Snafu in Kota Kinabalu

I had a fun and exciting five day trip to the Malaysian state of Sabah… besides getting sunburnt, bruised, bitten, & picking up an unrelenting stomach virus. ???

…so here’s how that all went down. ?

We left my friend Hariz’s place in Brunei on Friday morning, Nov 18 and set out on the 6-7 hour road trip to Kota Kinabalu, the coastal capital city of Sabah, known for its bustling markets, modern boardwalk, beaches and waterfront.

A glimpse of the scenic road to Kota Kinabalu.

The three of us (Hariz, his friend Nabil and I) arrived at our apartment there right before the sunset that evening:

Our view from the apartment balcony.

The next day, we got up early and went to the waterfront. After buying some cheap food at the local market, we took a boat to the nearby islands of Sapi & Manukan. 

Once we got off the boat, we enjoyed  lunch on the beach before going snorkeling. I wasn’t able to take photos while underwater, but there were so many beautiful and colorful fish all around! ???

Can you spot the multi-colored parrotfish? ?

After we’d had enough of snorkeling and relaxing on the beach, we headed back to Kota Kinabalu. I was convinced into trying a full body massage, followed by “cupping”:

“Cupping therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine in which a therapist puts special cups on your skin for a few minutes to create suction. People get it for many purposes, including to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and well-being, and as a type of deep-tissue massage.”

I enjoyed the massage, but I’m still not entirely sure that the cupping was effective. It DID make my back look strangely bruised, though:

This isn’t even my final form.

To be fair, my friend Hariz’s back was way less bruised than mine, and it was his third time doing it. The staff there said that I had a lot of air inside of me, lol… maybe I did… who knows! ?

After that, we went and had dinner at a really tasty restaurant called Welcome Seafood. However, it certainly wasn’t very hygienic there (which seemed the norm in Malaysia anyway), so I’m thinking it might be where I acquired my stomach illness. ?

Various animals freshly plucked from the sea.

Once we’d finished eating, we walked a bit through a nearby mall before going back to our apartment. I noticed that a boba tea place had “fruity rojak” on their menu, and to my surprise, with random tentacle pieces inside. My friends informed me that it’s actually a quite tasty local snack:

Malay fruit rojak consists typically of cucumber, pineapple, mango, guava, honey & squid fritters.

The next day, we got to visit the Gaya Street Sunday Market

“The best place to experience the cross-section of the local population when entire families enjoy a Sunday outing.”

Everything in Malaysia was already cheap for me as the US dollar is worth four Malaysian dollars, but the market was full of even more inexpensive items, like a pair of Raybans that I picked up for less than $10. (I’m pretty sure they’re not real, but they look good nonetheless!)

Traditional musical instruments were often played in the market.
Hariz contemplates buying a “kris”, a type of asymmetrical dagger. Both a weapon and spiritual object, kris are often considered to have an essence or presence, considered to possess magical powers, with some blades possessing good luck and others possessing bad.

The following morning, Hariz drove us about an hour and a half into the jungle near to where we’d be staying, a “farmstay” in the village of Kiulu.

Got lost for a bit trying to find the place…
Nala, me, her nephew, and her son in front of their home that they graciously shared with us.
The house we stayed in was one of a few in the area — all the adjacent houses were owned by extended family members. Most of them hardly spoke English, so I just listened most of the time while Hariz did all the talking in Malay. 

Nala was an excellent cook. The fish here were fresh from their pond, and the dish on the right was made from local sweet potato stems.
The uppermost vegetable dish was their local fern, and the bottom dish was local bamboo. Both were surprisingly delicious! ?

Besides just enjoying fresh food from the land, Nala’s husband took us on a really interesting (and draining!) three hour hike of the nearby rice paddies and surrounding jungle.

Entering the expansive field of rice paddies.
Rice granules, up close & personal!

Not only did I get to see how rice grows, but also many other foods as well, such as papaya trees, pineapple trees, cocoa trees, vanilla vines, bamboo and ferns. 

I learned how to drain a rubber tree! ?
I really loved seeing this group of water buffalo free ranging in the wild. Mother Buffalo was very wary when I got too close to her calf, though! ?
Coming back from the hike and one of many suspension bridges, soaked from sweat and lots of rain.

It wasn’t all fun & happy times for me, though. After I got back from the hike, I spent way more time in the bathroom than I would have liked (a trend which unfortunately continued for almost a week). And in Malaysia, there’s mostly just toilets in the ground, toilet paper is rare, and it’s customary to just clean yourself with water. ?

The “shower” there was also just a huge bucket of river water, which I scooped from using a small pail… definitely the most basic way I’ve ever washed myself! 

And at night, I was bitten all over by mosquitoes and random insects. Having no A/C (except a wall fan) also didn’t help.

This actually looks a lot better than it felt…

Thankfully, it was only just for one night, and I was chomping at the bit to head  back to Brunei the next morning. 

In the end, I had a lot more trials & tribulations in Malaysia than I would have liked; overall, however, I had a good time, along with many interesting experiences that I won’t forget! ?

By the way, this is my first post using entirely only my phone, so I hope it turns out alright. Doing a picture-heavy post from a mobile device isn’t an easy feat, but I’m trying! ?

Stay tuned for my next post about Bali

Selamat malam,

– Comrade Brad


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

ImNotWithHim – Cole (@jcolebrand)reply
December 1, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Hey Brad, that post looked great!

You should probably get a small lightweight mosquito net for your travels. Need someone to airdrop you one from the interwebs?

I hope your stomach sitch clears up PDQ!!!

December 1, 2016 at 7:31 pm
– In reply to: ImNotWithHim - Cole (@jcolebrand)

Thanks for the feedback, Cole! And yeah, I though about getting a net, but I think most places where I’m staying aren’t going to be so exposed to the outside! And thanks, it seems to finally have cleared up now. ☺️

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