When we visited Sabah in September 2013, our children were aged five, two and one. Sabah is famous for things like orang utans, jungle trekking, amazing scuba diving, Turtle Island, Kinabatangan River cruises and Mount Kinabalu, however we realised with such young children many of those activities were beyond our capabilities. We decided to save some adventures for another time and only travel to the capital city Kota Kinabalu. I knew my children would be happy playing in the resort pool day after day but I felt unsure if Kota Kinabalu would offer enough to satisfy our desire to experience the local culture. Kota Kinabalu turned out to be a wonderful cultural experience for all of us.
Here is a taste of what Kota Kinabalu has to offer:
Night Market: Located along the waterfront near the Le Meridian, this is a great place to come for a local meal, especially if you like seafood. Your biggest problem will be deciding what to try first!
Sunday Market: Located in Gaya Street and held 6am-1pm every Sunday morning, this market has a delightful local vibe. There’s plenty of touristy buys but the stalls of fruit and vegetables, plants, pets or even tools ensure this is a place to enjoy a local experience. It’s colourful, busy, entertaining and without the “hassle factor” you might experience in other Asian markets. My girls had a lot of fun shopping for summer dresses and fans to keep them cool. They enjoyed all the attention from locals who wanted to stop and say ‘hello’.
Handicraft Market: If you love to take home souvenirs, this is the market for you! You can find everything from beaded necklaces and sarongs to pearl jewellery and ornate wooden carvings. This is a great market for bargaining too. Just remember your country’s custom regulations when buying wooden items.
Central Market: A local market, undercover, selling things like fruit and vegetables, fish and meat, toys, cakes and other gadgets. Interesting to wander through and a great opportunity to meet the locals.