Photo © TTT
Photo © Poowin Bunyavejchewin
Kuala Lumpur - Kota Kinabalu
Air Asia AK 108
16 Apr 2004
dep 1800, arr 2030 (scheduled)
dep 2015, arr 2235 (actual)
This was actually my first experience with Air Asia - Malaysia's low cost carrier. Not a very good first impression I must say as the flight was delayed by more than 2 hours. The only consolation was that all passengers were sent text messages to their mobile phones regarding the delay some 4 hours in advanced. The revised departure time of 1900 actually turned out to be 2015, but no information was given to this further delay while all passengers were waiting at the departure hall. During the flight a steward explained to me that 2 of their aircrafts were grounded due to technical difficulties, hence creating a domino effect of delays to the network. When asked about why nobody at the airport informed the passengers about this further delay, he explained that it was due to lack of communications between the aircrafts and the ground staff, which I think should have easily been dealt with properly. One thing I am quite impressed is their leather seats in the aircraft, something that I did not expect from a low cost carrier. Anyway, I wasn't actually in a rush and was more than glad to arrive in Kota Kinabalu International Airport, Sabah later that night at 2230.
Although Sabah is a part of Federation of Malaysia, because of their autonomous status, the State of Sabah controls their own immigration. A Malaysian citizen from Kuala Lumpur like myself was given a 3-month entry stamp. For stay exceeding 3 months, I would have to present my passport despite this being a domestic flight. However, the are no restrictions for Sabah residents to travel to Kuala Lumpur. The same autonomy status is now enjoyed by State of Sarawak, which in 1963, together with Sabah and Singapore, joined Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) to form the Federation of Malaysia (Singapore left in 1965, while Brunei refused to join).
Photo © Raymond Ngu
Photo © TTT
Kota Kinabalu - Kuala Lumpur
Air Asia AK 103
20 Apr 2004
dep 1245, arr 1515
I was really hoping that there wasn't going to be a delay this time, and thankfullly, it departed on the dot. Barely a minute after taking off one could see a group of lovely islands just off the city centre - all a part of Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) Marine Park. Further down the coast one could clearly see Pulau Tiga, made famous from CBS Survivor series #1; and minutes later, Labuan Island was clearly visible. If the weather's clear, be sure to get a window seat (on the correct side!) because the view is fantastic. We arrived in Kuala Lumpur 5 minutes ahead of schedule.
LEFT : View of Sutera Harbour Resort & Golf Club shortly after take off.
RIGHT : Airport runway & Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort (tanjung = cape).
LEFT : The islands of Manukan (the big one), Mamutik (left) & Sulug (right)
RIGHT : Pulau Tiga (CBS Survivor Island)
I saw this billboard right in the city centre. Australian Airlines serve Kota Kinabalu 2x weekly from Sydney and 2x weekly from Cairns. When is Qantas / Australian Airlines coming to Kuala Lumpur?
PART 2 : TRAVEL REPORT
We stayed in Hyatt Regency Kinabalu in downtown KK for 4 nights. The following morning we had an all-you-can-eat dim sum breakfast at the hotel. It might be hard for some to believe how cheap Malaysia can be : a dim sum buffet at this 4-star establishment only costs RM 20 (or US$ 5.20). Then we were off to Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) Marine Park which is a group of 5 islands gazetted as a national park, just minutes off Kota Kinabalu city. We chartered a boat for the day to take us to 2 islands - Sapi & Mamutik Islands. The boat ride from Sabah Port took about 15 minutes and cost us RM 160 (US$ 42) for the day's rent - it takes up to 6 people, so the more people you have the cheaper per person it gets.
Sapi Island has some of the clearest waters I've seen. However, it tend to be slightly crowded during weekends but there's enough space for everyone The beach was just perfect for a lazy day in the sun - the water was absolutely crystal clear, the white sandy beach is very powdery and the sun was shining gloriously for the entire day. The coral reef was not as good as the ones I've seen elsewhere, so Sapi is more of a beach island rather than a snorkelling spot. After 2 hours on Sapi, we moved on to the neighbouring island of Manukan.
I have to say that Manukan has to be one of the best snorkelling sites I've been to. The marine life was fantastic with various species of tropical fish, including Angel Fish (Nemo) and Moorish Idol (the injured fish in Nemo). We brought an underwater casing for our digital camera so I'm glad to share our snorkelling experience with everyone.
Kota Belud market
The following day we drove to Sabah Highlands towards the base of Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia (4095m). At midpoint we stopped at Kota Belud which is famous for its weekly Sunday market. Farmers and tradesmen from around the region would gather to sell their produce from fresh fish and vegetables to handicrafts and even electronic goods. There was even supposed to be a weekly buffalo auction and Bajaw horsemen, but we've probably missed it by the time we arrived.
LEFT : En route to Kinabalu National Park, RIGHT : Hilltop town of Kundasang
Kinabalu National Park - a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Quoted from UNESCO website :-
Kinabalu Park, in the State of Sabah on the northern end of the island of Borneo, is dominated by Mount Kinabalu (4,095 m), the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. It has a very wide range of habitats, from rich tropical lowland and hill rainforest to tropical mountain forest, sub-alpine forest and scrub on the higher elevations. It has been designated as a Centre of Plant Diversity for Southeast Asia and is exceptionally rich in species with examples of flora from the Himalayas, China, Australia, Malaysia, as well as pan-tropical flora.
The site has a diverse biota and high endemism. The altitudinal and climatic gradient from tropical forest to alpine conditions combine with precipitous topography, diverse geology and frequent climate oscillations to provide conditions ideal for the development of new species. The Park contains high biodiversity with representatives from more than half the families of all flowering plants. The majority of Borneo's mammals, birds, amphibians and invertebrates (many threatened and vulnerable) occur in the Park.
On our way back to Kota Kinabalu (2 hours drive) we stopped at Likas Bay Mosque just outside the city centre. We then drove to the nearby Signal Hill to catch the sunset which overlooks the city harbour and the islands of TAR Marine Park. We stayed for another 2 nights in Kota Kinabalu - taking it easy at the hotel swimming pool, visited Sabah Museum and chilling out at Api Api Centre (great food!).
Finally I would strongly suggest visitors to Malaysia or Singapore to incorporate Sabah into their itenerary - it's such a fantastic place. The best part is that the tropical islands are just at the city's doorstep, making it ideal for shortbreaks. If you are transiting via Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia Airlines, why not enquire about the FREE domestic flight coupons exclusively for transiting passengers. Kota Kinabalu also has direct scheduled air links from the following cities : SIN, NRT, KIX, ICN, TPE, KHH, PVG, HKG, CAN, XMN, MNL, CEB, BWN, CNS & SYD. From Singapore, it is much cheaper (up to 5 times cheaper) to catch an Air Asia domestic flight from Johor Bahru (JHB), which is about 1.5 hours' drive from Singapore (depending on traffic), rather than flying directly from Changi with MH or AO.