We caught a fleeting glimpse of Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah, on our way into the rain forests of Borneo.
Here, on the western shores of Malaysian Borneo, people gather on Tanjung Aru Beach to watch the sun set over the South China Sea.
During the day, Tanjung Aru remains comparatively deserted. It’s a conservative society; bikinis and revelations of flesh are out of place, and the days are hot and muggy. But in the cool of the evening people flock to the beach. After sunset, restaurants and markets along the shore spring to life. The beach is illuminated by huge floodlights and the young men of KK take to the sands to play Frisbee and soccer. Meanwhile, the few smatterings of tourists who are using KK as a base for exploring the mountains or — as in our case — the jungles of Borneo sample the local Ambassador beer at outdoor restaurants.
Here amid the bustling market and food hall, the one piece of entertainment is a capsule in which you can experience a movie (every films you like in fact) in 5D. Yes, 5D — that’s what the sign says.
At 3 ringgits ($1) a cup of steamed peanuts from this guy was a healthy and delicious snack, and was as adventurous as I got with the street food in this part of Kota Kinabalu.
Down at the city’s Waterfront, along which you’ll find glitzy hotels, a large shopping mall, the famed Filipino Market, and a number of expat hangouts (Irish pubs, Aussie bars, pizza restaurants), an elderly Malay man fishes for his dinner with a net from a small boat while a young boy splashes in the water near him.
A group of islands sits just off the coast of KK. By all accounts they are beautiful, small, and very overcrowded. With limited funds and very limited time, we were unable to visit them, though we did enjoy their silhouettes as the sun went down behind them.
Neither did we have the time (nor the right shoes or cold-weather gear) to summit the very inviting Mount Kinabalu, though we would have liked to. For us, on our very quick stopover in KK, the Tanjung Aru sunset would have to do. In fact about the only thing we did manage to accomplish in KK was getting into a taxi that promptly ran out of petrol and broke down, stranding us on the side of the road for a few sweltering minutes until we could hail another one.
The next morning, before the sun came up again, we were on our way to the airport in the pouring rain, headed into the jungle for a few days.