Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kota Kinabalu - Horror Ride in Jesselton Town

Kota Kinabalu - There was turbulence in the last 80 minutes of our plane ride en route to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, Malaysia. To be honest about it, KK was just an afterthought during the planning stage of this long haul trip. When Air Asia cancelled and moved my Bangalore trip a day later, I decided to extend my stay in KK. What the heck, I've seen too much of KL already, it wouldn't hurt discovering more new places.

It had been a relaxing flight from Clark. The chicken rice meal (PhP153 if pre-booked) was tastier than usual, albeit a wee bit oilier. It also sported a name - Uncle Chip's Chicken Rice. But as we were nearing the Borneo city, the plane started shaking. The view outside both windows wasn't uplifting - smoky gray, with no hint of cirrus clouds. The lady beside me started praying hard, she shut her eyes tight as though summoning the angels. I was starting to worry too. In my several years of riding planes, turbulent patches don't usually last longer than 30 minutes. This has gone so much longer.

By 5:55PM, our scheduled arrival, we were still nowhere - suspended on air. "We have to 'hold it off'," the pilot announced. Pete's sake, we couldn't land? Twenty minutes later, there were hints of descent, but the view outside was still dark. I didn't see any land surface until 5 minutes from our landing. When we finally touched ground, the passengers clapped! Yeah, clapped! I have never been in a plane ride with clapping passengers before, I swear! Rain was pouring hard outside. We had to disembark from the rear door while we waited for umbrellas.

I was worried about my hotel pick up. I booked for two nights at the Lonely Planet-recommended "Borneo Backpackers" which offers complimentary airport transfer (if you booked a minimum of 2 nights). Immigration formalities were fast and uneventful. Upon retrieval of my luggage, I rushed at the lobby. A Pinoy couple were picking up "guests" for their "hostel". They approached me, I smiled and told them I already had one. Thankfully, I saw my name waved just behind the Pinoy couple.

His name was Rex, tall, confident, welcoming - he speaks very fluent English, with an educated cadence. I was impressed. He asked if I wanted my money changed first before getting inside the car. I nodded. I have disposable pesos which I won't be able to use. I wanted to get rid of them and mustered 305 ringgit from my Philippine money. Not bad! Took some fast snaps inside the airport, which was moderately busy. Kuching's was the prettier one, but KK International Airport hosts more flights. This would make it more tourist-friendly too.

From the airport, the city center is 7 kilometers away. As we made our way out of the compound, the heavy rains turned into a lazy drizzle. In 30 minutes, I was in "Borneo Backpackers". I was given my security code too, that way, I could roam the night without worrying about curfew (there's none). After paying for 2 nights (50 ringgit per night for a single room with AC), I hastily booked for my Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot Spring Tour the next day. I hoped it wouldn't rain in the morning. I secured my room key (number 12), then headed out.

So there I was again, taking my solitary walks in the dimness of the night, amidst the drizzle. KK's city center reminds me of Kuching. At 8 PM, a lot of stores have shut their doors. I visited a new mall called Suria Sabah - Metrojaya. I checked out the Golden Screen Cinemas at the 8th floor, but there wasn't any Malaysian movie: "Big Momma", "Beastly", "The Fighter", "Rango". I wasn't too thrilled with the titles so I decided to just walk around in old Jesselton (the original name of the city) in its sobering darkness.

I reached the seafront and saw a huge statue of a fish at the roundabout - mackerel? swordfish? There was a Hyatt Hotel, a Capitol Hotel, a Seven-Eleven, an Air Asia office, a Burger King, a packed restaurant called "Upperstar". I ended up with the sure thing: 2 piece chicken with rice at KFC at 11.05 ringgit! Yes, there's one along Lorong Segama, There's another at Suria Sabah too.

At 9:30 PM, I started my walk back "home". I've explored some of their major hangout places. It will be an early morning tomorrow. I am curiously looking forward to plop down my back. I have a comfortable bed at Room number 12. And the staff are very accommodating. Nothing beats friendly faces.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

This photo only courtesy of the top photo is courtesy of


Ola said...

I really don't like when there are turbulances during the flight:(

nathalie said...

Did experience a roller coaster plane with Cebupac's HK-Cebu flight
under a signal no.2 storm, It was a hell of a ride! 'kala katapusan ko na..hahaha

eye in the sky said...


Don't we all. We don't wanna meet our Maker just yet. Haha

eye in the sky said...


Scary stuff. Never a favorite part of any journey, that's for sure. :->