Holidays from Hong Kong

One of the good things about living in (or visiting) Hong Kong is that it's very convenient to make side trips from here to other parts of Asia.

We've just come back from a long weekend in Kota Kinabalu. It's the first time I've been there, but I probably won't be going back again in the near future. We stayed at the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru resort, which was great. (Stay in the Tangung Aru wing, which has just been renovated).

We enjoyed it a lot, though it was very breezy. On the last morning we were woken early by ToddlerB's demands to go to the beach. The wind had died down, the sea was calm, and it looked great. The bad news is that the still air let the sand flies (like midges) attack, and in the short time I was on the beach I picked up around twenty itchy, blistery bites.

So, until ToddlerB is old enough that the beach holds no interest - or someone lets me know a season when the sand flies take a rest, we'll probably give the place a miss.

If you're not interested in the beach, it's still a good place to go for a relaxing break. Here are some notes a friend (and ex-KK resident) sent us, that give some good ideas on things to do:

[quote]OK - KK sightseeing.

1. Island excursion - like I mentioned, arrange with the hotel and they will get u there n pack you lunch. I think it's just sandwiches. I'm not sure if you can ask for sthg more substantial. The three most popular islands are Manukan, Mamutik and Sapi (which means cow in Malay..god knows why). Manukan is the most popular with foreign as well as local tourists. It has a restaurant n chalets which you can rent if you want to spend the night there. They are very comfortable (got air-con) but of course the last time we stayed there was years ago so I'm not so sure abt the conditions now.

There's a trek which gets you right on top of the island and gives you a nice view of the city (but don't take my word for it - never been inclined to try it myself)

Mamutik is much quieter and is better than Manukan for snorkelling. This is where my family normally go to for quiet relaxation and fun. There's a Borneo Diver shop near the jetty so you can rent masks, fins and all that stuff. There's even those water bicycle you can try - it's quite tame but the challenge is in actually getting on the thing! You can also trek here.

Sapi I've never been to but I heard the underwater stuff is the best for snorkelling and diving. Don't know abt facilities. To recap: Manukan - restaurant, chalets, lots of people (beware: very popular with local teens who come fully equipped with noisy boomboxes), Mamutik - much quieter but still fun place to go, better for snorkelling, Sapi - the best for snorkelling and diving. I would personally recommend going to Mamutik. We normally head right from the jetty pier for our usual quiet spot.

Pay entrance fee at the jettys (applies to all islands as they are run by the Sabah Park).

2. For souvenier shopping - head straight to Craft Market/Centre or as the locals call it Pasar (as in market) Kraftangan (craft). Or the old name is The Phillipino Market. The market sits on a stretch of road (Tun Fuad Stephen Road - sign will say Jalan or Jln, this is Malay for road) fill with shops meant for tourists.

The road starts with the Anjung Senja (outdoor eating are with small stalls), other side of the road is a shopping mall Wawasan Plaza. Further down the road is the new Waterfront Explanade - bars, clubs, coffee bars, restaurants and souvernier shops. You have try the Port View seafood restaurant here (they are a chain and is the best. The flagship is called The Grand Port View and much further away, taxi drivers can get confused) - their display of fish tanks is meant to impress. Further down the road then you get to the Handicraft Centre. It's jammed pack with stalls and can get quite crowded. Further along is the city's wet market. If you are curious, it's quite fun just to see the local produce. Don't worry, the actual 'wet' fish market is in another building. But you can see the fishing boats once you get to the end of the market. Across the road is the shopping mall KK Plaza.

Further down the road is the collection of jetties for boats to the islands. They are much cheaper than hotel run ones and this is where locals go to. You won't miss the Hyatt Hotel on right side of the road. Next to it is the shopping mall - Wisma Merdeka. It's great for cheap CDs and DVDs. On the front part of Wisma Merdeka is another hotel called Capital Hotel. On the ground floor is the famous Italian restaurant Little Italy. If you can pls try it out as they are very good - and soooo cheap. It's usually busy lunch time but quieter in the evenings. You can get here by taxi as most know it and there's a taxi stand right in front of the hotel.

3. Gaya Street Market - every Sunday from 7am to 12 noon. Great for shopping but esply sightseeing. Lots of pet and other weird animals sellers. Best to go early when it's cooler and not so crowded. There's a nice hotel (Sabah's oldest) called The Jesselton Hotel (Jesselton being the city's previous name). Try and spot their London cabbie. It has a very good restaurant called Wishbone. Great if you want breakfast and somewhere nice and quiet.

Popular with lunch and dinner crowd - great menu. To try: crispy fried noodle and hainanese chicken rice. Lots of coffeeshops along the street. Bring pushchair as market goes on for at least two blocks.

4. Night Market - since you mentioned the night market, the more well-known is situated right in the heart of the city. It's right next to the City Park. Not sure what's the attraction other then food - but this you can get better ones somewhere else. I've been here once and never again.

5. Closer to your hotel - walk on the beach and head for the Tanjung Aru Beach, at the Second Beach. The beach closest to the hotel is known as First Beach.
You won't miss the massive structure. The building before it is the Yacht Club and only serve members. This is where we like to hang out but only when that one sister whose a member is going. If not, we just drag her along!
Anjung Perdana, as the beach thingie is called has lots of restaurants and shops I'm told. It's new so I've yet to go. There's a park nearby, Prince Philip Park (opened by the man himself) and if you walk to the other end, you'll get to the Third Beach with another eating place and a roller-skating rink.

6. Train - if you feel like getting on a slow train to see some more of Sabah, then you can try the train tour (there's a few options) where you can sip tea while the 'antique' locomotive mianders it's way along the coast. Never been myself but sounds fun. The train station is between the hotel and the airport.

Anyway, hope you have a really great time. Pls excuse the lengthy tips but I'm really proud of KK and miss being home a lot.

Have fun!

PS. IF for some unfortunate reason you need serious medical attention, the best hospital in the city is the privately run Sabah Medical Centre. The main local hospital is The Queen Elizabeth Hospital. They have good care too but for emergency it's best to go to SMC. Hope you won't need this tip.[/quote]

Happy Holidays,