always order rice meals off the menu on the wall.

First meal in KK

I don’t remember the names of the dishes that we ate. We had noodles, hainanese chicken, some cold cuts, and a dish of pork innards that went really well with the noodles. For drinks, we immediately got teh tarik, the famous pulled tea that Malaysian food is well known for. Over ice, it was refreshing.

First meal in KK

Of course, no one really told us that the area we were stayingin had a somewhat seedy reputation, which was probably why some people looked at us funny when we went there for a midnight snack. Anyway…

Tanjung Aru Beach
According to our friend and erstwhile guide, Tanjung Aru Beach is the to-go place for everyone who grew up in KK. Think of it as that resort everyone has to go to at least once in their lives. We went there to complete a mission for Ingress, but as it began to rain we decided to hang out for a while and let it pass.

Tanjung Aru Beach 1

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Kota Kinabalu: A Lesson in Hospitality

I’m coming clean. When Shabby broached the idea of going to Kota Kinabalu last April, my first thought was, “What’s there?” Sure, there’s the nature part of the place, where you can climb Mt. Kinabalu and enjoy Sabah’s natural beauty. Other than that, I knew nothing.

Terrible, I know.

We purchased the tickets anyway, and did sporadic research about the place in the succeeding months. I felt I wasn’t giving the place and the trip much attention, as I didn’t even save much for expenses. The total money I had at that time was P8,000.

One thing I never expected when we got to Kota Kinabalu was the extent of the generosity and kindness of the people. Shabby plays this game called Ingress, a location based strategy game that has millions of players all over the world. When the KK players found out that she was coming, the volunteered to pick us up from the airport and lend us a pocket WiFi device.

That for us was generous enough, but it went beyond that. Chua, a photographer and a member of KK’s conservation board, acted as our guide the whole time. Through him, I learned a lot about KK’s history, development, politics, even their music and art scene. We got to visit local hangouts and taste specialties that were probably out of the way for most tourists. He also told us about the events that KK will be hosting in the future, including festivals and holidays.

We also hung out with some other Ingress players. Mostly it was just to farm and run some strategy. Sometimes they’d ask about the Philippines, but in relation to the game. I also ended up signing on for the game, and I managed to reach level 3 before we left the country. I also finished my first mission.

I was amused when they made us eat all sorts of delicacies, but then I’d realize that it was just a version of a Chinese dish we have at home. They were surprised that I knew what matchang, siomai, and kiamoy are, that my grandma cooked chicken feet the traditional way, and so on.

In so many ways, neither culture knew much about the other. And the exchange of ideas was pretty fun.

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I learned so much from our new friends. Kota Kinabalu may be small, but they value and respect it, and take pride in their culture. The know that they have power over their government, and they can fight for their rights and get a positive response. They take pride in their heritage, and they welcome visitors to their humble place.

It is not perfect, however. It had its own foibles, much as I’ve learned from the stories and from what I saw with my own eyes. But Kota Kinabalu has so much to offer its visitors. Take the usual tourist spots, but if you can spend time to do as the locals do, you will find yourself enriched.

Getting stuck in Kota Kinabalu because of typhoon Ruby brought many repercussions. However, the experience I had with these people, and the kindness they showed us is something I would not trade for anything. I look forward to extending to them the same generosity when they visit Metro Manila, and I hope they have a favorable experience as well.