| Part 4: Kota Kinabalu,
Kuala Lumpur, Dubai
Kinabalu -> KL
Boulevard, KL. RM 315 for a double room. Good quality, four star level
room with everything. Internet usage not included in the room rate. The
room rate actually is RM 275, to which RM 40 for the breakfast is added.
Weather: sunny, blue sky
with a few thin clouds every now and then in KK. Overcast in KK in the
late afternoon. No rain.
I check out of the hotel at 10am and have a brief breakfast at a Secret
Recipe cafe. It's 10:30am but the malls are still mostly closed. The
opening time seems to be around 11am.
I have a closer look at the waterfront. It's a wooden platform
stretching for 200-300m along the coast, starting at the Meridien
hotel. This stretch of the KK waterfront is very nice in the evening,
when the cafes and restaurants are open and the area is full of people
waiting for the sunset.
The remaining part of the KK waterfront is way less impressive and is
in fact still not developed. The Kota Kinabalu waterfront
was first set up in 2008 and was supposed to be 2km long. As of today
the small section near the Meridien hotel is developed; the rest still
needs to be populated with shops, cafes and attractions. In addition,
the KK waterfront is interrupted by dirty and smelly markets, which
should be relocated.
I slowly walk along the waterfront towards the Suria Sabah mall, making
a brief stop in the KK Plaza mall. KK Plaza is one of the several old
malls in KK, which should be demolished and replaced with more modern
and flashy malls.
Suria Sabah is the new mall in KK. Built opposite the Gaya
centre, Suria Sabah has a stylish exterior and probably is an
attempt to have a high end mall in KK. Inside, Suria Sabah is still
largely undeveloped. There are several western branded goods shops in
the ground floor, but in the upper floors most properties are still not
rented out. At the moment only 1/3 of the mall is developed and setup
and decoration work is still ongoing. On the 8th floor there are
At 12pm noon I have lunch in the food court on the third floor. Then I
walk to the nearby Jesselton point jetty. Next to it there is a big
building with several operators offering trips to the islands of the
Tunku Abdul Rahman park.
This seems to be new, because the last time I made it to the islands in
2003 you had to charter a boat and negotiate the price. Now instead
it's a well regulated system of operators who bring you to the islands:
Sapi, Manukan, Mamutik and possibly others.
I check with one of the operators (Beach Bums Borneo), who has hourly
departures between 8am and 4pm to the Sapi, Manukan and Mamutik islands
(Manukan being the biggest island). It's RM 20 for a round trip to one
island, RM 30 for two and RM 40 for three islands. If you arrive in the
morning, you can island-hop to the three islands.
In addition to the RM 20 for the boat, there is a RM 7.20 fee for the
harbour (no idea why they are charging this) and additionally you must
pay RM 10 conservation fee once you reach Manukan island. These two
fees didn't exist when I last visited the islands in 2003.
The 1pm boat leaves early at 12:50pm and arrives on Manukan island 10
minutes later at 1pm. I have about one hour and a half of time before
my return boat picks me up at 2:30pm.
Pulau Manukan today is full of people, 99% Asians, most likely all
Malaysians. Manukan has a few nice sandy beaches on the side facing the
mainland. Lots of fish in the sea near the beach. The sea water however
is not that crystal clear, perhaps because so many people are swimming.
Very few people are wearing swimsuits: most are entering the water with
shorts and T-shirts, some even fully dressed. It's this Asian
embarrassment of undressing on a beach. Only a handful of western girls
are wearing bikinis. Most people are not swimming, they are just
standing in the shallow water.
On average Malaysians are not good
swimmers, because swimming involves undressing and that is embarrassing
for a Malaysian. I run into a Malaysian Chinese guy boldly wearing a
slim swimming trunk (he's the only one on the whole island).
Manukan has a resort or two. One is run by Sutera, the same company
which also operates the Laban Rata, Mesilau and Poring lodges in the Mt
Kinabalu national park. The setup on Manukan with the vegetation and
the chalets is quite idyllic. The only problem is that hoard of people
on the beach. Perhaps on weekdays (today is Saturday) Manukan is less
After having seen again Manukan, I'm now less inclined to recommend it
to people. It's just too crowded, now that affordable boat services
have made it easily accessible.
At 2:30pm the boat for the return trip arrives. It briefly stops in
Mamutik island to pick up a passenger. Mamutik is way smaller than
Manukan, but has some facilities. The beach looks nice, but is quite
We are back at the Jesselton Point jetty at 2:50pm. I take a taxi (RM
15) to the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre (KKWC, entrance: RM 10), a
small conservation area of 24 hectares with a mangrove swamp, full of
birds. The KKWC is a bird sanctuary set up on one of the last remaining
pieces of coastal wetland in KK. It's just out of KK (the taxi trip
takes only 10 minutes).
There is a circuit visitors can do, crossing the park on wooden
plank ways. Right now when I arrive it's low tide. I don't see too many
birds, except for some egrets and other small birds, but hear a lot of
birds. In the middle of the park there is a wooden tower, from which
you have a nice view of the park. Binoculars and a bird guidebook can
be rented at the entrance.
I'm at the park until 4:25pm, then catch a taxi (RM 15) to KK. There I
have a meal in a KFC restaurant, then take a taxi (RM 25) to the
Lots of people today at the airport. While I wait at the gate, two
previous Airasia flights to KL leave. It seems that lots of people are
returning to KL after the Hariraya holidays.
The Airasia flight takes off at 7:20pm with a 25 minutes delay. The
plane is almost completely full. It lands in KL with some delay at
9:35pm. Then things go quite fast and I'm in the hotel with Shirley and
the kids by 10:45pm.
Hotel Boulevard, KL.
Weather: sunny blue sky
morning, a bit foggy/hazy in the late afternoon, poor visibility
(perhaps due to forest fires in Indonesia?). No rain, except for a few
drops in the evening.
spent with the family not doing much. Around 1pm I take a taxi (RM 9.30
metered) to the Puduraya bus station, to have a look at the new
building which is now completed.
The new building is completely different from the old one.
It is much more clean, finally has A/C, is much more functional, has an
adjoining car park where people can leave their car when they
board the bus. The ticket sales counters are now on a different floor
than the waiting area. The whole bus station is now a building with
several storeys and there are several shops. It's a bit like a mall,
but lots of spaces are not occupied yet by shops.
After Puduraya I pay a brief visit to the area around it and then there
is the issue what to do next. Taxis in the area refuse to use the meter
and charge a multiple of the metered rate. I walk to the BB Plaza mall
in Bukit Bintang, shop a bit around, have some food, then take a taxi
(RM 20, not metered) to the The Mall shopping mall in the Legend hotel.
After that I join again Shirley and the kids (taxi now is metered and
only RM 5). In the evening we have a
common dinner with the family of Shirley in Damansara.
Country Club Hotel, Dubai. 500 AED for a very nice apartment with a
living room, two toilets each with a shower (one also with a bathtub)
and a bedroom. The sofa in the living room doubles as a bed where our
two kids sleep. Nice, elegant and classy atmosphere. Wireless Internet
and breakfast included. Good buffet breakfast, makes you appreciate the
Weather: in KL same
yesterday: morning with a spotless blue sky, gradual build up of a
cloud cover and more or less overcast in the afternoon. No rain. Hot
and steamy in Dubai.
We don't do much today except prepare for the trip home. After a
breakfast, at 10am, while Shirley is doing some shopping, I bring the
kids by taxi (RM 10) to KLCC.
The KLCC aquarium is still closed and only opens at 11am. Too late, as
I'm planning to return to the hotel already at 11:30am (Natasha is
supposed to sleep between 12pm and 2pm) and in any case the entry fees
are ridicolously high: RM 45 for an adult, kids between 3 and 12 pay
RM 35, no family ticket. With my two kids I would pay RM 115 and would
only have half an hour of time.
We head instead to the playground of the KLCC park which right now is
empty. After a not too long time the kids are hot and thirsty and I
quickly bring them into the KLCC mall for some cool air and a drink.
Around 11:30am I fetch one of the blue taxis outside the Petronas
towers. Turns out not to be such a good idea, because the rates are
roughly double the rates of the standard taxi and the taxi driver takes
a very weird and long route on the motorways. The bill ends up being RM
35.20 and I also paid a RM 2 commission at KLCC. A rip-off, because the
driver could have taken the standard and much shorter route through
Back in the hotel Shirley is still shopping and in fact will only be
back at 12:20pm. At this point it's too late for some midday nap for
Natasha (she'd only fall asleep shortly before 2pm) and in any case we
need to pack our bags. We decide that Natasha will get some sleep on
We pack our bags, then check out shortly before 2pm (Shirley has
extended the room at no charge until 2pm; to extend the room until
4-5pm would cost RM 170, not worth the money).
At 4:30pm we take a taxi (RM 18) to KL Sentral. There I try to buy a
family ticket (RM 75) with the KLIA Express, but am told that this
option is only available if you book online. So I pull out the notebook
and with the DiGi wireless connection I book the KLIA Express ticket.
For the paper printout (which is needed) I walk with a USB stick to a
print shop in KL Sentral. Wonders of modern technology... although on
the other hand they could sell these family tickets at the counter in
KL Sentral without insisting on an online booking.
We check in at the Emirates counter in KL Sentral (even get rid of the
luggage there) and catch the 5:30pm train to KLIA, arriving at 6pm.
Total spent to get to KLIA is RM 93, a taxi would have cost RM
150 given that we are four people with a lot of luggage and would have
needed a large taxi.
The Emirates flight takes off at 7:30pm. The plane is a Boeing 777 with
a high end flight entertainment system: high quality LCD monitors in
each seat, individual choice of movies for each seat, individual choice
of languages for each movie. AC power sockets for notebook PCs in every
group of seats. Big toilets in the economy section, the biggest I've
seen so far.
We land early in Dubai at
10pm local time. Then it takes half an hour to get through immigration
(long queues), but after that we immediately retrieve the luggage and
take a taxi to the hotel.
Home, sweet home
Weather: hot and humid
in Dubai. The
heat is however now more bearable than it was last year in July,
suggesting that September is a more cool month than July in Dubai. Less
than 20°C in Munich in the evening.
After breakfast we check out of the hotel and catch a taxi (19 AED) at
10:40am to The Dubai Mall near the Burj Khalifa. We're in this mall
until 2:20pm, shopping around and having lunch. It's a very large, high
end mall with a multitude of expensive shops selling high end, mostly
branded goods. Easy to spend hours in this mall without getting bored.
The mall has a huge aquarium and an ice rink.
At 2:20pm we catch a taxi (43 AED) first to the hotel to take the bags
and after that to the airport, arriving at 3pm. We check in one piece
of luggage and proceed to the gate.
Emirates flight to Munich takes off on-time at 4:30pm. The plane is an
Airbus A340 with a flight entertainment system with LCD screens in
These LCD screens are of not so high quality: dark, and brightness
level heavily dependent on the angle. No individual choice of movies
(they play according to a fixed plan) and are only in one language
(mostly English). No AC power socket for notebook PCs.
We land in Munich at 8:45pm local time, a bit ahead of time. Everything
proceeds smoothly and we are at home shortly before 11pm.