Whenever I start planning for my holidays, I would always need to consider how long I can take leave from work (bills, bills, bills!) as one of the most important factors.
Start With a Basic Itinerary
Depending on the destination and how much you want to do, it is important to know how many days you are spending there so that you can draw up a basic itinerary to start with. Assuming we are all working people and are not on a Round The World trip, we’re probably stuck with an average of 3-4 days leave.
If you’re staying within South East Asia, it is possible to come for a very quick weekend trip to Sabah, you can call it an Express trip if you like. I have done this many times to domestic destinations within Malaysia and still enjoyed the vacation immensely, especially if it is to a place that you have not been to before.
Decide What You Want To Do and Which Places You’d Want To Go and See
A word of advice: I suggest that you dispose the notion that you have to go see everything in one short trip – that is simply not possible given the restriction on time and money as well. Unless your main aim is to tick off places on your to-do list, of course. For me, apart from places to go it is also very, if not equally important, to try out the local food :)
An Express Weekend Trip Could Look Like This
Fly in on Friday afternoon and check-in at your accommodation in Kota Kinabalu city. Start your adventure by checking out the sunset at the Waterfront and the night market in front of Le Meridien hotel. Check out the hawker food sold there, or you can walk further to the Waterfront or Anjung Senja for dinner options.
For your Saturday activity, if you wish to make a day trip outside of KK, here are some options which you can inquire in advance from local travel agents or get help from your hotel reception to arrange:
- White Water rafting in Padas or Kiulu
- Kinabalu National Park and Poring Hot Springs
- Monsopiad Cultural Village
- Klias and Garama Wetlands
If you’re back early enough for dinner in the city, have a seafood dinner at the various restaurants in town or you may opt for local options like Bak Kut Teh, Tuaran Mee, or even any of our popular local eateries like Little Italy and the along Anjung Senja.
Reserve Sunday morning to visit Gaya Street Sunday Market or “Tamu”
This is where you will see local traders selling all sorts of products from vegetables and local kuehs, to pet dogs and fishes and antique items. To maximise your time in KK, you can start your day every early as the market starts as early as 6 am. Spend two hours here and by 9 am.
Then make your way to the Jesselton Point and get a boat ticket (or any suitable day package) for the islands in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. Spend your day snorkelling or just lazing away on the beach.
As a reference, this is a very simple itinerary which you can use as a guide:
- 5:00 pm – arrive Kota Kinabalu, check-in hotel.
- 7:30 pm – explore KK City, night market, Waterfront, Anjung Senja. Dinner.
- 9:30 pm – weather and transport permitting, get to Signal Hill Observatory Deck to get an aerial view of KK City at night.
- 7:30 am – early start, have breakfast at local kopitiam.
- 8:30 am – depart to day trip of choice (White water rafting, Kinabalu Park, Klias Wetlands etc)
- 6:00 pm – back in KK City. Rest.
- 7:00 pm – enjoy a Sabah seafood dinner at the many city restaurants.
- 9:30 pm – join the weekend clubbing crowd at the city’s watering holes, or
- 6:00 am – early start to explore Gaya Street Sunday Fair. Also check out Atkinson Clock Tower, Zero Kilometer Marker in front of Sabah Tourism office.
- 8:30 am – proceed to Jesselton Point for boat ride to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park islands.
- 9:00 am to 1:00 pm – island fun!
- 2:00 pm – back in KK City, rest.
- 3:00 pm – explore the local market for souvenirs and goodies to bring back.
- 5:00 pm – bid farewell to KK.
See how much you can experience already?
Hopefully (surely, I think!) enough to entice you for a return (and longer) trip to Sabah soon.
It really does depend on how much you want to do. I have had holidays solely for food discovery, not a gourmet trail, but to try out and enjoy as much local food as you can.
What if you have more than a week to spend in Sabah? Or, 2 weeks? (lucky you!)
If you wish to see Sabah’s main natural attractions 2 weeks would probably be a good length of stay, without having to rush your days or plans.
Upon arrival, spend 2 -3 days in KK, including a day trip to the islands, exploring the city on foot and sampling the local food in the city coffee-shops. Check out the recommended must-eats at 43 Food You Must Not Miss at Kota Kinabalu.
Climb Mount Kinabalu
If you’re feeling fit and have made preparations for climbing Mount Kinabalu, allocate 2-3 days, and squeeze in a quick trip to Poring Hot Springs to soak those aching limbs after the descent. I have heard of some crazy travellers who decided to climb the mountain on a whim! Spontaneous can be fun, but do make sure that you’re physically fit and free from any medical conditions if you are thinking of doing something like this.
For the nature lovers
For nature lovers, Sandakan is a must-visit. You would probably need 5 days if you wish to see the orang-utans; Sepilok for the rehabilitation centre, and Sukau for orang-utans and proboscis monkeys in the wild. If you’re lucky, you may even get to see herds of the Bornean Pygmy elephants along the Kinabatangan River. Just enjoy the laid-back pace in Sukau and spend your afternoons gazing and lazing away, while a tropical thunderstorm makes its way through (it ain’t no rainforest, if there ain’t no rain!)
Other places in Sandakan include Turtle Island, Gomantong Caves to see the bat exodus, War Memorial Park, and Berhala Island for rock-climbing. Oh and do enjoy the abundant seafood there!
There really is a lot that you can do in Sabah, what is shared here is by no means comprehensive. Choose places and activities that suit your preferences to maximise your enjoyment. Or if you want to wind down and not rush, do so by all means. The pace is up to you!
About Me: Bitten by the travel-bug after leaving the corporate rat race, Audrey Adella harbours a dream to go on a long sabbatical and see the world. She loves Jason Mraz and admires Tony Bourdain, and would like to step foot in Istanbul and Marrakech one day soon. Updating her bucket list is her 8th favourite past time.