After we had had our fill of lounging around the resort the time finally came for us to see Kota Kinabalu itself. It was only a short taxi ride however the difference was vast. Maybe we had become soft after our time in the resort. Maybe Kota Kinabalu is actually a lovely little town. Maybe, but we didn't think so.
Kota Kinabalu itself seemed to us to be a fairly uninspired little town. Dirty and lacking in character. Its typically a jumping off point for people either heading out to the reefs to go diving or out into the Jungle to go trekking. There didn't seem to be many tourists actually spending any serious time in Kota Kinabalu itself and we could see why.
We initially opted for a backpackers right in the middle of town. The front door of which opened onto an open area that featured a few restaurants and a bar. Our room overlooked this area. We realised it would be a bit noisy. Sadly we didn't realise just how noisy until a band set up immediately below our window and began to serenade the largely empty outdoor mall. Not deterred by the lack of an audience they played well into the night.
The backpackers itself was also nothing to brag about. We had been given sarongs at the resort which we now re-purposed as bed sheets to avoid direct contact with the questionable linen. The dirty communal bathroom was an added bonus.
The next morning there was no question. We needed to move.
We checked out and began to explore away from the centre. We soon stumbled on a corner of town called "Australia Place" that was both quiet and within walking distance of the centre. I believe it acquired its name as this was where the Australian army camped at the conclusion of world war two. It backs onto the nearby hills which greatly reduces noise and through traffic.
We think we stayed at the Garden Hotel however we're relying on our faulty memories so could be mistaken. Wherever we stayed it was clean and quiet. It wasn't the cheapest place ever but after our previous night we didn't think twice about parting with the money. We needed a proper sleep and a decent shower.
Having sorted out our accommodation we made a more concerted effort to explore the town. There really wasn't much to see. We checked out some disappointing markets, got a few disappointing massages and ate some ok but not great food. The culinary low point came on our last day in town. We were served fairly questionable food accompanied by coffee that featured a live cockroach clinging to the outside of the mug. Not a small cockroach either. The monstrous thing had somehow stayed out of the view of the person carrying the coffee to our table. Its presence persuaded us to just pay and leave without touching either the food or the coffee. Our stomachs are pretty tough but we know our limits.
The one high point was some clothing stores that stocked clothes that were both fashionable and available in sizes that fit our Australian bodies. Tanya picked up some very nice dresses.
We looked at getting to Brunei then on to Kuching by boat however decided that we simply didn't have time. In the end we made the hard decision to fly direct to Kuching and to bypass Brunei entirely. This would give us roughly a week in Kuching. We'd read a lot of good things about the place so took the chance of allocating it all of our remaining time.
Click here for the best family hotel, a cheap hostel or something in between
Disclaimer: We sometimes receive complementary stuff in exchange for an honest review, good or bad. Also, there are some affiliate links on this site. If you click an affiliate link and buy something we receive a small commission. This does not cost you anything more and helps support our family. We only recommend services and products that we personally use. Thanks!