Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

The hidden paradise of Sabah~Part 1

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine National Park

Selamat Datang to the beautiful paradise Sabah in the country of Malaysia.

The opportunity to visit Malaysia came my way in the form of a conference, where I was thinking of submitting my work. The conference was held at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia from 7-10th October 2018. The writing and submission of paper started a long back from around April 2018, and finally got accepted around July 2018. Luckily, I got an offer for a student travel grant from the conference organizers also, which helped me a lot. So, I had quite a lot of time to plan and visit this beautiful country.

With traditional Malaysian dancers on the day of Gala Dinner at the conference.

I myself am a travel freak, so this opportunity was a great way to share my research and also experience the rich culture of this beautiful country of Malaysia. First I had to understand the geographical location of Sabah because it’s not the usual place that people visit when they travel to Malaysia. I read quite a lot of blogs and googled a lot to finally plan out my itinerary to combine a few places along with Sabah because it’s not always that I will get a chance again to visit this place. On researching the place, I was pleasantly surprised to know that Sabah (a state of Malaysia) forms a part of the Malaysian Borneo Island. It borders with Sarawak (another state of Malaysia) and Kalimantan (a state of Indonesia). Some quick facts:

  • The capital of Sabah is Kota Kinabalu.
  • Sabah is home to the world’s largest flower Rafflesia.
  • Mount Kinabalu is a part of the Kinabalu National park in Sabah, which is the highest peak in the Malay Archipelago. It is a UNESCO world heritage site.
  • Sabah has a rich collection of wildlife like the orang-utans.

Now, considering the geographical location of Sabah, it meant my conference location was quite far from peninsular Malaysia. So, I had to plan accordingly. Firstly, I had to book my tickets and accommodation. Then apply for my Visa. There are two types of Visa for Indians to enter Malaysia: (i) eNTRI, (ii) eVISA. I applied for the 30days single entry eVISA as my purpose was attending a conference and got it via e-mail within a day.

Food aboard Air Asia flight from Kolkata

My journey started on the 6th of October 2018 from Guwahati along with my husband, and we finally reached Kota Kinabalu on the 7th of October after changing three flights. The journey was a bit hectic, but the excitement of travelling to a new place always overpowers my tiredness. I missed half a day of the conference but planned to attend the rest of the interactive sessions which were lined up till the 10th of October. Do not forget to buy a sim card, which is easily available at the airport for around INR600-700 for 10 days. There are different plans suiting your needs.

Approaching the city of Kota Kinabalu

The day we reached Kota Kinabalu, it was almost evening, so we had not much time to do local sightseeing. However, we decided to visit the famous Tanjung Aru beach to witness the sunset. Unfortunately, it rained quite heavily that day, so it was all cloudy and no sight of the peeping sun. We did not get to see the beautiful sunset as claimed by the pictures on Instagram, but we did enjoy our time by the beach. There were lots of locals with tourists clicking pictures and playing and having some good quality time with their families.

Sunset time at Tanjung Aru beach
The Malaysian Kebab version-Lok Lok, at the display near Tanjung Aru beach

So, all the work done, I had plans to do some sightseeing in and around Kota Kinabalu. On the first day of my stay, I decided to do a bit of local sightseeing and grab some good food near the waterfront, which has lots of good restaurants and a beautiful open seating area connecting almost all the food hangouts. First stop was the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque, which is such a beautiful architectural structure. I have not seen a mosque so pretty to date. The blue dome with intricate gold work and the four minarets gives such a splendid feel to the whole area. It also has a man-made lagoon surrounding it, and so righty called the “Floating Mosque”.

Kota Kinabalu City Mosque
A Malaysian cat at the KK City mosque

Next stop was the Menara Tun Mustapha, located around 5km away from the city centre. The building is structured as a 72-sided polygon with walls made of 2,160 special reflective glass panels that can withstand wind speed up to 272 km/hour. Suspended from the central core of the building are steel radial brackets where some 96 high-tensile steel rods are hung and hold the 30 floors of the building. This building is known to be the fourth of such high-rise “hanging” office building in the world and has been a famous landmark and tourist attraction ever since its construction in 1975. I found it really amazing. Just next to it was the Sabah State Administrative Centre, which is also a huge monument standing tall beside the South China Sea.

Menara Tun Mustapha

It was time to do some local shopping after visiting a few of the places and have a good evening snack. So, we decided to take a Grab to the waterfront area and relax for a bit. It’s a very happening place in the whole of Kota Kinabalu with live music at all restaurants and people from all around the world enjoying to every bit. Also, the local market is just adjacent to it, where many souvenirs and local food products can be bought. I must tell you that Grab is a very convenient way to travel inside Malaysia. The prices are also quite reasonable. It works the same way as Uber/Ola in India.

Fried chips at Waterfront
Buying some local snacks
Waterfront

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, the first ended on quite a happy note with a combination of work and exploring local sites. It was time to take a good night’s sleep to gear up for the next day. There are lots of places that can be visited in and around Kota Kinabalu. I will note all the places in my next blog. However, links are given below for bookings:

Amazing Borneo tours, Downbelow Adventures, Get ur Guide, Sabah Booking

Stay tuned till my next part is up. Happy travelling until then.

Points to be noted:

  1. The cost of eVISA is approximately INR 3000 valid for single entry 30 days of travel, whereas for short travel of tourism purpose you can take the eNTRI which comes to around INR 1400 and is valid for 15 days of travel in Malaysia.
  2. The flight cost breakup is as follows:
  • Guwahati to Kolkata and back: INR 5000 approx.
  • Kolkata to Kuala Lumpur and back: INR 21000 approx. with 20kg luggage in Air Asia
  • Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu and back: INR 9000 approx. with 20kg luggage in Air Asia

Note: Air Asia fare only comes with 7kg of cabin luggage, so extra check-in luggage can be bought at an extra price, which I had to do because I have still not learnt to travel light (Guilty much!!). Also if you book early, you can save around 7-8k on the whole trip or even more. I booked all the tickets around 1.5 months before the travel date.

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Seychelles

Island hopping in the beautiful Seychelles

When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go~~~copied 🙂 .

Now, this is what happened after I visited the Seychelles. This has been one of my dream places to visit and the day arrived soon in the month of January 2018. I along with my husband boarded the Etihad flight from Mumbai to Mahe (the capital of Seychelles) via Abu Dhabi. It was quite a long journey of 10 hours with the stopover. So, I would suggest booking direct flights to Seychelles from Mumbai which takes around 4 hours. But all my fatigue vanished the moment I was nearing the mainland of the largest island Mahé in the archipelago of Seychelles. What breathtaking scenery it was with the sea on one side and the high hills on the other 🙂 .  Continue reading “Island hopping in the beautiful Seychelles”

Gangtok, Sikkim

East Sikkim~~~nature’s wonderland-Part 1

Bakthang waterfall

Faint memories of my first trip(2004) with family flashed back as I took the taxi from New Jalpaiguri (NJP) railway station to Gangtok. This time it was with my school buddies, and I expected to have some wonderful time with them on this journey. So, we started from NJP station at around 6am and reached Gangtok by around 11am. In between we halted at a local dhaba to munch on some delicious momos 🙂 . Continue reading “East Sikkim~~~nature’s wonderland-Part 1”

Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir

Gulmarg~~~the white magic

Gulmarg top

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The one thing that I ever imagined before visiting Gulmarg was that I would get to witness lots and lots of white fluffy snow 🙂 . And so it is. My dream came true. For a person belonging to the northeastern part of India, snow is something we are very much fascinated to see. Our 3rd leg of the journey took us to Gulmarg, the beautiful hill station in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Gulmarg is mainly famous as a Skiing destination and this season starts from December to around February, details in here. At that time, not many tourists visit this place. The general tourist season starts around April and lasts till October. I had already covered Srinagar and Pahalgam, which are equally scenic, but the landscape of Gulmarg is very unique, as it is located at a higher altitude in the Pirpinjal range surrounded by snow-capped mountains and lush green meadows. By afternoon we had reached the hotel in Gulmarg, which looked like a wooden cottage with white mountains at the background beckoning you. Continue reading “Gulmarg~~~the white magic”

Jammu & Kashmir, Pahalgam

Pahalgam….a jewel in the mountains

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The Betaab Valley

Nestled in the himalayan range in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, is the beautiful valley of Pahalgam. My visit to Pahalgam was a part of my whole Kashmir itinerary and this happened in the month of May,2016. This is one of the perfect times to visit the serene valleys of Kashmir. I along with my parents reached Pahalgam from Srinagar a day earlier. The journey took around 5 hours with lunch stop in apple valley. At this time of the year, only apple trees can be seen, but no apples–alas!! 😦 . By late afternoon, we checked in to our hotel booked by our travel agent. The beautiful Lidder river can be seen flowing by the side of our hotel. It was so peaceful to hear the gushing sound of water all throughout 🙂 .  We had our dinner and went for a good night’s sleep to be fresh next morning for our tour.

Continue reading “Pahalgam….a jewel in the mountains”

Cherrapunji, Uncategorized

Cherrapunji : A place serenely beautiful

The Nohkalikai falls
The Nohkalikai falls

 

This time it was a family trip along with 2 of my friends,who came to visit northeast all the way from Delhi. The journey was to one of the most beautiful and serene locations of the northeast ~~~Cherrapunji. More commonly known as Sohra, this place has so much to offer to tourists. It was once known for being the wettest place on earth, still it holds record for most amount of rainfall in a year. We made our base at Shillong to cover some of the nearby places in a day or two. We started off for Cherrapunji early morning from Shillong, so that we can get enough time for the whole day to explore.

Continue reading “Cherrapunji : A place serenely beautiful”

Badrinath

The Holy Shrine of Badrinath

Badrinath Temple

In almost everything that touches our everyday life on earth,God is pleased when we are pleased. He wills that we be as free as birds to soar and sing our maker’s praise without anxiety~~~~~Aiden Wilson Tozer.

My chanced visit to the Holy shrine of Badrinath was made in the month of July 2012, with my colleagues from work. We were around 20 people including some family members. So we hired a bus from Haridwar and set out on a spiritual journey to one of the highly regarded Char Dhams of India : Badrinath. Continue reading “The Holy Shrine of Badrinath”