PB Travels… Kota Kinabalu

West Malaysia done, next stop Borneo! But before that, a quick mention of a stunningly  amazing restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. I had to go to KL as I was catching my flight to KK early the next morning.  I went to Bukit Bintang Street for dinner.  This was such a sensational meal, I loved every mouthful – and that was the same for the rest of the people I had dinner with. The restaurant – Opium. Live music – amazing tunes on a traditional Chinese instrument (guqin I think it). My meal? Epic.  I started off with a Gin cocktail – with lychee, ginger flower and kaffir like leaf. This flavour combination was like nothing I’ve had before – I can’t even describe it, I was amazed with every sip. I ordered the crispy tofu topped with papaya salad. WHOA.  The tofu was amazing – and that salad was perfectly balanced. Accompanied by those spring rolls – OMG. I can’t believe how good this meal was. Other epic omni meals were a duck salad with rice and a salted egg carbonara. The latter was particularly good I was told. PLEASE GO HERE.  

Ok.  Now that I’ve got that out of the way, onward to KK. I’m joining a group for this penultimate part of my travels.  

Where am I staying?

Horizon Hotel – I start and finish here. Now this is a hotel. Lovely and lush, massive room, beautiful shower, wonderful toiletries, gowns, slippers. And a 10 minute walk from the action, 5 minutes to the mall and a weekend market that I can see from my window? Result!!

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor? Zilch. Nada.
  • Bed: 9/10. Crisp sheets, pillows of varying thickness and levels of hardness – perfect. 
  • Shower: 9/10. Lovely jubly. 

What did I eat? 

Breakfasts as usual the hotel, and I was looking forward to seeing how east and west Malaysia may differ – not much in the breakfast department.  The usual – beans on toast and peanut butter too (but the horrible kind). 

Lunch in KK one day was at El Centro – my need to not have rice was still strong, and I found this place that did burgers and sandwiches and the like. I went for a veggie burger with fries and a salad. Oh boy. That hit the spot. It wasn’t the best burger I’ve had, it was actually quite fragile and was falling apart – but I thoroughly enjoyed it. What was also a very pleasant surprise was my lime soda with angostura bitters. Excellent combination, one I would have never thought of. 

We had lunch in the village the next day (after a short and sweet walk through the village). Our village guide’s wife put on this spread – even though she had just had a baby a week ago!! I had rice (yes, back on it but only sparingly), greens, cooked cucumber and stir fried pumpkin. There was chicken and fish for the omnis. It tasted quite nice (absolutely no chillies), and I had to ask if they had used MSG. ‘Very little’ was the response. Hmmm. Felt like a bit more than that to me. 


Dinners? I tucked into a simple albeit very floppy dosa one night – tasty but nothing to write home about. The lime soda was lovely though. The next night I ordered a simple stir fry of tofu and veggies, explicitly having to ask for it without MSG. I am realising that this side of Malaysia definitely indulges more in that nasty stuff than the other side. 

What did I do?

We were making our way to the Kinabantangan river, the next stop on our journey and on the way we stopped at a small village and we were taken around by a Dusun – a local in that region. It was quite a pleasant walk, learning about village life, growing pineapples and living in the shadow of Mt Kinabalu. 

The other spot that I loved was the Mt Kinabalu Botanical Gardens. An absolutely stunning maintained area with amazing flowers and plants, there were also lovely forest trails. I was in my element – greenery, interesting flowers, so many orchids and oh so much beautiful fungus. And funky pitcher plants. Loved loved loved it. Half way through the walk the heavens opened – torrential isn’t the word. There was no option but to cut short the walk and head to dry ground. 

Next stop was very sobering. I will admit that I did not know anything about this before I got to Borneo. The Death Marches, where approximately 2400 Australian and British POWs were literally walked to their death by the Japanese. It was so horribly sad to hear, see and learn about it. It is amazing how quickly people forget all about humanity and compassion. What was even worse was that there were only 6 survivors. The Kundasang War Memorial is a very beautiful space, with a room dedicated to pictures and messages from the families of the POWs. There is a beautiful Australian and English garden, and a fountain memorial with plaques with the names of each and every POW. It was very sobering to see, but reassuring that that everyone is still remembered. Lest we forget. I agree with that sentiment. But I think ‘lets not bloody repeat the same mistakes again and learn from the past’ holds more weight. We just need to act on it! 

All in all, the first taste of Borneo is beautiful, majestic, warm and sobering. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this wonderful place. 

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