Chapter 6: Backpacking through Sabah. Route KK-Kundasang-KK


8 January 2014-11 January 2014

The History.

Kota Kinabalu formerly known as Jesselton, is the capital of the state of Sabah, located in East Malaysia. It is also the capital of the West Coast Division of Sabah.

The city is located along the northwest coast of Borneo facing the South China Sea. The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park lies on its west and Mount Kinabalu, which gave the city its name, is located towards the east. Kota Kinabalu has a population of 452,058 and, including the adjacent Penampang and Putatan district, the metro area has an estimated population of 628,725.

Kota Kinabalu is often known as KK within Malaysia and internationally. It is a major fishing destination and a popular gateway for travellers visiting Sabah and Borneo. Kinabalu National Park is located about 90 kilometres from the city and there are many tourist attractions in and around the city. Kota Kinabalu is also one of the major industrial and commercial centres of East Malaysia. These two factors combine to make Kota Kinabalu one of the fastest growing cities in Malaysia. – Courtesy of Wikipedia.


JourneyKita was in Kota Kinabalu recently for a quick getaway from the hectic city life in Kuala Lumpur. We managed to walked around the city and explored few interesting places during our stay. My favourite? I must say the Philippines Market or the locals call it “Pasar Philippine”.



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From colorful bags and batik to beautiful saltwater and freshwater pearls. The Philippines Market is known for their cheap & nice souvenir. We managed to bargain our way in buying a few souvenirs in form of pearls and clothing there. Remember to bargain! It is best that you could just browse around first before making any decision to buy anything from the same person. This is actually an advice from the vendor there, after Fadza be-friended him and asked him tonnes and tonnes of questions.

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Picture above shows that you can do alterations. They’ll do it for you in just few minutes.

Taxi ride. One of the taxi driver there said it is hard to get taxi here as most locals move around via bus, motorcycles and cars. He said the best way to get a taxi is by getting in-touch. When you are in the car with a driver, it is best for you to get his name card or his handphone number. This way, if you decided to take a taxi, all you need is just to call him. Well we did took his card, its obvious we’ll call him again. Not now, but next trip maybe?


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Now moving on to the wet market.

They say, Sabah is known for their seafood… especially lobsters.  And yes, it’s true. Boats coming from every corner delivering fresh sea creatures for them to sell. From fishes, tiger prawns, crabs and their famous lobsters. They also have various fresh vegetables together with fruits for you to choose.

At night, they have Philippines Night Market where they have stalls open for you to sit & dine. What’s great about it is that, we get to choose the seafood we want FRESH and the chef will cook for you on the spot. This culture is popular among the tourists especially the Europeans.





This is where you can get amazingly delicious HALAL Chinese food with reasonable price. We couldn’t get our eyes away from the menu as there were too many to choose from. Seafood, all kinds of noodles, chicken rice, all kinds of fried rice you name it.

I ordered something instant because I was too hungry and I wanted something fast. I chose Chicken rice and it was nice. Fadza ordered noodles and he was happy. The restaurant is located in the middle of Kota Kinabalu town. Below are the details.

Thien Thien Restaurant
No.57, Jalan Pantai,
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Tel: 088251805




The journey begins after lunch and it took us about 1 hour 45 minutes to reach the top. The weather was on our side and the journey are filled with the magnificent view and scenery of Mount Kinabalu.

We rented a car in Kota Kinabalu and drove 86.7km from Kota Kinabalu to Kundasang. We have several option about car rental here. It is advisable for you to book with anyone of them before you reached Kota Kinabalu. Because they could arrange for your pick-up at the airport and you can just drive straight to your hotel/hostel yourself.



Going up, we met a local Kadazan Dusun. She just got back from her daily routine of gathering paddy. Fadza managed to talked to her and ask what are actually that she carried. She told us that they owned a terrace paddy field just below where we were standing. We didn’t expect that at all. Fadza decided to take a portraiture of her carrying her bag-like containing paddy that she had harvested earlier. She was actually climbing up the hill going back home from a plantation at that time and kind enough to answer a few questions. A sweet, shy and friendly native.

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Mount Kinabalu (Malay Gunung Kinabalu) is a prominent mountain on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. It is located in the East Malaysia state of Sabah and is protected as Kinabalu Park, a A world heritage site. Kinabalu is the highest peak in Borneo’s Crocker Range and is the highest mountain in the Malay Archipelago. Mount Kinabalu is also the 20th most prominent mountain in the world by topographic prominence. – Courtesy of Wikipedia.

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In 1997, a re-survey using satellite technology established its summit (known as Low’s Peak) height at 4,095 metres (13,435 ft) above sea level, which is some 6 metres (20 ft) less than the previously thought and hitherto published figure of 4,101 metres (13,455 ft). – Courtesy of Wikipedia.

We stop at almost every point to get the feel of the scene. We clicked every 5 seconds on average with our camera.

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Mount Kinabalu includes the Kinabalu montane alpine meadows ecoregion in the montane grassland and shrublands biome. The mountain and its surroundings are among the most important biological sites in the world, with between 5000 and 6000 species of plants, 326 species of birds, and more than 100 mammalian species identified. Among this rich collection of wildlife are famous species such as the gigantic Rafflesia plants and the orangutan. Mount Kinabalu has been accorded UNESCO World Heritage status.

Low’s Peak can be climbed quite easily by a person in good physical condition and there is no need for mounteineering equipment at any point on the main route. Other peaks along the massif, however, require rock climbing skills. – Courtesy of Wikipedia.



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It seems that they knew that some tourists will come unprepared. So for those forgotten their jackets behind, there are few stalls selling nice bundle jackets, windbreakers, blazers and sweaters that suits your style.



We didn’t expect that it would be really cold at night. Besides getting all stunned by the beauty of the scenery we were also stunned by the cold weather although we came prepared. That night we decided to drive to the town for a quick dinner at one of the restaurant. When we reached there, about 5-10minutes drive in thick fog, a random guy came to our car and asked “Bang kau mau ka KK ka?” (Brother, are you heading to Kota Kinabalu?). We realised that, actually he’s a hitchhiker looking for a transport to get to Kota Kinabalu. As pictured below, the same person trying to hitchhike in the fog.




I will write more about Kundasang in our next post. The place we spent our nights and places we’ve visited.

Feel free to drop us a comment if you want to know more because the reason we are here is to share our backpacking / travelling adventures 😉


Photographed by Fadza Ishak
Written by Nina Zainorin
Instagram: @journeykita
Contact: fadzaninatravel[at]

2 thoughts on “Chapter 6: Backpacking through Sabah. Route KK-Kundasang-KK

  1. Wow amazing photos. Enjoyed reading that and looking at them. Especially from Kinabalu. I have only ever been to ‘Borneo’ for Brunei, and never for the Malaysian or Indonesian states. Must get there one day 🙂

    1. Hey!

      Its a must. We are considering to go back up there again soon. We were there on a rainy season so theres a lot of things that we didnt get to do. We’ll post more on chapter 6!

      Fadza & Nina

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