Aug 29, 2012

Kota Kinabalu Travelogue : Islands Hopping (Day 3-19 May 2012)

The night before was a torturing one; I forced myself to puke so that I can sleep in peace and it went on repetitively for an hour or two before I slowly dozed off in exhaustion. Awaken by natural call and bright lit drapery, I was astonished by the fact that it was just 6am! I stood in front of the beautiful morning scene, scanning the vicinity and indulging in a few seconds of curiosity. As people were bustling around the pier, here I was, standing here, enjoying my chilly air inside a cozy hotel room and wishing that my blissful holiday was longer.

The morning pier around 6am

After lazing around in bed for an hour or so, my empty tummy couldn't hold itself together anymore. Hence, we decided to grab our quick breakfast, which was not included in the package, at Circle in Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu before our island adventure entailed.  The variety of breakfast buffet spread was somewhat satisfying but the food was mediocre. The turnover for used plates was very slow though. However there were several things I found intriguing, which were the idea of serving yoghurt, customized fruit juice, and bottled honey in the breakfast buffet spread.  We whacked several portions of eggs, a glass of fruit juice each, and random try-outs. Before we left, we smuggled few bottles of honey to help with my sore throat too!

After donning on my bikini, slabbing on sunblock, poking my contact lens into my cornea, and grabbing our camera and some water, we headed to the sunny street with our macho sunglasses on and walked towards the jetty to grab our boat to islands of our choice. The sun was shining mercilessly above us and every inch of my skin nearly screamed in agony if it wasn't for the sunblock. The pungent smell welcomed us as we drew closer to the morning seafood market.

The splashing fun awaits!

Before we were even close to the jetty, several locals had already tried to sell us their island hopping packages. We ignored the first two as they seemed like a con man because of the sunglasses they put on
(I am serious!). When this forty looking local approached us at Waterfront, somehow we were sold. Not only we bought his boat transfer services, we bought his parasailing package too! I couldn't remember how much it costed us exactly but it came up to RM70 per pax for 2-island hopping and parasailing.

The boat quota was filled within 10-20 minutes, however, we were left to wait for another 10 minutes or so in the scorching hot weather. I could feel the heat even though I was fully shaded. Imagine we were going to be on the sea for several hours! As soon as the Malay couple, whom we were waiting for for past 10 minutes, arrived, we were led towards the direction of the seafood market and finally we saw a small pier where boats were parking alongside. A small fee was paid to the "pier caretaker" before we boarded the boat and each of us was given life jacket and mask aboard which we would be using it for our snorkeling.

Mamutik Island, We Are Here!

Our first stop was Mamutik Island, where we did our parasail before free and easy snorkeling. The view was breathtaking and it reminded me that it had been a year that I was away from an island since my diving trip last year. We were blessed in a way as the weather was perfect for outdoor activities. We boarded a special boat for parasailing and headed to the middle of the sea before it halted and the boatman and his assistant started to fly the parachute. We stepped onto the flying platform and geared ourselves up. Too bad our camera was foggy due to the extreme temperature between our hotel room's and outdoor's. Now come to think of it, we should have asked the boatman to take pictures with our phones instead.

The wind was pretty strong and we were taken aback when the parachute caught hold of the gushing wind. The only thing that keep us tied to the boat was the rope connecting to the parachute. That was exciting, I thought to myself. Once we were released to the maximum height, the boatman started to showcase his driving skill by making abrupt swerves. Perhaps I concluded way too early; even when the boat made sharp turns, we were suspended on the air undisturbed (boring...). I guessed the boatman felt our boredom and he purposely lowered us and let our dangling legs scraped across the surface. Whoa, that was fun!

The swarming fishes

After 10-20 minutes of parasailing, we put on our life jacket and mask and walked towards the sea, getting ready to meet up with Mr and Mrs Fishies! It did not take us too long to find them as we spotted blanket after blanket of corals not too far from the shore. For your information, where the corals are, where the fishes will be! We saw plenty of tiny colorful fishes; some were donned in hot pink, fluorescent yellow and bright blue. Some of the fishes were nearly transparent while some of them swam in a group. I did send them scattered away at times. There was so much to be mesmerized by the life forms in the sea.

The only thing that was really inconvenient to island hop here is no locker is provided so you might risk losing your personal belongings. We waited for another 10 minutes for our boat to pick us up and drop us at our next destination, i.e. Manukan Island. Compared to Mamutik Island, Manukan Island is more touristy, hence you would find yourself having hard time walking on the shore due to the pieces of dead corals laid around.

Manukan Island

To avoid disappointment, head to the pier and swim to the sea alongside the pier where I came across little orange Nemo and "Paddle Pop"! Stay close to the pier as you could concentrated coral population, hence the fishes! Watching this naughty little Nemo busy fluttering its tail against the petite and vibrant leafy coral tickled my heart; through it, I saw how adorable naivety can be. I saw tiny and almost transparent barracudas swimming in a group; I admitted it was a little scary due to its pointy mouth. As we were half way snorkeling, we bumped into this rather "friendly" baby pink fish, which we named it, "Paddle Pop". As we tried to reach out for it, it ran away in its lightning speed; as we turned around to head back to shore, it swam closer to us, attempting to "attack" us. Amused we were, we kept trolling the little fella; it went on and on until we felt the exhaustion and decided to rest at the beach.

Yours sincerely with her tanner half

Unfortunately we had to stay put at Manukan Island until 4pm as the boat just made its way back to the main land not long ago. An hour plus it was. We ended up fiddling with our phones, taking pictures, playing games, chit chatting, disturbing one another whilst enjoying the breeze and gentle sunshine. It felt like a real holiday; nothing bothered us and we could do anything we want :)

Reflection, taken in Manukan Island

It was great to be back on the main land after being stranded for more than an hour. The distance from the pier to Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu was less than 1 km; I wouldn't say it was tiring on its own but after hopping for almost half a day, I just wanted to have a long shower and get some rest. However we had an important task to settle before we were to retreat to our room of comfort, i.e. early dinner. Our lunch was merely a can of 100 Plus and Coke light and a packet of potato chips at Manukan Island before our second round of snorkeling.

Hoping that Seng Hing Coffee Shop was still opening, we quickened our foot steps but luck wasn't on our side. We were left to hunt for next alternatives on our hunting list but in the end, we resorted to some hot but not so spicy fried chicken from KFC in Centre Point. Hunger was dissipating but the satisfaction did not stack itself up the way it usually does.

The Sunset from Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu

I took a long shower under the rain shower, hoping it could wash away my exhaustion. Nonetheless, it was a trip that truly worth our time, money and exhaustion. In fact, I had gotten myself a fresh pair of natural bikini too! Changed into some loose and clothes which smelled of fresh laundry, I sat myself quietly on the study table and scribbling on my CFA Level II Practice Exams (Oh, I am official CFA Level III candidate now. Yeap, I passed!)

We waited for an hour plus for the rest of my 8 group mates to join us for dinner at Sri Mutiara Seafood Restaurant at Kompleks SEDCO (Kampung Air). The location was perfect for meet up as it is located approximately the same distance from Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu and City Park Lodge. Since all of them were famished, we ordered almost one dish each, which summed up to ten dishes for our table!

Fried Squid Rings

Judging by the outlook, the batter was just right; it promised the right level of crispiness yet enabled squid rings to unveil what it had got to offer. If I had to pick one thing to comment about, it would be the thickness of the squid rings. It is a matter of personal preference but I do think a "thinner" squid ring would strike a better balance between crispiness and chewiness. Flavor wise, it leaned towards saltier side but complemented well with the squid rings.

Kung Poh Chicken

The tenderness of chicken was prevalent; it was juicy, soft and lean, just the right texture and choice of meat for me. Weirdly so, I couldn't recall how it tasted like exactly but it was not bad at all. The reason why we ordered it because one of us does not eat pork yet she is Chinese. Hmm, weird weird weird.

Local Vegetables cooked with Belacan

There is something about local vegetables that I find it amusing. How many of us really know what is it called? How many of us really can identify it in forest? It could be one of the ferns that crawls and prospers on the tree. That aside, I find myself liking local vegetables for its firm and crunchy texture; I find myself liking the belacan style for its muted spiciness and tempting fragrance. Do I like it? Of course!

Salt Baked Slipper Lobsters (perhaps?)

The flesh resembled prawn's and crab's; a little chewy yet flaky. Do I like it? Hmm, not totally. I liked the salt baked style as it left a coat of salt on the shell which complemented the lack of flavor in the lobster flesh. What I did not appreciate much was the texture of flesh. However, it was much easier to eat this compared to crab.

Steamed Fish

I would say it was a pretty simple dish among all yet the forgetful me failed to get the name of fish used. I liked my steamed fish just the way it was served. Nothing fancy but soy sauce, spring onion, parsley and most importantly fresh fish. Smooth and slightly chunky, it had met my expectation of a steamed fish. Most of the flavor came from the soy sauce, which was flavorful yet complementing the freshness of fish.


Nothing really blew my mind but all in all, it was decent; the local vegetables cooked in belacan, the steamed fish, the slipper lobster were the few I love the most. I did not try the crabs as it did not look tempting and my group mates whom tried commented that it was not nice too. The total bill summed up to RM50 per pax, hence I wouldn't say it was not too "cheap".

After dinner we walked to the nearest Orange to grab some mineral water and also breakfast for the next day as we would be heading for water rafting. One thing I realize is there are more Orange than 7Eleven in Kota Kinabalu AND Orange's product prices are slightly cheaper than 7Eleven YET both operates 24 hours. So guys, now you know where to grab your necessities even in the middle of the nights!

The rafting adventure awaits :D


  1. HitOmi,

    Great photos! The sunset is breathtaking!

    Had to make yourself puke to feel better!!
    Did you eat something your tummy did not like, or some tainted food???

    All the descriptions of how you looked and what your were wearing and not one photo of HiTomi, very sad...

    Holidays never last as long as we like. All the more reason to remember such times and the people we share them with.

    We have a three day weekend coming here in the states. Last one this quarter.

    Be happy and travel safely!!


    1. I forgot to take one when I was about to get out. Note to self :)
      What a coincident! Today is our national independence day and we get to have 3-day weekend too!

  2. Sounds like you had fun. The veggie should be bidin/midin. Fook Yuan was a great local coffeeshop for breakfast. The sunset was pretty!

    1. Yeap yeap! Fun but I wish to dive. Bidin or midin sounds familiar but then are they more local vegetables like these out there?

      Where is Fook Yuan by the way?

  3. Arrr, my friends and I missed the seafood feast over thre. Wonder why?@@haaha~

    1. Your itinerary was too tight? The seafood night market near the pier, which is directly opposite Le Meridien main entrance, was cheap (according to my group mates). I didn't try those though as I am not a big fan of seafood in general.

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