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Asian seaside cities: Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah. Together with Sandakan, it is the main port for, and a hub to the rest of the state. Many people stay here before they climb Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, or visit Orangutan sanctuary Sepilok. We explore these cities themselves, for some places of interest.

Atkinson's clock tower, the main attraction of Kota Kinabalu

From Uncle Tan's office we take the bus to Sandakan. This is a typical Asian seaside city. We can find very little of interest here, so we stay long enough to wash our clothes, get some money, and to relax before we move on to Kota Kinabalu.

Bus Trouble

The bus station of Sandakan is located a few kilometres from the town, so we didn't check the timetable for the bus to Kota Kinabalu. But we assume buses between the two major cities of Sabah leave regularly. Unfortunately, that is not the case. We just missed the 10 AM bus, and are told the next one leaves at noon. We buy a ticket at the company who told us that, but after waiting until 1 PM we understand it will not leave before 2 PM. We demand our money back and check in at another company, who's bus also leaves at 2 PM, but is already waiting.

To add to the delay, the bus breaks down just outside Kota Kinabalu, and so we arrive in the dark, something we hate. Finding a hotel here isn't very easy either. The suggestions from our guidebook are closed. Eventually we end up in an expensive small room, where we can enjoy the karaoke from next-door through the thin walls. Since we are hungry and tired, we eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken, to complete our misery.

The following morning we quickly search one of the few backpacker hostels, and the misery is soon forgotten. We get a free breakfast and there are nice people we have a chat with. A huge difference with the impersonal hotel.

Kota Kinabalu

We take it easy in Kota Kinabalu. We visit the museum to see the local traditional dresses, and do some shopping. The largest tourist attraction of Sabah is climbing Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia. In the hostel are many people who did the climb, many returned with an injury and when we ask whether it was worth it, many say "no". So, being no climbing enthusiasts, we discard this adventure.

On our last day in Kota Kinabalu we visit the two attractions in town. First there is Atkinson's clock tower. It is the only building that survived the second world war, but it isn't much more than a landmark. The second attraction is a viewpoint to watch over the city. Unfortunately, the view is a bit spoiled by several ugly skyscrapers. In short, Kota Kinabalu is not a city to visit for its attractions.

As the capital of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu has some information about the rest of the attractions of Sabah. Apart from what we already visited, there are some attractions west of KK, but they don't appeal to us. There are also some islands, but the weather isn't very good, and we have seen many beautiful islands already. We came here especially for the jungle and the traditional people. We saw a bit of both, but we also saw how both are in danger of being replaced by progress and palm oil plantations.



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